Q & A with Ashleigh Zavarelli

When I saw A. Zavarelli had a new book coming out and that it was going to be a dark adult fairytale retelling of Beauty & the Beast, I was literally salivating at the idea. If you haven’t read anything by her yet, you are truly missing out. The characters she creates are utterly captivating.  When the offer to get an ARC copy of Beast came through my e-mail, I jumped on the opportunity like it was the actual cover model in the flesh being presented for my grabby hands. 

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Because I also follow Ashleigh on her Femme Fatales facebook page, I requested an author interview for our blog. But because I am a boozy bitch, I thought I would throw in some margaritas to set the tone. Shots of Jameson were on the menu in honor of her Boston Underworld series, but let’s be honest, a few shots in and this interview would devolve into virtual hugging and professing my undying love for both her and her characters.
*cough* Ronan *cough*
So, margaritas it is.
Pour yourself one, or whatever you have handy, and join us for a round as I ask all my burning questions.


C: Your prior romantic leads have been a billionaire bad boy and members of an organized crime syndicate. What should your readers expect from the leading man in Beast?

A: The leading man in Beast is more of an anti hero than anything I’ve ever written before. He is harsher than most of my male leads, and doesn’t have as many redeeming qualities. But I think that when readers learn about his past, it will explain many of his actions. I can’t say too much about him without giving away spoilers except for that he is a highly intelligent recluse with a sinister side.

C: You have described Beast as a contemporary twist on traditional fairytales. What inspired you to make the leap into creating stories about a twisted ever after?

A: I just really like the idea of dark fairytales. The twisted relationships and the light and dark sides that many of these traditional characters seem to have. A big inspiration for me was the show Once Upon a Time. I liked that they took traditional stories and turned them on their heads, shaking up everything we thought we knew about the characters.

C: You create playlists for your books and sometimes even list them in the books so it is clear that music provides a way to direct your creative thoughts, but if you could only choose one song from your Spotify Playlist  Beast (Twisted Ever After #1) to capture the overall feeling of Beast, which would it be?

A: Oh this is a such a hard decision. There are so many songs from my Beast playlist that I adore, but if I had to choose one it would be I Know You by Skylar Grey. This song perfectly sums up Isabella and Javier’s relationship and the emotions between them.

C: Your books have dark themes and the characters are frequently put through hell. How do you prepare yourself to write the thoughts and feelings of the characters? And when you are done, what techniques do you use to prepare yourself to come back to the real world?

A: It’s honestly one of the hardest things for me. I get into that mindset and once I’m there I don’t want to come back out because I’m afraid of losing momentum. I tend to live on a rollercoaster of emotions myself while writing these books. There’s always a huge high when it’s over but then I have to sit back and process everything afterwards and it takes me some time to recover before I can start on the next book. I do get emotionally involved with the characters, so it’s always a little bit sad to let them go.
When I finish a book, I find that just taking time to do things I didn’t have time to helps me the most. Watching my favorite shows. Reading books I want to read. Visiting with friends. I don’t have a lot of time for these things when I’m writing so I basically just go back to being a part of the real world for a while and that really seems to help.

C: What has been your favorite book to date?

A: This is a hard one as well, but I think I’d have to say Reaper. I loved his character and had so much fun getting into his mindset. There are always some characters I connect with more than others and for me, he was the one I could really relate to.

C: Now, as I mentioned, the MacHalos did a buddyread of the entire Boston Underworld series so if I don’t take this opportunity to ask you some things about those books, the extremely bloodthirsty ladies over there are likely to set my head on a spike. They’ll enjoy it, too. They’re a bunch of freaks like that. You would adore them. Anyway, could you tell us a little bit about what inspired some of your and our favorite scenes from the series?

A: LOL well we can’t have your head on a spike! This is starting to feel like a Game of Thrones episode…
As for the inspiration for some of the Boston Underworld scenes, I’ll talk about a couple that I hear often about from readers and explain how they came about.
The one I always tend to hear about is the scene in Reaper with Ronan and Sasha next to the dead body. This one was really quite easy for me. I just sat back and thought about the most taboo things that could occur in this situation between them, and this was the first to pop into my head.
(SPOILER ALERT)
What could be more twisted than Ronan losing his virginity to Sasha after he murdered her boyfriend and is still covered in his blood.
To me, this really spoke of the level of emotions that had been brewing between them for some time. And there were zero fu#%s given at that point. It was going to happen then and there.

Another scene I hear about is the tattoo scene in Ghost. I love this one because this is the ultimate expression of Alexei’s Alpha side coming out to play. He wants the world to know that she belongs to him and he will protect her. The inspiration for this was pretty simple as well and came about through my research of the Russian mafia.

C: In Crow, there is a crucial moment when Lachlan and Mack are really enjoying a few drinks of tequila. It was one of the hottest scenes that didn’t actually include sex that I’ve ever read. In the least creeper way I can possibly put this, please tell me more about that scene!

A: Ha! Well I will take that as a compliment, with a shot of tequila please!
Honestly, this scene was inspired by a teaser that I came across while browsing stock photo sites. It was just a hot graphic and I kept thinking how can I put this into a book? And the rest was all Mack and Crow. It felt different and I just went with it. That scene was one of my favorites to date that I’ve written.
It didn’t hurt that I love tequila and limes either.

*Disclaimer – Ronan is in my top five book boyfriends of ALL time. I cannot be rational in my thoughts about him. I had to defer to someone else’s favorite scene in this book because I couldn’t even begin to narrow it down to just one.
C: In Reaper, Ronan is training as a child and he is expected to cross a pit on a narrow plank to get to his father. Was this something you created entirely in your beautifully terrifying brain space, or did the inspiration for it come from one of the mildly creeptastic documentaries you like to watch?

A: LOL, well my brain is a pretty terrifying place. But… this one was actually something I stumbled across in my research. And not even a creepy documentary either, just something I found on the dark inter webs. So this is a technique that has really been used before, and the psychology of it really resonated with me. For Ronan to feel that trust towards someone who should have nurtured him and then to be betrayed so badly was something that I felt really helped to explain part of his fractured personality.

C: Ghost was a particularly difficult story for some because of the hell that Talia lived through prior to Alexei rescuing her, but that revenge torture scene with Boris and Dmitri was epic.
(I tried to warn you, we really are a bloodthirsty group)

At what point in the story did you decide Dmitri’s fate would be settled by a date with Karma?

A: This is actually funny and I’m glad I get to talk about this scene because it makes me laugh every time I think about it. But originally, this was not part of the story. It was only after I sent the story to my critique partner Rose that she started giving me some much needed whip cracking.
In all honestly, the very first beta draft I sent out of Ghost was much milder. I had been holding back a lot because I was afraid of venturing into such dark territory. But Rose told me very bluntly to quit being such a baby and write the story as it was meant to be written.
So I did.
I fixed things. And at her suggestion (and reminder that readers in general can be quite a bloodthirsty group) she told me I better damn well bring back Boris.
So I did.
And therein lies the incomprehensible value of my beta readers, who have given me a swift kick in the pants on more than one occasion.

C: In Saint there is this awesome scene when you realize just how well Rory gets Scarlett. In the hotel room preparing for the masquerade, Rory presents Scarlett with her choice of weapons, which includes a set of bladed stilettos. Guns, throwing knives… I get it… but how did you come up with the bladed stilettos? That is just amazingly badass.

A: This was hands down one of my favorite scenes to write. Who doesn’t want to be as badass as Scarlett? I know I do. And all the weapons he offered up were so much fun to research. The bladed stilettos were something else I stumbled across on the dark web and just knew it was love at first sight. How could I not put them in there?

C: Speaking of Saint, there seemed to be some people that felt you may have gone too far with Scarlett’s character, and I can assure you, not one of the crazies in our reading group thought that for even a second, in fact Scarlett was our favorite leading lady of the series. Has there ever been a time when writing that you felt like maybe you did take a character too far?

A: I am always terrified that I am taking every character too far in some way or another. I think that fear is natural, but I have had to learn how to push past it. My characters are not all molds of each other and I think it would be rather boring if they were. I love flawed characters. I love to write them. And people are never one hundred percent of anything. They are messy and broken and we all carry around their own baggage. Those are the characters that I like to write, and my only saving grace is that there will always be some readers out there who might resonate with them.

C: As I might have mentioned, I have an undying and possibly unhealthy love for Ronan, but who is your favorite leading man? Which female do you most connect with?

A: My favorite leading man is definitely Ronan. He is so childlike and broken that I can’t help but feel protective of him. He will always have my heart.
And the female character that I connected most with was Scarlett.
Hmmm… now that I think about it, they are probably my two craziest characters.
What does that say about me? 😛

C: You have said that you plan to revisit the Boston Series at some point, and I’m sure you have some more twisted fairytales up your sleeve, but what is up next in your writing lineup?

A: I do plan on writing Nikolai’s book next to wrap up the Boston Underworld series. And I also have Storm and Booker’s story to write as a spinoff. But before I write either of those I actually have a contemporary romance that I’ve been working on. It’s something lighter than what I usually write, but every once in a while I like to do something a little different.

C: Finally, what is the one thing you would like your readers to know about A. Zavarelli?

A: I would like my readers to know that they are my rockstars!
Honestly, I couldn’t do what I do without them. To have people who love my stories is beyond anything I ever could have imagined and it still blows my mind every day.
So thank you for your support. It really does mean the world to me.
XOXO
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To learn more about Ashleigh’s general awesomeness please see her author page. Click HERE for my review of Ashleigh’s new release, Beast.

Thanks for joining me for a drink!

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