To celebrate the release of the second book in her LOVE IN THE FLEET series, Heather Ashby talks about the influence her experience in the Navy has had on her writing career, her Best of 2013 award from Suspense Magazine, and of course, FORGET ME NOT.
You come from a large family of military veterans, yourself included. Did that influence your decision to join the Navy?
Surprisingly, no. My parents both served during WWII, but most everybody’s dad did when I was growing up, so I didn’t pay much attention. However, when I was figuring out a way to finish college, I happened to be on vacation in Jacksonville, Florida. Everything clicked into place when I met sailors from Naval Station Mayport. Realizing enlisting in the Navy would allow me to finish college and have an adventure, I left for boot camp within three months. Little did I know I’d be writing books about sailors out of Naval Station Mayport thirty plus years later!
Another example of your never-ending generosity, you’ve decided to donate half of all royalties received from your LOVE IN THE FLEET series to the Fisher Foundation. Why this charity in particular?
My son joined the Army pre-9/11 so it was a shock to all of us when he spent his 20th birthday searching caves for Taliban and his 21st taking Baghdad. My husband and I were blessed beyond belief that our son returned safe and whole from 18 months of combat. Fisher House lodges and supports families who have not fared as well as ours, while their military members receive treatment at military hospitals.
In a Hen House full of mystery writers, what was it like to be Henery’s first romantic suspense author?
I was very impressed with the treatment my Golden Heart® sister, Susan Boyer, and her books received at Henery Press. I submitted my manuscript and said, “and if you don’t take this genre, can you please recommend a small print press as good as yours that does.” I was beyond thrilled when they wanted to buy my series! My stories do have suspenseful elements, so I think I kind of squeaked in with romantic mystery.
Suspense Magazine recently put your first novel FORGIVE & FORGET on their Best Of 2013 list. That’s spectacular! Not bad for a debut author. How did you celebrate?
Now, this just about blew me away, because I think I write love stories. Okay, so they’re suspenseful, but the focus is the love story. My husband and I celebrated the award by looking up their list of “Best of 2012” and were excited to see some Henery Press names along with some very well-known authors. That’s when I started to get that this might be a big thing. I am thrilled and honored. And I’m glad to bring this award home for Henery Press, because they were instrumental in making my stories the best they can be.
Sky is the kind of guy I dated and Philip is the kind of guy I looked for when it was time to settle down. Fortunately, I found him. I still adore bantering with Sky-type guys, and will probably be doing it in the nursing home some day. Maybe it comes from hanging with military men for so many years.
You’ve said before that Phillip & Hallie’s relationship in FORGIVE & FORGET is somewhat autobiographical. Is any of that autobiography present in FORGET ME NOT?
It’s quite possible that Sky is me if I were a guy. First of all, I’ve been a sport flirter my entire life. Sky is ADHD and his mind races in a thousand directions. Let’s just say I understand how his brain works, which makes him soooo easy to write. The mentor, George, is a compilation of three delightful retired Naval officers at my mother’s nursing home, here in Atlantic Beach, Florida. The veterinary clinic in the story is based on my vet’s office and the Siamese matchmaking cat is one of my rescue cats.
Finally, tell us your favorite romance novel and what draws you to that particular author and the genre as a whole.
I can’t choose just one book, but if I can have a series, it would be Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooter Series. For starters, it was my escape when my son was at war and the catalyst that sparked me to write military romance. Although her books are considered Romantic Suspense, they are more romance than suspense, the way I like it. I want a really good love story with just enough external conflict to threaten my hero and heroine or their relationship.
It’s her voice that makes her stories. I read them over and over again, and sometimes I don’t even care what happens. It’s the way she writes, how she tells a story, the language and attitude in her writing that keeps me coming back for more. I do not have a favorite genre, but am drawn instead to any works that have exceptional voice. Another reason I love all the Henery Press books!