It was one of those lazy evenings when I found AshleyRose Sullivan online. Her blog, “My year of Star Trek”, caught my eye and a few hours later I was still browsing through her entries. Sometimes laughing, sometimes shaking my head, sometimes smiling – especially when I found my own bi-annual Star Trek watching experiences in her blog. But AshleyRose isn’t “just” a blogger, and neither is she “just” a Star Trek fan.
AshleyRose Sullivan was born and raised in Appalachia, holds a BS degree in Anthropology, an MFA in Creative Writing and lives and works together with her husband in Los Angeles. She is a published author, painter and artist. Additionally, AshleyRose is the founder of the Somerset Shakespeare Company in Somerset, Kentucky. Every summer, children between the age of 8 and 11 have the opportunity to take part in an hour-long, off-book production. In only one week they go from casting, auditions and practices to the full show.
In 2014 AshleyRose’s first book, “Awesome Jones – A super hero fairy tale” was published by Seventh Star Press, and since this week her second book “Silver Tongue” is also out.
Additionally, AshleyRose’s illustrations and comics are published on “Neurons/Protons”, “Issu” and the “Sawmill Magazine”. Of course AshleyRose illustrated her own books as well.
I really wanted to know her better, so here is AshleyRose’s view on Star Trek, art and writing:
DG: I admit to bi-annually rewatching Star Trek from Enterprise over TOS, TNG, DS9 to VOY myself. What made you dedicate the year 2013 to Star Trek?
ASR: Toward the end of 2012 I sort of felt like I was stagnating creatively. I wanted to do a big, intense project and I had the idea for a year of Star Trek. I went to lunch with a friend and we ended up talking Trek. Though he’d seen several episodes he wasn’t really a fan but, as I told him various stories, he seemed to get interested. I realized I had more to talk about than just the TV show, that Trek had been woven through my whole life. It wasn’t until I really got into the blog that I realized the extent of Star Trek’s influence on my life.
DG: Which Captain would you rather be a crew member under and why?
ASR: I think, for most of my life, I would’ve answered Picard. He was the captain of my childhood. But over the years I’ve really grown to love Janeway more and more. Voyager’s a dangerous mission but I think I’d rather serve under Janeway than any other captain.
DG: Is there -the- favourite episode for you?
DG: Enterprise versus all other Trek – a lot of people complained that there may not be an Enterprise before Captain Kirk. I personally enjoyed the show (and hated the title song), but what is your opinion on the matter?
ASR: I loved Enterprise. (Actually, I also loved the theme song. Though, I hated it when the song was revamped in the third season.) But I thought Enterprise did a great job of capturing not only the original spirit of Trek but also that of space exploration and the capacity for human curiosity. I loved Archer and I loved the rest of the crew. I think it just never really had a chance to find itself without intense criticism and scrutiny before it was cancelled.
DG: You aren’t “just a Star Trek fan”. In fact you are a published author and artist, and organize a Shakespeare theatre project for kids as well. Did your Star Trek project influence your art? In which way(s)?
ASR: I think a lot of the key elements of Star Trek influenced me in a lot of ways—including creatively. I like stories about good people doing good things. I like imagining a more optimistic version of reality. I like reading and watching stories about adventure, exploration, and self-discovery. And that all happened before MYOST.
Since then, it’s taken some time to adjust and re-assess the influence of Trek on my creative life. During My Year of Star Trek, I was so focused on the project I couldn’t write a single other thing and all of my art (with the exception of commissions) was Trek based. Toward the end of the year I got my first book contract and agreed to write sequels to the first books in two different series so I knew my focus was about to take a really hard, definite shift. In 2014, after twelve months spent watching three episode of Trek a day, researching them, writing about them, basically living, breathing, and dreaming Trek, I found that for the first time in my life, I was burned out on the show. I still loved it. But turning on old episodes didn’t fill me with nostalgia anymore as much as anxiety. I’d been so worried about getting the project finished—watching ALL of Trek in a year and writing about it—that I think those feelings got sort of mingled with Trek in general. I had to take a break and during that time I wrote and revised the sequel to my first book, Awesome Jones. I also wrote and published a new comic essay, wrote a couple short stories, did a lot of new art and gradually became ok with watching Trek again. Now, in 2015, I’m beginning to see the ways that Trek and my 2013 project really bled into my creative life. I’m currently working on a few different projects and in one case especially, the influence of Star Trek is extremely prominent.
DG: Now, in 2015 you are re-watching Voyager. You say yourself it’s because you realized during the 2013 project how much Voyager really influenced you. Can you tell us in which way Voyager did or still does so?
ASR: Absolutely! I’m fond of saying that I can’t remember learning the Vulcan salute and that some of my fondest memories are watching TNG with my mom and dad, how Picard got me through my parents’ divorce etc. But I really came of age in the era of Voyager. I wanted to be like Janeway and B’Elanna and, later, I saw so much of myself in Seven. Voyager taught me about strong women who weren’t afraid to assert themselves or follow their instincts. They were brilliant and strong but also flawed and layered. The women in Voyager find a family in one another and in the rest of the crew. All these elements inspired me and they all show up in my own work.
DG: But now some more about AshleyRose, the artist. Your first novel “Awesome Jones” was published in 2014. Your new book, “Silver Tongue” just came out on April 21st! “Silver Tongue” is mixing fantasy, history, magic… it sounds really great. Where do you find most inspiration for your writing?
ASR: Haha! It’s really exciting! As far as inspiration goes: Oh man, it’s all over the place. My interests are really varied and I read widely and watch all kinds of stuff so I end up writing about a lot of weird, different things. My short stories have been about everything from tiny deer in Southeast Asia to ancient Greek cities and people who live at the base of an active volcano. With Awesome Jones it started with the name—just joking around about funny names and then it turned into a novel about comics, about the history of heroes, the meaning of heroes, etc. With Silver Tongue I was reading about the Revolutionary War and started thinking about what might’ve happened if the colonies had lost for some really infamous reason—if George Washington had failed in his crossing of the Delaware —and what kind of world that might’ve created. Then I came up with the characters and realized it was a project I really wanted to work on. It ended up being the novel I wrote for my teenage self.
DG: What kind of artist are you? Totally organized? Creatively chaotic? Maybe you can give us a little inside look into your creative life. Is there a future project we can be looking forward to?
ASR: My creative life is sort of… all consuming. When I’m writing, when I’m working on a larger project, I am completely taken over by it. I start living in the world I’m creating. It’s the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about before I go to sleep. I also tend to plan according to my project. With Silver Tongue, I outlined in a spreadsheet. With my first novel, Awesome Jones, it was an extended outline that changed a lot over several years and filled an entire notebook. It’s kind of intense.
I use my art to take a break from my writing. I can sketch or paint or work in photoshop while I watch Star Trek or baseball or 80s movies and that’s often how I unwind. I try not to put too much pressure on myself or take it too seriously. And, again, I work in whatever way seems appropriate to what I’m doing. Sometimes I use watercolors and sometimes pencil and sometimes I just want to mess around on my computer. I tend to give my work away and try not to hoard it. I actually have a habit of sending original watercolors as postcards which sort of started as an exercise in impermanence.
As far as future projects go—Yes! There will be two more books in both the Silver Tongue and Awesome Jones series. Look for them from Seventh Star Press! Additionally, I’m working on a graphic essay collection and another super-secret project that I won’t tell anyone about except to say that it almost, maybe exists.
DG: Thank you for this interview. It was a real pleasure meeting you.