Book Critique -
Interview with Ashley Dukart, Author of Nothing More, Nothing Less
Rebecca's Reads
Sharing the News of Great Books and Authors You May Know Nothing About! 
By Rebecca's Reads
Published on 04/12/2014
It was a difficult book to compose, and the sequel which I am currently writing as of now seems to be giving more of a run for my money then the first one, but I’m glad I was able to write it.

Interview with Ashley Dukart, Author of Nothing More, Nothing Less

I was born in Texas, and have been an artist and bookworm all of my life. I love to read and draw and have so many books that I have no idea where to put them all now? Despite my love for books and for the arts I am also an avid college student. I’ve always had a knack for school and I love science and math and always have, it’s kind of my thing and I love to learn.

Ultimately my goal in life is to become a veterinarian, which means I’m going to hopefully someday achieve my D.V.M, which is a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine. So, now you’re probably asking, “Vet? She wants to be a veterinarian? Then what in the world is she doing writing and publishing fiction novels?” Well to answer that question, I don’t really know myself. It was just something that I started when I was younger and eventually I decided that I really liked to write. So, here I am today with my first book in for publication, titled, Nothing More, Nothing Less.

Ashley, I see from your bio that you were born and raised in Texas. Texas is a huge state, so which part do you hail from? Do you currently still live there, or did you move elsewhere for school/college?

I was born in Houston, Texas and have lived in Texas for most of my life. However, I have moved a few times over the years. In fact, the book was published and came to print while I was living in South Dakota, but as of now I am back in Texas with my family going to school, working, and continuing my writing.

As a child, what did you do for fun?

You know, childhood memories seem to fade as we grow older. I guess that’s just a factor of growing up, but there are always those memories that we never forget. I remember doing a lot of things, but the most prominent thing I did when I was young was drawing. I loved to draw and had more pictures and artwork than one could imagine. Another thing was, of course, reading everything and anything. Hmmm. What else? Well I loved to play with my friends and I do remember spending a lot of time with them and my family. My family was then and has been the center point of my life.

You mentioned that you have been an artist all of your life? How did you discover your gift of being able to draw? When you have the time to draw, what captures your interest, and in turn, winds up on the paper or canvas?

It’s actually an interesting fact, that I’ve always had the talent. I used to draw pictures back before I was even in Kindergarten, so it was never something I really discovered, just something I’ve always been able to do. It’s kind of a natural talent. As for what captures my interest, and in turn, winds up on the canvas or paper? Well … a lot of the time I wind up drawing or painting pictures of nature. I’ve never really been one to do abstract work, but at times I do manage to produce a piece like that. However, most of my work is of animals and nature in general, unless of course it was a project we had to do in class where specifics were given; but then, even then, I would put my own twist on it if I could.

So, you are a self-professed bookworm. Was there a pivotal point where your love of books started?

To be honest, this is another thing I can’t really pinpoint when it started. I do remember reading when I was younger, especially the Animal Ark Series (I was always excited when we had the Scholastic Book Fair at school), but not as I do now. Now I read daily and you usually can’t find me without a book. There is one specific point I remember when I was younger and it actually revolves around the J.K. Rowling’s series. I remember not knowing if I wanted to read the books and my best friend convincing me to just read a couple of pages from the book she was in. That was all it took and I was hooked. I went home and that weekend my mom bought me the first two in the series, which I then devoured. Since then, I suppose, I have been a bookworm, always reading.

Ashley, I noticed that your writing career began for you during middle school. How did that come about? Was there one specific thing that triggered it, or was it more of an unknown yearning inside of you that just blossomed into fruition one day?

My best friend and I (we’ve known each other since we were knee high to a grasshopper) used to have a type of imaginary game we would play. It had the imaginary creatures and difficulties we would have to face as if we really lived in that world (we both had quite an imagination back then) and I remember it was summer time when I was thinking about how life used to be when we were younger, nothing but fun and games… and I remembered that game. I thought about it long and hard before I finally decided to try and write about it (well… that was a failure) but that’s where it started and it just evolved from there. I still have the beginnings of that book around here somewhere…

I see that you also have a strong desire to become a veterinary later on in life. Are you currently enrolled in a school for this, or is this something that is temporarily on the back burner?

I am currently enrolled in an online veterinarian technician program and currently studying to become a certified Vet Tech before I head off to the veterinarian school of my choice (that is whichever one accepts me once I apply). School has always been something I have strived at and I do enjoy learning, but sometimes I do have to juggle writing and studying, which can make life a bit interesting.

Moving on to your books, I’ve noticed a definite theme of aspiring to help others learn to recognize, and then overcome, life’s obstacles. Can you share with us your goal with these books? (Other than the good “taking readers away” feeling).

To be completely honest, the book took a turn I didn’t perceive at first. I had an entirely different idea for the novel and then it went left when I wanted to go right. But, as I look back on it now, I know that it was going the direction I was pushing it all along. This book is not a compilation of my own experiences (I did pull for things I witnessed as a teenager growing up); although I have had many assume that and ask me questions pertaining to the subject.

In all reality, I hope that this book can open the eyes of young adults and perhaps teenagers who are considering doing drugs or abusing some other substance in an attempt to get away from something that is troubling them. It is a book that shows the consequences of a choice made and how it not only affects the main person but their family and friends as well. I hope that this novel can hit home and open their minds, to just give them the thought to wait and consider what they are doing before they do it, to show them that drugs and substance abuse is a downward spiral and that it doesn’t fix the problem, only masks it and that the only way to fix what is troubling you is to lean on those you have for support or to find someone you can lean on that understands and listens rather than doing the extreme. Everyone has rocky moments in life because life isn’t fair and it’s not easy, but it is worth living.

Your first novel: Nothing More, Nothing Less is now out and published. (Congratulations)! Would you care to share how you came up with this book’s premise?

Thank you, first of all, and I really can’t explain how I came up with the book as I did. As I said before in the answer above, the book idea I had intended didn’t happen; it went left when I wanted it to go right. However, when I realized the direction I was headed, I ran with it because ultimately I realized the potential at that point to help others. I wanted to get a book out that shows the reality of drug addiction and not only how it affects the user but their family and friends as well. I do understand that my perception may not be the same as someone else’s and because I haven’t been in the shoes of an addict it may not be entirely correct, but the point of the book was not to show the highs of drug addiction (for instance, the fun and the feelings that kids talk about when getting high) but the lows, the comedowns, and the dangers; and, all I can do is hope that it does that. That it helps someone.

I also have to ask if Nothing More, Nothing Less was difficult for you to write based on some of the situations I know are in it.

It was a difficult book to compose, and the sequel which I am currently writing as of now seems to be giving more of a run for my money then the first one, but I’m glad I was able to write it. I had to research a few things in order to get my ideas straight so that it was realistic and so that when someone was reading it they weren’t thinking to themselves that the book was way off track in the field of drug addiction. I, actually, had to put myself into the emotional status of what I was writing at times in order to formulate the scenes and, I had to literally put myself into the protagonist’s perspective to write his voice. That’s where the next question comes into play because along with pulling from my own downs and ups in life, I used music to help set the atmosphere.

Lastly, I chuckled when I read you write with music playing. As a writer myself, that is not a feat I have been able to accomplish. How do you focus on writing your words, without accidentally writing whatever you’re hearing?

I have actually always written with music on, in fact, I am listening to music now as I answer these questions. As long as I can remember, I used to listen to music even when I did homework back in high school. I guess you can call me crazy but it helps inhibit the side of my brain that allows for creativity when I have to do bookwork because I drown in out as background noise, whereas, when I write it’s at the forefront and allows for scenes to play out in my mind because I tailor the playlist of songs to fit the mood and atmosphere of the scene I’m writing. For instance, in Nothing More, Nothing Less, I had to feel like I was viewing the scene from Brandon’s (main character) perspective so if he was mad, the music had an air of anger about it; or if he was upset or down, then the music was calm with an air of melancholy about it.

To keep from writing what I’m hearing, it’s something I can’t really explain because I’m not sure myself. I don’t really tune out the music when it’s playing, but allow a scene to form from it. Certain music will draw a character’s actions formulating a scene almost instantly to my mind and until it’s down on paper that’s all I visualize while the song is playing, other songs I find myself staring out into space while I ponder of what’s going on in the novel (for instance, what does the music bring to the manuscript? i.e. a battle, a somber moment, etc.). Nonetheless, I will add that writing with music is difficult. I have, at times, wound up listening to the songs (and sometimes singing along) more than writing if I’m just not in the mood to write.

Ashley, thanks for your time. It was great learning so much about you, your book and your dreams. I wish you much success with all of your life goals and endeavors!

Article first published as Interview: Ashley Dukart, Author of ‘Nothing More, Nothing Less’ on Blogcritics.