Welcome to my latest author interview! Today I would like to introduce you to Dallas-based author/illustrator Ashley Rice. Ashley has created several popular illustrated books, including You Are An Incredible Kid, Girls Rule, and You Are A Girl Who Totally Rocks. Ashley’s latest release is Make Your Dreams Come True. Ashley’s mix of artwork, poetry, songs, real life experiences and positive messages are loved by tween and teen girls (and boys!) worldwide. Her work also appears on her bestselling line of greeting cards, as well as bookmarks, fridge magnets and so on. It was a pleasure to speak to Ashley, who is a dog lover like myself!
1) Who are your books aimed at, and how would you best describe your books?
Most of my books are written for tweens (9-12 year olds) and, more specifically, with tween girls in mind… but I also have a book called For an Incredible Kid, for example, which could be for anyone. I’ve also gotten messages and emails from older girls and women who will tell me how one of the girl power books helped them out in some way, so really the books are for anyone and everyone who finds that, in their own way, she or he can get something out of them.
2) What first inspired you to write these sorts of books?
I’ve always believed that a girl in the world could do anything, and, as I was growing up, and more specifically when I was older and actually got out into the “real world,” I was surprised whenever I would meet someone who wasn’t aware of that fact — whether it was a male friend or acquaintance who hadn’t gotten the message yet about the “girl power” movement, but especially when it was a girl who wasn’t aware of all the possibilities that were waiting for her out there that she hadn’t yet discovered. You have to believe in those possibilities and in your own personal sense of empowerment before those possibilities can turn into real, solid opportunities that can work for you in your life. So I thought it was important to reach girls like that — or, really, just to get the word out to let all girls know just how talented they truly are. And how amazing their lives will be if they keep on believing in the beauty of their dreams. That’s why I wrote the girl power poems, which were then turned into books.
3) How do you decide on the theme for each book?
Sometimes this is an idea that I think of, other times the idea will be based on a suggestion from my editor.
4) Do you often get feedback from children and if so, what do they say to you about your books?
I do get feedback from girls from time to time. Usually when they contact me it’s to tell me why they liked one of my books. Sometimes they will share with me something personal such as how that book helped them to better deal with some specific problem they were having. Those kinds of letters touch me the most and really mean a lot to me!
5) How do you promote your work?
I haven’t really done much in the way of promotion in the past but am starting to do things like interviews now. I do have a blog on my goodreads author page where I’ll post an update whenever something significant happens to me — like whenever a new book of mine comes out. I also have a web page. It’s at http://www.ashleyrice.net.
6) What are you working on right now?
I’m working on some new poems for girls on different “rules” they can make for themselves to live by, and how they can then use those principles they relate to the most to help guide them in their lives.
7) Where do you see yourself and your work in 5 years time?
I plan to keep on writing and illustrating books along with doing my greeting card line. I have a new calendar coming out next year… hopefully many more books, etc. will follow after that! All I know is that, whatever happens, I’ll keep on writing, illustrating.
8) Did you always want to be a writer/illustrator?
I always wanted to be a writer (since I was 7) and I always drew characters and other things – mostly just doodling — but I didn’t think I was talented or skilled enough to work as an illustrator. I just illustrated my first original poems (which I was turning in to my greeting card publisher to be published as possible greeting cards) as a way to show my employer what types of images I thought could look good alongside my poems if they in fact decided to make those poems into cards. I thought they would then have a “real” artist copy my drawings — or adapt them, really – using their own, professional style. It surprised me when my publisher said they liked my artwork and planned to publish the designs I’d made as-is.
9) What advice would you give to young people who wish to follow in your footsteps?
Work hard, believe in what you do, know that anything is possible for you if you are true to yourself, but most of all: never give up! (Even when it’s hard).
10) What inspires you to write/draw?
I get a lot of ideas from browsing articles, etc – whether in bookstores or on the Internet. But I tend to get ideas from anything, really – when I’m walking my dogs and just thinking while surrounded by nature something might come up in my mind that makes me want to write the words down (which is why I always carry my phone with its electronic notepad with me anywhere I go!)… thoughts and ideas can happen that way, or can be inspired by doing something like watching a movie.
11) Tell us three interesting facts about you
I live in a historic neighborhood (with arts and crafts style houses mostly houses built in the early early 1900’s)… and I really love that!
Before moving back here (to Dallas) I used to live in a community in Boston that was all artists’ lofts, and which had originally been a giant piano factory. You had to have two different artistic recommendations to get in, which meant that your neighbors were artists too (so you could help each other out, etc). That made for an interesting time! Also, to live there, we had to paint the outside of our front doors in a style that we liked a lot – mine was hot pink with a hand-drawn blue flower on it, for example. It took like seven hours for me to do though!
I often volunteer at an animal shelter during lunch… but sometimes it’s too hard for me to leave my own dogs at home to go and do that so I just skip it… but on the days when I do go I have a lot of fun and it feels good to help some other animals out… mostly the work involves “socializing” the dogs and cats at the shelter… which basically means playing with them a lot!
12) Who are you inspired/influenced by?
Shel Silverstein, Dr. Seuss, Todd Parr, Adrienne Rich, to name a few.. along with all of the other writers and artists who also work for my publisher and are amazing!
Thanks so much for the interview Ashley! Good luck with the latest book.
You can find out more about Ashley’s inspiring work on her blog/website ashleyrice.net
Look out for another interview coming soon!