Claire Ashgrove is the author of Immortal Hope, the first book in The Curse of the Templars series. These dark paranormal romances feature action, tough heroes, and romance. Claire dropped by the virtual offices to share more about her book.
[Manga Maniac Café] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.
[Claire Ashgrove] Constantly in the writers cave in between raising two wonderful little boys and way too many dogs.
[Manga Maniac Café] Can you tell us a little about your book, Immortal Hope ?
[Claire Ashgrove] Immortal Hope is the first book in my paranormal series, The Curse of the Templars. It’s a dark paranormal romance that incorporates some speculative fiction, a lot of action, and a barrel of romance. In it, you’ll find battle-hardened Templar Knights struggling to overcome the vile intentions of the most unholy, Azazel. But as time has passed, the curse they bear threatens to eradicate their noble existence. Only the coming of the seraphs can save them… but the women aren’t necessarily willing to comply.
[Manga Maniac Café] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?
[Claire Ashgrove] The entire series was a culmination of nearly a year of letting it mull around in my head. I knew I wanted to write about the Knights Templar. The “what” left me struggling. There’s too many stories that circulate around the hunt for the Holy Grail, or where their lost treasure is (let alone what). I didn’t want that to be the focus of my book. And, as a reader, I was a little tired of the atypical angel themes, as well as the worst darkness being Satan. So I mulled and mulled and mulled, and watched documentary after documentary, and eventually my imagination pieced things together. My knights were going to be true knights. Men virtually ripped out of the 12th century, with only the most basic modernization required to survive in today’s world. What countered them? Modern women who carry the gift of the angels. Which left me with the plot. I asked my mentor, “Do you think I can get away with the premise that God could legitimately be eradicated?” Her eyes doubled in size… and I ran with it.
[Manga Maniac Café] What has been the most challenging aspect of writing the series, The Curse of the Templars?
[Claire Ashgrove ] What was the most difficult was embedding the right details here and there to include enough of the subplot to make it interesting, but not reveal the things I intend to unwrap as it goes along. Developing six different knights with six different personalities and needs, as well as six different pasts that influence their current actions and thoughts was fairly intricate. Some leapt at me. Some I had to really dig at. Some decided halfway through the plotting endeavor that my initial plan wasn’t going to work for them.
I’ll be upfront – the subplot is very intricate. What may seem obvious, isn’t. The characters have their own mysteries, and there’s an overall mystery that is taking place as well. Layering all that so the reader doesn’t feel jipped or taken by surprise is a calculated effort. Balancing that with a romance, when the plot itself could easily be just an action book, was a delicate endeavor. Add that all into having a word count so I wasn’t writing the next 800 page novel—it was a challenge. But I loved every moment of it, and I’m still having a blast with the later books.
[Manga Maniac Café] How did you feel the first time you saw the cover for Immortal Hope?
[Claire Ashgrove] I loved it. The second day I looked at it, I questioned the “yellow stuff” behind the model’s head, and asked my editor. But on the third day I was sold completely. I think it really grabs all the elements of what I want a reader to “get” when seeing it: it’s romance (sexy half-clothed knight), it’s Templar, there’s the hint of the ancient with the rosette window, and the “yellow stuff” adds the paranormal.
[Manga Maniac Café] What are three things a Templar knight would never have in his wallet?
[Claire Ashgrove] Laugh! That’s assuming they carry wallets. These men rarely leave their stronghold, and even more rarely interact with the modern world. That said… I can guarantee they don’t have credit cards, social security cards, or condoms. They are more apt to have a money clip and nothing else on them.
[Manga Maniac Café] What are your greatest creative influences?
[Claire Ashgrove] History is the biggest. Anything I can twist and give a speculative fiction bend to.
Then I’d have to go with movies, and as far as other influences, probably fantasy writers. Don’t get me wrong, I have some outstanding romance writers who I admire and still gush if given the opportunity to meet them. But my writing influences began with fantasy, and that’s where my heart is at its core. So in that vein, fantasy movies, fantasy books, and a lot of fantasy (D&D based) gaming.
[Manga Maniac Café] What three things do you need in order to write?
[Claire Ashgrove] Nowadays, as my boys are getting older and more active, I find I need quiet more than I used to.
I simply cannot craft a single word without coffee. That just is so not going to happen on any level.
Darkness. I write the best when it’s dark outside, not daylight.
Oh, and there must be some sort of chocolate in the fridge or freezer so that when I get stumped, I can wander for a bite and trigger my memory.
[Manga Maniac Café] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?
[Claire Ashgrove] I can’t answer that question at any level. I’ve been reading full books since I was three years old. During the summer as a child we’d do the library reading challenges, 25 books per little card you filled out and I’d go through them in two or three days. We never came home from the library with less than ten books. The first book I really remember reading was in Kindergarten, and it was Serendipity. I don’t recall the plot, but I remember spending time outside the classroom with another teacher reading it aloud to her. I think it was about a dragon or a sea creature. Nevertheless, I’ve always, always, read, and I can’t say there was any one book that turned me on to it.
Johanna Lindsey probably turned me on to writing. I was twelvish when I first read her, and soon thereafter I was writing my own stories.
[Manga Maniac Café] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?
[Claire Ashgrove] Laugh. I’m always writing. Truth! But when I can be coerced, convinced, or bribed out of the writer’s cave, I enjoy cooking, I play with our horses and our other farm critters, and my boys and I have just discovered Dominos together and we have a blast both playing the actual game and building domino designs just to knock them down. I read. And I love to spend time with my friends.
[Manga Maniac Café] Thanks!
You can learn more about Claire by visiting her social networking links:
FACEBOOK: Claire Ashgrove
Immortal Hope is out now! You can purchase it from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the handy widgets below: