Hi, Heather, so glad to have you here today.Tell us a little about Forget Me Not:
This is Book 2 in a four-part series about 4 Naval Academy classmates who each meet “The One” when they are senior lieutenants. Forget Me Not was a 2012 Golden Heart final, entitled: Cat On A Hot Steel Flight Deck. It was the book that sold the series. Being a Golden Heart finalist definitely opened doors.
Suffering from Peter Pan Syndrome and survivor guilt, Navy pilot and renowned playboy, Brian “Skylark” Crawford, swears he’ll never marry, uncertain he deserves happiness—besides there are too many hot chicks to choose from. War widow and veterinarian, Daisy Schneider, swears to love only animals after her Marine pilot husband is killed in Afghanistan—but work fails to ease her loneliness or the guilt that she might have saved him. Between one stray, matchmaking cat and a fiery battle with drug runners at sea, the fur flies as Sky and Daisy learn valuable lessons about life, love, and second chances.
What inspired this story?
The hero evolved as the sidekick in Book 1 and became larger than life. By the end of Book 1, this Naval aviator was jumping up and down on the aircraft carrier flight deck and crying out, “Write about me! Write about me!” When I looked around for just the right prototype of a heroine for this fun-loving, irreverent, charming hero, I kept envisioning my veterinarian. She is sweet and gentle and caring, but she’s strong and doesn’t take any crap. Bingo. The perfect woman for Sky. Then I thought, why not have her be a veterinarian? All of my other heroines are active duty military, so I tried to get Daisy to become an Army veterinarian, but she wouldn’t join. Characters do that sometimes. So I had my characters, then I needed issues. What if she was a military pilot’s war widow and the hero suffered from survivor guilt from losing a co-pilot earlier in his career? Yay, I had a story!
Do you have any good news you’d like to share?
I just learned that Suspense Magazine voted Book 1, Forgive & Forget, “Best of 2013” in Romantic Suspense, along with books by Linda Howard, Allison Brennan/Laura Griffin, and Sandra Brown. I have no idea how I ended up in the company of such legends, especially since I write Contemporary Single Title with Suspenseful Elements, but I’m not going to ask too many questions. I’m expecting someone to wake me up at any moment.
How do you come up with ideas?
They find me, they stalk me, they tackle me to the ground, they wake me in the middle of the night, they show no mercy. I look around, I daydream, I people-watch, I live in a fantasy world, I ask: “What if?” Ideas come to me like “INCOMING,” as we say in the military when we are under attack. And I write every single one of them down. I may have no idea where or how or if I will use them, but I record them anyway. Sometimes, whole conversations come to me. I jot them down. And since I’m the type of writer called a “Puzzler,” I often am able to fit the pieces in later when I put “the puzzle” together.
Where do you start when writing? Research, plotting, character, or…?
Books 1 and 2 were built from the characters. They talked to me and had stories to tell. Books 3 and 4 are based on ship type. Seriously. I write about ships and helo squadrons out of Naval Station, Mayport, Florida, where I live. Since we are receiving 3 amphibious assault ships in 2014, I based the stories on that type of ship. Which interestingly, had me writing about Marines, since amphibs carry Marines. I had no idea I’d ever write about Marines, but suddenly I am, and suddenly I have an awesome Marine who is helping me. This is when it’s fun to be a Pantser and a Puzzler.
What did you learn from writing your first book?
I learned to nix any back story in the first several chapters. I could not sell Book 1 for the longest time because the beginning was too slow. I learned a valuable lesson from Maria Connor at My Author Concierge. Book 1 kept winning awards, but it would not sell. She said, “Quit tweaking that first book and write the next one. It will probably sell first and then they’ll take the first one too.” That is EXACTLY what happened! I made so many mistakes with the first book, but I knew what I was doing right from the start in Book 2. It was a Golden Heart® finalist and caught the eye of Henery Press, among other publishers. Because Book 1 was the prequel, they offered me a contract for both books, and bought books 3 and 4 on proposal. Just keep writing, even when rejections come in. As Tracy Brogan says, “Word count is the best medicine.”
What do you wish you’d known before becoming published?
How much work it was going to be. Not just writing, but doing revisions, edits, and promotions at the same time. I’d heard this line, but didn’t believe it: “Writing a book is a creative endeavor. Being a published author is a full time job.” I climb into bed thinking promotion for Books 1 and 2, finish Book 3 while I sleep and wake up brainstorming Book 4. I used to have a year to get to know my characters. Now I speed date them. However, I wouldn’t trade my job for the world. How busy am I? Since the kids are grown and we already had a family reunion at Thanksgiving, my husband and I canceled Christmas this year, so I could meet deadlines.
How do you balance writing and everyday life?
Fortunately I am retired so I can write full time. I am SO impressed with writers who get up and write for two hours before they go to their full time job, then come home to make dinner and do homework with their children. I’m in awe of them. When I taught school and/or had kids at home, I doubt I could have done that. Here’s what works for me now. I’m ADHD and need to uber-focus on writing for extended/unlimited periods of time to go into “the zone.” I’ve learned I can get more accomplished in 3 10 hour days of writing than an hour a day for a month. So I write/promote 5-6 days a week and choose one day to do things other than write or promote. I schedule appointments, errands, shopping, call the plumber, clean house, etc. on that day. Then while I take care of stuff, I don’t feel guilty for not writing because writing is not on the schedule for that day.
