I’m happy to present my interview with Ashley M. Burner. Her book Twisted Candy.
(blurb and excerpt below)
* * *
Hi Ashley, Thanks for stopping by to talk a little about your writing! Let’s jump right in. When did you begin writing and why?
My first writing was a sixth grade school project. I can’t remember now if I volunteered or if my teacher selected us. We wrote a Greek mythology play. Then I went on to write soap operas with my girlfriend in junior high. After that I drifted into poetry, my grandfather’s death had pushed me over the edge.
What is your writing process like?
Thinking. Dreaming. Contemplating.
Then if the story refuses to leave my mind, I sit down and begin typing. Sometimes, I’ll actually write a full outline, it helps keep my characters on track-for the most part.
Are there specific challenges that writers face as opposed to other artists?
Most definitely! If you think about paintings, poetry, or songs, they are all quick and take very little time for the observer to formulate an opinion. Other, than quality and voice, a book takes time to see the whole picture.
How much do exotic locations play in crafting your stories? Do you tend to start with a location or setting and then create characters and a plot, or vice versa?
Good question. I think each story is different. This story, the characters came first. Once I knew who they were, Candy and Max found their own homes and where they wanted to be throughout the story.
How important is writing momentum to you?
It’s very important. Unfortunately, life gets in the way sometimes-and not that other things are less important. I’ve spent many nights of late going to work, then to one child’s sport to the next one. That means being away from home for fourteen to fifteen hours a day and still having to come home and write. Times like that, you fit it in when you can.
Writer’s block—real or hype?
Real! I haven’t had a complete block, but I have had troublesome scenes that I just couldn’t get down on paper the way I wanted too. So, I wrote crap. Moved on. And came back to the crap when the inspiration hit me.
Who are some of the writers that have most influenced you?
Sandra Brown, John Grisham, and Dean Koontz are the big ones. In the past few years however, I have read young adult authors such as Ann Aguirre, Rae Carson, Jay Asher, Lissa Price, Cinda Chima, Kresley Cole, and C. C. Hunter. I also read historical romances. Authors include Becky Lower, Donna MacMeans, Sheridan Jeane, and Donna Porter.
Do you prefer to extensively plot your stories, or do you write them as they come to you?
Honestly, I do something in the middle. A road map if you will with places I want to stop along the way.
Do certain themes and ideas tend to capture your writer’s imagination and fascinate you?
Absolutely! As readers and writers we go through phases in our life. As you can see from my reading list I like a range of stories, some safe, and some not so safe. The same goes for what I want to write.
On what level must writing succeed in order to resonate with a reader?
We need to be pushed to our limits. Experience something profound. We need to see something we take for granted and see the flip side. Makes us humble, grateful for the life we do have.
Tell me a little about the characters and the conflict in Twisted Candy.
Candy is breaking. She is suffering from an unrecognized disease, migraines. She feels lost in the world where no one understands a pain they cannot see or verify. But she is willing to try anything to survive.
Max has been fighting his own battles of depression since the death of his parents which yanked him out of college to run the family farm. To make it through life alone, he agrees to game of Bang-A-Ho with his friends. And life is passing just fine until he beds Candy.
Neither of them were looking for love, let alone feeling as though they deserved to be loved until the meet each other. Candy’s migraines seem to get in their way and give Max doubts.
Where’s the story set? How much influence did the setting have on the atmosphere/characters/development of the story?
The story setting has everything to do with the story development. The main setting, a graveyard, is the balance between natural life and death, and the desire for life and death.
Were your characters difficult to write, or did they seem to spring easily from your mind to the page?
The characters are very strong headed, They knew exactly what they wanted. So they came easy.
How often does your muse distract you from day to day minutiae?
With Candy, I think about her all the time. I often drift from listening to someone to thinking about what will happen next in her life, will she be happy, or will the next step devastate her.
If you had to write your memoir in five words, what would you write?
An insane migrainer with imagination.
What do readers have to look forward to in the future from Ashley M. Burner?
I hope to bring more stories like this to the forefront. I think too many people assume things about people by just glancing at them when there is so much more if you are willing to take the time and peal back the layers.
