Telling about his experiences during his four years at BYU—the rape, falling in love for the first time, police surveillance, harassment and arrest, while enduring three years of conversion therapy, including two years of electroshock treatments—provide the structure of Kerry Ashton’s memoir. But intermittently he shares memories from growing up Mormon in Pocatello, Idaho, and from his adulthood. In one episode, the author talks about his mother’s passing, and how he unconsciously blamed himself for her death. In others, Kerry describes some of the battles with his religious father, and how he and his Dad eventually came to forgive each other. These stories, like many others shared in the book, are poignant. Some—like the description that Kerry provides of his rape—are sexually graphic. Some stories are hilarious. And some are dramatic, like those dealing with the domestic violence Kerry endured as a child.
Hello book lovers! Today is a day where I will be writing another author spotlight for a well-accomplished author whose work I have loved. As you know book lovers I love learning about authors and the inspiration behind their work, it fascinates me and adds to the depth of the book because the reader will be able to better understand it. That is how the author spotlights were created because I soon discovered that you lovely readers ALSO love learning about author’s, so I am excited to tell you a little bit more about author Kerry Ashton whose book Saint Unshamed captivated me from beginning to end. I personally would recommend this book to all of those that love memoirs but really the book can be read by anybody as it is flawlessly written and highly enjoyable. With today’s author spotlight, a biography of the author and an interview between me and Kerry Ashton will be shared, and I hope that you book lovers enjoy reading it! To kick this off here is an author bio about the wonderful Kerry Ashton!
Raised in Pocatello, Idaho as a Mormon, Kerry attended Brigham Young University in the early 70s, where some of the most dramatic events recounted in his memoir took place. Always interested in pursuing a career as both an actor and writer, Kerry wrote his first play, BUFFALO HEAD NICKELS at the age of 17, and published it at 18. Since then, he has published several works, among them most prominently THE WILDE SPIRIT, a one-man play with music, in which Ashton starred as Oscar Wilde, and also wrote the play’s book, music and lyrics. The play won Kerry critical acclaim for both his writing and performance, and three 1977 L.A. Civic Star Awards for Best Actor, Play and Direction. The play ran for three consecutive seasons in Provincetown, MA from 1990-1992, and was produced Off-Broadway in 1996, winning Kerry a National Award of Merit from ASCAP. The author now makes his home with his partner Victor Ramirez in South Florida. For more information, visit KerryAshton.com.
Now, how wonderful does Kerry Ashton sound?! Kerry Ashton is a truly exceptional writer and I hope that you lovely readers have a read of the author’s work because you will not regret it! Please see below an interview between me and the author and I hope that you enjoy Kerry Ashton answers to my questions, they are incredible and provide some great advice too!
Thank you for joining us today at Red Headed Book Lover! Please tell us more about yourself.
My new memoir, SAINT UNSHAMED: A GAY MORMON’S LIFE—Healing From the Shame of Religion, Rape, Conversion Therapy & Cancer To Find My True Self, goes on sale to the public on March 27, 2019 and can be purchased online at www.Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, www.Indiebound.org, or at my author’s website at KerryAshton.com.
Raised in Pocatello, Idaho as a staunch member of the Mormon faith, I attended Brigham Young University in the early 70s, where some of the more dramatic events recounted in my memoir took place.
It seems I always wanted to be a writer and an actor from a very early age. I wrote my first full play, BUFFALO HEAD NICKELS, at the age of 17, and published it with Pioneer Drama Service at 18. Since then, I have written and published several plays, most prominently THE WILDE SPIRIT, a one-man play with music, based upon the life and works of Oscar Wilde, for which I also wrote the book, music and lyrics. My other published works include the full-character play, MY LIFE AS OSCAR WILDE and RED HOT MAMA, The New Sophie Tucker Musical, a two-character, two-act musical play. All of these works can be purchased on my website at KerryAshton.com or at Amazon.com.
Of all of my written works thus far, it is THE WILDE SPIRIT that has enjoyed the most success. When THE WILDE SPIRIT had its World Premiere in June 1977 at New Playwrights Foundation in Los Angeles, when I achieved acclaim for both his play and performance. The show subsequently ran for nearly two years in L.A., moving to the larger Theatre Rapport and then to The Cast Theater. Later produced in New York, first Off-Off-Broadway in 1982, then Off-Broadway in 1996, acting as my own producer I also brought my play to Provincetown, MA in 1990-1992, running for 11 months, making it the longest-running play in Cape Cod’s history. Over time, I have given over 1,000 live performances of THE WILDE SPIRIT across the United States, before an estimated 40,000 people, performing in professional engagements at some of America’s most prestigious universities and at several regional theaters. Acclaimed by critics nationwide for both my play and performance, I have been lucky to win several awards for THE WILDE SPIRIT, including three 1977 Los Angeles Civic Star Awards for Best Play, Best Actor, and Best Direction. I also received an Award of Merit from ASCAP for the original music and lyrics that I wrote for the play.
I began my professional acting career in summer stock, first at Dirty Jack’s Wild West Theater in Jackson, Wyoming, appearing as Charlie Davenport in the musical ANNIE GET YOUR GUN, during the summer of 1973, then at The Pioneer Playhouse near Park City, Utah in the summer of 1974, where I performed as Uncle Max in THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Then, after performing in THE WILDE SPIRIT in Los Angeles for two years, I was first cast on television in THREE’S COMPANY in 1978 on ABC, and later that same year with Cesar Romero and Eve Arden in NBC’s WHODUNNIT?
