I am so excited to welcome back one of my favorite Golden Heart sisters Heather Ashby. Today we’re talking about her newest release Never Forget and the most amazing author endorsement ever!!!
“A must-read for fans of military romantic suspense. This book is part of a series, but it stands very much alone. If you enjoy my Troubleshooters, Heather’s definitely an author to check out! Amazing book, amazing author, amazing series.”
– Suzanne Brockmann
HA: Thanks for inviting me today, Sharon. It’s always exciting to visit “Kiss and Thrill.” I’m thrilled to share Book #3 in my “Love in the Fleet” series with your readers.
With 7.5 tons of World Trade Center steel melted into her bow, what if there are more souls aboard the USS New York than the sailors and Marines stationed there? And what if those souls can help the troops defeat al-Qaeda this time?
When Royal Navy officer Gwyn Pritchard reports for exchange duty aboard USS New York, she’s the only one who sees 9/11 spirits roaming the decks. The daughter of a famous Welsh psychic, Gwyn learns the spirits must complete a mission in order to pass to the other side.
The sole survivor of an IED blast in Afghanistan, Marine Corps Gunnery Sergeant Adam Connor has his own issues. But when he discovers that the British officer sees ghosts aboard their ship, he becomes her confidant—and lover.
Passions rise to fever pitch when New York rushes to liberate British and American hostages in North Africa before al-Qaeda’s deadline. Can the spirits gather the right intelligence to help the Marines save the prisoners? Can Gwyn help the ghosts move on to the light? And can Adam and Gwyn find the love they’ve searched the world over for?
SW: For my first question I just have to ask, “How did you get Suzanne Brockmann to give you a cover quote?”
HA: I asked Suzanne in person when she presented at our chapter meeting, so I had the opportunity to see her jaw drop when I told her about the USS New York and the 9/11 spirits on board. (Yes, there really IS 7.5 tons of WTC steel in the New York’s bow.) However, since Suzanne is well-known for supporting the troops, I’m sure the deciding factor was that I donate half my royalties to Fisher House Foundation in thanksgiving for my son’s safe return from war. BTW, getting her quote and endorsement on Facebook was a dream come true. It was her Troubleshooters books that got me through my son’s deployments (along with vast amounts of prayer and chardonnay!) And while reading her books, I was inspired to try my hand at military romance.
To read more, please join me today at Kiss and Thrill or click here to read more.
SW: You are so brave. I don’t know if I would have the courage to ask. When you first came up with the idea of the ghosts aboard USS New York, did you have any concerns or worries?
HA: I sat on the idea for several weeks, questioning if it was okay to write about them. My concern was for the 9/11 families. Then it came to me that if I didn’t write this story, somebody else would, and I wanted to ensure it was written with the respect it deserved. I am a Navy veteran, Marine Corps daughter, Navy wife, and mother of an Iraq and Afghanistan combat Army vet. I felt I was qualified—and with the victims’ families always foremost in my mind—I jumped in with both feet and wrote straight from the heart.
I realized that if I could give the spirits a voice and empower them with some control over the ship, the crisis, and their destiny, it would allow them to move from victim to victor. Just so you know, I worked on this book for two years and I still get goose bumps. Thus far my favorite reader review is this one on Facebook: “As a member of a 9/11 family, this book is truly inspiring. I’m filled with gratitude for this very special remembrance of my son.”
SW: What a wonderful review! How many people did you share your premise with while you were writing this? Or did you keep it to yourself?
HA: I shared with very few, highly-trusted individuals. For me to keep a secret like this for two years was a big deal, but I felt the story was too special to allow it to be stolen and sensationalized.
SW: How did you come up with your heroine? Why Welsh and the Royal Navy? She’s fascinating and so different from other heroines.
HA: Several years ago my husband and I entertained Royal Navy officers from the HMS Ocean. One delightful Sub-Left-tenant, suggested I write a romance about a Naval officer exchange program between the U.S. and the U.K., which meant two love story threads. In Never Forget, the love story on the British ship, HMS Atlantic, is the link to the first two books in “Love in the Fleet.” The other thread is detailed above in the blurb. Then I needed a reason why only Gwyn could see the spirits, and thought of a country that might have “faeries,” so I made her Welsh. She grew up with a mum who dabbled in “all kinds of woo-woo stuff,” so Gwyn rebelled by becoming a Royal Naval engineer, a profession which uses science and logic. She is therefore mortified when she reports for duty aboard New York and sees ghosts—meaning she has inherited the family “gift.”
