Author Ashley Laino has been reading and writing almost all of her life. Speaking to the Literary Express in an exclusive interaction, the twenty-eight-year-old American writer, who resides as an English teacher in Pennsylvania, says she can recall many stories she’d started as a kid but never finished. ‘I didn’t start seriously writing until I was twenty-five. By then, I finally had the patience and discipline needed to really write,’ she shares with us.
Ms Laino, who has two full-length novels currently available through Amazon and Barnes and Nobles besides a short story in an anthology, tells us that becoming an author was something she desired but not with the intention of sharing her works with the world. In fact, when she started working on her first book entitled ‘Forgotten Toys’, she never thought she would one day be publishing it. ‘I just wanted to get my story down on paper and prove to myself that I could write a novel. However, once it was finished, I started to get curious about what I could do with it, so I half-heartedly sent my manuscript to some publishers, and I was shocked when I heard back. After that, I focused more on actually becoming an author, and that desire grew from there,’ she explains.
Murder, Mystery, and All That Jazz
Speaking at length about Forgotten Toys, a psychological thriller, the author, who holds a bachelor’s degree in English and Secondary Education and a master’s Degree in Reading, says, ‘When you look in an empty pool, you don’t usually expect to see a body at the bottom. But in a small town in eastern Pennsylvania called Pikesville, that is exactly what happens one summer.’
She elaborates, ‘Pikesville is a quaint community that is faced with the disappearance of a local teenager named Jenna Hayes, and the town is turned upside down. When Jenna is found brutally murdered at the bottom of the town’s abandoned pool, the town is devastated; but to Sarah Moore, Jenna was just a girl whose name she’d heard around sometimes, in some circles.’ The author adds, ‘What does this have to do with her? She is dealing with her issues, anyway. But when Sarah’s sister, Chloe, goes missing, Sarah must uncover a murderer before he gets to her, too, or before it’s too late.’
‘Booking’ a Magical Tale
Her second book entitled ‘A Storm of Magic’ happens to be a YA Fantasy. Speaking about the book, Ms Laino says, ‘Being brought back from the dead is an impressive trick, even for magician Darien Burron. Now he must try and use his sleight of hand to swindle modern-day witch, Mirah, to sign her power away, or end up a tormented demon in the afterlife. Meanwhile, sixteen-year-old Mirah is starting to lose control of her powers. After an incident at her aunt’s Witchery store, Mirah is sent to a secret coven to learn to control her abilities. While she is away, Mirah meets up with a soft-spoken clairvoyant, a brazen storm witch, and the creator of dark magic itself. The young woman must learn to trust in herself before she loses herself entirely to the darkness that hunts her.’
The anthology entitled ‘Power Loss’, we learn, is a Dystopian, Science Fiction Anthology, The author tells us that in the story the day the lights go out is remembered as Day Zero. ‘And it wasn’t just the lights, it was the phones, the computers and just about everything else that made modern society what it was, she says, adding, ‘Power Loss tells the story of eight individuals, by eight different authors, each trying to come to terms with the blackout and survive in a world that has changed forever.’
A Fan of Libba Bray and Gillian Flynn
On being asked whether she plots out her stories before putting pen to paper or flies by the seat of pants, the author tells us that she usually creates an outline for the major points she’d like to hit in the novel and also to create some background for her characters. ‘Then, I let the story unfold to those major points on their own,’ she states.
And does she have authors who tend to inspire her? Says Ms Laino, ‘I have always been a fan of Libba Bray’s work, especially A Great and Terrible Beauty. She has a wonderful grasp on imagery and voice, which I admire. I am also an enormous fan of Gillian Flynn. I admire that her female characters are dark and flawed. I find her characters relatable and realistic.’
Zoning in at the Opportune Moment
The author, who opines that becoming a full-fledged author is easier said than done, tells us that on account of working full time and juggling various activities, she may not want to follow a schedule. ‘It can be difficult to find the time. So I don’t necessarily follow a schedule. But, whenever I can find the time, I put pen to paper. It can be difficult to force myself to start sometimes, but then once I begin, I usually find myself in a writing zone for as long as I am given,’ she explains.
Nonetheless, although she believes that juggling various demanding tasks can certainly be an adventure, she does take time out to do what she likes: running, baking, and watching strange documentaries on Netflix. ‘I have a full-time teaching job, along with a home and family to take care of. I try not to waste any time, so when I do get a free moment, I do my writing. Sometimes it’s over a thousand words, sometimes I only have the time for a few sentences, but it’s still better than not writing at all. And when I’m not writing, I’m pursuing my hobbies.’ the author tells us.
Closing the Year With ‘Closing Time’
Talking about her works in progress, the author says she has a short story in an anthology coming out this year called ‘Closing Time.’ Stating that this was the first time she dipped her toe into a dark comedy, absolutely loving the experience, she lets us know that she has also just finished a psychological thriller entitled ‘Bleed Through’. ‘I am currently making my final adjustments to it. The main character in this has sleep paralysis or “night terrors” which was interesting to research,’ she lets on.
Be that as it may, when asked if she has got anything to tell budding authors, who more often than not tend to lose motivation if their works don’t do well, Ms Laino says, ‘You need to write for yourself. It’s so easy to read the work of others or to read a bad review and feel that you are inadequate. But in the end, think of the best novel you have ever read, that book got bad reviews too. You can’t please everyone, so what’s most important is that you are happy with your work.’
And is there something that she would want to be changed in the world we live in? ‘I think the world could just use more of a general sense of empathy,’ pronounces Ms Laino. ‘I think people have been so focused on themselves and their wants and issues that they don’t stop to think about what other people may be going through,’ she adds, signing off with a beatific smile.