Author and activist, Kathy Ashby, recently took some time to respond to some questions that I had for her. What follows are her honest and thoughtful responses on topics ranging from childhood dreams to her environmental ethics to her work in various artistic pursuits.
JO: Social activism and protecting the environment are obviously extremely important to you. Can you discuss this and why you integrated these elements into your novel?
KA: I became a member of an anti-pollution group in 1967, at 14 years of age. It was very exciting. We participated in the Town parade and cleaned up roadside garbage. One year, we organized a Town meeting for the public in order to raise awareness about pollution. I remember the panel of guest speakers sitting on stage behind a table. During question period one man stood and held up a mason jar full of murky brown water, shaking the muck for all to see. He said that as a boy he remembered that the water would have been crystal clear. What happened? He asked the authorities to explain how/why this is? The faces of all the panelists went beet red. There was only a moment of awkwardness then an unsatisfactory answer, then, nothing. The man was not happy. He sat down. There was relief on the panelists’ faces. We went home. I was young. I was naïve. But I remember that something wasn’t right. Something was fishy. From the anti-pollution movement, I learned that, “If you are not part of the solution then you are part of the problem.” I know now that these very types of questions get asked today and still there are no answers. This book is my testimony to that man and for all of us. We hold up our glass of murky water and ask, “Why?” Carol ‘A Woman’s Way’ is my glass of brown water held up to the world. But, I have a plan for Planet Earth. Good men and women will see this.
JO: Kathy, you are an accomplished visual artist. Can you talk about some of the key differences in creating a piece of art versus writing a novel?
KA: I have been a 3-dimentional artist for 35 years and respect the skill I have acquired, however I believe that I can change mediums and transfer skills to a new endeavor. It takes time to learn a new medium but I have been enthusiastic.
JO: Did your work in the visual arts help you in the writing of this book? If so, how?
KA: Very much so. When I imagine creating a hot glass elephant from scratch, for example, I start by forming a body then create the back legs then the front, then form the head, ears and so forth. As I wrote the book, Carol ‘ A Woman’s Way’ I built it from top to bottom, mathematically. The book is composed of 7 waves and there is a pattern to the language of these waves or cycles. When a reader picks up the book from the bedside table they may sync in to the pattern and might more easily fall into the story line from where they left off. As the character Carol feels the pressure of her cycle the reader may not be aware of it but the words form a pattern and he or she may think, “Oh oh, here we go again, she is going to get into trouble.”
JO: In what ways did you change during and following the writing of your novel?
KA: I was forever worried about losing the manuscript. What if I lost it in a fire or something? When it was finally off to the publisher I was relieved. Since then, last September, we were hit by lighting and had a fire. I felt so lucky that the book was out there and safe. Of course I back up files once a week now. You can’t be too careful.
JO: When did you begin working on Carol ‘A Woman’s Way’? Have you had to work hard at your writing or is it something that has come rather easily?
KA: I think that I have always been a writer; I just didn’t know it, and I didn’t really take it seriously until 2000. I have since learned the trade, the ups and downs. It took a long time to train to be a writer and even longer to find a publisher. I am grateful to Elizabeth Margaris from DreamCatcher Publishing to take a chance on me, an unknown writer.
JO: Kathy, what do you enjoy doing in your leisure time?
KA: I think, write, read, think, snowshoe, hike, climb volcanoes, climb mountains, think some more, play, swim, snorkel, scuba-dive, power-walk, think harder, dream and think.
JO: As a child, what did you hope to do when you entered adulthood?
KA: I wanted to stop war. I wanted to stop injustice. I wanted to be like Robin Hood, take from the rich and give to the poor. I wanted to run in politics to make a change. I tried but didn’t win. I don’t think that today it is possible for an individual to make a change in the system since today it is more complicated in the sense that some people are richer than some countries. Participating in NGO’s may prove more useful and get better results. Besides I think it is the courageous heart, behind the mind, guiding the hand, and holding the pen, that is mightier than the sword.
JO: Can you tell us about some of your writing projects in the immediate future?
KA: I am planning another environmental fiction book. I anticipate non-fiction articles on the environment and women’s issues.
JO: Kathy, are there some books that you haven’t been able to read yet that you hope to get to soon?
KA: I am working on the 100 Century of Good Books, voted on by Librarians, the list chosen by Modern Library in1998. I am at 42 so far.
JO: What has been the most rewarding or fulfilling aspect of writing and publishing a novel?
KA: My mom has newer respect for me. She loves that I am a writer. She is very proud of me. I like that!