I shall be engaging in a number of interviews with independent authors. May you find these informative, entertaining, and perhaps even inspiring to go out and locate their books!
The first interview is with author Ash Sanborn.
Dear Ash, can you offer us a little insight into who you are?
I’m Ash Sanborn. I’m 40 years old, a married mother of three, and my best friend calls me “Dangergirl.” I have become far more daring in this past year, in my creative endeavors as well as in life in general and while I still have my moments of emotional overload, I’m in general far more happy and confident than I’ve been at any past time.
What is the reason that you started writing? When did you start writing?
I wrote my first play at the age of 8 and spent several elementary school summers dragging neighborhood children into my basement to star in everything from puppet shows to mini-musicals to indie films on my parents’ Super 8 camera. I would then cajole them into bringing their parents over to be in the audience. This feeling of creating something from nothing became as addictive as heroin. At that same age, I outwardly professed that yes, being a playwright or producer was not really a grownup job and it was far better to consider law school and a future as an adoption lawyer, but inside my soul, I knew they were wrong and that with enough ambition and “Dangergirl” element, I would prevail.
Are you writing under a pen-name, do you use your own, or is your work out in both ways?
Ash Sanborn is a pen name. My initials before I was married were “ASH” and Sanborn is the last name of my most courageous ancestor – Myrtle Sanborn, my great-grandmother, who was born in 1880 in a sod hut, widowed with two daughters at twenty five, and supported her daughter teaching country school and living off the land on their acreage, all against the elements of northeast South Dakota, USA. My real name is Amy Hillgren Peterson. I published my two books and some short stories under that name, but I believe I am now placing all my creative work under Ash Sanborn.
If you have published one book so far, what aspect of it do you like best?
I published a memoir in 2000 and a novel in 2004. About the novel, my comment in explanation is, “Eww. Don’t read it.” I have published one play so far, The Feast of Jovi Bono, e-published through Stageplays.com. I am happy with its originality, its focus on creation from destruction, and its characters, whom early readers have termed, “Uber-interesting.”
Naturally, after the best book, what is your worst, if there is one? And why do you feel that way?
My worst book was the novel. I don’t even want to discuss it. My worst plays are the two that have been in progress for two years or more and which need to see the light of day before the end of this year.
How do you think your writing has changed over time? Did it change at all?
When I wrote my memoir, at 27, I was very headstrong, stubborn, and not ready or open to suggestion. When I wrote my novel, I was an angry, grieving, stressed person and my creative process was not a match for my capabilities. As a playwright, I have grown from a little girl creating allegories to the conflicts in her life, to a young woman at university puking out her grief, rage and sense of injustice on the blackbox theatre and its student actors, directors, technicians and crew, to the arrival at a realization that there is no perfect time or place to create what I’ve been driven to do my entire life. I am open to creative suggestion, criticism, even the opinion that my creation is catastrophe, but only because I am Ash Sanborn and I have found within myself the courage and belief in my creative drive to say, “$%& ‘em.
And can you say that writing has changed you?
I’ve been a writer for so long, I’m not sure. Life has changed me. Abandonment, poverty, disappointment, feelings of worthlessness, the storms of bipolar moods, and loss have changed me, in some cases for the better. Love, having a family, change, faith, books, friends, and taking the chance to play with fire – getting to know a legend many would call a criminal – have changed me. Writing has always been inside me.
What is the most daring thing you ever did or tried in your writing? In which book did that happen?
My most daring stunts in writing are yet to come. My plan is to ink up – starting at my age! I have a tattoo planned so far for each of my plays and possibly some of the short stories in my also-in-progress-for-at-least-two-years collection. Whether it is midlife rebellion or something more vapid, I’m not sure, but I’m done with caution.
And, if your feel up to it, what is the most daring thing you ever did in your life? Feel free to skip this one, not everybody is up to revealing much about themselves…
I’m not interested in the police showing up at my door at this point so I will in fact skip this question.
Is there something you still want to have a go at, in your writing life? Is there a challenge you envision that’s worth pursuing?
I am in an innovative, online university program at the moment in Creative Writing for Visual Media. Is it just horrible pandering to market forces to envision that a theatrical play can spill over into a trans media experience with apps, online communities, other events, videos, fan character expansion? In 2008 when Facebook was newer, I gave each of the title characters in my triology of plays a Facebook page, and at the time other playwrights and directors said this was the most innovative method of character development they had ever seen. This stroked my ego a bit, but five minutes later, it was old news. If I earn an education in a deep knowledge of the visual media that permates the daily life of my audience, maybe the audience can be unlimited and the story can continue in the souls of all who encounter it.
