Ashley Mansour is a writer and creator of stories for children and young adults. Before embarking on solo authorship, Ashley spent eight years working in brand management, music, advertising, and entertainment. In that time she traveled the world, working in three different countries with big teams, emerging artists, major brands, and interesting start-ups. She is the author of the bestselling novel “Blood, Ink & Fire” and the producer of the film “Back Roads”.
1. For the people who might not know you, who are you and what do you do?
My name is Ashley Mansour and I am the author of the bestselling novel Blood, Ink & Fire. I am also a writer and producer from Los Angeles and I just finished producing the film Back Roads starring Alex Pettyfer, Jennifer Morrison, Nicola Peltz, June Carryl, with Robert Patrick, and Juliette Lewis.
2. When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
I have loved storytelling and creating imaginary worlds and characters ever since I was a little kid. You could always find me immersed in a story and that hasn’t changed.
3. What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
I love this question because it really makes you think about your life. For me, my biggest accomplishment would have to be connecting with readers directly and hearing firsthand from the people who have read my novel, Blood, Ink & Fire. For me, my greatest joy is when those readers reach out and tell me, “I love your book!” or, “I can’t wait for the sequel!” I love that. It is the best feeling in the world. For those who don’t know, Blood, Ink & Fire features a future dystopian world where books have been forgotten and a superpower called Fell has stolen humanity’s ability to read. It was published in 2015 and I’m working on the sequel now. Still, to this day, I have readers and fans all over the world that have stuck with me for the past three years and are waiting for the next chapter of Noelle and Ledger, the main characters in the story.
4. How did you react when you found out you became a bestselling author?
I was ecstatic when I found out. First, the novel hit the top 100 on Amazon, it stayed there for a long time and then it made it into top 10. When people are buying your book, it is such a nice feeling for it to be in those categories. It’s the most rewarding feeling because I worked so hard on the novel and when it connects with people and they like your work, it spurs you on to continue writing and creating.
5. What is the hardest thing about your job as a producer, and how do you approach it?
One of the hardest things about the independent film industry is dealing with the limitations of your budget and time. You have a set number of days to shoot and various constraints in your schedule. With Back Roads, we were under a lot of time constraints as some of the lead actors had a very specific amount of days and hours in which they had to shoot and other projects they had to do after hours. There was no wiggle room so we had to get all of their shots done on time and make sure that everything was completed before they left. We had so many tight deadlines like this, moments of stress on set, weather issues, like all productions do. You always need to stay on your toes because in filmmaking, whatever can go wrong, probably will; You’re always thrown a curveball and you need to think on your feet to be able to deal with those challenges and keep the integrity of the film. As a producer, it was important to me to maintain the integrity of the story we were telling, and I enjoyed being on set throughout the entire filming process, working side by side with the director, producers, cast and crew to ensure that happened. I’m very proud of the final product and I know audiences will agree it’s a powerful, moving, breathtaking film.
6. What was the best thing about producing Back Roads?
When you come together as a team to shoot a film, you have so many creative talents that collaborate in one setting so what I found incredible was all the different skill sets that cooperate as artists, from the hair, makeup and costume designs to the location scouts, to production design and set dressers, to lighting and cinematography. It was spectacular to work together to create something that lives forever. Now we can look back on that piece of work and say “Wow! We did that together!” That is really special.
7. Is there anything about Back Roads that you can disclose?
We are really happy to have Samuel Goldwyn Films as our North American distributor and they are going to release the film before the end of the year. We are ready for everyone to see it and we know fans of the book have been waiting for over ten years. For those who don’t know, Back Roads is based on the 1999 New York Times bestselling novel by Tawni O’Dell. Tawni is an amazing novelist and brilliant writer. We worked hard to ensure that we retained the integrity of the story while adapting Back Roads to suit the needs of a modern theater-going, movie-watching audience. It was quite a challenge, an extremely worthy one, and we hope that people will enjoy watching as much as we enjoyed making it.
8. What do you have in mind for the future, both as a writer and as a producer?
I absolutely love the process of helping books become films and as someone who is part of both of those worlds, I want to continue that work in any aspect as a novelist, a screenwriter, and as a producer. I love taking the written word and bringing it to life on the big screen. We are seeing more and more films that have been adapted from books and I believe this will continue. I cannot wait to do more of this type of work in the future.
9. What are some of your favorite movies or series?
I am a huge fan of The Handmaid’s Tale. It is so disturbing but you cannot stop watching it. It truly leaves you speechless because it is just that good. I am also a fan of the Hard Sun series and I definitely recommend it. Both of these are dystopian, a genre I think you can guess I have a real passion for. I also love Margaret Atwood’s work and I would love to see more of her writing adapted for film or television.
10. Do you have any advice for aspiring writers or producers?
I wish that I had more advice given to me when I first started writing and producing and I wish I would have asked for it more often, so my first piece of advice would simply be to definitely ask for advice and seek opinions from people with different points of view than yours so you can get better at what you do. Open your arms to people with different skill sets and be open-minded about new ideas. Read a lot of content and reach out to people. Take a chance in connecting with those people and reaching out because you never know what project might come to fruition because of that.
11. What are some causes that are dear to your heart that you hope to bring awareness to?
I was raised by a single mom and I always try to support women in their endeavors because I know the struggles that we as women face in this world. I think it is really important to help women; in the past I’ve hired and mentored women to try to level the playing field in industries that were very male-dominated; I’m also aware that there is a huge disparity of the number of women in certain fields in the entertainment industry and I’d like to help change that if I can. Helping women in all walks of life who might be facing specific hardships is something that I really want to focus on as I get older and try to give back the support and kindness that other women have shown me in the past.
12. Do you have something to say to the people who support you?
I am incredibly grateful to have people who support my work and I am so pleasantly surprised that after all this time being both a writer and a producer, I still get new people telling me that they like and appreciate what I do. I hope that I can create more books and movies that people will enjoy reading and watching. To all those who have continued to follow and support me, thank you and stay tuned for the next chapter!
Thank you so much to Ashley for this wonderful interview. Connect with Ashley!
Discover Ashley’s YA Bestseller
IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT BOOKS…