Thanks again for stopping by, Ashley! Readers can discover more about Ashley M. Burner here:
Sex that melts in your mouth…
Twenty-eight year old Candy Richman is tortured by migraines. Nothing works, nothing that makes life livable, anyway. Until an internet search reveals a surprising theory—the pain can be relieved by sex. Excited to test the theory for herself, Candy decides she needs a test subject—someone she can have totally hot sex with, but no emotional ties. Sex with a perfect stranger could be risky—but it’s a risk she’s willing to take. So when she pulls up beside the gorgeous country boy in his red pick-up, she blows him a kiss…and his reaction blows her away.
Twenty-two year old Max Hart is tortured by grief. While trying to lure women to his bed and win a friendly on-going wager with his friends, Max sidles up to a hot, yellow Camaro with an even hotter blonde behind the wheel. When she declines his invitation to coffee, he thinks he’s struck out…until she suckles her finger and gives him a look that would make him follow her anywhere.
But Candy’s no-strings-attached approach isn’t working. For some reason, Max wants more of his sweet Candy, even after he learns how bitter her life can be. And when Candy’s actions garner the attention of a serial killer, things only go from bad to worse…
An Excerpt from Twisted Candy
There’s an old saying: the difference between sanity and insanity is the realization that your actions are wrong.
If only Candy knew which team she belonged to. Lately her actions could have her on either one—but insanity seemed to be winning. Her heart pounded to the beat of the drums in “Give Me Novacaine” by Green Day. It spoke to her as a migraine sufferer and a writer. The offbeat song shoved the loneliness and despair into the dark recesses of her mind.
Spring always made Candy behave like she was in heat. Right now, discovering if sex could heal migraines was her only goal. Shifting her ass to the edge of the couch in Dr. Sam White’s office, she fussed with her long white skirt. She’d been seeing the shrink for months. The fifty-something-year-old man with salt-and-pepper hair didn’t make her wet, but if she thought about the naughtiness of him touching her, liquid pooled between her legs.
“How has work been?” Dr. White tugged at his ear.
“Eh,” she shrugged. “I write my articles whenever my head doesn’t hurt, to meet my goals.”
“And your editor doesn’t have any issues with this?”
“No.” She frowned and shook her head. Why did he insist on asking the same questions every week? “I’ve never missed a deadline for my column.”
She bit her lip, pushing back the bitter pain rocking her head. Then bit harder still, drawing a little blood. The scent of copper filled her senses. She welcomed pain anywhere south of her nose, and today she wanted to concentrate on pleasure.
“How bad is your head hurting?” The mustard-colored box of tissues he held toward her matched the color of his dress shirt.
She took one and dabbed her lip, then looked down to her lap. One day soon he would see through her façade of sanity and lock her away forever. Because of that, she never told him how she really felt or thought. Everything she told him was calculated, including this simple answer. “A three,” she lied. Had this been her first time around she would have said an eight, but this was her fourth cycle with the migraines no one could cure. The truth to his question fell somewhere in between the two.
“Uh-huh.” He scratched notes to his pad. “What week of the cycle do you think you’re in?”
“Coming up on four weeks.” She dared to look at him. How did he make her focus on things she didn’t want to talk about? Why not talk about something pleasurable? Why not talk about sex? Or better yet…
“Do you think this cycle will last twelve weeks again?” Dr. White asked.
Twelve weeks? She hoped not, but the only person who might know the answer to that question would be her neurologist. He seemed to only be interested in pushing the newest drugs her way. Candy didn’t wish to talk about her migraines today. Instead, she placed her feet on the small coffee table between herself and Dr. White. Sliding them apart and pulling the hem of her skirt up to her knees, she waited for him to look up.
The pad of paper he scribbled on sat upon a knee of his long, crossed legs. “Well? Acknowledging your migraines isn’t like an alcoholic admitting they have a drinking problem, Candy.”
“If I don’t admit I have migraines, then I don’t have a problem.” Why did doctors find that so difficult to understand?
“No one can understand how your migraines affect you, especially when you don’t confide in us completely.”
“My first doctor asked me why I made such a big deal about a headache that only lasted twenty minutes, even if did occur two or three times a day for months. So forgive me if I’m not so trusting.” She tapped the heels of her boots against the table.
Look up. Feast your eyes on my sweetness.
He lay his pen down against the pad and looked up. His eyes nearly bulged out of his head while his mouth fell open. Licking his lips, he didn’t take his eyes off the treasure before him.
His chest rose and fell with heavy breaths that matched her own. If only she could see his dick hardening with desire. With hands on both her knees, she slowly slid the flowing skirt toward her waist. His gaze followed the path of each inch of skin her fingers touched until they lingered above her hairless folds of skin.
Then he closed his eyes and shook his head.
No! No! No!
Her window of opportunity would close if she didn’t do something about it. She moved quickly in front of him and straddled his legs, placed a foot on the arm of his chair, and hiked her skirt back up. She arched her back to open herself up more to him. Being this close to her wet, sweet-scented pussy should drive him insane.
He uncrossed his legs, then with eyes still closed, his hand moved to her cowgirl boot resting on the chair arm. The rough sound of hand meeting leather caused her legs to tremble with anticipation. When his hand reached the top and touched her bare skin, a sigh escaped her lips.
His eyes shot open. Gently, but with force, he pushed her away from him. “Candy, you can’t do this.”
“No one will ever know,” she pouted.
“I will know.” He frowned, then stood and walked to the other side of his desk. “If you don’t stop misbehaving I won’t be able to keep you as a patient.”
Stomping back to the couch, she lifted the cream-colored purse to her shoulder. “Well, if you can’t help me through my migraine-induced-depression, then maybe you shouldn’t be my psychologist.”
“Candy, you’ve made a lot of progress. These immature antics of yours won’t help you get to the root cause of your issues.”
Her upbeat mood disappeared with the anger rocking her head. The cold, metal door handle did nothing to cool the blood flowing through veins. Slamming the door closed released little frustration. Instead, the Migraine Demon swung his pitchfork and planted it in the side of her head.
“Same time next week,” he called after her.
* * *
What a waste of time. Dr. White had squashed her dreams of happiness for the day. Worst of all, this time he had touched her. His soft hands burned her bare skin. Why didn’t he help her discover if sex really cured migraines?
What the hell was wrong with her? She looked in the rearview mirror to survey her appearance. Her blonde wavy hair lightly fluttered from the air conditioning blowing from the car vents, and her lips still glistened with strawberry lip gloss. “Pfft. Maybe his dick is just as dead as this sleepy little Ohio town.”
Her foot eased off the gas and stopped at the glaring amber traffic light. Something had to bring happiness into her life, but as her gaze swept across the town, hope slid down her chest. The faded colors of the buildings matched those of an over-worn pair of jeans. A few desperate flowers pushed through the cracks in the sidewalk and even they looked depressed with their blooms drooping downwards.
Music from the vehicle next to hers seeped in like a fog twisting around unsuspecting trees as it crept through a valley. The deep voice of the male singer pressed against her.
Pain sliced through her head again. Sinuses burned and eyes watered. She pinched her nose, just below her eyes, willing the pain away. She needed a cure. She needed a doctor willing to help her. She needed to know if sex would cure her migraines. Sex. Sex. Sex.
Candy glanced at her watch. Half past ten in the morning and she already wanted to go to bed—with or without a man. Covers pulled up past her eyes. A fan to blow the stale air around the room. Curtains sewn shut to keep the light out.
Rolling down her windows, Candy focused on the music while warm air danced around her, easing the tension from her shoulders. The song had changed and a girl sang something about not wanting to be in a country song. The singer sounded strong, and today Candy needed that strength.
The vehicle next to hers rumbled when the driver gave the engine gas. The noise pierced through her head like a knife. Her fingers moved in slow circles round her temples, willing the pain to go away. Another rumble overtook the music. Candy had a mind to flip the jackass off. Turning to do just that, her gaze drifted up the side of the jacked-up red truck. The kind of truck only a country boy would drive. And sitting in the driver’s seat was a country boy. A hot country boy.
So hot, her breath caught in her chest and refused to come out. So hot, she licked her lips in want. So hot, she forgot to flip him off.
He wore a straw cowboy hat that sat low on his brow, sheltering his eyes from the sun. Full lips looked soft above a strong, chiseled chin. Wavy, brown hair nearly reached his shoulders. What she wouldn’t give to thread her fingers through it, pull him closer, and kiss him deeply.
He tipped his hat toward her in greeting.
Candy realized then that she still held her breath. She let it out in a gush and thanked the stars she hadn’t done something embarrassing like turn blue and faint.
