This author interview shares advice from published author Ashley McGrath. Her autobiography UnabASHed by Disability can be purchased on Amazon or as an ebook through Kindle.  


To start, can you share a little bit about your backstory and how you came to be an author?

Ashley: I remember the first time I wrote something that was published was in fifth grade. I wrote a brief article about encephalitis, and my article was published in my school newsletter. I thought that was pretty cool at the time. When I was in eighth grade, I had to write 45 poems for an English project. It was at that point that I became more serious about writing. Then, in the ninth grade, I joined my high school newspaper, and my writing took off from there.


Do you have a writing process?

Ashley: Right now, I wouldn’t say I have a very unique writing process. But when I do begin to write, whether it’s an essay or something short, I try to create a rough draft without giving too much thought to it. After I get my rough draft down, I go back over it and refine what is needed.


Do you write in one specific genre?

Ashley: I write mainly nonfiction, but I have also written poetry.


In your opinion, what distinguishes you from other authors?

Ashley: Having physical disabilities and being a wheelchair user distinguishes me from other authors because it gives me a different perspective on life.


What is your research process for your nonfiction writing?

Ashley: After I’ve thought of the topic I want to write about, I would start with a simple internet search using Google or a similar search engine. Once I’ve finished familiarizing myself with the topic, I will go to the library and check out books on the subject as needed. I’ll also talk with people I know in the field to get a deeper look into the subject.


How would you suggest new writers can improve their writing skills?

Ashley: I think to improve their skills, writers should read books on the subject. Or they could take courses in different aspects of writing. I would also recommend joining a critique group where you can have people look over your writing and give you suggestions on how to improve.


Do you have any advice for new writers that want to be published?

Ashley: Yes, I do. I would ask your writer friends or an editor to read your writing and critique it. Then based on their suggestions, you should revise your work. Again, I would like to emphasize the importance of joining a critique group because it’s beneficial to have fresh pairs of eyes on your writing. Further, I would recommend joining a local writers organization like the Space Coast Writers’ Guild, where you have the opportunity to interact with others from whom you may learn. They also give presentations on different aspects of writing.


What would you say are the main differences between traditional publishing and self-publishing?

Ashley: Traditional publishing is the situation in which a publishing company or publishing house owns the rights and royalties of a book. The traditional publisher handles all aspects of the book with total control. Whereas in self-publishing, the author owns the rights and royalties to his or her book and is able to do everything from formatting to marketing. Another major difference is traditional publishing takes months or years to publish a book, while self-publishing can happen in a matter of days.


Is there one you prefer over the other?

Ashley: I only have experience with self-publishing. The platform I used for my book was CreateSpace, which no longer exists. But nowadays, people could self-publish through Kindle Direct Publishing or IngramSpark.


How does a writer know when they’re ready to share their work with the world?

Ashley: I think a writer knows when they’re ready to share their work when no additional revisions are needed, and the writer has confidence and pride in his or her writing.


What is the best piece of advice you could give to a new author?

Ashley: I would say that you should be proactive in promoting yourself and your book. This involves being active on social media, scheduling book signings, and giving presentations to get yourself out there.


What has been the most rewarding part of your writing journey and career?

Ashley: The most rewarding part of writing has been the positive feedback I’ve received from readers.


Are you reading anything for leisure currently?

Ashley: Yes. When I read for leisure, I read a magazine called Angels on Earth. It’s a magazine published by Guideposts about people helping other people in mysterious ways. I also like to read nonfiction books by authors like Malcolm Gladwell and romance novels by Debbie Macomber.


Is there anything else you would like readers of this Q&A to know?

Ashley: I would be happy to share more about the autobiography I wrote almost six years ago called UnabASHed by Disability. The book is about the first 25 years of my life living with a rare genetic disorder. It’s still available for sale on Amazon as a paperback and as an ebook through Kindle. I also had a blog that was an extension of my book called “UnabASHed by Disability: The Blog.” There, I wrote brief articles or reflections about disability issues and shared my experiences as a person with physical disabilities. For people who’d like to read those posts, you can find them archived here.