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Author Interview: Ayla Harlow

Indie romance author Ayla Harlow talks to Sheila & Swede about her love of horses, her sexy musician husband, her writing and her upcoming releases. Read on for the full interview below.

Sheila & Swede interviews Canadian indie romance author Ayla Harlow

Would you like to tell us a bit about yourself?

Sure thing! I’m a Canadian author based in Vancouver, BC, where I live in a teeny apartment with my (smokin’ hot, if I may add) musician husband. We don’t have children and don’t plan on it, but we dote on our two young nieces who live in New Zealand doing our best to spoil them from afar. Our families are spread all over the world, from Barbados to Canada, stretching all the way to Australia and New Zealand, but we work hard at maintaining our connections.

I’m a former choreographer and dancer, having spent the majority of my 37 years either in the studio rehearsing or on the stage performing. Performing is, in fact, how I met my husband. He is a bass player and we joined the stage together in an ABBA tribute act, entertaining the Royal Family of Malaysia for the Princess’ 40th birthday at the Shangri-La Hotel in Kuala Lumpur. It’s the coolest thing in the world being on stage with your person. There’s really nothing like it. I recently retired from my career as a professional dancer, but not before the hubby and I were fortunate enough to spend 12 years performing together in multiple productions, touring through Malaysia, Singapore, Mexico, the US, and Canada, just to name a few locales.

But enough about him.

I have a degree in criminology and absolutely love reading true crime novels. In another life I might have ended up a lawyer, but that’s a story for another day. I’m a recovering corporate drone whose stressful office career culminated in a massive nervous breakdown one delightful afternoon in late 2015. Laying on my office floor (in *actual medical shock*) staring at the popcorn ceiling while I hyperventilated for over an hour was enough for me to finally pull the eject cord and get my life sorted prior to dropping dead of a cardiac event before 40.

So, here we are. Writing books to avoid cardiac arrest. Seems like a good plan, n’est pas?

It sure does! Would you like to tell us about your books coming out this fall? Is the novella a prequel to the full-length novel?

Yes! These two books detail the love story between Callie Patrick and Levi Monroe. The novella (36,000 words/120 pages) is called Far From Home, and it’s the prequel to the full length novel, Back in the Saddle (70,000 words/304 pages). Far From Home will be released on September 18th (presale here) and Back In The Saddle will be released on November 6th (presale here).

I wrote Back in the Saddle first. It’s a second-chance romance and I absolutely fell in love with the characters as I was writing their story. They’re both so driven to do the right thing but remain so heavily plagued by their difficult pasts. I spent a lot of time with Callie and Levi in my head; they’re special characters to me.

Once I’d finished Back in the Saddle, I felt like I needed to show who Callie and Levi were before fate had bungled things up for them so harshly. The title, Far From Home, came to me immediately. It encapsulates Callie’s experience and lessons in her story so acutely, I couldn’t not go with it. Far From Home is a coming of age romance and it was really fun writing about the characters when they were younger and hadn’t yet gone through the trials that life presented them with in Back in the Saddle. I enjoyed flushing out Callie and Levi’s experience meeting and falling in love for the first time. Writing Far From Home after the fact really helped set the stage for Back In The Saddle.

You’re a Canadian author. What drew you to American Contemporary Westerns as a genre? And what made you choose Colorado for the setting of your books?

I love horses. Love, love, LOVE them. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but my mum’s best friend had a horse – a gorgeous Palomino Quarter Horse named Poncho (keep an eye out for him in Far From Home). Thing was though, my mum’s friend didn’t have time to ride him. Cue my frantic insistence that I be the one to take care of Poncho, which eventually paid off. He may not have been mine, but I rode and exercised him daily. Together as a team, we learned eventing, jumping, and dressage. Looking back now I realize how fortunate I was to have had the opportunity to ride and develop a kinship with horses. I loved Poncho hard. Spent years in Pony Club, just like Callie, and have never been cured of my adoration of horses. I miss my riding days. When I sat down to write Callie’s story, I could already see her on the back of a horse.

I chose Colorado because the state shares with British Columbia the Rocky Mountains, a chain of mountains with which I’m very familiar after having lived in both Calgary, Alberta and Vancouver, BC. The Rockies are vast and cut a jagged division down this side of the continent. I’ve never been to Colorado, but I felt as though I had a good understanding of the awe-inspiring landscapes.

How do you research your books?

