Clare Ashton - Finding Jessica Lambert

For our November meeting of the Lesfic Book Club, we discussed Finding Jessica Lambert by Clare Ashton. If you weren't able to make it, check out the transcript below.

A couple of notes on the transcript:

If you want to join us live, we discuss lesfic novels every month at (sign up or follow me on Twitter to find out what we're reading next). Some chat participants requested that their names be obscured, so below you'll see that everyone has been anonymized as Reader 1, Reader 2, etc.

Clare Ashton 4:08 PM

Evening! Afternoon! I'm here

Reader 1 4:09 PM

So, what did everyone think of Finding Jessica Lambert?

Reader 2 4:10 PM

I read a review of the book that said, 'Read and be thrilled'. How does it feel when you get a review like that?

Clare Ashton 6 days ago

Amazing! It's weird working away and being immersed for months alone in a book not knowing what on earth people will make of it, so it's a huge relief if it hits a few good reviews when it comes out!

Reader 3 4:10 PM

Ms Ashton, I loved the Bond girl bit

Reader 4 4:11 PM

I absolutely loved The book!!! 🥰🥰 It drew me in from the first 2 chapters and I couldn't put it down

Clare Ashton

That’s great to hear! :blush::blush::blush: I was hoping the first chapters would pull people in with wondering with who the characters were and hopefully feeling a nice connection between them immediately.

Reader 4 6 days ago

I loved how they did thoughts but not knowing the others name yet... It was brilliant

Reader 5 6 days ago

It absolutely got me curious from the start and really holds your attention as you progress through it and discover more about the characters. The pace is awesome and development of the characters just right.

Reader 6 4:12 PM

Loved the story and the connection between Jess and Anna!!

Reader 2 4:13 PM

The kiss watching the fireworks was magical followed by such a beautiful love scene, the culmination of simmering attraction. Their actions were clumsy and realistic. This is my first read of yours, so is this a typical Ashton feature?

Clare Ashton 6 days ago

:heart: I definitely wanted that scene to be realistically tentative and clumsy but passionate.

I hope all my books have that element of realism even if the characters are sometimes initially glamorous or different.

Reader 7 4:14 PM

I don’t know that I’ve read another book where I’ve so strongly identified with BOTH of the main characters. I often will identify with one, but both Jess and Anna felt like they could be me… well, except for the acting on stage thing (but since I’ve worked as a musician, even that had some of those performance parallels)

Clare Ashton 6 days ago

I've heard a few people say this. Perhaps it's because both are running away in some sense and help each other rather than one being the big strong heroine.

Reader 5 6 days ago

It’s funny that’s how you put it bc I really enjoyed the equal draw both characters had and that there wasn’t the typical hero and one needing saving. It was so realistic.

Reader 2 6 days ago

Yes, they are leaning on eachother. There's an ebb and flow of support that makes it more realistic.

Reader 7 6 days ago

I can see that. I think in my case, I recognized their experiences of anxiety and some of them felt way too much like me. My life isn’t nearly as limited as Anna’s was at the beginning of the book, but there are significant ways in which I’ve arranged my life to avoid bumping into anxiety quite as readily and I think it took seeing things from her perspective to realize that as clearly about myself

Reader 4 4:14 PM

Yes the connection from the beginning was amazing. I wanted to cry when Anna heard Jess on the radio :sob::sob: it broke me when they were apart and the scene between them when Anna came face to face with Jess was so emotional and it was like that part was made for them when they "practiced" together

Clare Ashton 6 days ago

I actually got nervous before writing the stage confrontation scenes! Hands actually shook a little. They really had to work and I didn't know if I was going to pull it off. It was quite strange! Never had nerves like that before

Reader 8 6 days ago

Well, I can say that you pulled it off quite well.

Reader 4 6 days ago

I can see that. It was a very emotional part. Anna avoided Jess up til that part not knowing why so to come face to face with the person that has become your, basically hope for the future... It can be very daunting. With that being said... It's one of my favorite scenes in the entire book!!!

Reader 3 4:15 PM

I loved all the secondary characters, they brought so much to the book

Clare Ashton 6 days ago

I love writing secondary characters as much as the heroines. I love having a mix so that they bring different sides of the main character's personalities out. You see a different side to Anna with Pen for example and again with her mother.

Reader 9 6 days ago

I often read your books and wonder how much of the secondary characters you plan ahead and how much you invent as you go through the story?!

Reader 4 6 days ago

Yes I wanted to slap her mother! And Pen too when she recognized Jess and that convo I wanted to slap her... But otherwise I loved Pen. She was a firecracker for sure

Clare Ashton 6 days ago

I have a rough idea about secondary characters and their personality - I plot in a fair amount of detail - but the fun is really bringing them to life in the first draft

Reader 6 4:16 PM

Where did your inspiration for the story come from?

Clare Ashton 6 days ago

Inspiration for Jess came from seeing a photo of popstar Rhianna inside a car with fans' hands pressed against the car windows outside. The picture is take from inside the car and I thought it looked terrifying! Then I thought actually a mega star who is unsuited to the attention would be a great character!

Reader 4 4:17 PM

I had a stalker so I really related to Anna and I couldn't imagine being as famous as Jess. I couldn't handle the exposure like that.

Clare Ashton 6 days ago

I couldn't handle that either. I had a much less serious case than Anna once and it gave me a glimpse of how life changing it could be. Hope all's well for you now

Reader 2 4:21 PM

Did you have fun thinking about the Atlassia franchise? Are you a fan of those sorts of movies? Or Dr. Who, Star Trek etc? Rose or Martha?

Clare Ashton 6 days ago

It was fun! Yes definitely a fan of some of the Star Trek series (the recent ones most of all), Star Wars, and others. And Rose or Martha - loved them both.

Reader 6 4:29 PM

Did you plot this story out?

Clare Ashton 6 days ago

I'm definitely a plotter - some of my books have more than the usual two main characters and can get quite complicated! I had a decent outline for FJL but had to feel my way through more with this one though. I wanted to go in deep with the characters and their relationship this time.

Reader 4 4:29 PM

Have you ever thought of making a sequel???

Or even a prequel for Anna before her stalker?

Clare Ashton 6 days ago

Initially I had a series in mind with this as the middle book! I'm such a slow writer though I skipped to the one I wanted to write most!

Reader 2 4:39 PM

When writing the characters do you have a picture in your head of how they look? Who would play them in a movie?

Clare Ashton 6 days ago

Yes, very much so. A couple characters have been inspired partly by actors but they never end up looking or sounding the same as the initial inspiration. Lots of elements go into the mix and I love that magic moment when they become a distinct and real person

Reader 8 4:39 PM

Have you ever thought of writing the whole Atlassia story into a series of books? Would you ever make them into a TV series or series of movies?

Clare Ashton 6 days ago

I would love to write all these things, but I'm much too slow a writer!

Reader 9 4:48 PM

How do you know when you've run the distance on a story and when there might be more, such as a sequel? I find myself wanting more when a story like finding JL finishes- do you feel the same about writing it or do you like to leave it be?

Clare Ashton 6 days ago

When I'm writing I like to leave the story with an uplifting ending and reassurance that everything will be ok but with enough wriggle room for the reader to imagine for themselves the future. This isn't always a popular approach! Some readers love epilogues! Personally, I'm not so keen on epilogues (I want the story to end with a bang, so to speak). That's unless the epilogue has a little outstanding detail that I'm dying to know!

Reader 2 4:52 PM

The canal walk and Anna's mini realisation. So beautifully written

Reader 8 4:53 PM

Another great question would be if Jessica and Anna had a pet dragon, who would feed it and who would clean up after it? Who would take it for "walks"?

Clare Ashton 6 days ago

Bibs would come round to play with the pet dragon!

Reader 4 4:54 PM

Anna would feed it of course and Jessica would walk it! :smile: They both equally clean up after it haha

Reader 10 4:58 PM

How do you feel your writing style has changed over time? Is there a subject that you want to write about?

Clare Ashton 6 days ago

Great question about the writing style and I don't know! I vary the style for each book so it's difficult to tell. Hopefully I have better range at least than when I first started

Reader 4 5:01 PM

What's your favorite part about writing?

Clare Ashton 6 days ago

Dreaming up scenes and when I'm immersed in the story and characters deeply enough for snippets of dialogue to almost write themselves. It's very vivid.

Reader 4 6 days ago

I love that. I'm a very virtual reader. When it's a really good book I can always see it playing like a movie in my head!

Clare Ashton 6 days ago

Me too! I love getting lost in a book with it all playing out.

Reader 2 5:03 PM

Having only read this book, which of yours should I read next?

Clare Ashton 6 days ago

Poppy Jenkins is my most popular book as a sunny romance (but always with a touch of angst). It's set in mid Wales where I grew up so I have a soft spot for it :slightly_smiling_face: I adored writing The Goodmans - ensemble cast with humour and angst. I love writing family drama so that one is always a candidate for my favourite

Reader 3 5:06 PM

Poppy Jenkins, After Mrs. Hamilton, any one will be enjoyable

Reader 3 5:08 PM

Thank you, Clare Ashton.....for your clever mind and great reads. Looking forward to more.

Reader 4 5:09 PM

Thank You Clare and I'm looking forward to hopefully more from these amazing characters in the future! You would make alot of people happy! 🥰🥰

Reader 2 5:09 PM

Thanks Clare for a wonderful read and looking forward to discovering your other books.

Clare Ashton 5:10 PM

Thank you everyone! For reading the book and the great questions!