Timothy Ashby is a former government official and lawyer. He is the author of our 2022 release Elizabeth Secret Agent: The Untold Story of William Ashby.
In the interview below, he discusses some of the secrets behind his writing process.
1. Do you have a favourite place you like to sit down and write? Or do you tend to change locations?
I always work at my desk (or a desk or table if I am traveling away from home).
2. How do you go about researching your books? Do you follow the same process each time or does it depend on the subject matter?
I conceive a basic plot idea, then acquire books and digital materials, read them thoroughly, develop the synopsis (usually up to 20 pages), before beginning to write. I frequently refer back to the research sources as needed when the plot needs more detail.
3. Some authors still find it useful to use ‘old-fashioned’ pen and paper during the writing process! Do you ever write out any drafts by hand?
Never! Thank God for Microsoft Word!
4. What do you enjoy most about the writing process? And what do you find most challenging?
I enjoy developing a new or largely unexplored historical theme. My current book, set in New Orleans in 1814-15, explores the nuances of race at that time and place (far more complicated than I had imagined).
As a male writer, I have found developing realistic female characters challenging, although I have subsequently been praised for creating interesting female characters.
5. How did you manage to get your first book published?
I had just finished my PhD dissertation and told a friend – a senior US government official - about the theme. At a US State Department diplomatic reception he introduced me to a Lexington Books editor and told her about my thesis. She said: “That's exactly what I'm looking for!”. So, the thesis was published as a hardback by Lexington and went into nine printings, much to my surprise. Stroke of luck!
6. What would your advice be to someone sitting down to write their first book?
Develop a solid outline or synopsis and work from it like a film “treatment” i.e. as if you're shooting a film in your head using the outline as a script.