Do you listen to music while you write? What are you listening to now?
Although I’m a music junkie, I need silence when I write. However, when I take breaks, power walk, drive, do chores, etc. I blast music. I’m currently writing about an exchange officer program with the British Royal Navy, so I listen to classic Beatles and Rolling Stones. Great music while mulling over scenes for a romance novel, cuz… “All You Need Is Love!” and “She Loves You Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!”
And now Heather has a question for you all: I’d love to hear how other writers come up with their ideas and/or characters. Readers, what inspires you in your projects? I have a copy of FORGET ME NOT for one lucky commenter.
The yowling outside his window the night before had Sky wanting to take the cat down to the ocean and drown it. He’d been attempting to entertain his chick-du-jour, but the ruckus on the porch distracted him from making that little baby purr.
Distractibility had earned Brian Crawford the nickname “Skylark” at the Naval Academy after one too many demerits for skylarking: daydreaming, not paying attention, and pretty much having his head up his ass at the wrong time. Suffering from ADHD, he’d always had problems with focus—except at the controls of his Navy MH-60R Seahawk helicopter.
Last night’s honey first conned him into feeding the cat, then she made him promise to take it to a vet and find it a home. If the woman was such a bleeding heart animal lover why hadn’t she taken the freaking thing? So what if she lived in the bachelor officers’ quarters? Never mind. It wouldn’t go with her anyway. The cat growled and hissed at her, and Sky would eventually learn it feared all women.
Fortunately, he was able to snag this appointment at Oceanside Veterinary Clinic. The vet tech finished taking vital signs and informed him Dr. Schneider would be with him shortly. Sky looked forward to chatting with the good doctor, not only to unload the stray, but also to discuss kayaking. He’d noticed an SUV in the parking lot that sported a Thule Hullavator, the top-of-the-line kayak rack. Turned out it belonged to Dr. Schneider. This guy already rocked in Sky’s book.
But when the door opened, the woman who entered rocked Sky’s world instead.
“Hello,” she said. “I’m Dr. Schneider.”
Attention on deck. All hands man your battle stations. Hot. Chick. Alert.
One of the benefits of ADHD was the fact that Sky could multitask with the best of them. His brain flipped over to autopilot. Left eye did the ring finger check. No rings. Good sign. Right eye—hey, something was wrong here. His right eye knew it was assigned breast patrol, but it couldn’t seem to move past her blond hair swept up into some kind of barrette thingy. Hair that screamed for him to pull out the clip so he could watch the flaxen mass come tumbling down, like the walls of Jericho. Then both eyes got too lost in her pale blue ones—or were they green?—to even consider glancing lower.
Mayday. Mayday. Losing focus fast. Send reinforcements.
Peripheral vision was called in as backup and the situation report said any woman that looked this good in a pair of scrubs must be some mighty fine booty.
Sky scrambled to formulate an appropriate introductory comment. However, his brain was still locked and loaded on kayaks, prompting the following to shoot from his mouth:
He jerked his thumb toward the door. “Isn’t that your Jeep in the parking lot?”
“What does…? How do you know my car?”
“I asked at the desk. Aren’t you the kayaker? I mean, that is, like, the best rack on the planet.”
Dr. Schneider looked like she was trying to keep from—wait, was she laughing at him? What was so funny about a—?
Sky Crawford had learned long ago whenever he tried to dig himself out of a hole that he usually only dug himself deeper, so he feigned ignorance and soldiered on. “And according to your bumper stickers, you support the troops. So how about supporting this troop and going kayaking with me this weekend?”
The vet’s eyes drilled his as she opened the box containing the cat. “I don’t date clients.”
“Oh, I’m not a client. This cat showed up on my doorstep last night and I’m getting it up to speed so I can find it a home.”
She indicated his green flight suit. “And I don’t date military men. Especially pilots.”
“Aw, honey, is that any way to support the troops? What’s the matter? Crashed and burned before?”
“You could say that. And I’m not your honey.”
Had the room taken on a chill? Or was it coming from the Ice Queen who continued to stare at him, chin raised in defiance. Sky retreated. Figured he’d regroup his forces before he came in for another assault. But there was no way he was getting rid of the cat now.
The kitty was his ticket to veterinary paradise.
You can find Forget Me Not on Kindle and in print at Amazon.com
Heather Ashby is a Navy veteran who taught school and raised a family while accompanying her Naval engineer husband around the United States, Japan, and the Middle East. In gratitude for their Army son’s safe return from Afghanistan and Iraq, she now writes military romance novels, donating half her royalties to organizations that support wounded warriors and their families. She lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida with her retired husband and three rescue cats. Her debut novel, Forgive & Forget was recently voted “Best of 2013” by Suspense Magazine.
You can find Heather at: