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.

May Favorites

May was a month of chaos and blessings for me. I graduated from my Master’s program and also had a whopping total of two deaths in my circle of acquaintances/family.Yet, I was still able to acquire new experiences and favorites that will forever stand out when I think of 2013.

Random Life Experience: After graduating, my mother and I departed from Pittsburgh on our way home via airplane. What was supposed to be a routine trip turned into a nightmare and ultimately led to the bizarrest adventure I’ve ever had while traveling…….and that’s saying something since I’ve traveled in foreign countries by myself without knowing a lick of the local language and never had any huge mishaps. Put on standby in Chicago, My mother and I along with two random gentlemen were forced to deplane once we touched down in Branson, Missouri.

You’re probably thinking Branson, Missouri?!?! Where the heck is that?!…Honestly, had I not been forced off a plane in the middle of this destitute city I’d be asking the same thing (no offense to anyone from here). Sadly, I can’t give you geographic specifics due to being in a state of shock at the time of this event, but I can tell you under better circumstances, I would’ve probably enjoyed the peace and quiet of the city and the rustic landscape. However, I can only offer you the general observation that it had houses that looked like the set from Disney’s High School Musical when they showed Troy’s house.

After being deplaned, we were all given instructions to make our OWN way to Tulsa, Oklahoma if we wanted to get a flight home since the Branson Airport had no flights in or out for TWO WHOLE DAYS……..insert seriously pissed face here……When we all found this out, you can only imagine how we felt. At this point, things got really interesting.

Disclaimer: Growing up, my parents often taught my siblings and I the golden rules of interacting with strangers. These rules included a) Never talking to strangers  b) Never eat anything from them and c) NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES GET INTO A CAR WITH THEM. Looking at these rules you can only guess how scary and surreal it was for me to actually have to get in the car with two men that I didn’t know (Even though my mom was there with me) and riding for about 3+ hours from Branson to Tulsa. While both the men were gentlemen and we were all united in our anger at the airline, I sort of had a what the flip moment where I had to question my mother’s sanity doing the beginning of this imprmptu road trip.

Thankfully, we made it to Tulsa and got a new flight home the next morning and arrived all in one piece. The most amazing thing out of the whole trip was the fact that we were literally just miles away from where the tornado in Oklahoma hit. The four of us were literally joking about getting hit by some type of storm as we drove through the countryside and watched the sky turn from clear blue to steel gray before our eyes. At this time none of us imagined that there was an actual tornado reeking havoc so you can only imagine how my mother and I felt seeing the aftermath of devastation throughout Oklahoma. All I can say is I am BEYOND grateful that God let us make it home safely.

Favorite Album: As usual, I am tardy to the party and just got my copy of the 2011 masterpiece that is Megalithic Symphony, which is AWOLNATION’s first studio album. Thanks to Amazon having it’s bi-weekly sale on mp3 albums, I was able to get this album for a mere $5. I love the sound of this band. Unlike last month’s favorite album (i.e., Fall Out Boy’s Save Rock And Roll) AWOLNATION’s sound gives off more of a rock vibe than a pop one. This album has minimum screaming and is perfect for us pseudo-rockers who are master’s of the air guitar. Some song’s like “Kill Your Heros” and “Sail” are a bit explicit in the deliverance of their messages, but overall the album is a conglomerate of upbeat non-threatening songs. I would definitely recommend this album to anybody who enjoys a good guitar solo.

Favorite Book: I finally got to crack open Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier.  This book is a part of the fantasy genre of young adult fiction. The main aspect of the book deals with time traveling and a long ago foretold prophecy. When I tell you that this book is amazing, I mean that it is literally knock your socks off, laugh out loud ah-maz-ing.This book was so good that I had to scrounge together money to buy the sequel, Sapphire Blue for my Kindle at the crack of dawn just because I didn’t want the feeling of reading this series to end. I plan to post a review of tthese two books soon however, I wanted to share this as my absolute favorite book for May. Gier’s book is brimming with freshness, crazy plot twist, witty humor, and unbelievable characters. It’s a must for all YA lovers.

Personal Challenge: I have recently decided that I need to gain more knowledge about African and African-American Literature (i.e. my chosen area of graduate study). Therefore, I have deemed that this summer I will try my best to read at least one African or African-American themed book a week. To start off my reading, during the last week of May I read the play, A Raisin In The Sun by Lorraine Hansberry and watched the 1961 movie adaptation. Also, I was able to finish So Long A Letter by Mariama Ba. I will be posting a movie and play review for Hansberry’s book however, I didn’t have much to say for Ba’s book so I won’t bore you all with a review for that one. If you would like to here my general thought’s for Ba’s book, you can look at my goodread review.

Once again, I hope everyone is enjoying their summer and reading some good books. Please feel free to post your TBR piles in the comment section.

