Monday, March 18, 2013

Ashton Lee's The Cherry Cola Book Club interview

Oh, I have a treat for you today. Tomorrow, I'm reviewing Ashton Lee's new novel, The Cherry Cola Book Club. But, today, Ashton himself is doing an interview that will introduce the book. I think you'll want to read the book after you meet Maura Beth Mayhew, the library director from Cherico, Mississippi.Thank you, Ashton, for offering to interview her.

Hello, everyone! As a writer of Southern humorous fiction, I thought the best way to get to know me and my work a little better might be through the main character of my forthcoming novel, 'The Cherry Cola Book Club,' from Kensington Books, due out April 13th. Therefore, I'm going to do a Q & A for you with Maura Beth Mayhew, my twenty-something, idealistic, red-headed librarian who drives the plot of my novel. She'll be on the hot seat for you, and I trust when it's all over and done with, she'll be someone you want to get to know even better. And if you'd like to keep up with reviews, tour dates, etc. for "The Cherry Cola Book Club," please go to: and click on the big 'Like' icon.

Ashton Lee: Maura Beth, it's rumored that you're making a great big fuss in the small, Mississippi town of Cherico. What are you up to?

Maura Beth: Thank you for asking, Ashton. But then, of course, we all know you made me do all of this, and I have to admit you've kept my character true to form throughout.

Ashton: Right. But let's not get too cute with the readers, Maura Beth. Back to the question.

MB: Yes, well, I was fortunate enough to get the library directorship of the small town of Cherico right out of LSU Library School. I thought I had scored a coup until I got a glimpse of my library's budget.

Ashton: I take it you didn't have much money to work with--like too many libraries across the country?

MB: Just a miserable budget. The public has no idea how much it takes these days to get those bestsellers and periodicals and reference materials to them on an ongoing basis. But I dug in and did the best I could for six years. I consider myself a librarian on a mission.

Ashton: Again, though, what's all the current fuss about?

MB: Well, the three local politicos who run Cherico, led by Councilman Durden Sparks, decided that the town really doesn't need a library anymore, what with everyone having computers and searching for everything online. But that was just the excuse they used when they told me that I had five months to show them why the library shouldn't be completely shut down and what money I did have directed to the creation of an industrial park.

Ashton: Oh, my! That does seem harsh! So what are you doing to counteract that?

MB: First, you have to understand that Cherico's library has always been a red-headed stepchild--pretty much underutilized and underfunded forever. Our circulation figures have been dismal for years now. So I just had to come up with a way to get more people into the library--and quickly. I had to do something to impress the politicians.

Ashton: And what did you come up with?

MB: The Cherry Cola Book Club--which is what you also named your novel. I thought the best way to renew interest in the library might be to create a reading group. Perhaps we could start out by reviewing some Southern classics and also asking people to bring potluck dishes for some pre-review socializing. Nothing really does bring people together like good comfort food. Incidentally, Ashton, I think it was brilliant the way you've included a recipe section in the back of the book, allowing readers to create the dishes of their favorite characters.

Ashton: Maura Beth, you really are quite the smoothie, aren't you?

MB: Yes, and it serves me well in dealing with these short-sighted, manipulative, even devious politicians. Not to mention that once the book club gets started--with women only initially--there are lots of clashing personalities to manage.

Ashton: But I assume you have everyone getting along eventually?

MB: Well, what surprised me was how involved I began to get in the lives of my first flurry of female members. The more I got to know them, the more intriguing they became to me, and the more supportive of me and the library they became. They began to divulge secrets, or long-buried hopes, and I even met a promising marriage prospect as a result of my friendships with these people of all ages. By the way, the women do manage to drag their husbands and boyfriends to the club, and that makes the personality interaction even more intriguing. Men and women do not see things the same way--at least that's been my observation.

Ashton: Nice to hear about that boyfriend character. Everyone likes a good, burgeoning romance. Now, can you tell us what Southern classics are reviewed initially by the club?

MB: "Gone With The Wind," and "To Kill A Mockingbird." But not as you would expect. Instead of just a straightforward review of them, we discuss them from outside-the-box angles, relating them to our personal lives or the march of Southern history. At one point, we have an extremely insightful discussion of how the South has changed since the publication of "To Kill A Mockingbird." The discussion is painful for some, enlightening for others. But all good.

Ashton: Well, Maura Beth, I think that's enough to pique the interest of our readers. Just one more question: will there be a sequel to "The Cherry Cola Book Club?"

MB: There will, indeed. Not everything is completely resolved at the end of this novel. Readers who like the cast of characters will want to know more. And those adventures have already been written and will be published in April, 2014.

Ashton: Thank you so much, Maura Beth. I couldn't have said it better myself. (Wink, wink!)

Thank you, Ashton. And, good luck to you, and to Maura Beth! As Ashton said, if you'd like to keep up with reviews, tour dates, etc. for "The Cherry Cola Book Club," please go to: and click on the big 'Like' icon.

The Cherry Cola Book Club by Ashton Lee. Kensington Books. 2013. ISBN 9780758273413 (paperback), 260p.


Rosemary said...

Oh that sounds like so much fun Lesa - and it's just the kind of library group I would like. Will definitely look out for this one. Great interview too - sometimes these 'character' interviews can be a bit too twee for me, but I enjoyed this one a lot.

(On a wet, windy, cold & generally yukky morning in Scotland..)

Lesa said...

Wasn't it a good interview, Rosemary? I hope you get a chance to read the book. As a library user, you'll appreciate it. Oh, and it's wet, windy, cold & generally yucky here in Indiana, too.

Rosemary said...

And there was I imagining it would be hot and sunny. Is it not in the south?

Lesa said...

It was last March, but this March we've had lousy weather. I'm hoping we'll get spring some day.

Carol N Wong said...

This book was on my to buy list even before your interview. I was charmed by the title. I have a memory of the neighbor and her daughter and I going to the corner drugstore and getting my first cherry cola! I loved your interview. It was a real treat!

Lesa said...

So was the book, Carol. I'm reviewing it tomorrow.

Karen C said...

Sounds like great fun and now on my list. Oh, and it is a bright sunny day, about 70 degrees with a little bit of wind. Very nice.

Lesa said...

Glad the book is on your list, Karen. And, bah humbug about your weather. (grin)

Jane R said...

This book sounds great!! And I love the title too! Thank you for the terrific introduction to Maura Beth, her library and the book club. I'm looking forward to reading it! Meanwhile, here in the central Texas area our high today was 90 (a new record). That's a bit too hot for me this early in the year. And what we really need is some rain!

Lesa said...

My pleasure to allow Ashton to introduce everyone. I hope you get a chance to read it, Jane. Yes, 90 is a little hot for March. I'd take 60s or 70s, though. Our high tomorrow is supposed to be about 39. It's almost spring, for pete's sake!