Interview on the All Stars Book Club

Many thanks to Zara at the All Stars Book Club for inviting me on to chat about writing, queer representation and The Tell Tale!

The interview is available as a podcast and video. This page lists links to choose which.

Check out their past interviews too with fabulous authors like Haley Cass, Jae and Cari Hunter.

We talk a great deal about The Tell Tale. Let me know what you think!

Reviews for The Tell Tale

The Tell Tale has been out a few weeks and I’m really thrilled with the reception it’s had. It’s a complex tale of love and secrets in a mid-winter, 70s, Wales, and that some readers have enjoyed it so much means the world! Thanks to everyone who’s left a review.

Here are few quotes:

“‘The Tell Tale’ by Clare Ashton is outstanding. My book of the year by a long way.” – Kitty Kat’s Book Review

Will grab you by the throat, put a lump there, and make you hold your breath until the very end” – Lez Review Books

The Tell Tale is an absolutely riveting read” – Sapphic Book Review

Historical fiction with many awesome queer reps, and it is the quality mystery we need” – Hsinju’s Lit Log

This isn’t a romance, yet there is a love story just as captivating as the rest of the book” – Jude in the Stars

an intricate mystery and intrigue filled with more twists and turns than a knotted ball of yarn” – Rainbow Reflections

The Tell Tale is out now!

Tell Tale 03The Tell Tale is now out in paperback and on Kindle (including KU)!

I’m very excited for people to read it. After writing several more traditional romances, I was in the mood to write more of a mystery, although a love always lies beneath my books.

I also missed being able to go back to Wales last winter, so I had to set it there so I could at least spend time in the hills in my imagination.

It’s a tale of small-town secrets, beautiful and brutal souls, loves lost and loves found, and full of intrigue.

I hope readers will enjoy the atmospheric winter setting, pulling back the curtain on the lives of the characters and follow the twists and turns until the last page.

Let me know what you think!

It’s available on all Amazon sites now.  

 

The Tell Tale – coming soon….

My new book, a mystery this time, is out this October!

Here’s the blurb for The Tell Tale:

A small town, enduring love, a web of secrets.

The Tell Tale has been watching and waiting, because there’s something queer about the village of Foel.

Beth Griffiths has returned home to raise her daughter in the Welsh hills. They arrive to the open arms of the community, but not all is what it seems and Beth isn’t home for the reason she pretends either. 

Vicious notes start appearing that reveal harsh truths about the village inhabitants, stirring up ancient past and old loves. Not even local dignitary, the elegant and aloof Lady Melling, is safe from the accusations. 

But when Beth receives her notes, they aren’t what she expected. Is she being toyed with like the other villagers, or is she being guided to a long-sought truth?

News

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here so here’s a few pieces of news.

First, the audio version of Finding Jessica Lambert has just been released! It’s produced by Tantor an is available on Audible. I can’t wait to listen and see what Gabrielle has done with it and I’ve heard great reactions from listeners already.

The book also recently won a Golden Crown Literary Society award for contemporary romance!

A new book is coming soon. A mystery this time, which I hope to have out at the beginning of autumn. It’s set in a wintery Wales and I’ve been wrapped up in these characters for months and can’t wait for people to read it!

Cover and blurb coming soon….

Finding Jessica Lambert shortlisted for awards

I was incredibly pleased to hear earlier this month that Finding Jessica Lambert has been shortlisted for two awards!

It’s listed alongside some fabulous books in the romance category of the Lambda Literary awards – full list of finalists here.

The book has also been shortlisted for the Golden Crown Literary Society’s Ann Bannon Award – full list of finalists here.

Finding Jessica Lambert on Best of Lesfic 2020 Lists

I was over the moon to find Finding Jessica Lambert on several Best of 2020 Lesfic and WLW Fiction lists at the end of the year and January.

It was voted Best Romance on Lucy Bexley’s indie poll with readers saying:

Amazing writing and great character development.”
“It had great diverse representation including Autism which was done extremely naturally and authentically, and the story itself was gripping and beautiful.

(BTW, if you haven’t tried Lucy’s books, please check out her romances. I adored Checking It Twice and I’m tearing through Must Love Silence.)

Finding Jessica Lambert came second in the LesReveur and LezReviewBooks joint poll. The very popular Haley Cass debut Those Who Wait topped that poll, which I must read after seeing so many recommendations for it. Finding Jessica Lambert also made those reviewers’ best of the year books too (LesReveur’s list is here and LezReviewBooks here) as well as regular reviewer Jude in Stars’ too!

Kitty top ten Finding Jessica Lambert was also a favourite for Kitty, and made two Top 10s on The Lesbian Review’s site!

From Victoria’s list: “I love Ashton’s writing style. It’s unique, allowing me to get lost in her stories. Both Jessica and Anna are original characters – not your typical celebrity actors. Ashton’s subtle character work kept me captivated. There’s a level of intimacy Ashton brings to their relationship that’s so touching. I was surprised by where the plot took me, and I adore reading about a neurodivergent leading lady. If one book made me believe in a forever love this year, it would be this one. Such a beautiful story!”

Best romanceAnd from April’s list: “I always wondered what it would be like to be rich and famous and this author gave me a frank and realistic portrayal of the true cost of fame. I lost my heart to Jessica and Anna because they had to deal with a lot of personal and professional hurdles in order for them to have the once-in-a-lifetime kind of love and belonging they thought they would never find.”

Audio book news

That Certain Something cover

My London romcom with much silliness is out as an audiobook!

This is my first novel available as an audiobook and Jessica Jeffries has done a fabulous job of the narration.

Is life about love or money? Should you follow your head or your heart? Follow young photojournalist Pia’s adventures and see how much trouble she can get into. (It’s a lot.)

The audiobook is available on Amazon, Audible and iTunes.

Also, Finding Jessica Lambert has been signed up to Tantor to produce so my next audiobook should be out this summer!

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