Cheers!

April Favorites

This month, I have decided to start doing a monthly favorites post. In this post, I will be paying homage to some of my favorite things, movies, books, etc. that I came across in the stated month.That being said….

My Favorite Book: 
     This month, I got a chance to read Sam Greenlee’s book, The Spook Who Sat By The Door in preparation for completing my final paper for my African-American Literature class. For me, this book was a present surprise. I didn’t expect to like it nearly as much as I did.
     The novel is about Freeman, an African-American revolutionist who is the “token black” within the CIA during the Civil Rights time period. Angered by the oppression of blacks in America, Freeman takes it upon himself to regain power for this racial group by training African-American gang members in Chicago to become a guerrilla army to fight against Whites. Readers get to see just how far, Freeman is willing to go to gain freedom from those he feel have wrongly governed over
blacks for far too long.
     This book was really powerful for me in terms of its message about how different minority cultures wear mask in an attempt to hide their true feelings about certain situations (i.e., questions of class, social treatment, etc.) or to keep themselves from shaking up other people’s perception of certain racial groups. While, I read this book as a part of my course curriculum, I would recommend it for anybody who enjoys a good historical novel or who wants to read a book that is akin to Native Son by Richard Wright or Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison. I didn’t write a review on this because I had so many emotions after reading it and was unsure how to put them all into a coherent review that was tasteful and informative opposed to sporadic ranting and philosophical musings…after all I do enough of that in school and this is my “happy place.” If anyone is interested in this book, I would definitely go on ebay and get a copy. The novel itself is sort of hard to get a hold of due to it being banned for a period of time by the American government (LOL it literally brings a whole new meaning to the term “banned” books).

My Favorite Movie:
      I simply LOVE the movie, Silver Linings Playbook. This movie had everything in it, romance, comedy, drama, mental illness topics…In short, it was phenomenal! The main plot follows Pat Solitano who has recently been released from a mental health facility. Pat’s main goal is to reconnect with his estranged wife, Nicki who he feels will fall back in love with him if only she can see just how well he is doing. Unfortunately, his family and friends aren’t giving up any information about Nicki to him and he’s left to fend for himself in winning his ex-wife back. When Pat meets Tiffany, a fellow unstable individual, he hatches a plan to get Nicki back and pick up the pieces of his life.
      What I loved about this movie is that it felt original. It didn’t feel like the characters were transplants from other movies who were just taking on new roles for the sake of drama, everything had a point. I also loved Bradley Cooper (Pat) and Jennifer Lawrence (Tiffany) in this movie. They along with Chris Tucker played their roles flawlessly. Chris Tucker, who played Pat’s best friend from rehab, Danny added the perfect touch of comedy throughout the movie. I would definitely recommend this movie to anyone who loves a good romantic-comedy. I also want to read the book, which was written by Mathew Quick.

My Favorite Music:

       This month, I committed a rarity for me, I bought a FULL CD from iTunes instead of just individual songs off an album. The CD I bought was Save Rock and Roll by Fall Out Boy. This CD is phenomenal! In total, there are eleven songs on the album with sounds that range from R&B like tracks all the way to rock. I definitely didn’t feel as if the album was one note thanks to the versatility that I saw in the album track list. If I was forced to choose specific songs to play on repeat, I would have to say my absolute favorite songs are “The Phoenix,” “Where Did the Party Go,” The Mighty Fall,” and “Just One Yesterday (feat. Foxes).” Even though the other songs are pure gold too, these four songs are my go-to walking soundtrack for getting to and from school on my early morning commutes.

My Favorite Television Show:

This one was a bit of a no brainer since, I can’t get enough of watching reality television regardless of how scripted it maybe. Since it’s debut over four seasons ago, I have been in love with Style Networks’ Jerseylicious. This show follows a group of New Jersey hairstylists and make-up artist along with their families. Each season the show centers for the most part around two or more individuals who are at odds with each other and the audience gets to watch the juicy drama that ensues. The show also follows the characters as they go about their daily work lives.

For the most part, Jerseylicious is tame compared to other reality shows that focus on a set cast. The hairstylists and make-up artist aren’t usually overly violent with the exception of maybe once/twice a season when an actual fist fight breaks out at random. The brunt of the drama takes place in gossip form that mirrors that of petty high schoolers so it is safe for people of all ages however, I would advise some parental control for individuals who are at an impressionable age. Yet, it should be noted that the cast do do good deeds such as, raising money and getting donations for Hurricane Sandy victims throughout New Jersey or putting together a coffee table book of different style icons from New Jersey’s history. If you ever get a chance, I would highly recommend this show especially, for people who were once avid Jersey Shore fans.

Cheers!

Jerseylicious TV Poster