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Rising Stars: Meet Ashley Hasty

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ashley Hasty.

Hi Ashley, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
Hasty Book List started as a hashtag on Instagram so I could keep track of the books I’d read and could easily refer back to it when my friends asked me for recommendations. As my list developed, I received requests to expand my reviews beyond a few sentences. My husband suggested I start a blog, but I resisted for several years saying writing about books would take away from the time I had to read books.

Eventually, he set me up with this website and said it was there if I ever wanted to pursue it. That same day I sat down and wrote some very brief reviews without any pictures. The site developed slowly over time and now I work with over 200 publicists, I’ve interviewed over 500 authors, and I’ve read and featured countless books.

And now I’m working on writing my own novel.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The road’s been very smooth, not so much as a speed bump.

I’m kidding. Obviously. What road worth pursuing is ever smooth? My blog growth has been steady, but slow. I struggle to keep it fun sometimes, striking the right balance between business and pleasure. I want it to grow but I don’t want to lose my love of reading in the process. There was one year I read a book a week, at the end of the year I was so sick of reading I didn’t read another book for months. I’m still getting over that. I had to cut back on the number of books I agreed to review, and I don’t like saying “no” to an author who worked so hard for so long to write a book.

On the writing side, most of it is a struggle. When you first start out, you sign up to dedicate a year of your life to researching, writing, and editing (without any guarantee that it’ll all amount to anything.) So there are these intrusive thoughts that pop up every once in awhile like, “Will anyone ever read this?” or “Is this book any good?” or “Is this all a waste of time?” Sometimes it is a struggle to overcome that imposter syndrome. I’m currently working on my second manuscript, which means dedicating another year of my life without any guarantee that it’ll amount to anything. I learned a lot from writing my first manuscript and I have a great network of author friends who encouraged me to try again. The best way to get better at something is to keep practicing, right? So this manuscript can only be an improvement over my last one.

Writing a novel takes a lot of blind faith.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
People know me best as the blogger behind hastybooklist.com, which features author interviews, book jacket designers, audiobook narrators, and book reviews. I also conduct author interviews with the St. Louis County Library, they used to be live, in-person interviews in front of an audience, but lately they’ve all be conducted via Zoom with the help of HEC TV, St. Louis’ home of Higher Education, Arts, and Culture.

I also teach college classes in marketing, fashion history, and retailing. I have my Ph.D. in fashion history, so it’ll come as no surprise that my favorite book genre is historical fiction (and that my own manuscript is a work of historical fiction that includes lots of fashion!) I am very new to writing fiction, but I have a great network of friends through the blog who are cheering me on and offering advice and support.

I joke that I am the worst book reviewer because I’m not very critical. I feel like giving a book a bad review is like telling someone their baby is ugly. I see myself more as a book cheerleader. I want to help find the right reader for each book. Just because a book didn’t speak to me doesn’t mean it won’t change someone else’s life. I would hate to think that my review would keep someone from potentially finding their favorite book ever. I also think my opinion of a book stems from where I am in life. Am I having a good day or a bad day? Just because a book isn’t touching my heart right now doesn’t mean it won’t next month or next year or ten years from now. It’s all so subjective.

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you?
What an interesting question. What some people call luck, others call hard work. It’s a fine and blurry line. I do think there is an element of luck. I can point to some things and say, “I did not manifest that.” I am lucky to have been born into the family I have and to have been given the opportunity of education. But I took that luck and worked hard to make it into a life and career that I love.

It is tempting to look at a successful author and think, “She’s so lucky.” But we don’t know what went on behind the scenes, the blood, sweat, and tears she put into that novel. The late nights she spent writing instead of going out with friends, or attending her child’s soccer game. Every author I’ve interviewed who appears to be an overnight success was actually years in the making.

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