Ashley Kath-Bilsky: Writing A Book Is Like Making A Homemade Cake

It’s my pleasure to welcome Ashley Kath-Bilsky to Ruby On Tuesday to discuss her approach to writing and how she went from an idea to a novel. If you like this post, please leave a comment when you finish reading.

Ashley

Happy Ruby On Tuesday, everyone!

I want to thank Ruby for inviting me to her wonderful blog today to discuss how I approach writing and how I came up with the time travel angle for my new best-selling book, ‘Whisper in the Wind’.

Each writer approaches their work in a different way. Some are fast writers and others work in a slow, methodical manner. Some plot their books in great detail while others (like me) begin with a concept and take it from there.  I guess I could compare the way I write a book to making a homemade cake. Anyone who knows me will tell you, I love cake – so what better analogy? In a sense (work with me here), writing is like cooking an exotic recipe or baking a six-layer delicious cake with scrumptious fudge frosting. You are creating something from nothing but your imagination. You take some basic ingredients, add a pinch of this, a dash of that, and voilà – a book!

Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy. There are no shortcuts or Betty Crocker cake mixes for a book. Granted, the recipe may seem easy in theory, but once you start the procedure it can get downright complicated and take longer than you ever anticipated.  Since I write historical fiction, extensive research about the time period is necessary to paint an accurate visual picture that will transport the reader into the book. I’m detail oriented and love history. In fact, it’s easy for me to get lost doing research. However, I try not to be heavy-handed with historical data. Very much like measuring ingredients for a successful recipe, too much of one thing can weigh the product down. Ultimately, readers want to be entertained, not subjected to a history lesson. And don’t think just because the frosting (in this case, the book cover) may look delicious and enticing that people won’t care about the substance or quality of the cake itself.

Writing is a subjective process; what appeals to one person may not appeal to others. After all, there are people who don’t like chocolate either. And I strongly believe that if you don’t have a good story with characters the reader will personally care about, plot elements that are entertaining as well as compelling, and an understanding about the craft of writing, how good your book looks on the outside won’t matter.

Consequently, my goal is to write enjoyable, entertaining, heart-warming books that incorporate plot twists or intriguing elements from other genres. My base is historical romance; it’s what I write and what I read. However, I also love mystery and suspense, as well as paranormal elements, including time travel. I’m not a fan of the ‘formula’ romance with predictable plots. Granted, romance novels are expected to have that ‘happy ending’, but who says there cannot be twists and turns, and unexpected surprises along the way? As a reader, it’s that sense of “what will happen next” that keeps me in a story. So, I strive to write the kind of book I would like to read. Then I cross my fingers and hope the reader will feel the same way.

In my first novel, The Sense of Honor, set in Regency England, strong elements of mystery and suspense were incorporated into the historical romance. With Whisper in the Wind, I pursued another interest – the possibility of time travel. Incorporating an element like time travel is challenging. As a plot device, I didn’t want to be so abstract or far-fetched with the method that it pulled the reader out of the story.  The process should be feasible to be believable. Time travel is simply the means to take a character forward or backward in time. In The Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, spirits appeared to take Scrooge into the past and the future. For Molly Magee, the 21st century heroine in Whisper in the Wind, she finds herself at a specific place and time where nature and the unknown simultaneously combine to transport her physically back in time.

Whisper in The Wind

Here is a brief blurb about the book:

When Molly Magee is suddenly swept back in time, she finds herself in the Old West with gunslingers, high stakes gamblers, Victorian ideology toward women, and a Pinkerton detective named Jordan Blake. As she tries to understand what happened to her and find a way home, danger exists at every turn. Survival is a daily challenge, but it’s a hundred times worse when–to avoid answering questions from a persistent and seductive Pinkerton–she fakes amnesia. She soon realizes the biggest threat of all is the one Jordan Blake poses to her heart.

Jordan Blake has lost everyone he’s ever loved. As a Texas Ranger turned Pinkerton detective, Jordan has become a cynic about people and justice, and is ready to walk away from a life that has lost its meaning. He never knew that a prayer whispered in the wind would bring him an angel of mercy, and a love he’d never hoped to find.

From the open splendor of 1885 Texas to dark decadence and murder in New Orleans, Molly and Jordan learn that when fate takes a hand, finding the love of your life is often just a matter of…Time.

Whisper in the Wind, an Amazon best-selling sensuous Historical Time Travel Romance is the first book in the ‘Windswept Texas Romance’ series. The novel is available for Kindle at Amazon.com, as well as e-reader format for Apple iBook/iPad, Nook, Kobo, and Smashwords.  The print version of the book will be available on May17, 2013.

