It’s Sunday! And that only means one thing here at Pick My YA. We’ve got another amazing author interview lined up for today. Today’s #BeyondTheBio guest is the incredibly talented Ashley Herring Blake. Ashley’s newest book, How To Make A Wish, just dropped this last week, and it’s the perfect summer read. It’s got beach vibes for days, a totally adorable queer romance, and some seriously delicious food references. Fair warning: you’ll either want to read How To Make A Wish in the kitchen or have some serious snackage available while you’re reading. And, after you finish the interview, be sure to enter to win your own copy of How To Make A Wish! Details are at the bottom of this page.
James: Hi, Ashley! Thanks so much for joining us today! Your newest novel, How To Make A Wish, just hit bookstores last week. Can you tell our readers a little about what they can expect?
Ashley: How to Make a Wish is, at its heart, a story about a mother and a daughter, and the journey we sometimes go on in order to learn how to choose ourselves. It’s also about first love and the people we let into our lives, even when it’s hard. So, readers can expect romance, music, best friends, a beach setting, and kissing! I expect some readers will be very frustrated with Maggie, Grace’s mom, at some point, but…you’re supposed to be.
James: The world needs more queer characters and more biracial characters. I love that your book features both. Why is representation important to you?
Ashley: I think everyone deserves to see themselves reflected in a book. Not only that, but to see themselves reflected well. Of course, no one character will ever encompass your exact experience, but they can get close—they can be echoes of things you’ve seen and heard and done. With my own identity, it’s such an empowering, comforting thing to see myself on the page, to realize that I’m not alone and I take writing marginalized identities very seriously. If I’m writing a character with whom I do not identify, like Eva who is biracial, I make sure I get a lot of biracial eyes on her because, as I’ve mentioned, representation is a powerful thing. It can heal, but it can also harm and I consider it a great privilege and responsibility to portray layered, authentic characters.
James: One of the most interesting dynamics of Grace's life is the fact that she exists in this constant tension between her mother Maggie, who's not exactly acing the whole parenting shtick, and her best friend's mom Emmy, who's almost the embodiment of the perfect parent. How did you go about creating these two polar opposite characters?
Ashley: Well, just like that, really—I created two polar opposite characters. Anything Maggie would do, I know Emmy wouldn’t, and vice versa. Still, a the fundamental level, they both love their kids. One just needs a little more help doing so. For Emmy, I really pulled on the kind of mom I want to be, but also, the kind of adult I want to be in a kid’s life. Maggie was harder, for obvious reasons. I don’t have a toxic relationship with a parent, so I read a lot of blogs and listened to a lot of friends who have experience in that realm.
James: You've described yourself as a feminist curmudgeon (which, BTW, would be an awesome title for a book-- just saying). How does your feminism manifest itself in How To Make A Wish?
Ashley: Feminism is the radical idea that women (all women) are people. I hope that comes across in all of my books, but particularly in How to Make a Wish, I wanted to show young women who were making their own decisions, even when it was hard. I wanted to show women taking control of their own sexual experiences. I wanted to show women who learned how to be vulnerable. I wanted to show how Eva’s experience as a biracial woman is different from Grace’s as a white woman. I wanted women choosing themselves, because so often and from birth, we’re told to put ourselves last, and to our detriment.
James: I know I’m not the only person who would love to see How To Make A Wish turned into a film. If you were the casting director, who would you cast for Grace and Eva?
Ashley: For Grace, I like Ashley Benson. She’s a little older than I’d cast for Grace, but she just has that mischievous feel to her that I feel is very Grace. For Eva, Amandla Stenberg. I think they're so gorgeous and perfect for Eva.
James: I have a feeling a lot of people are going to be heading to the bookstore after they finish this interview. What other books should they be adding to their book bags?
Ashley: Oh, I love this questions. *cracks knuckles* Definitely Riley Redgate’s Noteworthy, which also released on May 2. It is just absolutely delightful, featuring a cross-dressing Chinese American girl in an elite performing arts boarding school. It deals with gender roles, sexuality, and poverty and it is so poignant and fun. I would also say pick up Katie Cotugno’s latest, Fireworks, because hello 90s-boy band-best friends book, as well as Angie Thomas’ The Hate U Give. If you haven’t read the latter, it is a must read.
James: So what’s next for you, Ashley? Any future projects we can be looking forward to?
Ashley: Yes! I have another YA coming out in 2018 called Girl Made of Stars and it’s about a girl whose twin brother is accused of rape. So, yes, it’s pretty heavy and it is my “I’m very angry about rape culture” book. It is also very queer—the main character is bi and the love interest is genderqueer.
James: Last question, so let’s make it a fun one… Your book totally made me hungry. So many food references! So I'm curious are you more of a peanut butter or a pizza fries type of girl?
Ashley: I’m going to have to say both! I have definitely been known to eat peanut butter right out of the jar and love it in pretty much anything that involves chocolate. Pizza fries were “invented” by my critique group when someone remarked that you couldn’t combine pizza and fries, and we were all like, “Um, wanna bet?” Thus, pizza fries were born. We might not have actually been the first—in fact, I doubt it—but we were the first we’d heard of, so we claim it.
That's it for today's interview with Ashley. If you have questions for Ashley or want to let her know why you loved How To Make A Wish, be sure to reach out to her on Twitter or stop by her website. And be sure to enter the contest below in order to win a free copy of How To Make A Wish! Must live in the US to win.