Heather Ashby is a Navy veteran whose mother was one of the original WAVES in World War II. After leaving the service, Heather taught school and raised a family while accompanying her Navy husband around the United States, Japan, and the Middle East. In gratitude for her Army son’s safe return from Afghanistan and Iraq, she now writes military romance novels, donating half her royalties to Fisher House Foundation – Helping Military Families. She lives in Atlantic Beach, Florida with her husband and three rescue cats.
Kim: Gotta ask about your mother - can you share any of her experiences that she may have shared with you as one of the original Navy WAVES? How did she react when you joined the Navy?
Heather: My mother graduated with a degree in Mathematics in 1942 and joined the Navy a year later when the WAVES were formed. After Midshipman School at Smith College and training at M.I.T., she spent the duration of the war doing research on fireproofing projects, since the greatest threat on a Navy ship is fire.
Mother talked fondly about her time in the WAVES for much of my younger life, but did I listen? Nope. However, I returned from a vacation to Jacksonville, Florida when I was 21 and informed her that I had decided to join the Navy in order to finish my education. (I didn’t tell her about partying with half the Atlantic Fleet in Mayport, however.) I found my mailbox stuffed with recruiting information the next day. She was so excited, she’d called the recruiter and given them the heads-up about my interest. Both of my parents were proud of me in the Navy and were thrilled when I married a career Naval officer.
|US Navy/Public Domain (link)|
Kim: Thank you for your continued service as a Navy spouse. Do you have a favorite memory from Japan and/or Middle East?
Heather: For two years, we were stationed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, the most conservative Muslim city outside of Mecca. I had to cover from neck to wrist to ankle before leaving our compound to go shopping. I would catch the compound bus with the other wives, because women cannot drive there. Before you say, “How awful!” let me tell you that because I did not have to drive my children anywhere (all transportation to school, soccer, scouts, camp, etc. was provided) I was able to work full-time for the first time since we’d had kids. I loved teaching third grade at the International School—and making money to spend on those shopping trips to the gold souk, the Oriental carpet bazaar, and the spice and antiques markets. And how many seven and nine-year-olds ride camels around the Pyramids for their Spring Break family vacation? Living in the Saudi Arabia was a real adventure!
|The Pyramids of Giza|
Image by Ricardo Liberato via Creative Commons (link)
Kim: So glad your Army son safely returned from recent deployments ... and thanks to him for his service. How did this quad-level of experience (Waves daughter, Navy vet, Navy spouse, and Army mom) shape your writing voice?
Heather: Reading military romance was one of the things that got me through his deployments. As I started writing my own, I realized how much the Navy really does have its own language. And not just vocabulary; sometimes it’s in the syntax. My husband and I still use Navy terms for many things in our everyday language: head, deck, overhead, skivvies, Irish pennant, gig line, turn to, etc. It made all the difference in the way I write my stories. On the one hand I write to entertain the women in the fleet, so I want the lingo to be authentic. But on the other hand I write so civilian readers can vicariously join the Navy and see how our sailors live and work. Thus, I utilize many civilian beta readers to tell me when my Navy-speak is confusing or unclear. I even learned a few Army terms from my son, which are coming in handy as I’m now writing about Marines, who use many similar terms as the Army. And, yes, my characters “cuss like sailors.”
Kim: Tell us about the LOVE IN THE FLEET series and your newest release, FORGET ME NOT?
Heather: “Love in the Fleet” is a four-book series based on four male Naval Academy classmates. The books detail them each meeting “The One” in their late twenties when they are senior lieutenants stationed at commands out of Mayport, Florida. They appear in each other’s books, so it’s kind of fun to follow them around. I consider my books to be primarily love stories, but with suspenseful elements. So wasn’t I surprised to learn that Suspense Magazine named Book 1, Forgive & Forget, to their “Best of 2013” list. All the books take place on ships and feature Navy heroines, with the exception of Forget Me Not. Following is the official blurb:
Suffering from Peter Pan Syndrome and survivor guilt, Navy helicopter pilot and renowned playboy, Brian “Skylark” Crawford, swears he’ll never marry, uncertain he deserves happiness—besides there are too many hot chicks to choose from. War widow and veterinarian, Daisy Schneider, swears to love only animals after her Marine pilot husband is killed in Afghanistan—but work fails to ease her loneliness or the guilt that she might have saved him. Between one stray, matchmaking cat and a fiery battle with drug runners at sea, the fur flies as Sky and Daisy learn valuable lessons about life, love, and second chances.
Something exciting about this book was the research. Naval Station Mayport allowed me to go through their helicopter flight simulator and gave me access to pilots to help with cockpit technology and jargon. All personnel were glad to help since I was “writing about what their squadrons do to make the world a safer place.” Because the book details a drug interdiction at sea, I did extensive research into the cocaine trade as well. I also loved writing Forget Me Not because it stars my favorite character: zany, impulsive, irreverent, charming, honorable, loveable Sky Crawford.
Kim: What's next for Heather Ashby?
Heather: I’ve almost completed “Love in the Fleet” Book #3, Never Forget, about a Naval officer exchange program with the Royal Navy. The idea came from a lovely “Wren” - Women’s Royal Naval Service. Since she was stationed on an amphibious assault ship and Mayport will soon be receiving three “amphibs,” I chose that type of ship for the next book. Amphibs carry Marines, so I’m learning about the Marine Corps, along with the Royal Marines and Royal Navy. I’ve been blessed with an awesome Marine advisor who is teaching me about both the Corps and landings from amphibious assault ships. My late father was a Marine who fought at Guadalcanal, so writing this book is reconnecting me to him. Never Forget has two love stories—about both exchange officers on the British and American ships. Hold on to your knickers for this thrilling foray into—ahem—international affairs.
Thanks for inviting me, Kim, and giving me a chance to share my military stories. Surely your readers have a fun anecdote about something unique that happened to them while being stationed, living, or traveling in a foreign country…Like the Saudi gold merchant offering me the necklace I was ogling, in exchange for my eight-year-old blond daughter—so she might marry his brother! (Yes, he was joking, but my daughter didn’t know that.) I have a copy of Forget Me Not for one lucky commenter. Happy Holidays to all!
Mahalo, Heather, for the giveaway! To enter,
1. Leave a comment with a fun anecdote about something unique that happened to them while being stationed, living, or traveling in a foreign country.
2. Heather's giveaway is open to all readers.
2. Heather's giveaway is open to all readers.
3. Comments are open through Saturday, December 7, 10 pm in Baltimore. I'll post the winner on Sunday, December 8.
Kim in Baltimore
Aloha Spirit in Charm City
To learn more about Heather and her books, check out her social media:
Facebook: Heather Ashby Author
Facebook: Heather Ashby Author