Today I am interviewing AshleyRose Sullivan, author of the new novel, Lona Chang.
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DJ: Hi AshleyRose! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourself?
AshleyRose: I grew up in Appalachia, moving back and forth between North Carolina and Kentucky and though I live in Los Angeles now, I’ll always consider those mountains my home. I’ve had a wide variety of jobs including taxidermist’s assistant, dairy maid, and Shakespeare institute director. I love stories. I love to read stories (fiction and non-fiction) and I love to make stories (fiction and non-fiction.)
DJ: What is Lona Chang about?
AshleyRose: Lona Chang finds the title character in a storm of mysteries. When one of her closest friends dies in her arms, she feels she must uncover the truth behind their death. At the same time, Lona is also trying to get at the heart of her own family’s mysteries, her father’s secret past, and her own un-honed abilities. Of course, as the sequel to Awesome Jones: A Superhero Fairy Tale, it’s also a love story.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Lona Chang?
AshleyRose: I’ve always loved mysteries. As a kid I read Sherlock Holmes voraciously then moved on to Agatha Christie and then Robert Parker. My favorite comic is Stumptown by Greg Rucka and my favorite TV shows are usually mystery based so I think all of that stuff went into Lona Chang. But of course I also grew up on superheroes. Growing up poor, in Appalachia, I didn’t have access to a comic book store but I loved the superheroes on TV. From Batman: The Animated Series to Gargoyles to Sailor Moon (you can tell I’m a 90’s kid, right?) there was just something about people with uncanny power making the choice to help others that struck a chord with me–that same chord that superheroes have been striking since the 30’s, I suppose.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
AshleyRose: Lona has the ability to interpret and influence her situation–to turn things to her advantage. In Awesome Jones it’s described as “happy accidents.” It’s useful but it can also be frustrating and hard to master. Lona had been happy for a long time living a quiet life in the city but always felt that something had been missing. When she met Awesome, she knew what that thing had been. Now, as wonderful as her life with AJ is, the world around the couple has grown darker and more dangerous. She’s been through a lot and now she’s full of self-doubt which she’ll have to overcome if she’s ever going to master her own immense power be the hero she needs to be.
DJ: What is the world and setting of Lona Chang like?
AshleyRose: Both books are set in Arc City which is a based on a lot of the older cities near where I grew up. It’s full of rivers and dis-used production plants but it’s also home to the secretive Guild which controls the movements of every superhero in the world. There are also a good many dangerous characters (both super and non-super criminals) as well as a few select people trying to do the right thing without the Guild looking over their shoulder. Lona comes face to face with every kind of character as she explores, with fresh eyes, the city in which she grew up.
DJ: One thing that drew me toward your novel was “superhero tale in a novel written with the stylings of a comic book”. Could elaborate on what that exactly means?
AshleyRose: As I said, I didn’t have access to comics as a kid but I loved superheroes. Once I was an adult and could get my own comics, I found the format at first bewildering and then enchanting. I wanted to make something like a comic but what came out was Awesome Jones: A Superhero Fairy Tale, a novel told in a sparse style (which is my natural style but it’s a little heightened here) in blocky chunks of text (like the panels of a comic) without dialogue offset instead of tagged (to represent bubbles) and pictures throughout. For me, a lot of the way the story was told was about how it looked on the page. I wanted it to feel like a comic to comic fans without being intimidating to folks who hadn’t really any experience with the medium.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Lona Chang?
AshleyRose:Learning to write better action. It was something I had to get a handle on for the first book but between the finishing of Awesome Jones and the writing of Lona Chang I worked extremely hard to learn what makes a good action scene and how to make one that is satisfying and fast-paced without being confusing. Once I felt more confident about them, they became immensely fun.
DJ: Did you have a particular goal when you began writing Lona Chang? Was there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across when readers finish it? Or is there perhaps a certain theme to the story?
AshleyRose: For me, Lona and Awesome are both about growing up and examining the world, figuring out where you can help, and learning to overcome your fear of getting involved. They’re also about the struggle to learn who you are, who you need to be, and how to get there. Every human is a work in progress; when you have superpowers, a secret family history, and a high-stakes, world-altering mission, it just makes things a little more complicated.
DJ: Now that Lona Chang is released, what is next for you?
AshleyRose: Since turning in Lona Chang, I’ve had some pretty intense health issues that have hindered my ability to type. Consequently, a lot of my time has been spent adapting and figuring out how I can still tell the stories I want to tell. I’ve gone back to art (because working a pencil is less problematic than typing) and begun learning animation but I’m still writing. It just takes longer than it used to.
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you?
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to answer my questions!
AshleyRose: Thank you (times a million) for having me on your blog!
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*** Lona Chang is available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
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When one of the world’s greatest superheroes dies in her arms, Lona Chang takes it upon herself to investigate his murder. Armed only with a power she barely understands and a mysterious coded book, Lona begins a quest for answers that leads her down a dark rabbit hole of secrets–secrets the ancient organization known as the Guild is determined to keep hidden at all costs.
Meanwhile, when a new threat descends upon Arc City, Lona’s soulmate (and freshly minted superhero) Awesome Jones defies the Guild, dons the cape and cowl of his father and finds a group of unlikely allies. But can Awesome trust them–or himself? He’ll have to fight his own demons first if he has any hope of defending the town-and the people-he loves.
As tensions rise between the Guild, Lona, Awesome, his allies and Arc City’s criminal underground, Lona realizes that life, and the answers to its questions, are never as simple as they seem in comic books.
Originally from Appalachia, AshleyRose Sullivan lives, writes, and paints in Los Angeles with her husband and their many imaginary friends. Her work has been published in places like The Rumpus, Barrelhouse, and Word Riot and her novels, Awesome Jones: A Superhero Fairy Tale and Silver Tongue are available from Seventh Star Press. She can be found at ashleyrosesullivan.com
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