Leaving Hollywood for New York City in 1979, my New York acting credits include the starring role of Max in PAINT BY NUMBERS at the 78th St. Theatre, and in workshop productions at Broadway’s Circle-In-The-Square and at Ensemble Studio Theatre. I also created the leading role of Nick in the Off-Broadway production of HAPPY BIRTHDAY, DADDY! It was the first time that a role required me to appear semi-nude on stage…and I was very apprehensive about it. During those years, my few film appearances included appearing briefly in a pivotal scene with Meryl Streep and Robert DeNiro in the film, FALLING IN LOVE. Among many performances in TV films, I appeared in RAGE OF ANGELS with Jaclyn Smith, and opposite the great Maureen Stapleton in SENTIMENTAL JOURNEY.
I now make my home in South Florida with my life partner, Victor Ramirez. Victor and I just recently celebrated our 5th anniversary as a couple. Among the many activities that we enjoy doing together, travel is a real passion.
If you still want to know more about me, please visit my website at www.KerryAshton.com.
Could you please tell us readers about your book and what inspired you to write your book?
I first had the idea to write about my coming out experience at BYU way back in the early 1980s, but I was encouraged by my literary agent at the time (Mitch Douglas of ICM), to write my story as thinly-veiled fiction. I wrote four different drafts during those early years of the 80s and eventually Mitch submitted it to a gay publishing house, which accepted it. Being young, I turned the offer down, as I wanted the book to come out with a mainstream publisher. And after that, I went on to other projects. But now, all these decades later, I returned to the book and decided that I was now ready to tell the true story of my experience, no longer willing or able to hide behind the guise of fiction. Now, as I look back on it, I realize that I wasn’t ready in the 1980s to tell the truth and to fully own my experience. Now, I am. And this time, I told the whole truth and from the perspective of a much older man who can look back now and realize all of the many mistakes I made along the way, without judging myself harshly in the process.
What would your advice be for aspiring writers?
When I was a young man starting out in New York, seeking a professional career as both a writer and actor, I had an occasion to meet with Bette Davis at her New York City home in the Lombar Hotel on the east side of Manhattan. It’s an experience that I recount in detail in my new memoir, SAINT UNSHAMED. At any rate, she essentially gave me this advise when it came to pursuing my career: “If you want to be an actor, then act wherever and however you can. And if you want to be a writer, then write, whenever and however you can.” And I give that same advice to aspiring writers. Simply write. The more you write, the more you will feel that truth that you are a writer. Write as often as you can. If it is important to you, then make the time for it. That has to be sacred time, set aside in your daily schedule. That is your writing time, even if you just sit there at your desk and face a blank page. That is part of the process, too. Believe in yourself and be gentle with yourself.
In your opinion, what is the most important thing about a book?
When it touches the reader’s heart, cultivates their imagination, and leaves them not only entertained but somehow moved, sometimes to action. For me, writing is about wanting to make a difference in the world in a positive way. Writing, for me, is about opening myreaders to an experience that they might not otherwise ever experience in their lives, teaching them through that process, helping them experience what others might feel, encouraging their empathy with another, while hopefully entertaining them as well.
What is your writing process like?
As an author, I try to meditate and follow where spirit guides me. Once I begin a project, I immediately know whether or not I’m on the right track. And sometimes after I begin a project, I find out that it becomes something I hadn’t planned on writing, at least not consciously. Those projects—the ones that come out of the unconscious mind—tend to be the more important and successful works in the end. And I find during the writing process, when I simply tap in to what feels like a higher consciousness, that the work just flows out of me effortlessly. That is when my writing is at its best, when I feel that I simply taking down the notes as a higher muse reveals them to me. But of course, that is when the creative process is most ideal. Other times, I feel like I’m fighting hard to get the words out; that’s when I have to “let go and let God,” if you will.
When writer’s block happens, and eventually it happens to all writers at one time or another, I take a break and go do some unrelated activity, like taking a long walk or going for a swim. I try to clear my mind and I force myself to think about anything other than my writing, as I find that forcing myself through a writer’s block only increases the block. In this, I have found that the key is to be gentle with myself, even if it means take the rest of the day off and even the n
Do you have a set schedule for writing, or do you only write when you feel inspired?
I tend not to have a schedule for writing, until I decide what to write next. Once I have made the commitment to writing a new project, then I stick to a disciplined schedule, and stay at it through thick and thin, usually through hundreds of rewrites, as I find the best writing is edited again and again and again, until it is honed to a find gem.
Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?
This depends upon whether or not I’m involved in a writing project. In between projects, I read avidly…as I believe most writers do. I appreciate a great book as much as the next reader. Two great works come to mind as personal favorites: CATCHER IN THE RYE and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.
Lastly, when can we readers expect to read more wonderful books from you?
I am currently working on the sequel to my memoir. The sequel focuses specifically on my sexual journey through life and how this brought healing to my psyche, spirit and body. I hope to have it completed and published by 2020, or at least by 2021.
Its official book lovers, I am obsessed with Kerry Ashton! If you have liked what you have read about the author and are interested in learning more, then please do have a browse of the links below and be sure to have a read of the preview too! You will not regret it.
Goodbye for now book lovers,