The world is a small place filled with huge inspiration. Just ask authors Ashlynn Pearce and Dr. David Jennings.
The two were reunited in a unique way at the Red Fern Festival, April 29 in Tahlequah. Author Linda Trout was invited and decided to ask friend Pearce to join her. Jennings was also invited. Pearce is a multiple-stroke survivor, and as the day folded, Jennings realized he had been one of her doctors during that time.
They never imagined books would bring them together in friendship a decade later.
“That was so cool. A lot of people say I’m an inspiration, but I never know how to take it. You don’t know what you can handle until there’s no choice. It’s not in my nature give up,” Pearce said.
Pearce has penned five books, so far, despite of her setbacks.
“It’s taken me about five years after each set of strokes to get back,” Pearce said. “And yes, I was terrified, especially after the last two, and gave up many times. But I’m stubborn to a fault. I have a large, colorful Phoenix tattoo on my left arm, and it’s symbolic. I will always rise.”
She published Rough Edges on April 28, 2010, the day of her first stroke.
Later it was out of print, so she rewrote it and changed it to "On Edge."
Pearce has been an avid reader of romance novels since age 13.
“I devoured books, daily,” said Pearce. “It wasn’t until I had a dream in my early 30s that I’d written a book I thought about writing. At that time, I loved historical and paranormal romance. So, I started writing a time travel historical set in Scotland. That’s when I found a romance writers group in Tulsa, which led me to switching genres to contemporary romance.”
The best part of writing is sharing her stories.
“When a reader enjoys my books, it makes my heart happy,” she said.
Several people recognized Pearce’s books during the Red Fern Festival, and at one point a woman gushed, “I just love these books.”
When she found out Pearce was the author, it was true fan adoration: a request for a selfie and purchase of the only book the woman didn’t yet own by one of her favorite authors.
“It was so fun! I’ve never had that reaction from fans. I was completely shocked, and it brought tears to my eyes,” she said. “I’m so very humbled I’ve touched so many readers with my stories. That’s the ultimate reward.”
Most writers have a routine writing in the morning or later in the day.
“Since I have health issues, it varies. On a good day, I do social media and business stuff in the morning and write in the afternoon. I don’t have a set routine, but that’s the general idea,” she said.
Pearce recommends taking workshops to learn or improve writing and finding a writers group.
“I would be lost if I hadn’t found the writers group, and attended conferences and workshops,” Pearce said. “No matter how many how many classes I take, I always learn something. Good critique partners are critical also. Find someone you trust.”
Writers learn to overcome many challenges, like writer's block, but for Pearce, it’s a much greater effort.
“I have a blood clotting disorder and I have TIAs [mini-strokes] all the time, even though I’m on blood thinners. That’s the scariest, because I don’t know if it will turn into a full-blown stroke or not,” said Pearce.
Her right side gets ice cold, and the right side of her face will droop – both signs of a stroke.
“Scans won’t show a TIA and they can’t do anything about them. So I just wait; it’s beyond frightening,” Pearce said.
In 2010, she had two ischemic strokes, which gave her generalized dystonia, a cousin of Parkinson’s.
“My muscles and joints lock in odd positions. For example, at my worst, my feet were curled inward, and I was walking on my ankles. I used a wheelchair to get around because of the pain,” said Pearce.
Her husband discovered pressure points through trial and error, and this gave her relief.
“It took five years to able to write again. Then I published 'Fuel, Wreck and Krush,'” she said.
In 2016, she had another pair of ischemic strokes, but they were severe. Her whole right side was dead and she couldn’t talk.
“Thankfully it put the Dystonia in remission,” Pearce said. “I thought I’d won the lottery when I realized it was gone. I thought, shoot, I can learn to walk and talk easy without the crippling pain of Dystonia. So I walked out of the hospital with a brace and cane, a week and half early of their projected discharge date.”
She’s lost a lot of ability that she won’t ever get back.
“I fought really hard to be able to write again. I’ve had to learn to type again, twice. My brain gets tired quickly, even to this day. And Dystonia shows itself from time to time, though not as severe as before,” she said.
She published "Fixt" in 2021 and "On Edge"in 2022.
“There’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to write. If it works for you, then it works. You don’t have to follow a formula or even a plot. Explore every way there is to write. Just be open to new ideas on how to write,” Pearce said.
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