Author Interview With Ashley M. Coleman

The Book

For fans of My (Not So) Perfect Life and Jasmine Guillory’s While We Were Dating, a disarmingly fun debut novel follows Carlisa Henton as her life comes undone after a chance meeting with a rising pop star.

The cover of Good Morning, Love by Ashley M. Coleman.

Carlisa “Carli” Henton is a musician and songwriter hoping to follow in her father’s musical footsteps. But, biding her time until she makes it big in the music industry, she works as a junior account manager at a big-name media company to cover her New York City rent. Carli meticulously balances her work with her musical endeavors as a songwriter—until a chance meeting with rising star Tau Anderson sends her calculated world into a frenzy. Their worlds collide and quickly blur the strict lines Carli has drawn between her business and her personal life, throwing Carli’s reputation—and her burgeoning songwriting career—into question.

A smart, timely, energizing romance, Good Morning, Love shows us what the glamorous New York’s music scene is really like and takes us into the lives of a rising but somewhat troubled R&B star and a promising protégé who knows her job better than she knows herself.

With fresh and honest prose, Good Morning, Love examines the uncertainty of being a new professional looking to chase a dream while also trying to survive in a world that’s not always kind to ambitious women

The Interview

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to interview you, Mrs. Coleman! Congratulations on publishing your novel, Good Morning, Love!

Introvert Interrupted: Can you tell readers about yourself and your journey to publishing Good Morning, Love?

Ashley M. Coleman: I am a writer and music industry executive. I’ve worked in music over ten years and so in many ways, it feels like Good Morning, Love is the debut novel it took a lifetime to write. Starting as a young person pursuing a career in music, I always felt like great stories lived there and like the people I was meeting were these larger-than-life characters. I started the story of Good Morning, Love to try to secure a writing fellowship and when that didn’t work out, I decided to keep going. I had a twenty-page sample that I liked so I kept writing. I was swirling around with this idea of what happens when a playboy falls in love? And that birthed the story of Tau and Carli. Thankfully, I was able to secure my agent in early 2020 and by the spring, we’d sold the manuscript to 37Ink/Simon &Schuster which has honestly been a dream come true. 

II: How did you come up with the characters of Carlisa “Carli” Henton and Tau Anderson? Did you have any specific music artists in mind?

A: I like to say that they’re a composite of many artists. I absolutely love music. I listen to a lot of it for pleasure and for work. So, I took pieces of all the great artists I know both known and unknown to carve out the characters of Tau and Carli.   

II: Carli’s story resonated with me as we see her walking a fine line in Good Morning, Love between having a “stable job” as a junior accounts manager and following her passion for becoming a singer and songwriter. To side characters, like Dylan and Red, Carli’s writing partners, Carli’s life feels charmed, causing her to receive flack for hustling to pursue her dreams. 

In a time when some readers may also feel that they are being forced to choose between their passion and making a livable wage, what would you want readers to learn from Carli’s hustle mentality?

A: I would want readers to know that it is possible to do both. So often when we are from underrepresented communities, we don’t have the privilege of solely pursuing a creative dream. It’s a lot of hard work for sure which we see with Carli. But she has this knowing deep inside that there is something more for her. We don’t have to give up the dream for our survival. There may be some long nights or early mornings, but I think Carli’s character shows that it can be worth it.  

II: Outside of being a wonderful storyteller, you also have a way of transporting your readers to a specific space and having us feel as if we’re there with the characters. Readers can see examples of this when Carli is in clubs performing her music or at the studio writing with her team and Tau. How did you learn to become such an atmospheric writer? 

A: Having a bit of a background in journalism helps. It’s all about observation and so I’ve had practice in the area of trying to set the scene with words. The world of music is something I know intimately, so going to a place in my mind of a concert or open mic is so natural for me. I also like to try to put myself in a space when writing. For me, that’s music that helps set the tone for what I’m writing. It’s lighting a nice scent. All those things ground me in my story which I think helps translate that sense of atmosphere onto the page.  

