It’s Meet the Author Monday! Each week we meet a new author and get to know a little about them, their writing process, publishing experience, and tips for other writers. Today we’re talking to Ashli Montgomery, author of Grocery Girl: Green Hills Book 1.
About Ashli Montgomery:
Ashli Montgomery is a wife, a momma, and an author whose passion is sharing love stories, books, quilts, yoga, recipes, and all of her favorite things in life. She is quilting to mend the mind by spearheading and educating a community of friends who love quilts and quilting but hate Alzheimer’s disease through Quilt 2 End ALZ, Inc., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit she launched to use her quilting hobby as a platform to advocate for an end to Alzheimer’s disease.
Ashli writes under the pen name Virginia’dele Smith to honor Syble Virginia Tidwell, Adele Gertrude Baylin, and Etta Jean Smith. These three cherished grandmothers were beautiful role models, teaching Ashli to love without judgment and to always put family first. Through Grandma Syble’s journals and appetite for books, through Momadele’s priceless cards and handwritten letters, and through many, many hours of visiting over fabric at Mema’s kitchen island, Ashli also learned to treasure words.
She inhales life with every breath. He’s suffered a world of pain. Can they rise above tragedy to find their happily ever after?
Maree Davenport refuses to let a tearful past rule her future. After losing her parents at the age of five, the big-hearted fabric designer is determined to embrace her feelings and find happiness no matter what. So when she literally runs over a handsome new firefighter in the produce section, the hopeless romantic is certain she’s just collided with destiny.
Everyone Rhys Larsen ever loved has died. And though he may have hit it off with the pretty girl at the store, the haunted EMT knows better than to let her into his heart. But when an accident leaves her wounded and in need of care, he vows to nurse her back to health.
As Maree struggles to break through the grieving man’s walls, she fears his deep-seated superhero complex will make him unreachable. And as Rhys grapples with trying to protect the beautiful woman from his curse, he worries he’ll have to choose between doing the right thing and true love.
Can this conflicted couple reconcile their opposite takes on adversity and find purpose in each other’s arms?
Grocery Girl is the touching first book in the Green Hills wholesome small-town romance series. If you like strong but vulnerable characters, emotional growth, and quaint backdrops, then you’ll adore Virginia’dele Smith’s celebration of joy.
Author Interview with Ashli Montgomery:
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- Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I did, and I do! I wear many different hats in my community…coach’s wife, mom to my own two kids as well as a full football team of young men, business owner, quilter, yogi, homemaker, and advocate to end Alzheimer’s disease. When I wanted to add full-time author to that list, I felt called to separate that aspect of my time in a significant way. I loved that I could accomplish that and honor my grandmothers all at the same time by choosing a pen name based on those three beautiful women. I don’t hide that I am the author behind the pseudonym; even my email signature has both listed. I am happy that I decided to share my work in that way, and now I wear my Virginia’dele Smith hat with plenty of pride.
- What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I have a small tribe of writers who encourage and support me in different ways. Each one of them reassures me that I can accomplish this goal and that I’m never alone throughout the unique journey. On top of that, all three of them are incredibly successful women who inspire me in very big ways.
The first member in my writing circle is Marjorie Herrera Lewis, author of When the Men Were Gone. Marjorie and I met several years ago when she was writing an article about me and my husband for a local magazine. We hit it off that day and have stayed in touch ever since. We are both huge sports fans, and we both cheer loudly and proudly for the University of Tulsa, where my husband is the head football coach…Reign Cane!
The second member in my writing circle is one of my dear friends here in Tulsa, Tricia Milford-Hoyt. Tricia and I met through a mother-daughter service organization and quickly became close confidants. We are two peas in a pod, and I know that she will understand me no matter how crazy my ideas. In addition to being an incredibly talented writer, Tricia is the most brilliant marketing mind I’ve ever met. When I feel like I’m “just” an author, or “just” a mom, or “just” an anything, Tricia helps me see the big picture; she never lets me doubt my value, and for that, I am very grateful.
The third member in my writing circle is cozy mystery author and fellow quilter Kathryn Mykel. I met Kathryn through the online quilting community, and then I happened to run into her again in Self-Publishing School. She hosts a daily co-authoring group that I joined, and that has changed my writing life! Although we write in different genres, we love exploring how the quilters in our audience will respond to our stories, our marketing, and our sewing projects that run alongside our novels. One of these days I’m going to meet Kathryn in person – hopefully at a quilting retreat where we can talk and sew for hours on end – and I am absolutely positive that it will feel like we’ve known each other our whole lives.
Those three are wonderful friends to have!
- Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
As a book collector, I have a vision of what my books will look like on a shelf in our home twenty or thirty years from now. To make sure that the titles stay in publication order when they are also in alphabetical order, I number each book. Grocery Girl, my début novel, is Book 1. It takes place in the fictional town of Green Hills, Oklahoma. That will be the central setting for all my books, and they will all be numbered in this original sequence. Within the collection, I will have sub-series. For instance, books one, two, three, and four all center around the three Davenport siblings and their best friend, Daniel. I have already planned a box set of those before book five is released. And while the characters will certainly have adventures outside of Green Hills, it will always remain home base.
- How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Yikes!! For many years before I began writing the stories that live in my head, I would record myself talking out the scenes while I drove on long road trips. Each of those recordings are becoming a book premise and turning into a full story arc. To date, I have fourteen of those audio files to tackle. I can’t wait to see where the plot goes and how they all end up intertwined and supporting one another.
- What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I love reading other people’s thoughts, ideas, philosophies, and opinions. I think that we get so caught up in the hustle and bustle of life that many great quotes and sayings pass us by on a daily basis. To pay homage to my love of quotes, sayings, and scripture, I include an element of one to open every chapter. I love using that nugget of knowledge to set the tone for what is to come, a way to engage the reader by making them think, “Oh my…I bet I know where this is headed.” And then I love for them to see if they were correct when they reach the end of that chapter. It’s a fun way to create a pause so that the story can stew a little when our tendency is to read so fast that we often can’t remember what we just finished reading.
I do a ton of research to find those quotes, sayings, and scriptures that appear before each chapter. And I might fall down that rabbit hole of discovery every now and then, which explains the excessive amount of notes I have “for future reference” – LOL
- How do you select the names of your characters?
As educators, when my husband and I were naming our actual children, we were determined to select names that were unique, names that we’d already associated with one of our students. I have that same philosophy when naming my characters. I try to find something that feels like my character, something that fits them just right. And I can’t explain how I know when I’ve found the right one…I just sense it. To help me discover possibilities, I research “names that mean _______” with that character’s traits or idiosyncrasies. I also image the character’s ancestors, where their family is from, what their back story might be to help me find search terms to fill in the blank.
- If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
Quilt, Cook, Read, and Repeat 😉
- What was your hardest scene to write?
One of my main characters was raped as a teenager. Thankfully, I’ve never had to work through such a horrific ordeal, and I want to do justice to the scene for those readers who might have faced such a tragedy. I’ve rewritten that scene numerous times, and I am sure that I will revise it many more. It needs to be just right, for all the survivors out there. That’s definitely the hardest scene I’ve written, and it’s not finished yet.
- Does your family support your career as a writer?
They really do! My husband is my greatest champion, and my kids tell me all the time that they are very proud of my writing career. My mom is my biggest fan, and my dad thinks that I can do no wrong. Along with my siblings, cousins, and closest friends, I have the very best support system imaginable!
To learn more about Ashli Montgomery, here’s where you can find her:
Author website: www.AshliMontgomery.com
Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/virginiadelesmith
Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/AshliMontgomery.VirginiadeleSmith/