Interview with Ashley Griffin

Greetings, travelers, and welcome to the Otherworld once again. Today we’re making a special stop to revisit one of the creators we’ve spent time with in the past. Ashley Griffin is the multi-talented phenomenon behind bestseller The Spindle, which released in October of 2022. The author is back today to tell us about her experiences with that post-release, and to talk about her new book, Blank Paige, which released earlier this month and just became a #1 Bestseller. Read on to learn more about Ashley Griffin, and her wonderful projects!


Tellest: Welcome back, Ashley!  It looks as though you’ve had a wonderful time over this past year, and we’re very excited to find out what your experience has been since we last spoke.

Ashley Griffin: Thank you so much! It’s wonderful to be back and I’m so excited to introduce everyone to Blank Paige! It’s very close to my heart and I’ve been working on it for a long time.


T: It’s been a little over a year since the last time we spoke at great length about your authorship.  Now that your first book, The Spindle, has been out for a while, and your new release, Blank Paige, has hit shelves, how do you feel?  What has this last year been like for you?

AG: I’m so excited to finally get to share this story with everyone. This past year has been interesting—I’m still dealing with the fallout from the pandemic both personally and professionally and it’s really nice to be able to end the year with something as special as this book release. And I have really enjoyed getting to have The Spindle out in the world. I’m honored that it’s being taught in schools and featured in libraries and I’ve loved getting to go and talk to many of the young people reading it (as well as fans in general). And it looks like Blank Paige is on track to follow suit which makes me really happy.



T: That’s pretty big news!  How did The Spindle end up getting into libraries, and who took the initiative for it to be taught in schools?  Do you know if it is being taught as literature, or are they leaning into your theater experience and talking about how it sort of lives on that periphery?

AG: It is being taught as literature, which is a huge honor. I actually worked as a library page (fun “Paige” tie in) the summer after I graduated from high school. I have a strong connection with my local library (I’ve been an avid frequenter since I was very young and, like I said, I worked there…) so getting into libraries started with my partnering with my childhood library and that led to other libraries expressing interest. I’m also honored to still have connections to various school districts—I have connections to my teachers and others who teach, and I’ve created theater programs for several school districts (I’m also fortunate to have fans of my work who are teachers) and through all those avenues my books ended up being introduced to teachers throughout the country. I was honored when several of them volunteered that they wanted to teach the books as part of their curriculum and were approved to do so.


T: Do you suspect that, now that Blank Paige has been released, it will also be part of a curriculum or end up in the library system as well?

AG: Yes, I know that Blank Paige will for sure be taught in classrooms (as literature) and featured in libraries.


T: You mentioned that the pandemic is still lingering about in your life.  What do you think the biggest challenges are that remain for you and your community, and how do you think you get back to a comfortable place?

AG: The pandemic reached a point where there was no easy coming back from it. We sort of passed the point of no return and it’s going to take a very long time to fight our way back to what the entertainment world, and the theater world in particular was. I had twelve people close to me pass away just in the past year… And honestly, I don’t quite know how we return to a comfortable place. We need the economics of the theater world to change, we need people to continue to be cautious about our health—there are a lot of people who are acting like the pandemic never happened, and I understand that desire, but it’s still here and we need to be in this together to find a way forward.


T: Film certainly had the means to pivot streaming in a lot of ways, and for better or worse, we’re seeing a lot of people who are partaking of that.  The cinema experience has kind of shifted quite a bit since the pandemic, with only a few of the big tentpoles performing well.

Does theater have to find a way to pivot as well in order to continue with some sort of prosperity?

Toward the beginning of the pandemic, Hamilton made a huge impact when it was released on Disney+.  Could there be similar value in broadcasting the theater experience so that more people could enjoy it in a safe manner?  And even if it could, does that harm the soul of the arts in some way, in your opinion?

AG: This is a huge question with a lot of answers… In terms of the streaming question specifically, I think it’s a wonderful tool that theater should take advantage of more (why they don’t is partially due to costs and partially due to union restrictions which is a whole other can of worms…). But I believe it’s been statistically proven that streaming live performances actually increases ticket sales. People see something they like, and they want to go see it live (if they can) —as opposed to the (unfounded) worry that folks would be like “oh, I’ve already seen it, I don’t need to go see it in the theater”. The soul of the arts will never fade and I think people want to experience theater live and in the format it was intended. That’s why it’s lasted all these centuries! I’m a huge fan of what the National Theater has done with National Theater Live broadcasts—it’s grown their audience by leaps and bounds and it’s been an added income source from people who aren’t able to go in person (i.e. people in the states who don’t have plans to or aren’t able to go to the UK.) And it’s also provided a route for National Theater shows to transfer to Broadway because people in the states want to see a piece in person.