II: Carli and other women in Good Morning, Love are often hyper-aware of how their actions can be negatively perceived by their peers and the workplace. Yet, many male characters like Tau tend to act first and think about the consequences later. Was there a particular message you meant to convey with this outlook about the differences between your male and female characters’ approach to obtaining their goals and navigating the music industry?

A: I don’t think it’s something I did consciously, but as a woman who works in and around music, it’s something I’ve had a lot of conversations about with other women. Honestly, in many industries, women tend to think a lot about how they will be perceived. Whether they come across angry, too bossy, too sexy, the list goes on. I think it’s simply the nature of living in a patriarchal society. More specifically with music, it can be tricky because it is a social business where lines can easily be blurred. This aspect of the business, I think, gives women that hyper-awareness that we see in Carli’s story. 

II: There are several instances where sexual assault is mentioned within your novel. Unfortunately, with cases like the R. Kelly case and the ongoing Russell Simmons case, your depiction of how women feel unprotected in the music industry and the world at large is very relevant. Why did you feel it was important to show this reality of the music industry in your novel?

A: It was most important to me to showcase how conflicting it can be when you are trying to get ahead but may have to work around people who make you feel unsafe. I guess more so I wanted to highlight how it’s not always the easiest decision it seems like it would be to simply walk away when so much is on the line. I wanted to show that sometimes it’s not always the extremes like the cases that you mention, but sometimes even in more nuanced ways. 

II: While you combat challenging topics in your novel, my favorite part of Good Morning, Love is that #BlackLove is on full display with Carli and Tau’s relationship. How did you manage to write the chemistry between these two so effortlessly?

A: I love love stories. I mean I just eat them up. So, I think part of that ability really came from studying chemistry over the years in both books and film. It was somewhat easy to reference the moments when I find myself cheesing too hard watching or reading something and then being able to recreate those types of feelings in Good Morning, Love. The great part about fiction too is your characters become almost like real people. When you know them well and have flushed them out fully, you can visualize them interacting in a very three-dimensional way.  

II: Good Morning, Love is such a vibe! Carli is often seen speaking about her favorite music artists. Outside of the Black Love Summer Playlist from Refinery 29, are there any music artists or albums that inspired your novel and characters?

A: I would just say R&B music in general. You know, a film like Brown Sugar focused on hip-hop and I would say that Good Morning, Love is almost like the cousin to that with a bit of a focus on R&B. I’m such a big fan of artists from back in the day like Boyz II Men and Brian McKnight to contemporary artists like Alex Isley, PJ Morton, and Lucky Daye among others. The feeling that a great R&B song gives you, to me, is what inspired both the book and characters. 

II: Like Carli, you are a writer and media maven who has writing credits for major publications, such as Essence, song credits, and even a successful podcast and online platform for writers called, Permission to Write. What advice would you give people looking to find a good work-life balance and jumpstart their writing career?

A: I would say prioritize your writing. Too often I hear writers say, “I never can find the time,” and most often it’s because they are trying to fit it in where they can. So much of my initial draft for Good Morning, Love came together in 30-minute sprints before I started my workday. When writing is my very first thing, I feel so much better about taking on a busy and full day. I can always say to myself, “at least I’ve written.” So, prioritize and protect your writing time. 

II: Do you have any other projects you’re working on that readers can look forward to?

A: I’m pretty excited about a forthcoming short story called “Breakfast for Dinner” that will be featured in the Heartbeat newsletter, free, weekly short stories celebrating love curated by Hannah Orenstein and Georgia Clark. And of course, I am always just writing! So, there are many more stories where Good Morning, Love came from.   

II: Thank you so much for your time, Mrs. Coleman! I’ll be looking forward to your short story, “Breakfast for Dinner!”

Have you all picked up your copy of Good Morning, Love?

About the Author

Author photo of Ashley M. Coleman
Ashley M. Coleman

Ashley M. Coleman is a storyteller and community builder moonlighting as a writer and project manager. Whether she is working with music makers or writers from marginalized communities, creating safe gathering spaces and education for creatives is at the center of her world. Her freelance writing has been featured in ZORA Magazine, GRAMMY.com, and The Cut among others and covers culture, lifestyle, and personal narrative. Currently, she is working on her forthcoming novel with 37Ink Books, Good Morning Love. You can catch her co-hosting the EightyTwo NinetySix podcast with Gabrielle Hickmon, tweeting often, indulging in Hip Hop and R&B music, and laughing at her pit/boxer mix Coltrane.

