Ashley Hasty of Hasty Book List and The Best of Women’s Fiction podcast and I have not met in real life, but Ashley is the sort of person I could have grilled for ages! My interview stops at nine questions, but when she publishes that first book—and it will happen, Ashley!—I will be inviting her back to have a chat. In fact, Ashley is so diverse, I wasn’t sure which graphic I should attach here; I chose “Artist Interview” because it’s so inclusive. But back to Ashley. She’s a writer, teacher, podcaster, reader, reviewer, historian, soon-to-be mother, and all around supporter of the literary arts. In the classroom, she prefers to have students “actively engage in their learning by getting up out of their seats and visiting the many galleries and special collections on campus and in the community.” That hands-on approach seems to work well for her, and that passion for engaging, learning, and teaching carries over into the Hasty Book List, which focuses on the readers community via reviews and other outlets. Like everyone else who’s featured in this series, Ashley has so many interests and activities to juggle, so I’m thrilled she found the time to answer my questions. And since today is her birthday, let’s all wish her a very Happy Birthday!
Christina: You have master’s and doctorate degrees in Human Environmental Sciences “with a focus on fashion history,” and your “dissertation researched World War II war brides and the societal messages that attempted to influence choices of nuptial apparel.” Can you tell our readers a little bit about how you came to want to study that topic in particular?
Ashley: First, I want to clarify that I didn’t study fashion design. I don’t sew, I can’t sketch, and I’m not an expert in clothing construction. Design was a separate line of study, and I’m in awe of fashion designers and what they can do. I started out studying Fashion Marketing and Management in undergrad. When I went to grad school, I thought I wanted to study the social psychology of dress (why do people wear what they wear), but the advisor that was assigned to me had an expertise in fashion history, and her passion made me fall in love with historical dress, so I sort of combined those two interests for my dissertation, which looked at why WWII brides wore what they wore. I looked at etiquette books and fashion magazines and conducted interviews, read newspaper announcements, etc., to determine the societal advice/pressures directed toward women who were marrying at that time. And there was a lot of pressure! One magazine even went so far as to say it was a bride’s “duty” to look as bridal as she could for her husband fighting overseas. It sounds ridiculous to us now, but brides went through extraordinary lengths to put on weddings during that time.
Christina: Does your interest in fashion history influence what you read? And with all your knowledge, are you able to predict trends for nuptial styles each season?
Ashley: My interest in fashion history definitely influences what I read. I’m always drawn toward historical fiction, especially those set during WWII and especially those that include a fashion element. Some examples that come to mind include The Last Collection by Jeanne Mackin, Mistress at the Ritz by Melanie Benjamin, Rouge by Richard Kirshenbaum, and The Paris Secret by Natasha Lester.
I have to smile at the second half of this question, because it is the question I get most often when I tell people about my background in fashion history. They either comment on what they’re wearing or ask about future trends. Honestly, I don’t have much interest in current trends or future trends. I prefer to look at fashion with the luxury of hindsight. The only interest I have in current fashion is what time in history is influencing current trends. I’ll see something new on the runway or in the stores and the most thought I give it goes something like this, “Huh, they’re referencing the 70s and the 90s now. That’s interesting.”
Christina: Your website (Hasty Book List) is chock full of information! You have sections on book roundups, reviews, art, travel, cocktails . . . the list seems to go on and on. Do you find that your interests ever compete with one another, or do they complement one another, for the most part?
Ashley: Haha! I hope they complement one another in some way, if only that they are all interests of mine. Each section on my website morphed from a previous section, so there must be some continuity. There are some sections that are very clearly book-centric: book reviews, features, roundups, author interviews, spotlights of audiobook narrators and book jacket designers. But there are some sections that are less obviously connected to books, including the sections on art, travel, and cocktails. For the art section, I focused on works that featured people reading, for the travel section I focused on literary-themed attractions and restaurants, and for the cocktail section, well, that was just some fun for me. I do ask authors their signature drink, so that provided inspiration for the cocktail recipes I shared.
Christina: If literary citizenship were a class, you’d have earned an A+ in it, as you provide multiple ways that authors can promote their work. Why is helping promote other people important to you? What have you learned from your experience?
Ashley: First, as a former college professor (and now part-time adjunct), I love the idea of literary citizenship being a class. Second, as a life-long teacher’s pet, I’m relieved to hear I earned an A+. Haha! I think I’ve always had the desire to help others succeed; it is one of the reasons I became a teacher. In many ways, I get more satisfaction out of assisting in other people’s success than in achieving it myself. Through the experience of running this website, I’ve learned a lot about the publishing industry as a layreader—and I just made up that term, I hope it works. I had no idea what went into publishing a novel, and I was fascinated to learn about the process through running this site and the incredibly supportive writing community that I’m convinced is the only reason anyone would go into writing novels; writing a novel is much more difficult than writing a dissertation . . . and writing a dissertation was not easy.
