Q&A on Finding Jessica Lambert

I was invited to join a couple of book groups in the last week to answer questions about Finding Jessica Lambert. They were great fun and when I join a group like this, I always hear a point of view about a book I’ve written that I hadn’t considered before.

There were a few questions in common and with questions I’ve received directly, so I’ve bunched a few common topics together below.

What inspired the book?

I was having a chat with someone who said After Mrs Hamilton was a comfort re-read for her, which surprised me because it’s quite dark at times! But she said she loved the secluded nature of the scenes between Fran and Clo, and at that moment I rather fancied the idea of two people escaping the world again, but this time, instead of a twisting plot-driven book like After Mrs Hamilton or The Goodmans I wanted to go in deep with the characters and really stay with them, getting to know each other at the same time as the reader, in a more tender tale.

Again around that time I had inspiration for the character of Jess when I was reading an article on mega popstar Rhianna. There was a terrific photo of her taken from inside a car in Paris with fans pressed against the windows. I thought it looked terrifying being surrounded by that intensity of fan fervour and had the light bulb moment of a megastar who was unsuited to life in the limelight and ran away to sanctuary with a beautiful woman who seemed the only one who didn’t know who she was.

The story isn’t a typical saviour and damsel in distress romance or a typical age-gap romance.

The story is very much about getting past preconceptions and expectations. The two main characters are given a chance to see who they really are, to accommodate each other so that they both benefit. (It actually had a working title of Expectations.) I suppose it follows the book might not be what a reader expected because of that, which is actually very satisfying!

The characters are very different in terms of age and background, but both are struggling, and yet both bring something to the relationship to strengthen each other. I think everyone struggles. Everyone’s different. And I wanted this reflected in the book.

I was also very taken with the idea that neither woman would have known each other except for that chance meeting. I wanted them to be from different generations to add to the sense that they might never have met and also making the theme of getting past expectations and getting to know someone for who they are resonate that much more. (Also from a plot point of view it helps Anna not recognise Jess if she’s not on her cultural radar – different generations don’t always recognise the same famous stars.)

That confrontation scene on the stage…

I got so nervous before writing those chapters, worrying that I wouldn’t be able to pull it off. I don’t think I’ve ever had that before – actually trembling before I wrote. Big emotional scenes!

The book features families for both characters. Is that a feature of your writing?

Definitely. I adore writing families. I love introducing a range of characters to a book – from all ages and genders and personalities. I know some readers want to get to the romance already, but I love the rich depth family or friendship scenes can bring. Again, personal taste.

Is Jess on the spectrum?

I wrote Jess as an introverted, seemingly high-functioning autistic woman. (High-functioning can be a misleading term in some ways because masking and the effort of having to function leads to exhaustion and burnout then temporary so-called low function). I didn’t want the book to be about autism, it’s ostensibly about anxiety and finding someone who fits you when you make the effort to accommodate them. But autism makes Jess who she is, and how it does that and what she’s like as a person I wanted to unfold over the novel at the same time Anna gets to know and understand her.

Not everything is always resolved and wrapped up and in a bow in your stories, for example Anna’s relationship with her mother.

I think it’s a reality that many queer folk have to walk away in some way from their families at some point and that kind of difference takes time to heal. I didn’t think it fitted with the timescale of the story to have that reconciliation and actually I’m not sure it would come to any great extent with Anna’s mother. Sometimes people need to draw a line even with their family and it felt realistic to write Anna doing that.

Are you a plotter or pantser?

I tend to plot quite deeply – establishing plot, character arcs, progression of the relationship and themes before I start the first draft. I had to be more flexible with this one though – there was more character work so I had to develop them more slowly as I went along.

Do your characters talk to you?

I’m quite a visual writer so I tend to see scenes either as a film or from inside a character’s head.

Why is there not an epilogue?

I’m not overly keen on epilogues, writing or reading them, so it’s purely down to personal preference. I like to leave a story so that all the main threads are resolved and leave enough of a hint of the future for the reader to have a sense of the happy ever after. I find that if there isn’t an obvious issue to resolve in an epilogue, I don’t want to see the happy couple months down the line. It stops me imagining their future if it’s explicitly mapped out. It doesn’t leave room for me to imagine for myself and the book won’t linger in my mind as long. Other readers are definitely different!

Are you badly affected by reviews?

Depends on the book and how long after publication the review comes. Older books I can see with more objectivity so the bad reviews don’t bother me and can sometimes be hilarious! Some reviews I must admit really hit hard early on and did stall my writing or put me off writing about certain areas. Reminding myself that people are different and that a review says just as much about the reviewer as the book always puts things in perspective.

Do you like writing sex scenes?

Sex scenes are tricky to write – people have such different taste in all kinds of ways and keeping it fresh and different without being wildly unrealistic is also a challenge! I don’t get self-conscious about them anymore, mainly because my focus is the emotional rollercoaster of the novel so although they form an important part of that, it’s not the focus of the novel (which takes the pressure off I think).

Reviews for Finding Jessica Lambert

Finding Jessica Lambert has been out for a couple of months and has seen some lovely reviews. Readers have liked its immersive quality and the tender relationship between the characters. Some have appreciated its layered character-driven story and the odd plot surprise and others the handling of the protagonists’ anxiety. Here are a few snippets:

Finding Jessica Lambert coverFinding Jessica Lambert by Clare Ashton is the kind of tender and delightful romance that I have been yearning to read.” – The Lesbian Review

“A spectacularly written, madly immersive age gap romance.” – Best Lesfic Reviews

“There are so many layers to this story that I can see if being one of my favourite re-reads for years to come. I adored it.” – Kitty Kat’s Book Reviews

“I don’t think I’ve read chemistry that is more prevalent than in this book. The attraction and sexual chemistry were there in spades, and you could feel it emanating from the page when Anna and Jess were in the same room. In regards to emotional chemistry, that was also ubiquitous and Clare Ashton wrote it so well, I could almost feel it.” – Les Reveur

“But what really made this book feel important to me is how validating it was reading it as a person with anxiety–the anxiety that both MCs experience, for different reasons and in different ways, is present from the first page, significant, but not defining, and not shown as evidence of brokenness. This book made me feel seen.” – Goodreads review

“‘Finding Jessica Lambert’ is a lesbian age-gap romance book about overcoming inner demons, imaginary and real. It’s hard to find in fiction flawed characters that are so appealing in both their strengths and shortcomings so much so that they seem to come out of the page with a life of their own. That’s what makes this story so appealing.” – LezReviewBooks

” It’s poignant yet never whiny, it’s full of angst and hope, it’s sexy and human and delightful.” – Not Me Anymore

“Ashton holds a microscope to the subtler emotions and thoughts that can influence a person on a wider a scale. Instead of swimming in a large shallow pool, this books drops you in a puddle a mile deep.” – The Lesbian 52

“Finding Jessica Lambert is a beautiful romance between two strong relatable women. With their love radiating from dialogues, thoughts, and the smallest gestures, it is impossible not to fall for Jess and Anna as well as the book.” – Hsinju’s Lit Log

“Do not expect a big, loud plot. Instead, sit back and appreciate a masterful telling that is devastating in the passion and turmoil it creates. Pay attention to the quiet moments that the author uses to amplify their relationship. Anticipation can be brutally delicious, especially when the author delivers the heat with perfect timing. Read and be thrilled.” – Goodreads review

New book – Finding Jessica Lambert

Finding Jessica Lambert coverI am super thrilled to announce that I have a new book out!

It’s a romance, set in London, about two women who help each other and whose lives bloom like they never would have foreseen.

It’s available on Kindle from all Amazon sites, on KU as well initially, with paperback to follow.

Here’s the blurb:

Jessica Lambert, movie star and ingénue, is in danger of burning out. Returning to London for the premiere of her latest film, she’s recognised everywhere she goes. When she runs away through the streets of London, she’s taken in by the beautiful and more mature Anna. The two hide in the sanctuary of Anna’s roof-top flat, a haven away from the crowds, but why has Anna removed herself from the world?

As the two women get to know each other, stripping away the layers, both appreciate what each does for the other. This could be the start of something wonderful, more than either of them know.

Finding Jessica Lambert on Amazon UK

Finding Jessica Lambert on Amazon US

Book club notes for The Goodmans

The Goodmans gets picked as a book club read from time to time so here are a few notes based on frequent questions I’ve been asked by the readers and their discussions.

Where did the idea for The Goodmans come from?

I’d had this idea around a middle-aged mother meeting an old flame at her daughter’s wedding for a long time. I’d even outlined the story a little. But the main character I originally envisaged was quite submissive and she couldn’t carry the story as I intended. But after the referendum to leave the EU in the UK, I wanted to play around with a raging left-wing character and that’s when Maggie Goodman marched into the plot and took over the story.

What were the challenges of writing this book?

I always like to have a new challenge when writing a book.

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Reviews for The Goodmans

My double helping of romance wrapped in a family drama, The Goodmans, has been out for three months now and has garnered some lovely reviews. Here’s a selection:

The Lesbian Review:

I love the character work, the intricate plotting, how every detail is revealed at the exact right moment, the angst that I felt deep in my bones, and the most satisfying of happily ever afters. This book is perfection.

Smart Bitches Trashy Books. Tara Scott also did a detailed review for the Keeper Shelf on this mainstream romance site:

“To say I was excited when Ashton dropped her newest book, The Goodmans, would be an understatement. If you heard a high-pitched squeal in the distance, that may have been me. I’m happy to report that I was not disappointed and I was left with a massive book hangover when I finished it. The tagline on the cover says “Even the nicest families have secrets” and WHOA, do they ever.”

Les Reveur:

“This book oozes fun, emotion and has very hot sexy scenes… it ticks every one of my boxes of what a great novel should be and then goes beyond. I can’t wait to see what Clare Ashton writes next.”

The Romantic Reader:

“Clare Ashton writes books that you love to read. They are complex, fun and capture your attention the whole way through. She builds characters and relationships with such skill you cannot help but be swept off your feet.”

LezReviewBooks

“This book has it all: love, romance, family drama, angst, quirky humour, sex, social criticism, redemption and deep insights in motherhood and ageing. It even has unexpected twists and turns.”

 

The Goodmans is available on Amazon and Smashwords.

 

Setting for The Goodmans

Setting is important to me. If I’m to spend several months mentally in a place it has to be compelling and somewhere I want to immerse myself. I also need to be very familiar with an area and its people to get the nuances of a setting right – architecture, cultural mix, cuisine, the ebb and flow of the town and land over the day.

Like the setting of my last book, Poppy Jenkins, the story of The Goodmans takes place somewhere from my childhood.

I adore the old market towns of the Welsh borders – Shrewsbury, Ludlow, Ledbury – with their medieval twisted timber buildings and Georgian grandeur. None were quite perfect for the setting of The Goodmans, and I blended several together to make the fictional Ludbury of the family’s residence. It most closely resembles Ludlow, however, the main difference being the church and its grounds in the book in place of the castle next to the market square.

Here are a few locations in a characterful town for a characterful family:

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New book – The Goodmans

My new romance, The Goodmans, is finally out and I can’t wait for people to meet every member of that family. It’s been a ball writing them.

The lovely doctor Abby Hart lives in her dream cottage in the quintessential English border town of Ludbury, home to the Goodmans.

Maggie Goodman, all fire and passion, is like another mother to her, amiable Richard a rock and 60s-child Celia is the grandmother she never had.

But Abby has a secret. Best friend Jude Goodman is the love of her life, and very, very straight. Even if Jude had ever given a woman a second glance, there’d also be the small problem of Maggie – she would definitely not approve.

But secrets have a habit of sneaking out, and Abby’s not the only one with something to hide. Life is just about to get very interesting for the Goodmans.

Things are not what they used to be, but could they be even better?

.

Here are the links to the ebook (paperback to follow):

Amazon US

Amazon UK

Smashwords

The Goodmans – a sneak preview

After writing Poppy Jenkins, I realised that one of the aspects I enjoyed writing most was the characterful family. So in my new book, I’ve put a family centre stage, and it’s certainly an interesting one. I also adored living in the Mid-Wales setting, so I’ve not strayed too far and The Goodmans is set just over the border in the fictional town of Ludbury (not so different from the historic town of Ludlow).

It features my most complex character yet and one I adore despite her flaws and sometimes because of them. Too often the formidable older woman with a smart and sharp word for everyone is the feisty supporting character. But Maggie Goodman takes pride of place in this family drama.

There’s no shortage of romance. For a start, Jude Goodman’s best friend Abby Hart secretly holds a flame for her. And there are more secrets besides.

Here are the first two chapters and an introduction to the characters.

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