Hi R. Leigh, Welcome to Paperback Writer Will you share with us how you came up with the idea for this book? The complete answer to that question might be even be longer than the 600 pages of story in the Winds of Asharra. Attempting to massively condense it is not easy! In general though, you could say that the positive outlook, the mystical Asharran philosophy and the overall sense of wonder and adventure grew out of a sense of inner hope for a better, more natural world. The creation of Asharran culture, so rich and complete including language, rituals and worldview, enabled me to create my place that indeed has “a better way.” This mystical world of the purple sky, under twin suns, is the backdrop for an exploration of what it means to change one’s way of looking at oneself and the universe. I spent many years studying a variety of diverse cultures ,religions and societies. Frequently, I would rejoice over the discovery of some little “nugget” of wisdom or example that people could really be in harmony with their world and be happy. However, the more tidbits I amassed, the more I felt ultimately unsatisfied, since the result was a crazy patchwork that didn’t quite fit together. Asharra changed all that. This strange and sensual alien world, seen through the eyes of two American teenagers suddenly transported there, was my backdrop. The term “Asharra” to the native Asharrans means “the home around us” and applies to their planet and every living thing on it. They believe you don’t even have to be born there to be Asharran, so long as you are natural and “true” (in their terms). Thus, when one native Asharran tells the two main characters (from Earth), “welcome home”, it is because Asharra is simply the home they have never seen yet. Do you plan your stories first with an outline or does it come to you as write it? It would have been almost un-Asharran to methodically plan out every little detail for this book. The overall plot points and the underlying philosophy expressed in the Winds of Asharra were fully formed before the first words left the keyboard and appeared on the screen. We knew which elements would be especially appealing to fantasy fans, romance novel afficienados and lovers of adventure. Simultaneously though, there was a different, almost serendipitous process occurring. Even with so many elements combined defined , a very enjoyable part of the creative process was interacting with the individual pieces and almost allowing them to come together according to their “own” design. For us, the surreal world of the purple sky had enough “magnetism” to naturally attract the necessary plot and character elements to each other in ways that even surprised the author. Do you know the end of the story at the beginning? Similar to what one of the characters says to Victor and Zoe, in the Winds of Asharra, the destination is only a goal, and as such, is only as important as the journey itself. Sure, we knew the overall ending of the Winds of Asharra and many of the key “oh my!” moments at the onset. The joy was discovering the scenery along the way and savoring it during the writing process as we progressed along. Do you have a process for developing your characters? Actually, it’s quite the reverse. The characters in this series define themselves. As an author, it’s sheer entertainment to craft the barest minimum and watch the remaining pieces allign themselves almost naturally (To the Asharrans, the mystery of the creative process is that more people don’t take advantage of it). Using the Asharran metaphor, we let our “lesser” mind create the basic outline, but it is our “greater” mind which magically fills in all of the details. It is said that authors write themselves into their characters. Is there any part of you in your characters and what they would be? There is something in all of the characters in The Winds of Asharra in which we can identify. That is truly saying something since several of the characters are not even human! Still, the characters are a kaleidescope of emotions, attitudes, and possibilities that are simultaneously unusual and familiar, something we think will strike a chord in the readers as well. What is your most favorite part about this book? Now that is a pause-inducing question (similar to asking a parent which of their children is their favorite). There are so many from which we could select. If we were really forced to narrow down the choices to three, these would be the finalists. First, the overall story of self discovery for Victor and Zoe, regardless of the adventurous details, would have to be listed. Seeing them grow and change (in one case quite literally) was a joy. Second, we’d have to add, the “emotional” highpoints of several key plot elements (we can’t list them since they would spoil things for potential readers) to this list. There are several moments where events happen that we defy readers not to cheer. Lastly, we would say that the overall exploration of Asharran culture and philosophy which is sprinkled throughout the book is a favorite part in itself. The Ways of Asharra are as significant as the characters in the book, since they influence them and coax them to be better people. When in the process of writing your book did you begin to look for a publisher? Since the writing of this book was a true labor of love, we did not concentrate on the commercial aspects until after the novel was completed. We truly allowed ourselves to be “carried along by the Winds” throughout the entire writing process. What struggles have you had on the road to being published? It took a lot of resolve to determine not to attempt to attempt to force fit the Winds of Asharra into any particular genre conventions. The story is unique on several levels and unashamedly so. Since it straddles several genre’s, it was something that several publishers and reviewers initially had a difficult time classifying. What has been the best part about being published? I’d say it is the opportunity to simultaneously share an entertaining story and an engaging philosophy with folks from all over the world. The many emails we’ve received are a joy read and answer. What do you want readers to remember and carry with them after reading your novel? That is a wonderful (and different) question! Thanks for asking. First, we’d like them to remember the sense of optimism and wonder so central to the Winds of Asharra. Better than addressing their Inner Child, we think that WOA tantalizes their Inner Adult, a creature who too often can become disillusioned with the world. Second, we’d like them to remember the tenets of Asharran philosophy in general. This unique perspective on reality is one that my spouse and I share and we have found it to be very useful in today’s world. Lastly, if they had to recall one single thing, it would be the Asharran philosophical tidbit, that “the only way to fail is to give up.” By that defintion, we’ve already succeeded. Do you have plans to write another book? It’s virtually certain based on reader comments that our next endeavor will be a sequel to The Winds of Asharra. The plotline certainly leads directly into it and we know that the readership is very interested in following the next set of exploits for Victor, Ionera, Zoe on the world of the purple sky. Would you care to share with us how the virtual book tour experience with Pump Up Your Book Promotion has been for you? We think that Virtual Tours are the wave of the future for authors and folks like those at Pump Up Your Book Promotion, and several others as well, are virtual pioneers, blazing the trail for those who follow. If the pace seemed hectic or the process a little less organized than we would have expected, it’s only because the tour operators themselves are exploring uncharted territory. We’re all learning together how best to utilize this brand new tool to spread the word about interesting books. That in itself, is exciting. Where can readers find a copy of your book? There are a variety of online retailers where readers can find a copy of the Winds of Asharra including Amazon.com, B&N.com, Target.com and others. We have a list of retailers online at our website, www.thewindsofasharra.com as well as several other Asharran style tidbits that potential readers might enjoy. Thank you, R. Leigh, for sharing your book and characters with us today. It has been a pleasure and I hope you have had a successful virtual book tour.
THE WINDS OF ASHARRA VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR ’08 officially began on May 1, 2008 and will continue through the end of month. If you would like to follow R. Leigh’s tour in progress, visit http://www.virtualbooktours.wordpress.com/ in May. Leave a comment on her blog stops and become eligible to win a free copy at the end of her tour! One lucky winner will be announced on this tour page on May 30!