Interview: Graduate & Guest Lecturer Gregory Ashe

Odyssey graduate and bestselling author Gregory Ashe will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. Gregory is a longtime Midwesterner. He has lived in Chicago, Bloomington (IN), and Saint Louis, his current home. He primarily writes contemporary mysteries, with forays into romance, fantasy, and horror. Predominantly, his stories feature LGBTQ protagonists. When not reading and writing, he is an educator.

For more information, visit his website: www.gregoryashe.com.


As a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Workshop, you’ll be lecturing, workshopping, and meeting individually with students. What do you think is the most important advice you can give to developing writers?

The most important thing writers can do is keep trying. That’s not just general encouragement, although I do believe that persistence and hard work will probably pay greater dividends than waiting for genius, talent, or inspiration. I also mean keep trying new things: new genres, new points of view, new narrative structures, new character types, new lengths. As with so many crafts, failures in writing often teach more than successes, and trying new things will force you to stretch and grow—and it may help you see your own strengths and weaknesses.

You’re a graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. What made you decide to attend?

When I decided to apply to Odyssey, I had been writing for seven years. I felt like I’d made a lot of progress and seen a lot of improvement, but I didn’t know how to take my writing to the next level. My goal was to have a career as a writer; I wasn’t sure if that was a realistic goal, and I didn’t know what to do to get better. After researching several writing workshops, I decided Odyssey seemed like the best fit for me.

How do you feel your writing and writing process changed as a result of having attended Odyssey? What insights did you gain into your own work?

Like so many Odyssey graduates, I found the workshop to be transformational. Critiques from Jeanne, guest lecturers, and fellow students helped me see both errors and weaknesses in individual stories as well as systemic problems in my writing. Just a few of the important lessons I learned are the importance of the causal chain, how to use character goals and conflict, the three-act structure, the role of theme and resonance, and effective point of view. I also learned how to read fiction more critically, which has helped me continue learning after Odyssey.

Your latest book, Stray Fears, came out in October 2020 and is a paranormal/horror mystery. What are some of the challenges of writing across genres?

Writing across genres presents a variety of opportunities and challenges. Genre-bending or genre-blending works may appeal to a wider audience, for example, and they allow writers to incorporate a greater variety of plot devices and play on (or with) more conventions. On the other hand, cross-genre stories are always at risk of disappointing audiences—mystery fans, for example, may not enjoy the supernatural elements, or horror fans may want more monsters and fewer clues. In addition, because each story always has a limit to what it can contain, writing across genres also requires authors to make sacrifices—it’s a struggle to fit in all the beats and plot points expected in each genre.

You’ve published six books in your Hazard and Somerset mysteries. Do you tend to outline your books and series ahead of time, or do you tend to figure things out as you go along? When you started the series, did you know how many books you would write and where your characters would end up?

Although I have become more and more of an outliner, there is still an element of excavation and discovery in each book I write. One challenge I’ve faced as a writer is that I tend to write long books—and if I’m not careful, they become massive. Outlining helps me control the size of the story, as well as ensuring that I hit the right beats and turns when and where I want to. The excavatory and exploratory side of storytelling tends to happen, for me, between those major plot points. I have written quite a few books without an outline at all, but that is less and less the case. The same is true for series. The Hazard and Somerset series essentially took shape as two parts: the first four books, and then the last two. I learned from that, and when I wrote ‘season two,’ Hazard and Somerset: A Union of Swords, I had a fairly comprehensive outline for the five-book series. I now tend to write all of my series this way, with an outline to guide the pacing of the series as well as the individual books.

You’re a prolific writer in addition to working as an educator. What does a typical day look like for you? When and how do you set aside time for writing, and how do you remain so productive?

The short answer is that I don’t have much of a life! During the school year, I wake up at 5 and write until it’s time to go to work. When I get home, I spend a couple of hours revising, eat dinner, and read. That’s pretty much it—in the summer, I have more time to relax, but for most of the year I keep to a fairly rigorous schedule. While I have mixed feelings about word goals, I do find them useful, and I aim to write two to three thousand words every day. I don’t always keep all of those words, but I believe there’s value in getting into the right headspace (flow, self-hypnosis, whatever you like to call it) and spending as much time as possible in it.

What’s next on the writing-related horizon? Are you starting any new projects?

Let’s see: the third book in my The Lamb and the Lion series (The Same End) comes out at the end of January. Then I have a four-book series that follows up on my Borealis Investigations books—this series is called Borealis: Without a Compass. Then I have more Hazard and Somerset, and I’m hoping to squeeze in a follow-up horror/mystery before October. Maybe a new project will surprise me along the way—it’s been known to happen!

Interview: Graduate Jason S. Ridler (Part 2 of 2)

ridler2005 Odyssey Writing Workshop graduate Jason S. Ridler is a writer, improv actor, and left-wing military historian. His novels include Hex-Rated, the first installment of the Brimstone Files series for Night Shade Books; Rise of the Luchador; and Death Match. He’s also published over sixty stories and numerous academic publications. FXXK WRITING! A Guide for Frustrated Artists collects the best of his column of the same name, and his next historical work, Mavericks of War, is forthcoming from Stackpole Books. A former punk rock musician and cemetery groundskeeper, Mr. Ridler holds a Ph.D. in War Studies from the Royal Military College of Canada. He lives in Berkeley, CA and is a Teaching Fellow for Johns Hopkins University.


