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Behind A Million and One Pages
THE MILESTONE TAPES
By Ashley Mackler-Paternostro
Jenna Chamberland never wanted anything more than to be a wife and mother. That is, until she realized that her life was ending after a three-year battle against breast cancer. Now, all she really wants is more time.
With 4,320 hours left to live, Jenna worries for her loved ones and what she knows awaits them on the other side: Gabe will have to make the slip from husband to widower, left alone to raise their seven-year-old daughter; Mia will be forced to cope with life without her mother by her side. In a moment of reflection, Jenna decides to record a set of audiocassettes — The Milestone Tapes – leaving her voice behind as a legacy for her daughter.
Nine years later, Mia is a precocious sixteen-year-old and her life is changing all around, all she wants is her mother. Through the tapes, Jenna’s voice returns to teach Mia the magic of life, her words showing her daughter how to spread her wings and embrace the coming challenges with humor, grace and hope.
THE MILESTONE TAPES is the journey of love between a parent and child, and of the bonds that hold them when life no longer can.
Ashley Mackler-Paternostro lives on the outskirts of Chicago with her husband and their three dogs. The Milestone Tapes is Ashley’s first novel.
Ashley Mackler-Paternostro was born in Naperville, Illinois, where she still lives with her husband Mark and their three dogs.
“We have such a normal life. And I’m really so lucky, my husband Mark is absolutely the biggest supporter of my writing. It’s … amazing. I have no right to be this fortunate … and yet, I am.”
A hairstylist by trade, Ashley will often say that some of the best stories she has ever heard were told to her while working behind the chair. A life long reader with an insatiable appetite for good books, she decided to merge her love of great stories — both told and written — into her own brand of story telling.
“Life is so strange … people can do some really crazy things when left to their own devices. As a stylist, I was privy to that, people just want to still down and talk — and they all have something to say. Sometimes it’s sad, sometimes it’s just hysterical. But, that’s real life — it’s kind of messy.
As a reader, I need to lose myself in the book, I cherish the sort of story that you can really invest yourself deeply in, the kind that has an unforgettable character who pulls you to the point where you can viscerally understand them and the lines of real and unreal get blurry.
When you take all that normal stuff and blend it with the edge of fantastical, you can really find yourself in a beautiful place. When I write, that’s what I’m looking for–that beautiful place. I have no problem walking away from a book if the characters aren’t telling me their story. They have to flesh themselves out, I have to believe in them in order to work with them. My books are absolutely character driven … just like real life.”
When she’s not being held captive in her home office by words, Ashley fancies herself a flea market hunter with a weakness for Japanese glass floats and repurposing vintage goods.
“There is such bliss in the things from once upon a time. I can’t walk past a piece of furniture without wondering how I can change it. I can’t see pretty glassware and not want to own it. I see these ordinary objects and wonder — what’s the story behind this, how did it end up here? Where has this been? Who loved this? I can really get swept away in that sort of wondering.”
Writing was always in her blood from the time she was a little girl always eager to say something, but until a trip to the Olympic Peninsula in the spring of 2011 she never had the vision.
“You know, it’s sort of cliche how this all started. I just turned 28 and my husband took me on vacation. I wasn’t at a crossroads in my life — at least, not that I was aware of, but I came home from Washington and was inspired, that place changed me. I had this story inside me and it was so loud … I couldn’t quiet it down, I simply had to tell it.
So, I sat down and just started writing. I didn’t even think about it. Once I hit 30,000 words I was like … oh … this is pretty serious. It felt really natural, as though this was just how it was supposed to be for me … so I let go and let the story unfold. I didn’t really worry about outlining, or plotting … now I know better. I ended up with this book about life and death and love and even I couldn’t believe it.”
Ashley wrote her entire first novel with only three people knowing about it. She had no idea where this journey was going to take her or how she would finish it … or even if she would finish it.
“I’m a big believer in wild dreams. My Dad used to call me an enigma, which I suppose is very true. I was a hairstylist … the last person you’d ever think would ‘write a novel’ let alone publish a novel — I mean, really–a writer? Even I wasn’t so sure how this would turn out.
And, at the same time, I was always the type to just ‘blurt it out’ (I’m not the best at keeping big, life changing secrets)… those sort of loud proclamations usually lead to expectations. I knew that if I was going to write authentically, I had to play it close to the chest. I needed to know where I was going — gather my answers and figure it out — before I let too many inside.
It was hard … but not impossible. I think it was the best gift I ever gave myself. It worked. And when I finally was at the point when I knew this book was absolutely going somewhere, it was an exciting thing to share with the people in my life.”
Ashley’s writing style reflects the sort of books she herself enjoys reading. Never one to shy away from the uncomfortable or heartbreaking, her novels often ping into the defining moments of life in the middle of great conflict.
“I’m a writer a of real life, I actually really like real life. I enjoy putting my characters into very hard situations and I like seeing how they figure it out — much of the time I have no idea how they’ll do it, but in character driven pieces, they usually give you clues.
Good endings aren’t always as simple as ‘boy and girl live happily ever after’ … that happens sometimes, sure …. but it’s not always genuine. If bad things happen, my characters need to be able to figure out how to adjust and live within them … you can’t force that to fit a mold. That’s what I’ve figured out about my writing.”
Before the launch of her first book, THE MILESTONE TAPES, she is already hard at work with the follow up.
“There is a lot of downtime when you’re working on the publishing part — a lot of hurry up and wait. I couldn’t help but to be forward thinking — excited about how I’ll follow the first one up. I’ve found a rhythm to my style, I’m an author of ‘real life.’ My second novel definitely pings into same emotionally whirlwind I touched upon in THE MILESTONE TAPES while still being totally different — it has a very different vibe and undercurrent to it, it’s a darker story — it’s all about hard — yet totally self created — circumstances and the relationships we cultivate in our lives and the choices we ultimately make.”
Ashley is set to debut her first work of literary fiction in early 2012 with much excitement and enthusiasm.
“THE MILESTONE TAPES is more than a book … it’s a year of my life and a whole new chapter. I am beyond thrilled to be in the position to share my words. This really is a dream — a wild dream — come true.”