SW: Why were the prisoners in North Africa? Was there any significance in that choice? (It seems so eerily appropriate now)
HA: I chose North Africa because I needed both the American and British ships (with both sets of lovers) to be close enough to rush to the crisis. The USS New York would be on a routine Med cruise and the HMS Atlantic could race from Plymouth, England to join her in trying to free British and American hostages. My USMC advisor and I decided Tangiers was the perfect spot for the crisis because it was the espionage crossroads of the world in the 1940s and 1950s which plays into the story.
SW: Did you have any surprises while writing this book?
HA: The spirits were a total surprise. My stories are “homeported” at Naval Station Mayport, FL. In 2012 I learned that Mayport would be receiving three amphibious assault ships in 2014, so I decided to write about an amphib. While researching the new ships, I read about the World Trade Center steel melted into the bow of USS New York. I literally flew out of my chair, hands to open mouth with “OMG!OMG!OMG!” screaming in my brain!
Next I surprised myself by making one of the two heroes a Marine. I knew nothing about Marines and could just as easily have made him a Naval officer. But something spoke to me. My late father was a WWII Marine. He had some sad issues from his childhood and I decided to work them out through Adam Connor, my Marine hero. Then I was led to a fabulous newly-retired Marine, Christopher Bergeron, who was interested in helping. He said, “I spent my career writing amphibious assault training scenarios and never got to use half of them. I know exactly how to go into your fictional consulate and free those hostages!” Like I could turn THAT down! The fact that Chris doubled as the cover art photographer was beyond awesome!
There are several surprises in the crisis – which is a series of black moments. One scared the living daylights out of me! My brain kept saying, “Play it safe. This is too risky. You can’t do this.” But my ADHD gut said, “Go for it! This is the kind of thing that makes for blockbuster books and movies.” I figured if it was too risky, my editor would slap me on the wrist and make me revise. But she loved it! (It scared her too J)
Although Chris is new to writing fiction, he added in a few surprises that literally had me screaming out “OMG! I didn’t know that!” At first he just gave me Marine Corps “sand,” general information that I could turn into “sand castles.” But his confidence has gone through the roof as he realizes what a brilliant and creative writer he is (my words, not his J) We are exploring the very real possibility of co-authoring book four, Unforgettable.
SW: Speaking of your covers, Heather, I see they’ve changed. Can you shed a little light on that.
HA: I changed publishers over the summer and am now working with the amazing Teresa Medeiros at Amber House Books. Since it was imperative that this book have a respectful cover, we decided to go with military uniforms for the entire series. My hero son agreed to pose for the covers and Chris shot the photos. My retired Navy husband meticulously researched the ribbons and devices (A.K.A. “fruit salad”) to ensure that the uniforms reflected the age and experience of the hero in each book. It was a true family affair; even my daughter helped out. She suggested a key spy character – “The Lynx” – right before Never Forget went to press.
I feel like I’ve come full circle, Sharon. At 9:04 on 9/11, I knew my son would be going to war. It was one of the most frightening realizations I’ve ever had. I’ve been blessed to have him return safe and whole from combat. Now he helps out as we publish “Love in the Fleet” and donate to causes that support families who have not fared as well as ours in the War on Terror.
SW: Thanks for spending the day with us, Heather. And good luck with Never Forget. Although I doubt you’ll need it. 🙂
Heather Ashby is a Navy veteran who taught school and raised a family while accompanying her Navy husband around the United States, Japan, and the Middle East. She now writes military romance novels in the series, “Love in the Fleet.” Her debut novel, Forgive & Forget was voted “Best of 2013” by Suspense Magazine. Forget Me Not is currently a finalist in the Military Writers Society of America’s annual contest. She publishes with Amber House Books, who released Never Forget on September 9th. Heather lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida with her husband and two rescue cats.
You can find Heather at:
All photos courtesy of Heather Ashby.