Her heart swelled, or maybe that was her breasts. Yep, even her nipples tightened under his gaze. His good looks eased the pain from her eyes, her nose, and the rest of her head. Maybe he deserved a special smile. She giggled at her forwardness and honored him with her best I-want-to-fuck-you smile.
He turned the music off. Maybe her smile still worked. “You from around here?” he asked, half hanging out his window. His tanned bicep flexed against the door making her wet.
“No,” her voice sounded shaky and unsure.
With sex on her brain, the memory of a fantasy trickled through her thoughts. A fantasy fueled by the energy of life and death. Today could be the day her fantasy could become a reality…if only the guy in the big, red truck wanted to play. Acting upon her deepest desire, she winked at Mr. Country Boy.
He winked back, then looked at something in his truck. Turning back to her he asked, “Want to get some coffee or sweet tea? Della’s is just around the corner.”
His smile reached all the way to his eyes. The same smile hopeful boys used on her back in high school when they wanted to sink their cock inside her. But Candy didn’t want to know if he could stimulate her with conversation or sweet fucking tea. She only wanted to know if he could stimulate her clit, if he could make her come, if he could make her scream his name in ecstasy.
She would do anything if he would slide up between her legs…pet her…fill her. Hell, she’d lift her skirt anywhere he wanted. She pictured him pinning her up against the cold, metal door of his truck. Tempting, but the thought of being stretched out on a cold, hard stone was even better. It made her pussy tingle as if a thousand fingers all at once touched her. She partially closed her eyes and moaned with delight.
“Is that a no?” His perfect smile faltered.
He misread her silence. Blowing him a kiss to show her interest, she stomped on the gas pedal when the light turned green. Her courage grew at the second traffic light in town. She moved her finger to the rim of her lips. His eyes widened. His chest expanded and stopped as if waiting to see what would happen next. Slowly at first, she worked her index finger in and out of her willing mouth.
Minutes ago, she had lifted her skirt and spread her legs to Dr. White. He pushed her away instead of filling her with his cock. Looking at the guy next her, she decided his inclination to keep the doctor-patient relationship had been a blessing.
Biting her finger in thought, she wondered if sex really could create the serotonin rumored to alleviate migraine symptoms. She wouldn’t be insane for her actions if it did. What if serotonin could be stored up like cash on a pre-paid credit card? The last time she rode a man’s cock had been five months ago during her most recent migraine cycle. The encounter with Nick had been strange and any serotonin she earned on the credit card disappeared when his enchanting blue eyes turned steel cold, calculating.
The man next to her seemed safe enough. The worst he could do anyway would be to kill her and stop the endless pain in her head. The best he could do would be to cure her. The reward outweighed the consequences.
Her finger moved in and out of her mouth again as sweet liquid pooled between her legs. Candy wanted to feel Country Boy’s rock hardness before her fingers delved into another place of warm wetness.
Neither car moved forward when the light turned green until someone behind them blew their horn. Candy’s heart beat faster than any country song she’d ever heard, causing her to feel light headed. Calm down, girl.
The road out of town tapered down from two lanes to one. She looked in her rearview mirror this time to confirm he followed her, wanted her. As if he sensed her need, he revved his engine and rode up on the bumper of the car. Yes, he really wanted a piece of her ass. A smile spread across her face.
Breathe, she commanded as thoughts of him holding her ass and humping her swirled around her mind. Would he be long? Thick? Or average? It really didn’t matter as long as his sex could keep her migraines at bay.
Clicking on her turn signal, she checked the mirror to see if his came on too. It did. She passed the white picket fence separating the lower part of the cemetery from the road. The gravel crunched under the weight of her yellow Camaro when she pulled in. The sound sent a shiver shooting from her pussy to the base of her neck. Candy’s favorite place in the cemetery was on top of the hill. She parked at the bottom of the hill just a few feet from the gate leading to the top.
Candy moaned with images of his hands groping her breasts. She hoped he could live up to her fantasy. Not wanting to miss a detail, she coated her steaming lips with her cool, strawberry lip-gloss.
Country Boy pulled in beside her. His door opened. She wanted to experience the chase. So she bolted from her car leaving it running, door ajar. The gravel crunched lightly under her cowgirl boots, sending another spark of excitement through her. She ducked under a single-bar gate covered with flakes of faded red paint. Her boots swished against the grass path.
The Camaro’s engine died.
The door slammed shut.