Hello, Google! Google is my friend and we are besties. As I mentioned above, I haven’t been to Colorado… yet. One day, when the publishing gods have smiled favorably enough upon me, I will absolutely travel to each of my planned settings, taking notes and – most importantly – doing all the shopping. Until that time presents itself (along with the dolla dolla bills) I’ll continue doing most of my research online, spending WAY too much time watching cat videos on Google Images.

I also like to talk to people who do the things I’m writing about or have been to the places I’m writing about. We have cowboys in Canada too (you can tell them apart by their politeness and constant apologizing) and I was lucky enough to ask one of them about his experience on a dude ranch. Real life experience trumps Google every time, but I’ll make the best of Larry and Sergey until money starts falling from the sky.

We’ll keep our fingers crossed for that rain shower. When it comes to your writing process, would you say you’re a plotter or a pantser? Do you use outlines?

GURL. Do I outline? 1000%. I mean, I practically outline the outline. I can’t start writing until I know every detail that’s going to happen in the story. Every. Single. One. Of course, things morph and shift as the story gets written, but in my opinion, there is nothing more torturous than staring at a blank page, the curser blinking at me judgementally, while I ponder, “Guh... Now wut?” I’m in awe of authors who have it in them to spin a successful story in real time out of thin air, but that is definitely not me. I mean, come on. What is that sorcery?!

How to you make time for writing in your daily life?

Quitting my job helped. Ha… Honestly though, I currently work part-time in order to pay the rent and put food on the table while I build my self-publishing career. Vancouver is an expensive city and I’m so grateful to my husband for agreeing to go on this crazy journey with me. He’s been happy to tighten the purse strings and skip dinners out while we navigate the self-publishing waters (a.k.a. attempt to sell thousands and millions of books). So far, so good! Fingers crossed that one day soon we’ll have a date night out ;)

This whole experience is about becoming an entrepreneur and creating something that will provide me and my family with more time, more freedom. It’s about being my own boss. It’s about not feeling like my soul is being chipped away while I work to put someone else’s children through private school. I make time in my daily life to write because this is what my daily life is about now. And it feels good.

What made you decide to self-publish?

I want to maintain control of the art I put out in the world. We live in such an incredible and unique time when it comes to producing art, music, books, films, etc. The playing field has been leveled to a certain degree thanks to the internet providing opportunities that historically had been relegated only to a lucky few. Who knows what my career will bring, but one thing I do know is that I want to be in control of my intellectual property. Self-publishing translates to A LOT of work. But it’s worth every bead of sweat and tear of frustration to ensure that what I create belongs to me.

Your covers are great. Did you create them yourself or did you use a cover artist to design them? If you did it yourself, what type of software do you use? If a cover artist designed them, how did you find this person?

I wish I had the skills to create those covers! But alas, I do not. I found an awesome graphic designer via an author forum called Dirty Discourse. Her name is Natasha Snow and she can be found here. I can’t speak more highly of her. She’s awesome to work with and produces fantastic covers!

That’s great! You’re currently working on a new manuscript. Would you like to tell us a bit about it?

Oh boy, I’m so excited about this! I’m about half way through the first draft of the first novel in this romantic suspense series about an LAPD SWAT team. I’ve got eight members on the team, six men and two woman, and each of them are going to get their own book. Over the course of the eight-book series, they’ll be fighting back against a domestic terrorist organization and I CAN’T WAIT to get each one of them hooked up with the loves of their lives as they risk their own to fight the bad guys. Men in uniform? Nom, nom, nom… ;)

Hear, hear. What made you choose to write Romantic Suspense for your next book?

I’ve always been a tad dramatic – just ask my husband. I suppose I was drawn to romantic suspense because what’s better than life and death mixed with, ahem, a little kissing? Are we not here to be titillated and thrilled? Do we not want to indulge in scenarios that bring goosebumps to our skin while flushing our faces? My favorite romance novels – hell, my favorite books in any genre – include a little life and death action. And really, who can resist a love story? Life is replete with extremes – love is infinite, death is finite, danger is all around us. Romantic suspense has it all. I am really excited to develop this group of characters and create a world in which my readers can feel inspired and entertained.

Fantastic. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions. We’re looking forward to your release next week – available for pre-order here.

Ayla Harlow is a Canadian author based in Vancouver, BC. She writes steamy contemporary romance, and loves all things love. Check out her website for more information on upcoming releases, and connect with her on Instagram and Twitter.

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