Ashley Maker is a young adult author who recently had her debut novel, Under the Trees, published by Cliffhanger Press. Ashley is from Oklahoma and enjoys writing songs for her books as well as writing them. Under the Trees is a fantasy romance which follows the story of Princess Araya as she runs away to a neighbouring kingdom to escape an abusive arranged marriage. There, she falls into the hands of Prince Thoredmund, who decides to help her and provides refuge for her in his kingdom, unbeknown to his father. As their feelings for each other begin to grow, the fragile peace between the two kingdoms is threatened.
Where did your inspiration for Under the Trees come from?
UNDER THE TREES is actually a complete rewrite of a book I finished when I was nineteen titled ARAYA. The first version was much sillier, and I had an agent tell me it had too much of a Middle Grade tone for a Young Adult book. After a few years of it being shelved, I set out to rewrite it as a Middle Grade book, but the first words of the rewrite ended up being the opening scene of UNDER THE TREES. I knew before I hit the end of the first page that I wasn’t writing the lighthearted, comical MG novel I set out to. Araya’s new voice, and her desperation and fear, sent the novel in a darker, much more mature direction, falling squarely in the upper YA category. I loved it so much I plotted the entire novel around that scene, and on giving Prince Thoredmund his own point of view chapters, whereas before he had little journal entries interspersed at the end of every few chapters. The two versions are so drastically different that they’re hardly comparable today. Just about everything changed.
What made you decide to write from the alternating perspectives of Princess Araya and Prince Thoredmund?
I wanted the reader to be able to see the story from both sides, especially since Prince Thoredmund’s first chapter opens where Araya’s leaves off. There are important things the reader would never get to see if it only followed Araya’s POV, like all of the stuff going on at the castle and how the feud between the two royal families plays out.
What is your writing process? Do you have any habits?
I’m a very slow writer, and I tend to edit while I write. I almost always write in my office at my desk, and before I type anything out, I try to take ten minutes or so to brainstorm what I want to work on that day. As far as habits go, I like to listen to music on Grooveshark, and I always have something to drink and snack on nearby.
How long did it take for you to bring Under the Trees from its planning stages to its final manuscript?
I started the rewrite in the fall of 2010 and finished it in the summer of 2011. That doesn’t include revision, which was an on and off again process all the way up to December 2013.
Who is your favourite character in the book and why?
Prince Silas. He’s Araya brother, and I had so much fun with his character because he’s a bit of a wild card. I’m even thinking of writing a companion novel from his POV one day.
Do you have any advice for writers hoping to be published?
Write what you want. If writers followed every piece of advice, or tip, or trend, we’d be writing in circles or not able to write at all. So write something you love and will be proud of, regardless of what others say about it. After your book is revised and ready, that’s the time to look into publication. Be sure to do lots of research on the different avenues of publishing so that you can find the best one for you. If you choose to submit to agents or publishing houses, make sure they’re legitimate since you’ll likely be working with them for years if they offer on your book. Also, while you’re shopping your book out, try to write something new. Publishing is one big waiting game. Having something new to focus on helps during those periods when things are going slow.
Under the Trees is available now in paperback and on Amazon kindle.
For more information on Ashley and the novel see:
You can read my review of the book here.
(This interview was originally published in the University of Surrey’s student newspaper The Stag)