The Picture Book Buzz - Interview with Ashley Franklin
Growing up, Ashley Franklin initially aspired to be a doctor, journalist, and cartoon character. As you can see, those didn’t quite work out. However, she always loved writing, so Ashley received her M.A. from the University of Delaware in English Literature.
Since education has always been very important to her, she became involved in the classroom with students ranging in age from three to adult. As a result, you can pretty much say that she has seen reading and writing skills across the learning spectrum!
In 2015, she realized she missed writing and decided to give children’s writing a try. Ashley remembered how "books taught me to love words and the magic they can create. It’s simple when you think of it like that. What kid doesn’t believe in magic? I guess I write because I want to help more kids see the magic within themselves."
Ashley’s debut picture book, Not Quite Snow White, releases tomorrow!
Happy Book Birthday
ME: Tell us a little about yourself. (Where/when do you write/illustrate? How long have you been writing/illustrating? What is your favorite type of book to write or illustrate?)
ASHLEY: I’m a work-from-home mom, so my summer writing schedule is extremely unpredictable. I wish I could say that I have a designated writing time and space, but that’s not my reality. I write whenever and wherever I can. Sometimes that means I’m scribbling in a notebook while dinner is cooking on the stove.
I teach college-level writing, and I write social media content part-time. Writing picture books helps me to switch gears while still engaging my love of writing. I love writing picture books because of their ability to capture big messages in a small word count. And they’re just so inviting! To me, picture books have always felt like home. The words invite you in, and the illustrations ask you to make yourself comfortable.
That's a great way to look at picture books. What is something no one (or few) knows about you?
I played the violin in elementary school. I played it poorly, but I played it nevertheless.
Good for you. Who was your favorite author, illustrator, and/or favorite book as a child?
Oddly enough, I read a healthy dose of Mary Higgins Clark and R.L. Stein books. My grandma used to get me books from thrift stores and garage sales—hence the Mary Higgins Clark books. I couldn’t get enough of the Fear Street and Goosebumps books, which is weird because I’m easily afraid of things.
That's funny! You mention on your website that books "kept me covered. They covered me from bad days, disappointments, heartaches, and heartbreaks." Maybe these books let you be "safely" scared. What was your inspiration for Not Quite Snow White?
Not Quite Snow White began as a story idea for Tara Lazar’s StoryStorm challenge (then PiBoIdMo). I knew I wanted to write a princess story.
There was a Cinderella movie adaptation in the 90s that starred R&B singer Brandy. I’ll never forget the validation I felt at seeing an African American princess. I wanted to try to give that feeling to a new generation of girls. [One of my favorite movies.]
Still, the idea of being a princess is farfetched for some kids, so I created a regular kid with princess goals. This gave the story the accessibility that I wanted.
That's a big part of what drew me to your story. If you could share one thing with your younger self and/or kids today what would that be?
There’s no wrong way to be you. It’s as simple as that.
I love that. What's something you want your readers to know about Not Quite Snow White?
It’s so much more than a princess story, and it’s not what some would call a “girl book” or whatever nonsense. There are so many takeaways for girls AND boys—confidence, self-love, acceptance, the power of imagination, pursuing a goal, talking to someone you trust when you’re faced with a problem, and so much more!
Someday, I hope we can stop the "girl/boy book nonsense" and read any book because it's fun. What/who is your greatest source of inspiration? (as a child or now as a writer and/or illustrator.)
My kids are my greatest source of inspiration. I consider the challenges they face, questions they ask, and the things they do when I’m brainstorming ideas. My boys are my first critique partners, and they’re quick to tell me “No, mommy. That wasn’t a good story at all.” So, readers you have them to thank for never getting wind of the stinkers. (smile)
What an invaluable resource. When you saw them for the first time, was there anything that surprised or amazed you about the illustrations of Not Quite Snow White?
Even when looking at the initial black and white sketches, I couldn’t believe how Ebony perfectly captured Tameika’s natural joy and energy. Tameika’s hair accessories were even reminiscent of ones I wore as a kid, and that definitely had me a bit emotional.
Wow. Sounds like the perfect pairing. If you have a critique group, what have learned from them?
I’ve definitely learned the value of connecting with others who have different strengths. It’s also been beneficial to have author/illustrators in the group to get their perspective on how an illustrator would interpret the text.
I adore the illustrators in my critique group for that very reason, as well as others. Any projects you are working on now that you can share a tidbit with us?
I’m working on a few things and have my fingers crossed for some other things. That’s pretty much all I can say right now.
Best of luck with them all. Any advice for surviving a debut book launch?
Am I surviving it? I can say what’s currently helping me is being able to talk with those who have been through it before. I’m fortunate to be a part of the New in Nineteen debut group, and it’s been an excellent sounding board. This whole process could quickly be overwhelming, and the group has helped me to stay grounded.
My agent, Kathleen Rushall, has also been instrumental in helping me navigate things, along with my editor.
So, I guess my advice is to have people you can talk to that know what you’re going through.
Sounds like debut groups are really helpful. Is there anything about getting your agent, writing, illustrating, or publishing you know now that you wished you had known when you started? Or are glad that you did not know?
I didn’t know that not all agents are created equally. Now I do. You really have to do your homework. Don’t settle. And trust your gut.
Great advice, thanks. What is your favorite animal? Why? Or maybe a current animal you are enamored with?
My kids are currently obsessed with pill bugs. Therefore, they’re my bug of the month as well.
HA! We call them "Roly-polys." They are fascinating bugs.
Thank you, Ashley for stopping by and sharing with us. It was truly wonderful to chat with you.
Be sure to stop back by on Friday for the #PPBF post on Not Quite Snow White.
To find out more about Ashley Franklin, or get in touch with her: