Ivy Hopper is a teen columnist who talks with authors and fans of books that are currently being read by today’s youth.
This week I sat down with author Ashley Rhodes Courter who wrote Three Little Words.
Here is what Ashley Rhodes-Courter had to say to me:
Ivy: Where did the idea come from to write Three Little Words?
Ashley: When I was in high school, I was an essay contest junkie! I was applying for every college scholarship, sweepstakes, or writing opportunity I could get my hands on. I wrote an essay called Three Little Words (which was about my adoption day) and submitted it for the New York Times Magazine Essay Contest for high school students. And I happened to win first place! After that, publishers actually contacted me, interested in hearing my full story. This was the first time that I had the idea to write a book and I saw that I could really help a lot of people through my experiences.
Ivy: How long did it take you to write this?
Ashley: I started the book when I was about 17, though I had been researching my life years before that. The book came out in 2008 right after I graduated from Eckerd College. So the book took me five-plus years to finish.
Ivy: How much of this is your real life?
Ashley: Everything I wrote in my book is totally true and I have documentation to back up every story, be it a police record, personal interview with the character in a scene, or information found from my foster care case file. This was something that was especially important to me because my entire life people called me a liar. No one believed my abuse allegations as a kid, and I didn’t want to relive that kind of rejection. Also, there have been a lot of other shocking memoirs that have been ripped to shreds for being untrue. I wasn’t about to have one of those! I did not need to lie about any aspect of my life. Sometimes reality is more surreal than fiction anyway.
Ivy: What did it feel like the day you got the call from your agent saying a publisher wanted to publish your book?
Ashley: I thought it was a joke or something! Ha-ha. I was so excited, but I was also nervous about letting my publisher or readers down. Luckily, I had a lot of help and encouragement along the way and so many people really helped keep me focused, sane, and productive.
Ivy: How is it working with your editor?
Ashley: My experience with Simon and Schuster was INCREDIBLE! My editor was a brilliant young woman named Kiley and we are still friendly to this day. What really amazed me about S&S is that both my editor and publicist at the time were only a few years older than me, but they were so accomplished! The whole team I worked with at S&S was so helpful and inspirational at the same time. I know that I am so blessed to have had such a flawless, warm, and welcoming experience with them.
Ivy: Is this your first book?
Ashley: I am only 23 so, yes, this is my first book. I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m not some kind of gifted child prodigy or something. This book took a lot of tears and sweat. But at the same time, that should be encouraging to your readers because if I can do it, they can too!
Ivy: Is there a sequel?
Ashley: At the moment I am keeping busy traveling around the country as a speaker and national child welfare advocate so I have yet to buckle down and start another book. However, I think I’ve still got some creative juices in me, so keep a look out!
Ivy: How did you feel when you saw your book in stores for the first time?
Ashley: When the book came out, my best friend Jessica and I shamelessly went to our local Barnes and Noble store and hunted my book down. It was on display right in the front of the store and I totally took a picture! I felt like a total dweeb snapping photos in the bookstore, but it was so cool! Then Jessie tried to embarrass me by shouting, “Oh my goodness, are you Ashley Rhodes-Courter, the Author of this book?” Of course everyone looked and I was completely embarrassed as I rushed out of the store as quickly as possible.
Ivy: Does your family treat you differently now that you are an author?
Ashley: You know the saying, You’re never appreciated in your own back yard.. Yeah ha-ha. I think my friends and family are proud of me, but they certainly don’t treat me any differently. Actually, my work doesn’t even faze most of them. Initially I was a little frustrated because I was working so hard and doing all these cool things and the people closest to me didn’t seem to notice or care. Then, one friend sat me down and said, Ash, we’ve just come to expect great things from you so when you do something incredible we just kinda say, Oh, there’s Ashley being awesome again It was really nice to hear that perspective. That’s kind of a good lesson for all people. You’re always being noticed, even if no one vocalizes it.
Ivy: What age were you hoping would read this book?
Ashley: I was hoping my book could be one of those renegade crossover books like the Harry Potter series. I wanted both young and seasoned adults to be inspired by my story and work.
Ivy: What is your writing process?
Ashley: Think, have a snack, think, doodle, have a snack, take notes that don’t make sense, have a snack, take more notes And eventually those notes become situations or scenes, then those scenes become paragraphs, then those paragraphs become short stories, then those short stories become chapters, and BOOMA book! Well, that’s sort of how it happens. Every writer is different. I asked for a lot of help in turning my little stories into something that flowed together as a cohesive project. No matter how humbling it may seem, don’t ever be afraid to ask for help.
Ivy: What is next for you as an author?
Ashley: Well. Three Little Words is being made into a major motion picture! Yippee! So hopefully I will have a chance to work on that a little
Ivy: How old were you when you started writing?
Ashley: I started writing when I was really little. I can remember writing songs and poems, and it was just a really therapeutic way for me to express myself. Because I moved so much, I did not get to keep a lot of my old diary’s or journals. But it is an incredible outlet that I encourage all people to take advantage of. I have a ton of old letters that my friends and I used to write each other in middle school and high school and it is absolutely hilarious to go back and read them now.
Ivy: What is your website address?
Ashley: I can be reached at www.rhodes-courter.com
Ivy: Anything else that you want to comment on?
Ashley: I hope that people realize that it doesn’t matter what background you have, or what hand you were dealt in life. My story shows that you can succeed if you really work for it! In fact, I learned that once I was able to start talking about my abuse and some of the things that were embarrassing to me, so many more doors opened. You are so much more capable and equipped for life because of the experiences you’ve had. So use your experiences to better yourself, and the world around you!