Thursday, June 09, 2016

Spindle Chat: Ashley Stangl

Our next Five Magic Spindles chat is with Ashley Stangl.  Her story, "Out of the Tomb," is probably going to be the most action-packed, as it involves "Tanza, a tomb raider on a distant planet, who struggles to make a living and doesn’t need a long-lost prince to complicate her difficult life."

Here's the cover image for her story, which clearly should be made into a movie or video game:

Ashley just started a blog recently, called Of Bookshelves and Daydreams, and I'm sure she'd love it if you dropped by.  But for now, let's get to her answers to my questions.  I love that she answered some different ones from Michelle.

My favorite book when I was a child: As a child, I was a “Little House on the Prairie” fanatic. My mom bought me the books one at a time as she stumbled across them at thrift stores, and in an out-of- order fashion, I devoured the whole series, and then reread it countless times. These Happy Golden Years and Little Town on the Prairie came to be my favorites, and Cap Garland was my first literary crush (I couldn’t resist that crooked smile). I haven’t reread the entire series since graduating high school, but I mean to return to it soon.

A book I've read over and over: Manalive by G.K. Chesterton, to me, is not so much a novel as it is medicine, to be taken whenever I need an infusion of joy, energy and optimism in my life. It’s a short novel about a four young people living in a London boarding house, whose lives are turned upside down by the arrival of Innocent Smith, a huge, energetic man who lives life with boundless enthusiasm for everything. When Innocent’s accused of being an insane criminal mastermind, the characters stage an impromptu trial to determine his guilt or innocence, leading to some very interesting revelations, great humor, and lots and lots of philosophical discussion. Each time I read this book, I come away with a better understanding of the philosophy, a richer appreciation for the plot and characters, and new motivation to life live to the fullest.

The last book I read: I recently finished reading The Star Bell by Stephanie Ricker, a sequel to her Cinderella-in- space story, “A Cinder’s Tale” in Five Glass Slippers. It’s a worthy follow-up to that story and to the prequel, The Battle of Castle Nebula. I love these characters and this universe, and after reading The Star Bell, I’m already impatient for the book in the series. 

What I'm reading now: I’m in the middle of several different books, since I’m in a bit of a reading slump where I can’t quite commit to anything. I’m four chapters into Charles Dickens’ Our Mutual Friend for a read- along on Goodreads, and I’m just starting to understand who the characters are and what’s going on. I’m a few stories into Lord Peter Views the Body, and though I’m madly in love with the Lord Peter novels, Peter’s not made for short stories, and I’m struggling with this collection. I’m nearly finished with I Am Margaret by Corinna Turner, a terrifying but very compelling dystopian novel. I’m listening to Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl, one of my favorite fairy tale retellings, in a wonderful full-cast audiobook form.

But the book that looks like it’ll get me out of my reading slump is Atlantia by Ally Condie. It’s a YA sci-fi/fantasy/dystopian novel about an underwater city, and though I’m not connecting to the characters or the plot, the premise is interesting and the prose is so easy to read that reading feels relaxing again. I hope this will give me the motivation to actually finish a book!

The book that made me want to be a writer: When, in my early high school years, I was struck by the desire to write a story of my own, I remembered Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, a Cinderella retelling I’d read in elementary school. I loved fairy tales, and thought there should be more books retelling and expanding the stories (not knowing at the time that retellings were already a thriving genre). I wrote a retelling of “Rumpelstiltskin” that was truly horrible (trying to be a serious story and a ridiculous parody at the same time), but from that point on, I considered myself a writer, and fairy tales continue to provide inspiration for most of my stories.

My literary hero: Faramir, from The Lord of the Rings, is without a doubt the character whose heroism I most admire. I was struck breathless by his refusal to use the Ring even if it meant that the kingdoms of men would fall. In our relativistic culture, I’ve come to expect heroes who rationalize evil actions, who are forced to put aside their ideals and commit evil acts to prevent an even greater evil from triumphing. Faramir was a wonderful surprise, a character so moral and noble and brave that he would reject evil no matter the circumstances. He’s a warrior who fights for all the right reasons, a leader who truly cares for his people, and my favorite character in the entire trilogy. I can only pray that I’ll manage half of his moral fortitude.

My favorite author: G.K. Chesterton. He’s a larger-than- life, yet oft-forgotten author from early 20 th -century England, and a true literary genius. His Father Brown stories were the first detective stories to approach mysteries with tactics different from Sherlock Holmes. His novels are quirky gems. His poetry ranges from whimsical to epic and has a masterful sense of rhythm. His essays are like candy—it’s hard to stop after just one. His mastery of language is stunning; his sentences leave me astonished by what he can accomplish with words. His voice is genial, inviting, yet totally confident, as he draws from hundreds of different topics to create arguments or metaphors or paradoxes. I’ve not read as much as his work as I’d like to—I tend to reread the Father Brown stories, Manalive, The Napoleon of Notting Hill, and a few of his essays and poems over and over—but I can’t think of another author whose writing skill I admire more.

The last book that made me cry: The novelization of the Star Wars movie, Revenge of the Sith, by Matthew Stover, is so good that I’m almost angry at it. How can a novelization of a Star Wars movie—and not a very good Star Wars movie—be great literature? Yet the book has stunningly beautiful character construction, and makes the movie into a compelling, heartbreaking tragedy. I almost started crying over the death of a villain, for goodness’ sake! But after Anakin’s fall, the depth of Obi-Wan’s despair shattered my heart and made the tears fall.

The TV show I think should get more love: Agent Carter. If it had received more love, it wouldn’t have been cancelled, and the cancellation is a tragedy. Captain America is my favorite Avenger, and I loved the chance to see what happened immediately after the first movie. This show is everything I love—a post-WWII drama about spies and superheroes, with a wonderful crime-fighting duo of a fantastic lady spy and an enthusiastic British butler. It’s like ABC called me up and asked me what I wanted in a TV show. The plots were convoluted and hard to follow, but the characters and their relationships were fantastic, and the humor and action were top-notch. Alas, it was too good to live, and now I’ll never know the resolution to that cliff-hanger!

A movie coming out soon that I'm excited for: Finding Nemo is probably my favorite Pixar movie. When I heard about Finding Dory, I was skeptical, because the first movie was a perfect standalone adventure. But the more I hear about Finding Dory, the more I believe that they actually have a legitimate story to tell, and I’m excited to see what it is.

I’m also excited for Love and Friendship. I love a Jane Austen adaptation, but one can only have so many versions of Pride and Prejudice, so I’m thrilled that an adaptation of Lady Susan is finally coming to the big screen.

The first album I bought with my own money: I’m not sure that it’s the very first album I bought, but several years ago, I found Garth Brooks’ Double Live in the five-dollar bin at Walmart, and it’s still one of the best purchases I’ve ever made. Garth’s a great storyteller, and the live versions of his songs are almost always better than the studio versions—"Callin’ Baton Rouge" and "Shameless" are infinitely more dynamic in concert, and of course it’s great to have the extra verses of "Friends in Low Places" and "The Thunder Rolls."

The song that always cheers me up: "Crash and Burn" by Thomas Rhett is not the greatest song ever played on the radio, but it’s a wonderfully catchy summertime song, and I always want to dance along to it.

Thanks for all the fun answers, Ashley!  We have a lot of common interests, from LOTR to the MCU.

Everyone else, please say 'hi' to Ashley and let her know if you have common interests too :-)


  1. G.K. Chesterton?


    My all-time favorite author of ever. I love him. And I love Father Brown--probably more than almost any other literary character I've ever come across. I WANT TO BE FATHER BROWN. I want to be like him--he's just the best. Period.

    Do you have a favorite Father Brown story? I think my personal favorite is "The Insoluble Problem," the last one, but there are SO MANY good ones that it's hard to pick :-)

  2. G.K. Chesterton fans unite!

    Oh, gosh, favorite Father Brown story? So many spring to mind. I love "The Flying Stars" for its whimsical and clever Christmas-time crime, and I try to read it every Boxing Day. I love "The Queer Feet" for Chesterton's tongue-in-cheek descriptions of the Twelve True Fishermen and the clever little trick behind the crime. "The Fairy Tale of Father Brown" has that exquisite moment of understanding and terror when everything clicks into place. And pretty much anything with Flambeau; I love his character arc and their friendship.

    1. OH MY GOSH FLAMBEAU. I love him so much. Can't get enough of him.

      "The Queer Feet" has always been one of my favorites, too! I remember, as a child, putting on a sort of puppet-play adaptation of "The Queer Feet" with my siblings. I got to play Father Brown, which meant I had to memorize and deliver that loooooooooooooong monologue at the end--something I greatly relished :-)

    2. Okay, now I'm super jealous that you knew about Father Brown as a kid. I never heard about him until after high school. Young me would also have relished a long monologue. :)

      Flambeau is just the best. I don't understand why Holmes and Watson get all the attention for being detective fiction's great friendship, when Father Brown and Flambeau's friendship exists. They're such good foils for each other across all the stories, and I love how their relationship changes over time.

      I can't believe I forgot to mention "The Absence of Mr. Glass" as one of my favorites! It's so funny(I'm way too amused by the pun in the ending)and with such a different sort of "crime". One thing I love about Father Brown stories is that many of them don't involve murder, but have stranger, more creative crimes.

    3. YES. My mom introduced me to Father Brown when I was about thirteen, and it was seriously the Best Thing. #AwesomeParents :-)

      OHHHHHHHHHHHHH YES "THE ABSENCE OF MR. GLASS." That was actually the first Father Brown story I ever read--my mom told me to read if first because it wasn't a murder and wasn't scary :-) And after that . . . the rest is history. I was hooked for life.

  3. YAY FOR FARAMIR AND YAY FOR FINDING DORI!!!! (Yup, fellow fan over here. ;D)

    Oh, and I really enjoyed "Our Mutual Friend", too. (The miniseries I really liked also.)

    ~Miss Meg

  4. Great to meet you, Ashley! Congrats on your story in the 'Spindles' novella collection and new blog. I love/d Agent Carter. It's such a classy little show that I'll miss. Since I have a few S2 episodes yet to watch, I'm enjoying it right now.

    Love and Friendship is one flick I'm anticipating seeing too. It looks great. :)

  5. I was so sad when Agent Carter was cancelled! Now you've reminded me... I have to rewatch it now...


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