Interview With Author Ash Bishop
Growing up, the first thing I’d read in the newspaper was my horoscope (followed quickly by the comics page). I never gave the horoscope much thought later in the day, but then again, my horoscope never predicted a grisly crime, which is the premise of Ash Bishop’s upcoming novel, The Horoscope Writer. I recently sat down with Ash to discuss horoscopes, what goes into writing a mystery thriller, and more.
Tell us a bit about The Horoscope Writer and what inspired it?
The Horoscope Writer is about a newspaper reporter who begins to receive horoscope “predictions” of gruesome crimes. He ignores them but then notices that they may be coming true.
Growing up I was a big fan of the serial killer stories of Thomas Harris and Ed McBain. Their stories were the most effective when they tapped into a current fear, even something as macabre as the original Zodiac killer. Before starting the novel, I asked myself, what does our culture currently struggle with? There was no shortage of answers to that question but the thing I find most intriguing is our struggle with having too much information (social media posts, news with clear bias, AI generated writing, disturbing conspiracy theories, run amok, etc.…) and yet we have no easy way to determine what information can be trusted.
I thought a fun way to explore this conundrum was by using something ancient – in this case horoscopes-- as a cypher. Horoscopes have answers. They literally predict the future. But, on close examination, they are frustratingly elusive, one could even say fraudulent. The horoscope predictions in my novel give the narrator some of the information he needs; he’s told what the crimes are and how they occur. He’s just not sure he can trust the mysterious, anonymous source. And if he can trust it, it raises a whole new set of equally interesting questions.
What is your zodiac sign? And what would you do if you discovered a super specific horoscope?
I am a Libra. Initially I would not believe it. But the power of suggestion is strong. I guess my response would depend on the prediction. If it were something good, I would be delighted and superstitiously hopeful. If it were bad, I would stay inside, and try to put myself in a circumstance where it couldn’t possibly come true.
What do you find to be the most important thing when writing a mystery thriller?
In all genres you need interesting characters doing interesting things, and being true to themselves in the process. If you have that, the story will be entertaining, no matter the genre. To answer more specifically about mystery, I would say red herrings are pretty darn important. The reader wants a reasonable challenge, and if they can see the solution coming without difficulty, it’s very unsatisfying.
Since this is your second novel, how was the process compared to writing your first novel, Intergalactic Exterminators, Inc.? Where elements easier to do? Harder?
The Horoscope Writer was much easier in just about every way. The characters live in my hometown and they think and talk about things that I know very well. Intergalactic Exterminators, Inc took place on multiple alien planets where each character had their own biology, technology and lifestyle. Crafting so much from my imagination also unlocked a lot of opportunities for humor, which is something I really value, so they were both imminently satisfying to write.
You currently produce script coverage in Hollywood. Does that experience help your writing?
The company I worked for didn’t make it through Covid, but the experience was amazing and absolutely helped my writing. To explain the job, if a script was being considered for production, the company would give it to me for a rating, analysis of strengths and weaknesses and suggestions for improvement.
Writers of both books and scripts have so much to think about. We have to craft character, plot, setting, dialogue, and so much more. It’s easy to get caught up making one element very strong and neglecting one or all of the others. Even rotten movies generally do one or two things really well.
Writing script coverage reminded me that you’ve got to have all aspects of storytelling dialed in for an experience to be successful. It’s a huge undertaking, and there’s no shame in asking for help by allowing others to catch your blind spots and send you back to work fixing them. We novelists get a variation of “coverage” from our secondary readers, our agents and our editors. If you have a team you trust, and they’re good at their job, and you can put aside your ego and listen to them, they will always make the work stronger.
What is a piece of advice you’d give to aspiring authors?
Don’t quit. Writing is very subjective and the only person that can stop you from doing it is you. With Intergalactic Exterminators, Inc, I had queried a prospective agent and she read the full manuscript. She told me to scrap it and start over. Less than two weeks later my current agent called, said she loved it and offered me representation. It won the Audie for best Science Fiction Audiobook of 2023, so I like to think my current agent was right, but the truth is, I just had to keep looking until I found people that synced with my voice and style. Your people are out there too (readers, agents, publishers) and if you hang around long enough you’ll find them, and get better at your craft along the way.
Where can people order The Horoscope Writer?
It’s available on July 18th at libraries and wherever fine books are sold. A direct link to the publisher storefront is here: https://camcatbooks.com/Books/T/The-Horoscope-Writer
Where’s the best place to follow you?
Facebook is probably best: https://www.facebook.com/AshLBishop/
I also have a link tree so they can choose their favorite spot: https://linktr.ee/ashlbishop