But theater, especially in the U.S., needs to majorly rethink and adjust the economics of producing a show (I actually did a whole video on this on my YouTube channel.) A lot of former Broadway producers won’t even produce in the states anymore because it’s just not financially viable.

And I think there are a lot of takeaways for why movies aren’t doing as well in cinemas—something that started happening long before Covid. Ticket prices have gotten crazy high (it’s now more money to go see one movie in a movie theater than for a monthly Netflix fee where you can watch hundreds of movies and T.V. shows…) adding “benefits” like reclining seats, serving food, etc. isn’t helping—honestly it’s just making going out to a movie more like staying home and watching a movie… Plus there have been a lot of really horrible tragedies that have taken place at movie theaters in addition to the fact that the overall quality of movies isn’t what it once was, and now with the threat of Covid and other illnesses… It just doesn’t make sense for a lot of people anymore.

And theater is dealing with a lot of those same issues and then some. Bottom line, something has to give with the economics—both in terms of how much it costs to put up a show (which affects what shows are even produced in the first place) and how difficult it is for people to go and see a show. If I didn’t have access to tickets because of being in the industry I wouldn’t be able to see most theatrical shows… I can’t afford the ticket prices!


T: In our last interview, we had talked about how, with your multitude of projects, it felt as though you barely had time to get something like The Spindle spun up. Blank Paige is an even bigger book, tackling more original content. How did you manage to complete such a powerful new story with all your endeavors pulling you in so many directions?

AG: LOL juggling a million projects is the norm for me so I’m really used to it and I’m good at getting things done. And Blank Paige is a piece that’s been with me for a long time so it’s something I’ve been working on in the background of everything else I have going on.



T: At this point, with Blank Paige done, are you just shy of a million projects?  Or have you expanded beyond that number, with little side quests and spinoffs jumping into your mind?

AG: I actually started to keep track and I currently have forty-six dramatic works (theater/film/TV) that have been produced/received significant development and two published novels, in addition to projects I’m acting in or directing and other pieces that are in earlier stages of development.


T: How do you determine what to put your focus on?  I know you juggle a lot of projects, but is there a way that you decide which should take priority?

AG: It’s a constant reassessment at any given moment… I sort of have a tiered list of priorities:

  • Projects with a definite deadline—this can include commissions, rewrites on shows that are going into production, edits that are due to my editor/publisher, etc. Meeting deadlines is the first priority (Neil Gaiman has a great quote about there being three elements to being a successful artist: be talented, be nice, be on time. He says you must have two out of the three (if you’re nice and on time you’ll be forgiven for not being as talented; if you’re talented and on time they’ll deal with you not being as nice…) but I make it a priority to aspire to be all three…).
  • Projects with “soft” deadlines: i.e. I’m working on a musical that doesn’t have production deadlines yet, but I need to get a lyric or a new scene to my collaborator and don’t want to make them wait any long than necessary (this also buys you more time later—if you get them a lyric now then you can be getting other work done while they’re doing the music…).
  • Projects with self-imposed deadlines: i.e. you have an idea for a piece that would be a great fit for X submission opportunity so you want to get it done in time to submit.
  • Passion projects: there are no deadlines on these right now, they’re just for your own edification and enjoyment.

I love doing all these kinds of projects, but tiering them in this way means 1.) You’ll never miss a deadline and 2.) You can give yourself added motivation for finishing things you might not feel as immediately excited about because, when you do, you get to work on the thing you’re really can’t wait to work on. Sort of the artistic equivalent of knowing that if you eat all your carrots you get to have ice cream.

I also just naturally work really fast—on average I can turn out a full script or libretto in around a week, so I’m also really efficient with getting things done.


T: When we had last spoke, you had mentioned that Blank Paige was on the way and had even hinted that much of it had been written.  How much work did you have to do to get it “shelf-ready”?

Also, producing one book and getting it out into the world is a feat all on its own, but there’s something intoxicating about bringing that second book to fans as well. How did the process feel different for you between publishing both stories?