Books That Got Me Through My 20s (Pt. 2)

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

Happy Tuesday!

This week’s Top Ten list is a freebie, and I’m focusing on my top books from my 20s.

In April, I turned 30 and published the first part of the list about what books “got me through” my 20s. That list was mainly about the “fun times.” 

Checkout the first part of the list here and my playlist over on Spotify for my favorite songs from my 20s. 

This second part covers the years I was a caretaker for my grandmother and father when they fell ill in the latter part of my 20s. 

The Lost Years

"The Lost Years" - Books That I Read While Care Taking (Pt. 1)

-The Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri 
-5 to 1 by Holly Bodger 
-A Tale For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
-Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie will always remind me of the road trip I took to get home after grad school with my mom and two strangers in the middle of a tornado when Southwest dumped us in Branson, Missouri. This road trip was unplanned and was so bananas, every time I look at my worn copy of Americanah, I think about that wild ride and the grace of God that kept us from being blown away like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz during that storm. 

You can check out my old post about it and my review of Adichie’s book here to read the whole story.

After graduate school, I spent a lot of time drifting while trying to adjust to life outside of school and to have to help take care of my grandmother and father. While I had always seen my mother taking care of one of my loved ones, I never realized just how much went into caring for people who were ill as a caretaker.

Dealing with the stress of caretaking is what led me to the Bookternet.

When the Bookternet was young and the #WeNeedDiverseBooks Movement was starting out in 2014, I was one of the leaders of a book club on Goodreads called The Writers of Color Book. The primary purpose of the WCBC was to get people on BookTube and elsewhere focused on reading diverse authors that weren’t cookie-cutter selections.

One of my favorite books from the WCBC’s reading list was A Tale For the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

Ozeki’s book follows three different timelines: Nao, a sixteen-year-old Japanese teen who her peers are mercilessly bullying, Nao’s grandmother, a hundred-year-old Buddhist nun, and Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island in the Pacific that’s just retrieved a Hello Kitty lunchbox after the 2011 Japanese tsunami and earthquake that killed over 20,000 people. Ozeki’s work shines in the way that it tells such a visceral and heartbreaking story

Almost a decade later, I’m still thinking about A Tale For the Time Being because of the way it reminded me during my caretaking years that death is inevitable. But, the way you live your life determines how you’ll be remembered. 

After graduate school, I spent a lot of time drifting while trying to adjust to life outside of school and to have to help take care of my grandmother and father. While I had always seen my mother taking care of one of my loved ones, I never realized just how much went into caring for people who were ill as a caretaker. 

Dealing with the stress of caretaking is what led me to the Bookternet.

My favorite author during my 20s were Jhumpa LahiriThe Namesake is one of my favorite books of all time and the first book I ever did a live show for on YouTube. My favorite short story collection was The Interpreter of Maladies, which was also another WCBC pick. 

When I was on night watch with my grandmother and father or going to appointments, I would read short stories to pass the time in the waiting room or until the sun came up. 

Outside of Alice Walker, Jhumpa Lahiri has to be one of my favorite short stories writers for her to do with just a few pages. Walker and Lahiri get to the crux of the matter in mere lines when other authors use up hundreds of pages to tell a story. I highly recommend these authors’ short story collections.

5 to 1 by Holly Bodger was the first book I ever photographed on Bookstagram.

For the most part, Bodger’s book was a leftover read from the YA Dystopian era takeover. However, at the time, I remember thinking about how interesting the plot was from other books in the genre.

In 5 to 1, women choose their husbands from five men who vie for their attention in a trial of the woman’s choosing. Bodger tells The Handmaid’s Tale writing about a matriarchal society with the men being hunted if they dare run away from their wives.

"The Lost Years" - Books That I Read While Care Taking (Pt. 2)

-The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern
-The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker
-The Bees by Laline Paull

My first audiobooks were The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker, and The Bees by Laline Paull. And as intricate as each of these three books was with their cast of characters, I loved them for keeping me company during this time in my life.

The Night Circus was probably the best possible choice to start my love of audiobooks alongside The Golem and the Jinni because of how imaginative both books were. The Night Circus covers a fierce battle between two young magicians, Celia and Marco. These magicians are given the task by their teachers of dueling each other by creating wondrous feats at Le Cirque des Rêves, a continuous night circus that runs throughout the book.

The Bees was equal parts whimsical and sad as Paull told the anthropomorphic tale of Flora 717, a sanitation bee in a hive where the Queen bee is ill. Flora 717 is a bee with unique talents that none of her kin share. Due to this, she’s seen as a threat to her beloved Queen, to who she only wants to dedicate her life.

Like The Golem and the Jinni by Helen Wecker, who I’ve interviewed and reviewed on my blog, Paull and Morgenstern’s books helped get me through long waits at doctor’s offices, and hospital stays when caretaking. These books taught me that even in those dark moments when everything looks bleak, the sun eventually comes out, and you live to fight another day.

When Life Gives You Lemons…

When Life Gives You Lemons…: Books I Read While Coping With Death

-The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates
-Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat

Sometimes the sun does not shine how you want it to. There are no television miracles or solemn moments where your loved one pops back up for a last “hoorah.” 

Sometimes the doctor comes in and tells you the person is in a coma, and you have to say your goodbyes while praying all along that maybe God will do you this solid just this one time even though you know it’d be better for your loved ones not to suffer anymore. 

When that moment came for me in my late 20s, I wasn’t ready. But, The Beautiful Struggle by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brother, I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat eased the blows. Both memoirs talk about death and the changes that come with growing up in such a beautiful way. I cried while reading each, and whenever I look at my copies, I remember the time I had to say goodbye to my grandmother and father.

Favorite Books of the Decades

My Favorite Books of the Decades

These last few books are stories that connect to events and memories in my 20s that I hold dear.

The first advanced reader copy I ever received was All the Days Past, All the Days to Come by Mildred D. Taylor. Taylor’s Logan Family Saga is a series I’ve been reading since I was a little girl, and I reread all ten books, including the novellas, in order every few years from start to finish to recapture some of that magic. It’s the best book, in my opinion, for you to read if you want an authentic glimpse of the African-American experience in America.

I’m on a personal mission to see all of August Wilson’s Century Cycle performed in person. Fences, the sixth book in the Cycle, was the first play I saw performed live in the West End while studying abroad. Like the Logan Family Saga, Wilson’s Century Cycle is required reading for anyone who wants to peek behind the veil of the African-American heritage.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz and The Namesake were WCBC picks that introduced me to amazing authors who used language in unique and breathtaking ways. Díaz, in particular, had me thinking about how closely language mirrors traditions and is used by Black, Indigenous, and other writers of color to tell our stories and preserve our histories.

Based on where I read them, two books that stand out are The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore and The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

I read Moore’s book while looking after my father when he first got his diagnosis on our front porch. Moore’s whimsical story gave me laughter when I needed it the most. And Acevedo’s story kept me company when my mother and I took our first solo trip without my father to Atlanta the Winter after he died. Acevedo’s novel of confronting pain through poetry brought me comfort when I felt anything but.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith was the first classic that I truly loved. After years of reading, I never felt any connection to the classical novels in the white American canon. But, Smith’s book so clearly lays down how it feels to fall in love with reading, I instantly fell in love. 

Timebound by Rysa Walker was one of the first books that taught me to love e-books. Walker’s Chronos Files is a YA time-traveling series is one I devoured in almost a week after saying I would never read with an e-reader. If you’re a fan of Marvel’s current phase about the multiverse, this indie Kindle original may interest you.

What are the books that got you through your last decade?

Comment below and tell me some books that got you through your last decade!

As always, please don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe. #AllOfTheThings

Have I Read Too Many Books?

Sunday Chat: Have I Read Too Many Books?

Banner by @IntrovertInterrupted

Happy Sunday, bookish people!

It’s been a week since we spoke last, and I’ve got to say that I missed you all. 

I hope you’ve all been doing well and enjoying your current reads.

Since we last chatted, I’ve been in a tiny bit of a reading slump. And you know what that means 🤗 television time!

In addition to watching the Paralympics, I’ve been catching up on my Netflix queue. If you’re into academic dramedies, I highly recommend The Chair. For fans of Grey’s Anatomy, Sandra Oh is back as The Chair’s leading lady. 

For those of you who haven’t ever seen Oh in action on Grey’s Anatomy as the brillant and fiery Christina Yang, M.D., Ph.D., F.A.C.S, watching it is an excellent way to get over a reading slump. Thanks to the show being just as chaotic and engrossing as any book you’ll find on the market now. 

In fact, watching Grey’s Anatomy is how I ended up with todays’ Sunday Chat topic.

What does Grey’s Anatomy have to do with reading?

Christina Yang Quote Meme:

-“Oh, screw beautiful. I’m brilliant. If you want to appease me, compliment my brain.”

-“I am laughing, just not externally.”

-"If there's nano food, I'm going home."

I am Christina Yang

Grey’s Anatomy is the original show that put Shonda Rhimes on the map in 2005. Afterward, Rhimes made shows like Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder and, now, Bridgeton from her production company Shondaland TV.

On Rhimes’ original show, a group of medical professionals is followed as they go through their workday at Seattle Grace Hospital. 

Here, affairs happen. Marriages fall apart. LVAC wires get cut. And, at the end of each season, like clockwork, a huge disaster occurs, and I’m left wondering why nobody ever issues a class-action medical malpractice suit against the doctors at this hospital.

Watching Grey’s Anatomy is a perfect example of how reading has screwed up my ability to be shocked by the plot twist in most storylines. 

Do you all ever feel like you’ve read so many books that very little surprises you when you’re reading or watching television?

I’ve been an avid reader for nearly 25 years, and I’ve started to come to the conclusion that very few stories can surprise me now.

Like with Grey’s Anatomy, I’ll be watching a television show or reading a book and instantly start picking out tropes within the first few episodes or pages and guess how it ends. When this happens, it’s rare that I don’t get at least one guess right.

Even though the guessing can be fun, I can’t help but wonder if reading is making me immune to being as engrossed in stories as I once was before I became an avid reader.

What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

– Ecclesiastes 1:9

Silly, I know. But, nowadays, I feel as if I’m watching stories appear on loop just with interchangeable characters and settings – I’ll know where the characters are going to end up even if I don’t know how they always get there.

I instantly get excited when I happen upon an author writing from a fresh perspective and telling a story that feels new to me.

If I’m being honest, sometimes I feel like I’m chasing the magic that came about when I first learned to read at this stage in my reading journey. That feeling of wonder that arose from opening a new book and escaping into a fictional world never ceased to amaze me back then.

However, with the vast amounts of retellings, fairytale adaptations, and spins on the same plot points, I miss the joy of being genuinely shocked when I read an original new story, which is why I love fantasy novels and romance books so much. This mostly has to do with the creativity of authors from this genres to get their characters from point A to B while keeping me guessing. Even a simple love story can see an author getting creative to build a connection between their leads.

That being said, while I’ll always love reading, I do get the feeling at times that my hobby has left me feeling like very few things can shock me when it comes to the art of storytelling. But, I love when it does happen.

Does anyone else feel this way?

If you want to read a few of my favorite books that have “wowed” me, checkout my review of Blood Like Magic by Liselle Sambury and the accompanying interview with Sambury!

Sunday Vibes Banner

This week’s vibes are songs I’ve had in my playlist rotation for almost two weeks. The music videos for each song have a “plot twist” I didn’t see coming based on the song. Due to some trigger warnings, I won’t link the videos, though. You can click on the YouTube link to watch when you get a chance.

Songs: “Foreign Things” by Amber Mark & “Questions (feat. Don Jazzy)” by Burna Boy