This month at The Big Thrill we’re joined by thriller author Ashley Elston, whose novel THIS IS OUR STORY was released on Nov.15 by Disney-Hyperion. The story is an interesting take on a childhood hunting accident, told in a unique way through the use of transcripts, text messages, interviews, and viewpoint characters.
Please tell us a little about your new book.
In THIS IS OUR STORY, five boys go on an early morning hunt after a late night of partying and drinking, but only four come out alive. Accident or not, the boys know the one who pulled the trigger could face jail time, so they make a pact in the woods—they won’t tell who used the gun that killed their friend. The story is told from the perspective of a girl who works as an intern for a local assistant district attorney and the unknown shooter.
You tell the story through a mix of point of view characters, transcripts, text messages and interviews. What were the challenges of this type of storytelling?
The biggest challenge was finding the right balance. I wanted to tell this story from different perspectives but I didn’t want to overwhelm the reader. The transcripts were a great way to revisit the night before the hunt and see the events that went down through the eyes of different people at the party. My favorite part was writing the unknown shooter’s POV. He’s really creepy and I think his POV adds so much to this book.
The book deals with a pretty sensitive matter—the death of a young boy. How do you write a top notch thriller in a way that also handles such an incident with care?
What was important to me was to make sure his death was not used just as a plot point in the story. Grant dies very early in the book, basically in the first sentence, but I still wanted to bring him to life and make him real on the page. I didn’t want his death to be just a “thing” to solve for my main character. And even though these characters are teens, they still find themselves in very adult situations—just like in real life. I wanted to show that as well.
I’m curious to find out how you got the legal elements of the book right. How did you go about your research?
When I was in high school, I had a work pass and worked every afternoon in my dad’s law office. It was a great experience and I enjoyed seeing what went on behind the scenes. When I had the idea for this story, my first call was to my dad to talk over what I wanted to happen in the story and see if it would be legally possible. He was at the courthouse and happened to be sitting next to an assistant district attorney. Next thing I knew he had handed the phone to him and it was an awkward conversation as you can imagine. But the assistant DA was intrigued with the premise of my story and agreed to walk me through each step my River Point Boys would face in regards to the legal system. We spoke almost once a week for months and he was so helpful. I obviously took some liberties, and I’m sure I got something wrong, but that’s all on me.
Many of our readers are interested in the author behind the pen or the computer screen. What does an average day look like for you?
My average day isn’t very exciting! I have three sons, 16, 14, and 8, so it’s a race to get everyone fed and out of the door in time for school. My husband is a landscape contractor and I run the office, so most mornings, I’m at his shop working on the books. By three o’clock, I’m picking up kids, running to practices or games, and trying to get food on the table for dinner. I do manage to find some quiet, stolen moments to write, so it’s important I make the most of my time when I get it.
What can readers expect from you next?
I’ve got a couple of ideas I’m playing with right now. One of them is a young adult thriller set in Louisiana against the backdrop of a falling down plantation in an old pecan orchard. The other idea is a fun, light-hearted story that I keep coming back to. It’s very different than anything I’ve written before, and I’m enjoying it. Hopefully, one or both of these will turn into a finished book.
Ashley Elston is the daughter of an attorney and grew up surrounded by talk of court cases, crazy clients, and the law in general all of which triggered the ideas in her legal thrillers. She has a Liberal Arts degree from Louisiana State University Shreveport and lives in Shreveport, Louisiana with her husband and three sons.
To learn more about Ashley, please visit her website.
To learn more about Steve, please visit his website and follow him on Facebook and Twitter (@stevepvincent).