AG: Well, Blank Paige actually had a really unique genesis. I got the idea for it basically when I was straight out of college—it’s really the first big thing I started working on post-graduation…but not as a novel—as a TV series. I actually got a group of friends together and we filmed an entire season of a web series meant to be a calling card for the piece (it was never publicly released.) The pilot has received interest from Amazon and other networks and I’m hoping it gets a series adaptation soon.

But in the meantime, while I was pitching, I kept thinking about the possibility of turning the story into a book. It’s obviously very literary based and I thought it could work really well in that medium… I also liked the idea of having the story out there in a way that I had complete ownership over where, whatever happened with any adaptations, you could always look back at this and know what my intent was. So I started working on it as a novel (long before I started on The Spindle.) The Spindle and Blank Paige actually got picked up the same week by different publishers. The editing for The Spindle ended up being completed first (it’s a shorter book, as you said), so my publishers decided to wait a year to release Blank Paige which would give us a luxurious amount of prep time and meant that the two books wouldn’t compete. Actually, if you’ve read The Spindle there are some fun easter eggs you’ll find in Blank Paige (people joke about the Ashley Griffin Cinematic Universe, but there’s some truth in it…) When you and I last spoke, Blank Paige was completely finished—it was just going through the editing process. But the piece as a whole had existed in its entirety long before that so really it’s a story I’ve been ready and excited to share for a while.

In terms of the actual process of having my second book published—it was a little more relaxed, in a way, because I knew the ropes. I knew how all the steps in the process went so I felt a little more confident going into it. I was also fortunate enough to receive some wonderful reviews for The Spindle (which became a bestseller) so, even though there are no guarantees, I at least felt like “ok, well, I’m not terrible in this style so I maybe don’t have to be QUITE as scared that people will think I’m out of my lane” (I’m primarily a Broadway writer). Actually this afternoon I found out that Blank Paige just went to #1 on Amazon and I’m over the moon and very honored.


T: You’re really making a splash!  Your work is being seen in libraries, taught in schools, Amazon is looking at your content.  I know we’ve talked before about your many projects, but how do you rope it all in and keep your sanity?

AG: I’m very fortunate that I get to do what I love. I just keep focused on whatever I need to do at any given moment—it’s something that, luckily, I’m good at doing and that I enjoy.


T: When it comes to getting the word out about your books and your other projects, what is your secret?  Is it just that you’ve accumulated fans of the AGCU?  Or are your publishers a big part of the process?  Or is it something else entirely?

AG: I’m very honored that I do have a strong fan base, but I also have a great team around me—together we’re really good at getting the word out. And, hopefully, at the end of the day the works speak for themselves. I work as hard as I can to let people know about what I’m doing, but I think the real secret with any artistic venture is to have something of substance waiting for people when they do find your work.


T: A big part of that may also seem to come from always having something ready for those fans.  You’re always working, and constantly have the next project to delight and excite.  As your back catalog of projects grows larger, how are you going to direct new fans on which projects they should start with?

AG: I think people tend to naturally discover what they most “need” or what most excites them. I wouldn’t ever want to tell someone which of my projects to start with because everyone’s interests and “artistic sustenance” needs are different. People who love literature will probably discover my books first—and that’s great! That’s the best way in for them. Those in the theater world will probably first discover my plays—and when they do they’ll probably first pick up, or go see the piece that has the logline that most intrigues them. For one person that might be a magical realism play, for someone else that might be a kitchen sink drama. So I would say find what most interests you. The right art always finds the right person.


T: Let’s talk about Blank Paige’s beautiful cover. It’s not something that we typically see, and it absolutely captures a would-be reader’s attention. Was that always your intention, or did you end up working with a clever designer who made the suggestion?

AG: Thank you! The process of designing the cover was fascinating… This is not an easy book to design a cover for. We actually opened it up to several designers who created mock ups on spec in order to decide who would be the right fit. I put together a whole portfolio of inspiration—with descriptions of what I was looking for, color schemes, things I didn’t want (and my publisher obviously contributed as well.) I did really like the idea of paper coming to life (which, ironically, only two designers ended up playing with.) There were a lot of really talented artists, but none of their designs really hit the mark… Most of them really leaned into a traditional YA cover with a girl in a library… But that really doesn’t communicate anything about the story. That image could be so many different things—from a “Beauty and the Beast” retelling, to a YA novel about a wallflower girl, to a romance novel… I wanted a cover that felt like a work of art, and that couldn’t belong to any story but this one. A lot of the cover images we got back were really generic—very pretty but I wouldn’t pick them up in a bookstore because I would have no idea what story they were telling.

