Yup, we have another birthday girl in the house! (And you thought the birthday bash was just for me, didn’t you?) Happy Birthday Morgan Ashbury.

Not only has she written twelve books for Siren Bookstrand, but Morgan also pens the thought provoking articles “Wednesday’s Words” that appear on many Yahoo loops every … well, Wednesday.

I know Morgan because she and I are both members of the Toronto Romance Writers. I love the TRW because they are the most supportive group of women I’ve ever met. If it wasn’t for Morgan, and the other TRW ladies–Amy, Brooke, JK, Kimber and Robie (whom you’ll meet next week) amongst others too numerous to mention–I would never have taken the plunge and started this blog, I wouldn’t have gotten up the courage to submit my first manuscript. Or my second. Or my third. When I put out the call for authors to help me celebrate, the first place I posted was on the TRW loop – and Morgan was one of the first people who put her hand up.

So help me welcome her to my blog and wish her a very Happy Birthday.


Huge thanks to Leah for inviting me to be a guest on her blog. July 21 is the anniversary of the birth of one of the twentieth century’s most unique writers – Ernest Hemingway.

It is also my birthday, and today I turn 55. I don’t know where the time has gone. When I take five and go inside myself, into my thoughts and memories, I still feel 21.

Thank God that I am not.

I’ve come a long way, and the last few years have been jam-packed with excitement, with learning new things, doing new things and going new places. And in the last few years I have fully metamorphosed into what I was meant to be from the moment of my birth, if not before.

I’m a writer.

Now, when I worked in the field of accounting, one thing that was said about me by co-workers—and it wasn’t said kindly—was that I treated my ‘job’ like it was a ‘career’.

It would be no surprise to any of them, then, that I treat the work that I do as if each novel was in fact the greatest novel in the world.

I know it’s not. But I’m that serious about the work I do, the stories I weave, and the characters I create.

On July 6th my 12th title for Siren-Bookstrand was released. My first came out just twenty-eight months ago. This latest novel is entitled Reckless Abandon, and is not a story for the faint of heart.

I have as yet sought no other publisher; I’m busy enough with the one I have, and I am still learning. The time will come for me to move on, but that time is not yet here.

I write erotic romance, which of course invites all kinds of interesting comments from some people.

I’m 55 and I know how not to listen when that is called for.

I’m also e-published, which has also invited all kinds of interesting comments from some people. Like I said, I’m 55 and know how not to listen…

I wanted to talk today about writing, about a facet of writing that comes closest to my heart.

The story comes first. And the story, for me, is all about the characters.

Probably the question I’m asked most often—usually by non-writers—is ‘where do you get your ideas?’

There is no single answer for that, because for authors, the ideas come—or they don’t. But if I were to answer this question for fellow authors (who have never asked me, of course), I would have to say the ideas—the full blown beginning, middle and end of them—come from the characters themselves.

The key to whether or not your story settles into the hearts of your readers is the quality of your characters.

First, the readers have to like them. Seriously. The ideal, of course, is to have your reader fall in love with your characters, but gosh, let’s at least get them to like them first. You can have your hero or heroine go through a “series of unfortunate events” where for a time they aren’t looking too heroic or even likeable—after you first allow your readers to develop a bond with them.

My characters all possess qualities I have observed in people, but they are never imitations of friends/family/enemies with simply the names changed. That, to my mind, is cheating. The test of good writing is creating characters that seem real. Characters who do or say things off the cuff, who make you laugh or cry or gnash your teeth in frustration. One of the best comments I ever got, and this before I was published, was from a male critique group member who said, “you really get men.”

How real should these creations of your imagination be? Your characters have to breathe.

Your characters must face challenges and self-doubts and desires that resonate with your readers. The best example of one of my novels where this both does, and does not happen, is Lily In Bloom.

My older readers (35 and up) love Lily. They get her, hell, they have even been her. And what they wouldn’t have given (or so many of them have told me) for a man like Ryan. My younger readers (under 35) have told me that it took them a long time to like and respect Lily. That she didn’t seem realistic to them. And why would she? The stereo-types and role expectations experienced by over 35s and under 35s are vastly different. Lily was a character born out of my heart and soul, and I haven’t seen 35 for a good couple of decades.

