In the Orbit of Literature

With her fourth book, Ashley Schumacher is a making her name as a young adult novelist.
Written by: 
Jessica DeLeón
Ashley Schumacher ('15)
Ashley Schumacher ('15)

Ashley Schumacher ('15) got the tools she needed for her successful writing career at UNT -- from great mentorship to the development of "dragon skin."

She's written four books with her latest young adult novel, In the Orbit of You, coming out this spring. Her path to publishing began when she came up with the idea for her first novel, Amelia Unabridged, as a senior -- and she learned so much more.

"College is about blowing your world open with possibilities," she says. "But at some point, usually near graduation, you need to start figuring out what you want to pursue a little bit more. Professors can help you pinpoint what it is that you want to pursue in your writing and even what you want for your career."

And that's exactly what happened.

Gaining Empathy and Insight

Growing up in Celina, she was an avid reader and knew she wanted a career as a writer.

"I have that really boring, tragically untragic story of, 'I had a hard time learning how to read,' and once I did, this is my entire personality for the rest of my life."

Her mother kept the books Schumacher wrote at a young age. After transferring from Collin College, Schumacher majored in English at UNT and took as many classes in that subject as she could.

She was fascinated by a class on monster theory, taught by Robert Upchurch, Distinguished Teaching Professor of English, which used Beowulf as a primary source and also explored centuries of monsters in literature, "You study literature, but you really are just studying yourself in the world and gaining all this empathy and this insight," she says. "You have to be taught how to look for them and how to interpret them. It gives you a cipher. It gives you something to go off of when you're interpreting the world around you, but also then reflecting that back into your art. It's stuff like that that really sticks in your brain."

Marshall Armintor, a lecturer in the English department, served as her mentor for the McNair Scholars Program, which helped undergrad students from underrepresented populations.

"I was constantly in his office. Not really crying, but wanting to cry about, 'I have 75 pages left to write about this,' and he talks both with you and at you in the most meaningful way. He acted like you were his equal. And then you tried to be worthy of this massive intellect, but he also would bake cookies."

For creative writing classes, several professors required the writer to remain silent while their classmates were critiquing their work.

"You just had to sit there and let it happen to you. People interpret your work, and it was a really good, early crash course for me as the author. There are always going to be people that understand it. And there are also going to be people that don't understand it at all."

Bending Toward Hope
In the Orbit of You
"In the Orbit of You"

That feedback paid off as Schumacher began to pursue her writing career.

"I got 'dragon skin' at school from having to hear what I felt, at the time, was my best work getting ripped limb from limb and having to sit there and just listen. It was maybe the greatest gift I got in my current writing career. If the younger you can learn how to handle criticism, the better off you'll be if your aim is to be in publishing."

After graduating, she worked as a nanny while writing her first novel. Amelia Unabridged, about a teenager dealing with her best friend's death, was published in 2021. Full Flight focused on two band students who fall in love, and The Renaissance of Gwen Hathaway, in which the main character finds romance on the ren faire circuit, followed.

She writes about what she knows, so her stories often reflect small-town Texas life. For Orbit, she got the idea from a fundraiser her high school sponsored in which students took a $5 personality test and compared what classmates they shared similar traits with.

"There's nothing like getting matched with your best friend's boyfriend or finding out that your boyfriend is bottom of your list or not on your list at all for compatibility, and it would just cause a reality TV show-worthy upset for two days that we'd all forget and we'd move on to the next thing."

But one recurring theme is present throughout her stories.

"I hope that readers of all ages feel that though my stories might deal with difficult topics like grief and loss, they ultimately bend towards hope," she says.