And then, suddenly, we got a design from the brilliant My Lan (check her out on Instagram @laolandesign). What you see in the finished cover is almost exactly what her initial mock-up was. It was absolute genius. We changed the colors a bit, added some easter eggs in the design (when you look in the filigree in the trees there are some fun references to characters and events) and we used actual text from the book as the text. The girl is stepping out of Pg. 3—which is the page on which Paige first appears in the book—and, maybe my personal favorite, the words on the bottom of her dress are “fate” and “free will”. Blank Paige at its heart is about fate vs. free will and I love that the theme is right there, in a very subtle way, on the cover. (Also, for any fans of The Spindle, the little door in the tree trunk on the cover of Blank Paige is the house in the tree where Rose and Arthur meet Gwyll and Solaris in The Spindle… It makes an appearance in Blank Paige.)

I actually really love the craft of cover/poster design…encapsulating an entire story in a single image. I love watching Chip Kidd’s interviews on YouTube. They’re really interesting and, especially for someone as auditory/verbal as me, it’s really fun to explore thinking more visually.

I honestly think My Lan is one of the best cover designers in the business. I can’t recommend her enough. She’s so intelligent—go work with her!

On a side note—we made the decision that we wouldn’t accept any cover art that had used A.I. I know it can be a great tool for designers, but I’m concerned by the fact that all of those generative programs have been trained on copywritten work (without permission of the artists) and that the programs have been used to take jobs away from designers. So there was no A.I. used in the creation of the cover art.



T: That is probably for the best on a few different levels.  I don’t think AI would have been able to come up with something as spectacular as My Lan did, especially not without some clever iterative work.  She really nailed it.

Is she your go-to for projects like these in the future, or was this something special that you’ll treat as a one-off?

AG: Oh, absolutely she will be my go to any time I’m able to use her! I don’t always get a say, but if I do, she’s my first call for a book cover hands down. And yes! I think we need to really value and appreciate what human beings bring to any artistic venture. Keep in mind that anything cool that AI come up with they got from work humans did. We need to be very careful that any use of AI is in service of people, not replacing them or taking work away from them.


T: The Spindle was a powerful retelling of Sleeping Beauty. While Blank Paige makes mention of the wider world of books and fantasy, it’s a fully original story. Did you feel a greater pull toward Paige, or are all of your characters your darlings in a way?

AG: I am a proud parent who loves all her children equally. J  The Spindle is a retelling of “Sleeping Beauty”, but all the characters were completely original. The only difference with The Spindle is I had a little more of a framework at the outset to hang the story on. But the truth is all stories are rooted in what’s come before. There are only so many “essential”, mythic stories in the world and so you’re never really completely inventing something from nothing (though Blank Paige really plays with genre so that was a little tricky when thinking about structure.) But you have to love all the characters, worlds and stories you create, otherwise why create them? (And there are a couple characters and locals from The Spindle that show up in Blank Paige (as well as my off-Broadway play Snow…) so it was fun to have a little, subtle crossover.) But the Blank Paige characters have been with me for a long time, so I was especially excited to finally get to send them into the world.

But speaking of original stories, I actually had to create a LOT of original stories for Blank Paige. In the world of The Bookstore (the magical setting for the story) characters can go into the worlds of other books, much like the characters on Star Trek go to the holodeck. So, while they do go into some well-known works, I also created several fully fleshed out original stories and worlds that the characters go into and interact with (several of which are referenced in other works of mine as well… like I said, the Ashley Griffin Cinematic Universe lol.)


T: Who were your favorite characters to work with?  You’ve got a lot of twists that you’ve placed on characters who are in the public domain and a lot of fun to play with?  Which do you think worked best?

AG: I love all my children and would never pick a favorite lol. In terms of public domain characters I especially had fun with Dracula, the Cheshire Cat and the Raven—they were delightful to play with. And in terms of original PAIGE characters I have especial affection for Eleanore and, of course for Shadow (who’s appeared in several of my works in different guises.) But I really do love all the characters—they’re very much like my friends that I finally get to introduce to everyone. You can’t write characters and really do right by them, even villainous characters, unless there is love and empathy and I feel that for all my characters.