Christina: You’ve joined on as co-host of The Best of Women’s Fiction podcast. What about being a part of a podcast appeals to you? Has anything surprising happened during recording?
Ashley: Just being asked by Lainey Cameron, my co-host, to be a part of it was a huge honor. The thing that appealed to me the most was having a colleague of sorts. It is so much fun to have someone to bounce ideas off of and collaborate with. My website is a one-woman show and can get somewhat lonely operating on my own. Joining up with Lainey put an extra pep in my step when it came to book promotion. It also provides a platform to speak to authors directly as opposed to via email or through publicists. There is something really nice about meeting up at the same time and talking “face to face” even if through a computer screen.
Christina: I love when people are candid, and your “aspiring author videos” are so refreshing to watch. What do you hope these videos do for other authors? Have the videos themselves served as a catharsis of sorts? What have you learned from your author journey?
Ashley: I hope these videos show other authors, especially those who are new to the game, that they aren’t alone. Their experience is much like the experience of every other author before them, whether they be debut authors or New York Times Bestselling authors. The videos started out as a way for me to remember what this experience was like. I hope I can look back on them someday and marvel at how far I’ve come. Right now, most of the videos are about my struggle. Writing a novel is one of the most difficult things I’ve done, I’ve never questioned myself more than when I’m writing. It is an emotional rollercoaster. I’m honestly not sure why anyone does it, but I’m hoping it is worth it in the end. From the authors I’ve interviewed, and I’ve interviewed a lot, it seems like it is worth it in the end. I hope someday I can make a video about how I felt when I landed an agent. Or how I felt when my book sold to a publisher. Or how I felt receiving my first five-star review from a stranger. Right now, if anyone told me they were thinking about becoming an author and what advice I’d give them, I think I’d tell them if they have passions for anything else give that a go first. Ha! The advice that keeps me going is that the difference between a published author and an unpublished author is persistence. So, I persist . . .
Christina: Piggybacking on that last question: Are you willing to divulge a few details about your project other than what’s on your website (“a historical fiction manuscript about 1940s fashion”)? Fans want to know!
Ashley: Let’s see, a few more tidbits:
- It is based on a true story.
- It centers around four real women in the fashion industry and is told from the perspective of two of them.
- It includes the first New York fashion week.
- It is currently a hot mess of a book, but I’m working on it.
Christina: As if you’re not busy enough, you’re also expecting! Congratulations. How do you think motherhood will impact your reading and writing? Do you think it will inform your writing going forward?
Ashley: Wow, what a great question. I think all life experiences inform your writing, so I can’t imagine motherhood NOT informing my writing in some way. Two of the characters in my current manuscript are mothers—one who really didn’t take to motherhood until her son was an adult and the other was a stepmom who loved being a mother. I look forward to having the insight to better illustrate those characters in my writing.
As far as how it will impact my reading and writing: I imagine I’ll have less time to read adult fiction as I spend more time reading board books (and changing diapers). I already struggle to find time to work on my novel. How do all the mom authors out there do it? Teach me your ways!
Christina: Asking questions about pets is something I like to do! Your dog, Huxley: What kind of dog is he? How long has he been a part of the family? Any special stories you’d like to share with us about him?
Ashley: Aw, my first born, Huxley Hasty was named after Aldous Huxley, author of Brave New World. He is a Cavachon, a mix between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Bichon Frise. We adopted him 11 years ago and he’s been the love of our lives ever since we saw him flop out of the car at our first meeting. He’s terrified of children and anything on wheels, so it’ll be interesting as he adapts to his new role as big brother and learns to walk next to a stroller with a child inside. This might be what we are most nervous about as we prepare for the arrival of our “human puppy.” My husband and I are very much dog people. I can hardly pass by a dog on the sidewalk without saying hello or commenting on how cute the dog is. Some people are like that with babies, but we’ve only ever been like that with dogs. Perhaps that will change after having a baby of our own, but I suspect we’ll be enamored by our own baby and still only stop to say hi and comment on the cute dogs.
Thanks to Ashley for agreeing to this interview! If you know of an author who’d like to be featured in an interview (or you are an author who would like to be featured), feel free to leave a comment or email me via my contact page.