Part 1 of this interview, posted last Sunday, is available here.

Your latest novel, Hex-Rated, is about a PI investigating supernatural happenings in the 1970s Hollywood porn industry. As a historian, what drew you to writing about the 1970s and the porn industry? How did you handle mashing multiple genres together?

The 1970s, especially the early 70s, are about dreams and hopes dying and being reborn (a theme in my own work and life). It’s the end of the Love Generation and the birth of the Manson murders, of peace movements helping end Vietnam and the return of soldiers with PTSD, of drugs eating through the hearts and minds of people as much as expanding their consciousness. Heavy metal and proto-punk is screaming at the sincerity of the folk-rock and Woodstock crew. It’s the shifting sands of violence in the civil rights movement as desegregation takes hold and black nationalism refuses to bow to white power and privilege and searches for alternatives to the power structures that abide. And it’s the emergence of the modern adult film industry.  Continue reading “Interview: Graduate Jason S. Ridler (Part 2 of 2)”

Interview: Guest Lecturer Nisi Shawl

Hewlett-PackardAward-winning author Nisi Shawl will be a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Writing Workshop. She wrote the 2016 Nebula finalist and Tiptree Honor novel Everfair, and the 2008 Tiptree Award-winning collection Filter House. In 2005 she co-wrote Writing the Other: A Practical Approach, a standard text on inclusive representation in the imaginative genres. Her short stories have appeared in Analog and Asimov’s magazines, and many other publications. Shawl is a founder of the Carl Brandon Society and a Clarion West board member.


As a guest lecturer at this summer’s Odyssey Workshop, you’ll be lecturing, workshopping, and meeting individually with students. What do you think is the most important advice you can give to developing writers?

Listen to your inner bell. That’s a maddeningly vague tip, I know, but it’s the closest I can come to describing what it’s like to understand when something just is not working, or when something needs a little tweak to make it work smashingly well, or when you’re laboring over something that is not going to ever work, no matter how you tweak and nudge and sweat and polish it. I’m an aural writer, so I think of it in terms of sound; others may metaphorize the idea differently, but most of you will recognize it. For me, it’s “clunk” versus “bonggg.” Continue reading “Interview: Guest Lecturer Nisi Shawl”

Interview: Graduate Eric James Stone

A Nebula Award winner, Hugo Award finalist, and winner in the Writers of the Future Contest, Eric James Stone has had dozens of stories published in Year’s Best SF 15, Analog, Nature, and Kevin J. Anderson’s Blood Lite anthologies of humorous horror, among other venues. His first novel was released by Baen in 2016.

One of Eric’s earliest memories is of seeing an Apollo moon-shot launch on television. That might explain his fascination with space travel. His father’s collection of old science fiction ensured that Eric grew up on a full diet of Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke.

While getting his political science degree at Brigham Young University, Eric took creative writing classes. He wrote several short stories, and even submitted one for publication, but after it was rejected he gave up on creative writing for a decade. During those years Eric graduated from Baylor Law School, worked on a congressional campaign, and took a job in Washington, DC, with one of those special interest groups politicians always complain that other politicians are influenced by. He quit the political scene in 1999 to work as a web developer in Utah.

In 2002 he started writing fiction again, and in 2003 he attended Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp. In 2007 Eric got laid off from his day job just in time to go to the Odyssey Writing Workshop. He has since found a new web development job. From 2009-2014 Eric was an assistant editor for Intergalactic Medicine Show.

Eric lives in Orem, Utah, with his wife, Darci, a high school physics teacher, and their daughter, Honor. His website is www.ericjamesstone.com.


Tell us a little bit about your writing process. Do you write every day, at a set time, in a set place? Do you prefer writing in a library or coffee shop, or writing as solitary venture? What kinds of writing goals do you set?

Oh, now I feel guilty for not having a set writing routine. I really should. When I do write, it’s generally a solitary venture in my office, inspired by an idea. Currently, I’ve set some goals to actually revise and send out a bunch of stories that have just been gathering electrons on my hard drive. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate Eric James Stone”

Interview: Graduate Holly Schofield

Holly Schofield travels through time at the rate of one second per second, oscillating between the alternate realities of city and country life. She is the author of over fifty short stories, some of which are used in university curricula and have been translated into several languages. Her works have appeared in LightspeedTesseracts, the Aurora-winning Second Contacts, and many other publications throughout the world. She hopes to save the world through science fiction and homegrown heritage tomatoes. Watch for new stories soon in Brave New Girls, The Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide, and Analog. For more of her work, visit hollyschofield.wordpress.com.


You attended the Odyssey Writing Workshop in 2014. How do you feel your writing and writing process changed as a result of having attended Odyssey? What insights did you gain into your own work?

In 2014, I was struggling to piece together a “toolbox” of craft skills. I could see that writing SFF short stories (I’m not a novel writer) involved a very large amount of very small techniques, but I only had the vaguest idea of what those techniques were and how to apply them.

Jeanne’s curriculum is designed to cover everything. I filled in gaps that I hadn’t even known existed. Continue reading “Interview: Graduate Holly Schofield”