T: Speaking of your villains, have you ever written a character that you respect as a character that you’ve created, but loathed for what they’ve done?

AG: Oh absolutely. Like I said, it all goes back to empathy. The best villains are ones where you can completely understand why they’re doing what they’re doing—even if you don’t agree with their methods. Killmonger in Black Panther wants to protect his people and empower them to fight their oppressors. The Joker in The Dark Knight wants to call out people’s hypocrisy. Even Moriarty in Sherlock just desperately wants to stop being bored. Those are all things we can empathize with, relate to and even champion—it’s just that those characters go to dark places to achieve what they want, and their methods are not to be admired or imitated. I think we can also like, and even respect certain villains because, often, they’re the most active characters in a story, they’re entertaining and very decisive. There’s an antagonist in Blank Paige (I won’t name them as it’s a spoiler) who I love very much and greatly empathize with but I take no joy in many of their actions. There are other antagonists I’ve written that I’ve had to work really, REALLY hard to latch onto any empathy for them—but if you can’t have empathy for a character you can’t write them.


T: In our original interview, we had talked about how The Spindle was conceived as a play, and you obviously have a ton of stage experience to draw from. Was there any part of Blank Paige that you also thought might work in that medium?

AG: I’ve never thought Blank Paige would work well on stage, just by the nature of the locations being really epic… If you had a large budget, you could do something really creative, but I’ve always seen it more as a TV series…partially because I’ve never really felt like this was a contained story… It’s one that by its very nature can go on, and on and on. So never say never, but I’ve always thought it would work better as a series.


T: When you are creating your stories, are you fan-casting the roles in any way?  Are you seeing yourself in the characters, famous movie stars, or people you’ve worked with on stage?  Or is it something that you like to keep sort of nebulous, and able to take other shapes as needed in the future?

AG: Most of the time the characters just show up and I’m just taking dictation lol. There are times, mainly when I’m writing a dramatic narrative work (theater/film/TV), when I might start imagining an actor in the role—but that’s a specific situation where, by the very nature of the type of work I’m creating a human being will be embodying the character at some point, so it can be helpful to imagine someone, or a few people in the role…


T: Blank Paige just hit the market, so it may be a little early to be asking this, but what plans do you have next for your storytelling journey?

AG: I do have a couple other books I’m working on, but I’m not pushing myself with them at the moment. Theater (and Film and TV) are slowly trying to make their way back after the pandemic and I’m excited to get back to that as we’re able. But I do have a couple more novels in various stages of development and there’s definitely talk about a Blank Paige sequel. Some fans have also been asking about more fairy tale retellings in the world of The Spindle which I’m thinking about for sure.


T: With Snow being created for stage, but in the AGCU, so to speak, is that something that could theoretically get a novel adaptation?

AG: Yes, I actually have been thinking about adapting Snow into a novel.


T: And the AGCU grows bigger still!

AG: I’m working on it!


T: Where can people find you and your work?  Let’s introduce readers to your website, your YouTube channel, and your social media links!

AG: I actually have a YouTube channel that I’m really enjoying creating for!

The best place to find me is my website:

And social:

Instagram/TikTok/Facebook: @ashleygriffinofficial

X (Twitter): @ashleyjgriffin

And you can get Blank Paige here:



T: Ashley, I wanted to thank you for spending your time telling readers and fans what you’ve been up to, what’s next on the horizon, and for sharing about your experience releasing Blank Paige!  I expect we’ll continue to hear great things about your endeavors, and I appreciate getting the opportunity to speak with you before one million projects becomes two million!

AG: Thank you so much! It’s always a pleasure chatting with you. Thank you for having me!


I’d like to once again thank Ashley Griffin for spending time with us and enlightening us on so many parts of her process, as well as offering some great advice to aspiring creators who want to bring worlds to life as well.  They’ll have to make sure they leave plenty of room for Griffin’s growing universe, though!  Do be sure to check out her latest fantasy novel, Blank Paige, on Amazon today!

And check out the trailer for the book here:

The following two tabs change content below.
Avatar photo

Michael DeAngelo

Michael is the creator of the Tellest brand of fantasy novels and stories. He is actively seeking to expand the world of Tellest to be accessible to everyone.
Avatar photo

Latest posts by Michael DeAngelo (see all)