Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Interview with Ashlee Willis

Ashlee Willis just published her debut novel, The Word Changers, and today it is my great joy to share with you the interview Ashlee so graciously allowed me. 


First, give me a short description of The Word Changers
The Word Changers is a book about a girl named Posy who, trying to temporarily escape her troubled home, falls straight into a book. She soon finds that even though she has fallen into a fairy tale, and all the characters within the book are treating her as the heroine, the story is a dark one. One she is not sure she wants to be a part of. 

What gave you the idea to write this story in the first place?
Book ideas are, at least for me, similar to seeds. They begin so tiny. Just one thought or image or word. And then they grow. I build on them, more and more, until I’ve got a whole cast of characters, a theme and a structure. The Word Changers’ “seed” began when I was only a child. It wasn’t even something I thought of as a story idea at the time. It was merely my own strong desire to actually become a part of the books I was reading. It was only after I got older and had a child of my own that that idea came back to me again, this time in the form of a potential story.

Who is your favorite minor character and why? 
Alvar is a main character I came to love. I usually am a big plotter, and have most things planned out before I even begin writing my books. But Alvar surprised me. He just popped into existence while I was writing, and I knew he was right for it. He’s a bit harsh, and perhaps even a little scary … but he’s got a huge heart, and more bravery than any warrior.

I know many times, most of my stories run away with me, and end up being totally different than what I had originally planned. Is the current ending of The Word Changers exactly as you imagined it would be when you first began writing the story?
No, it’s really not! The main theme of the ending is the same – the “message” of the story. But there were many of the actual events that happened near the end that just naturally changed in the scheme of things. Plotter though I may be, things do have a way of getting away from me sometimes. I used to get a bit panicked when that happened, but I’ve learned to see the great potential that could be to my story. It doesn’t always have to be a bad thing when stories take unexpected turns …

I love the title -- The Word Changers! Can you tell us what inspired it?
I don’t title my books until I’m pretty deep into them, or even finished. There is a part in The Word Changers, where the owl Nocturne is speaking with Posy and Kyran, maybe two-thirds of the way through. He tells them their actions have begun to change the story and he tells them that folk have begun to refer to them as “the word changers.” I think that was when I really made a solid decision on the title. I was pretty thrilled when my publisher decided not to change it!

Let's suppose that someone just finished reading The Word Changers and laid the book aside. What would you expect or hope his/her reaction to be?
Some of my strongest and best reactions to books have been almost physical. I feel pained to part with them – with the world within them, with the characters I’ve come to know and love. Yet I feel a satisfaction, too, because I’m taking with me a part of that story forever. It meant more to me than just entertainment. And that’s what I hope, even in small part, that readers of The Word Changers will feel when they close its last page.

Now let's switch topics from the enchanting story to the lovely creator. What is your purpose in writing?
I hope to write stories that my readers will find entertaining, full of adventure, fantasy, danger and intrigue. But I hope as well that they will see the meaning beneath. That the stories I write will not only entertain, but lead my readers to a better understanding of both themselves and God. To let them know that the world we see all around us is only a small part of what we are meant to be a part of. To give them a bit of longing for the world we were truly created for.

Do you often find what you believe coming through in your writing?
Very often! I think if you believe anything strongly and truly, there is no way you will keep it from seeping into every aspect of your life. In fact, many times that is my aim.

Every writer struggles with something when it comes to writing, whether it be plot, character development, dialogue, etc. What would you consider your weak point, and how do you plan on perfecting that?
I tend to get a little wordy with descriptions, I think. I see things so clearly in my imagination, I have trouble holding back from wanting to paint a detailed picture of it with words. I’ve learned (I hope!) to trust my readers a bit more to fill in those blanks with their own imaginations. 

If you were able to give up-and-coming writers a bit of advice, what would you tell them?
There’s a point – a rather dangerous point – where passion fades and the real work begins. That’s not to say that passion never returns again, because it does. But don’t let its absence fool you. Don’t let the lack of it make you think your talent has run its course. Your writing, or even your pursuit of publication, may feel like the most strenuous thing you’ve ever done. But don’t give up. Push on past that wispy feeling, muscle your way straight into determination, and you’ll find a world of imagination and depth that you probably never dreamed of. Keep writing, keep querying, keep studying the craft. And one day, your story will be told.

Thank you so much, Ashlee!


The Word Changers is a must read for anyone who dares to call themselves a Christian fantasy fan! Click here to read my review of The Word Changers on KiriBeth, and then stop by Goodreads and add it to your shelf! If you're eager for more information about this novel, please visit Ashlee's website.

About Ashlee Willis:
Ashlee Willis is the author of fantasy for young adults. She lives in the heart of Missouri with her husband and young son. While most of her days are balanced between writing, reading and homeschooling, she also finds time to enjoy tea with friends, forest walks, photography, and piano playing.


  1. This book sounds very interesting! :)

  2. Awesome interview! And yes, the book is absolutely wonderful :)