The difference in perception of the readers of this novel—the clearly defined straight down the middle cut of it—didn’t surprise me. In fact that is the reaction that I expected. So why did I write the book? Because Lily insisted I tell her story.

Ah yes, my characters talk to me. They commit mutiny from time to time, but only when I betray them by trying to have them say or do what they would never really say or do. And that brings me to my biggest point about characters.

You need to know your characters inside-out and backwards. You need to be able to answer any question on their behalf, and answer it correctly. You need to know approximately ten times more about them than you will ever reveal directly to the reader. That is the only way you can prevent writing a story where the character comes off phony. And in getting to know your character, you will find his or her story materializes for you that much more clearly.

If you take care to write good characters, you can get away with the most outrageous story lines. A cruise down my backlist will tell you this is true. I have gotten at least one 5 star rating for every single novel I have published to date. And in every one of those fabulous reviews, the quality of the characters—their empathic nature, their universal appeal—is cited as the one aspect that rises above everything else.

It even, as a facet, out-shines the sex.

Nothing could please me more.


If you want to find out more about Morgan, you can visit her website, or her publisher’s website. (Her bio there is more extensive — you really should read it to understand how her presence here today is a gift in itself.)

Even though it’s her birthday and usually the birthday girl gets the presents, Morgan’s giving one lucky commenter a $5 Amazon gift certificate.

And since both Morgan and I are of an age that we remember when the Beatles were together …

Morgan Ashbury – In Full Bloom

39 thoughts on “Morgan Ashbury – In Full Bloom

  • July 21, 2009 at 4:13 am

    Hi 😉
    What a terrific interview!
    Great advice on characterization.
    I cut and pasted it into my permanent Writing Advice Folder.
    Is Morgan Ashbury on Twitter?
    Geez, I was so enthused about the interview I almost forgot to wish her a HAPPY BIRTHDAY and MANY HAPPY RETURNS!
    Love from Northern Ontario
    PS – Thanks again. Totally awesome.

  • July 21, 2009 at 4:47 am

    Hi Morgan! Great post and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

  • July 21, 2009 at 4:59 am

    Hey Morgan! Happy Birthday! Have a fabulous day! :))

  • July 21, 2009 at 5:07 am

    Hi RK, thank you so much for those lovely words, and the birthday wishes. I am indeed on twitter, though I need a little birdie to remind me to tweet a little more often. I am there as morganashbury.


  • July 21, 2009 at 5:08 am

    Hi J.K., thanks for stopping by!

  • July 21, 2009 at 5:09 am

    Hi Brooke, thank you for the birthday wishes. I'm about to treat myself to another coffee!

  • July 21, 2009 at 5:13 am

    Happy Birthday!! Hope that you have a wonderful day and that is filled with lots of love and great surprises!!

    Amy M

  • July 21, 2009 at 5:21 am

    Woohoo! Happy birthday, Morgan! I've enjoyed reading your Wednesday Words–such thoughtful posts! Thanks for sharing your heartfelt writing with all of us! And congrats on release #12–hooray for persistence 🙂

  • July 21, 2009 at 5:26 am

    Happy Birthday Morgan. Great post. 🙂

  • July 21, 2009 at 5:29 am

    Hi Morgan. Happy BDay. Must say that checking out a couple of your titles I am very interested in getting my hands, so to speak, on them. Thanks for taking time out on your day to visit

  • July 21, 2009 at 5:47 am

    Hi Amy M, thanks for stopping by to help me celebrate!

  • July 21, 2009 at 5:48 am

    flchen1, thank you so much for those kind words!

  • July 21, 2009 at 5:49 am

    Hi Crystal GB thanks for reading my post!

  • July 21, 2009 at 5:52 am

    Hi HockeyVampiress! If you do get your hands on one of my books I hope you'll let me know what you think. 🙂

  • July 21, 2009 at 5:52 am

    I love peeking into the mind of a writer. Each one has a unique slant on where they get their inspiration or ideas. It helps to know that the thought processes that create so much enjoyment for readers is not so very different at times from those readers. thank you for a great interview, and Happy birthday to you.

  • July 21, 2009 at 6:31 am

    Hi Morgan & Happy Birthday!!!!

    I love that you say your books are about the characters first. I haven't read any of your books before, but you are definitely one I am going to check out. I love nothing more than a steamy romance with great characters. Unfortunately that is not always true for all authors.
    Thanks for guesting today, and telling us about how you write your books. I am going now to check out more about Lily in Bloom 🙂

  • July 21, 2009 at 7:14 am

    It's wonderful when we find our passion even when it's later in life. I hear this from so fellow authors.
    Happy Birthday!

  • July 21, 2009 at 7:16 am

    Enjoyed you being here, Happy Birthday!

  • July 21, 2009 at 7:55 am

    Hello Morgan,

    Hope your have a great birthday.

  • July 21, 2009 at 8:36 am

    happy birthday wishes to you, Morgan. Enjoy the day. Yes, I remember the Beatles also. Loved their earlier songs.

  • July 21, 2009 at 9:06 am

    Hi Morgan,

    A big happy birthday to you! Haven't read your books yet, but I enjoyed reading your post today.

  • July 21, 2009 at 9:10 am

    Happy Birthday Morgan! Enjoyed reading about your books! 🙂

  • July 21, 2009 at 9:31 am

    What a Great interview!! Happy Birthday Morgan! your still a youngin' to me you go girl!

  • July 21, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Hi Morgan, Happy Birthday!! I enjoyed the interview and now very intrigued by LILY IN BLOOM.

  • July 21, 2009 at 9:58 am

    Congratulations, Morgan!! Hope you have awesome birthday! Btw.. great interview!!


  • July 21, 2009 at 10:32 am

    Great interview. It was very interesting. Happy Birthday Morgan. My birthday is the 23, soo close. Hope you have a great day.
    lexeetoste at sbcglobal.net

  • July 21, 2009 at 10:42 am

    Nope, don't enter me. I'm just stopping in 'cause it's fun to watch you groan, Leah. Heh.

    I've got you, girlfriend.

  • July 21, 2009 at 11:04 am

    Hi Morgan,
    Happy Birthday. Congrats on the new release and on receiving great reviews for all your books.

  • July 21, 2009 at 11:08 am

    Wow you all are so genereous with your good wishes and your kind words. You're making this one of my best birthdays ever!

  • July 21, 2009 at 12:17 pm

    Hi Morgan,
    Great post and happy Birthday!

  • July 21, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Happy birthday! Interesting thoughts on characters – and getting away with outrageous story lines!

  • July 21, 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Happy Birthday, Morgan! So happy you could join us here today.

  • July 21, 2009 at 4:52 pm

    Thank you all so very much for making my birthday a real celebration!

  • July 21, 2009 at 5:38 pm

    Happy Birthday Morgan!

  • July 21, 2009 at 6:20 pm

    Happy Birthday.. hope was a great one. Congrats not only on the new release, but on the previous 11 in 28 months. That is unreal.
    Thanks for sharing your birthday with us, and your insite on character importance.. great blog.

    ioki_jo at hotmail dot com
    fun video you 2..thanks.

  • July 21, 2009 at 8:31 pm

    Happy birthday Morgan! Eat lots of cake for us!

  • July 21, 2009 at 9:09 pm

    Happy Birthday, Morgan!

  • July 22, 2009 at 12:51 am

    Very interesting comments on characters. I love to find out about the writing process and learn more about the books. Thanks for sharing and Happy Birthday.

  • July 22, 2009 at 2:45 am

    Happy Birthday Morgan. Today is also my daughter's 22nd birthday.
    I hope your day is filled with the joy and peace that comes from being 55. Enjoy your special day.
    I look forward to reading your books Morgan. Thanks for sharing in your interview today which I found most enlightening.
    Carol L.

Comments are closed.