I’m Ash Gray. Yes. That’s really my name. I know, right?
I write speculative fiction. I write a lot. That’s all anyone really needs to know.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
No. I was a very avid reader but I never thought of writing anything of my own until I was encouraged. I was completely obsessed with stories even before I could talk. I think my favorite place in the world was the library. I remember my mother reading books to me and my two-year-old head going, “What ARE these fantastic things!!!” I don’t know why I didn’t wind up being a librarian. That would kinda get in the way of my writing, though.
Tell us about your book, and the story behind writing it
My current series The Prince of Qorlec is a book that explores gender and sexuality through aliens, who have a different biology than humans, and thus a different grasp of gender. For example, the zonbiri are like seahorses, so the men have vaginas and get pregnant, but the majority of them still have male brains, which is what makes their gender male. To humans, they would be transgender. On their own planet, however, they are just cisgender.
This isn’t something groundbreaking. Lost of writers have used aliens to explore gender and sexuality. I mostly use my aliens to lampoon sexism, racism, and gender roles. For instance, zonbiri men – because they don’t have penises – are stated to have an irrational fear of random public erections from their women, who have penises. This is a mockery of men who fear and mock menstruation with the belief that women turn into vile monsters once a month and thus shouldn’t have roles of authority within society. It’s an irrational fear.
I think women would find the series funny. And so would men, provided they aren’t sexist pissbabies.
The actual story is of an alien princess, the last in her bloodline, who is fighting a war to free her planet. It’s called The Prince of Qorlec because she identifies as a woman but is seen as a man by other aliens. Quinn has a vagina, but on some planets, it is the men who have vaginas. So they see her as “the prince of Qorlec.”
Also, Quinn has a son, which ties into the entire plot.
What’s the biggest challenge about being a writer?
For me it’s always been self-doubt, wondering if what I’m writing is worth reading. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter though. Even if I know I’m writing utter crap, I will keep writing because I love to. I’m not going to give up writing for anything or anyone (especially not people who put me down).
Do you have a specific writing space?
Some place quiet where I can work without people staring at me or annoying me.
What’s your number one piece of writing advice?
Just read. Just write.
I see so many articles about how to get good at writing. You do that by reading great writing. Then you find your own voice and write something yourself. It takes time and practice and a lot of experimenting to find what works for you, just like any other skill.
What books do you currently have on your bedside table?
A few things by Asimov, Ursula K. Le Guin, and Mercedes Lackey that I plan on reading this summer. I’m already in the middle of I, Robot.
Who have been your biggest writing influences and why?
I can’t answer this without anxiety anymore. Just about every writer I love is some kind toxic jerk, and I feel like if I write this, I’ll discover later that Clive Barker hates brown people or something. But I’ve always loved Clive Barker’s fantasy novels. Imajica, Weaveworld. My favorite book for a long time was The Idiot by Dostoevsky, mostly because I identified strongly with Prince Myshkin. I love Shelley’s Frankenstein and Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea.
How do you market your writing?
I come to websites like this. I write guest posts. I do interviews. I get my books posted on websites where readers will see them. I go up to book bloggers with my hat in my hand (sometimes my heart) and I politely ask them to read my book. Most scream “Get away indie scum!” or “Get away LGBT scum!” before slamming the door in my face. It’s a long and very draining process, trying to get a book reviewed.
But what people fail to realize is that traditional writers have to self-promote too, and the most famous and commercially successful ones do this regularly. The difference between them and me is that they have help (which, yes, they pay for – it comes out of their allowance).
Lastly, something fun. What’s something our readers might not know about you?
You know those little wooden art dolls people use for drawing references? I have a collection of those. They’re so cute.
By Ash Grey
Rose, a sweet and kind librarian, is on her honeymoon with her goofy gym teacher husband when the trip takes a turn for the worst and she is abducted by aliens. When the spacecraft is attacked by the enemies of Empress Nashal, Rose makes it back to Earth freshly impregnated by alien royalty with said enemies on her heels. Now faced with running for her life, she is joined by Zita, a cheerful alien marine, and must make the choice between her unborn alien child and her baffled husband, who believes the child is his.