Ashley Kath-Bilsky is a best-selling, award-winning author of Historical Romance with Mystery, Suspense, and/or Paranormal elements.  She also writes Historical Gothic Young Adult Fiction. For more information about Ashley and her books, please visit her website (www.ashleykathbilsky.com) , personal blog (www.ashleykathbilsky.blogspot.com ), Twitter (https://twitter.com/AKathBilsky), and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Ashley-Kath-Bilsky/302554710513).  Ashley is also a contributing member of the Sweethearts of the West blog at: www.sweetheartsofthewest.blogspot.com.

What keeps you in a story and reading to the very last page?

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16 thoughts on “Ashley Kath-Bilsky: Writing A Book Is Like Making A Homemade Cake

  1. Ashley, thank you so much for visiting Ruby On Tuesday. It’s such a pleasure learning how other writers take an idea to a full fledged novel.
    What keeps me in a story are believable characters with lots of obstacles to overcome.

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    • Thank you again. Ruby. I really enjoyed the opportunity to appear on your blog and introduce myself to everyone. It’s funny that you mentioned lots of obstacles for characters to overcome. Years ago in Houston, I once attended a conference where Alice Orr, an amazing speaker gave a seminar on writing. I’m paraphrasing here, but on the subject of plotting, characters and keeping the pacing and tension up throughout the book to avoid the sagging middle, etc. — she essentially said to, “put your characters up in a tree, then throw rocks at them” . She stressed the importance of giving them one obstacle after another to overcome, both external or internal. Great speaker. I highly recommend attending any of her workshops.

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    • Hi Thorne! Thank you for your comment. I also love nail biting suspense that takes you on a roller-coaster ride where you cannot figure out what will happen next. I like the writer to keep me guessing. Nothing like that sudden drop along with unexpected twists and turns are great. 🙂

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  2. Wonderful analogy, Ashley! Cooking up a good book is very much like creating a new, delicious cake. For myself, I’ve found that a rough outline keeps me on track. The details occur as I write, but the initial plot stays fairly close to my “recipe.”

    Whisper in the Wind is on my TBR. I hope to read it soon.

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    • Thank you so much, Lyn. Your Texas Druid series is wonderful! An outline is a great idea. I do have a 3-ring binder I’ve started — since ‘Whisper in the Wind’ is the first book in the Windswept Texas Romance series. Each book will stand alone, but it helps me keep track of all the character details (primary and secondary), timelines, research,. etc. ‘Spirit of the Wind’ is the next book in the series and will be about the long lost brother of Jordan Blake (the Pinkerton detective in ‘Whisper in the Wind’). Ethan Blake has an amazing story to tell that I hope will keep writers on the edge of their seats. 🙂

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    • Thank you for your comment, Ella — and also for the supportive ‘tweet’! 🙂 Pacing is very important — just like the essential ‘baking powder’ for a cake to make it rise. Without good pacing the book reads slow and perhaps weighed down with superfluous details that will pull the reader out of the story.

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  3. Nice post. I’m afraid there are many books out there that used a recipe and left out a few key ingredients. Even in fantasy, the situation must suck the reader into the world and make them want to like the characters. Good characterization, pacing, conflict and goals for the characters are ingredients I think must always be in a novel. At least that’s what keeps me reading.

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    • Good afternoon, Cal! Thank you for your comment about the importance of not leaving out key ingredients. Yep, nothing will pull a reader out of a story faster than not connecting with the characters or denying the reader essential information to understand the character’s situation and conflict, especially when dealing with the paranormal, or a fantasy where world-building is so critical.

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  4. Hi, Ashley! To answer your question, a story with unexpected twists and turns keeps me glued to the pages or e-reader. I also love time travel, romance or not, and have written a couple myself. It is a challenge to keep the time travel believable and not get too technical. The best part is how the out of time character reacts to their new environment and how the other characters react to them.

    Your book sounds like a wonderful read and I love the cover! Best of luck with it!

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    • Hi Susan. Thank you for your comment. I really enjoyed writing about time travel and a big part of it was (as you say) how the characters react upon realizing what happened to them — and how others react. For Molly Magee, she fakes amnesia knowing no one will believe her if she tells the truth. It’s a difficult balancing act for her. I also wanted her reactions to resonate with women today, especially her impulsive (and at times comical) reactions to the limitations imposed on women in the 19th century. Thanks again for your kind words. 🙂

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  5. Your cake anology made me hungry. LOL I agree that a book has to have substance beneath all that beautiful and tasty frosting. I like twists and turns; I don;t want to know what’s going to happen next and I love conflict.
    Your “cake” has beautiful “frosting” and it looks like a wonderful story. I love time travel.

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  6. Hi Sarah. Thank you so much for your comment. I’m happy you enjoyed the post and that we agree on what we look for in a book. I do love the cover of ‘Whisper in the Wind’ and feel it really captures both Jordan and Molly. I hope you will find the book has all the elements you love in a book, and that it can compare to that perfect piece of cake. 🙂

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