Has your writing ever been compared to the writing of another (perhaps even famous) writer/author? And do you like that?
Readers of my plays who are familiar with the theater world seem to confirm that what I write is singularly innovative. A few have said my themes are life-affirming like Jonathan Larson, the playwright of RENT. I’m not entirely sure I agree, but if audiences fall as deeply in love with my characters, I’d find a way to cope. I do write to reach the audience. I believe a playwright can only accomplish this with brutal authenticity to his or her creative vision.
Do you have one or two favourite books (written by someone else)? If so, what are they, and why do they appeal to you so much?
When I was a young woman, I was introduced to the Scottish author Rosamunde Pilcher by my grandmother, who was a major fan. I have always admired Pilcher’s sense of place in her books and I remain in love with many of her characters. Hers is a genre I would not likely have read on my own. I think my favorite book of hers is “September,” though “The Empty House” is also fantastic. In contrast, “Wonder Boys” by Michael Chabon has always stayed with me. Any of us who studied writing at college or university likely knows these people. I have been fascinated with Michael Chabon since I was a teenager and picked up a copy of “Mysteries of Pittsburgh” at the library. I had not read quirky, experimental fiction like that theretofore and I was intrigued by the life vision of such a young man.
Which book you ever read would you label as least readable book, so far? Feel free to comment as liberally as you want to the why.
I am not going to mention the title of the book or the name of the author, because this is nothing personal, though this author is someone with whom I am experiencing a very personal conflict. In all genuine literary opinion, the book she has written to highlight the true man of Vladislaus Dracula is one I could not get through. She is a tenacious individual who even traveled to Romania to research. Her efforts and her research show a great work ethic to uncover the real man. She is a person of imagination and a force. However, her style, and this permeates all of her books and her play that I have read/experienced, is death to story arc, movement, and ignores the reader and audience in favor of her own self-indulgence.
Is there a book that you know of that should never have been published, in your opinion?
I think nearly anyone can find their audience, if they have the strength and ethic to always be perfecting craft, and if they have a generous enough spirit to invite the reader, “Come with me on an adventure.”
Is there a writer that you would love to co-write a book with? And what genre would you like to write in then? Something you’re familiar with?
I have and do collaborate on books as a partner and editor on contract from time to time. I am not sure what kind of partner I would be on something that would result in equal credit and equal effort.
Let’s see… is there something in the realm of ‘wise words’ you once picked up that you would like to share? This does not have to be limited to writing, there is more to life than writing. At least, I heard there is. 😉
Right now it is never, ever, ever, ever give up. Whether Winston Churchill or some other wise individual expressing the same idea, it is the one thing that works.
And as a last question, what is cooking with you? What’s your work in progress? Is there a tip of a veil that you can lift for us?
“Brigid Kildare’s Steelworks” started out as ripped from the headlines of a biker gang fight. The Set Free Soldiers, a purportedly Christian biker gang, had a fight with some members of the Hell’s Angels and some members were charged with attempted murder and other violent crimes. The Orange County, California district attorney questioned whether the Set Free Soldiers were Christians at all, and thus the trial became not just about did they or did they not attempt to murder, but demanded of them they prove what they believe. Meanwhile, I read about St. Brigid and St. Patrick of Ireland. Brigid was a metalworker. Patrick also had a trial in which the demand was that he prove his beliefs. I started considering how one proves a belief. Brigid and Patrick also had a legendary friendship. Just then, I found out a friendly acquaintance from high school, someone I knew then to be quite intelligent and larger than life, had been in prison for some time for attempted murder and that his mother had passed away, and that he had a lack of mail. I thought surely I could write him some cheer and intellectual stimulation. A year later, through letters, phone calls and visits, we have a legendary friendship, we’re working on a number of creative and justice-based projects together, and we’re partnering on a book about his life. It is as though I wrote the friendship into life, yet he’s been there in prison for nearly two decades.
If there is anything else you would like to share, for example a thought, some promotion for your book(s), then here’s your chance!
We are crowdfunding my current play, “The Feast of Jovi Bono” on RocketHub at the moment, an effort that will fail if we don’t find some good friends fast. However, I’m committed to this and I will not give up until it is done.
Thank you, Ash, for your time, and for sharing your words with us!