Interview with Ashton Lee- author of The Cherry Cola Book Club

the cherry cola bk clubAshton Lee, author The Cherry Cola Book Club, stopped by for an interview! Ashton talked about Maura Beth, Cherico, MS, and his writing space. The Cherry Cola Book Club made Deep South Magazine’s Summer Reading List and it is also a Pulpwood Queen selection- I have to say, knowing those 2 things- this book has a lot going for it!


Interview with Ashton Lee

Ashton- thank you for the interview! And congratulations on The Cherry Cola Book Club being chosen as one of the books on Deep South Magazine Summer Reading List.   

My pleasure.  CCBC was also recently chosen as a July read for the 550 chapters nationwide of The Pulpwood Queens.  They are a delightful, book-sharing, tiara-wearing army of women who are voracious readers.


What was the inspiration for The Cherry Cola Book Club? 

Many writers have day jobs as well.  Mine has been as a publisher’s rep/book vendor to public libraries in six Southern states.  I’ve done it for decades and have learned just about everything about the inner workings of libraries.  One of the biggest problems they often have is underfunding and dealing with budget cuts.  Often, a library’s budget will be cut first, restored last.  An author should always write what he or she knows best.  So I decided to write an entertaining series about the problems libraries have, hoping to become a national advocate for them as necessary, educational community resources.


Maura Beth- what would be the type of words you would use to describe her character?

Maura Beth is at once idealistic, naïve and determined.   As the novel opens, we find her in shock and slightly intimidated by a trio of local politicians who regard her as little more than eye candy and her library as utterly dispensable.   As the novel progresses, she realizes that she needs to toughen up and find a way around these good ole boys.  Thus, she is also resourceful, growing up before the reader’s very eyes.


Is there a Cherico, MS? Or is it a fictional town? 

Cherico is fictional, but it does contain components of many small Southern towns.   I was also recently in Knoxville, Iowa, as part of my book tour and discovered that Midwestern small towns aren’t very different from Southern small towns.  There is that sense of community and charm, and that’s what I wanted to capture in Cherico.


You have lived in Natchez and now live in Oxford. I’ve never been to Natchez, but know it has a rich history. Oxford is definitely a literary town. How have the towns you have lived in shaped your writing?

Natchez is a writing laboratory.  It’s the oldest city on the Mississippi River—founded in 1716—and the social and cultural layers it has developed are noteworthy.   Growing up, I was immersed in the quirky, eccentric behavior of many members of my parents’ and grandparents’ generations.  I listened, observed and remembered.   Some of the craziest things that happened over the years, I could not use in my writing.  The truth really is stranger than fiction sometimes and has to be modified to be believable.  At any rate, I consider that growing up in Natchez has provided me with a tremendous advantage as a writer.  And then living in Oxford has only reinforced that.  It’s a charming university town that has preserved its architecture and offers many amenities to writers and non-writers alike.  Its nationally-famous book store, Square Books, received  the Outstanding Independent Book Store of 2012 Award from ‘Publishers’ Weekly.’  The literary profession is a vibrant part of the Oxford community.

How long did The Cherry Cola Book Club take to write? 

It took me about five months to write.  I had the outline fleshed out and knew where I was going.


If The Cherry Cola Book Club was made into a movie- do you have a dream cast?

Having CCBC and its sequels (this is a series—and the next novel will be released in April, 2014) made into a movie would be ‘dream come true’ enough.   I haven’t thought about casting too much.   Someone like Anne Hathaway might make an interesting Maura Beth Mayhew, the determined young librarian.   Shirley MacLaine might want to tackle Miss Voncille, the authoritative spinster genealogist with a tragic romantic past.  I could actually see Reba McEntire as Periwinkle Lattimore, the down-home, divorced owner of The Twinkle, Twinkle Café.   Councilman Sparks needs to be charming and have that dark side as well—maybe Dennis Quaid, now that’s he’s a little older?


Do you, Ashton, have a writing space? A writing routine?   

I usually write in my office which is just off the master bedroom in my home.  Occasionally, I will take my computer with me on a road trip if I have a deadline and write in my hotel room.   When I’m in the zone, I can write any time of day, but I prefer writing at night for some reason.   I can do a one-hour session or take as long as four or five hours.  I’m fond of revisiting what I’ve written not too long after, doing self-editing while the work is relatively fresh in my mind.


What are you working on next?  More stories about Maura Beth and Cherico, MS?  

I have already written ‘The Reader’s Circle: A Cherry Cola Book Club Novel,’ which is the follow-up to CCBC.  I am now awaiting word from Kensington on extending the series with Books Three and Four.  Both have been plotted and tentatively titled.  If that new contract is approved, I will immediately start writing on Book Three.


*Thanks to Ashton Lee for agreeing to be interviewed!


Ashton LeeAshton Lee, author of The Cherry Cola Book Club, can be found on Facebook. He enjoys hearing from fans- so definitely give Ashton a “Like” and connect to hear the latest about The Cherry Cola Book Club and the possibility of future books. If you are near the Natchez,MS area (or would like a signed copy)- Ashton will be at Turning Pages and More Books on August 26th.


Want to know more about Ashton Lee? Read HERE to see my post about Meeting Ashton Lee at Lemuria Books in Jackson, MS (and his theatrical ways!)





Meeting Ashton Lee- The Cherry Cola Book Club book signing

IMG_0042The Cherry Cola Book Club– I first heard of this book thanks to Andrea at Great Thoughts– Kensington Publishing was being super kind and furnished her some giveaway copies during a #gr8books chat about another Kensington book, The Affair by Collete Freedman.

Anyway- from the moment I saw this bright, fun, and cheery cover- I knew I wanted it. But then to read the description, well that just made me have to have it! As time goes by, though, I found myself still not having it simply because I had many others books to read. This turned out to be fortunate, though, because after checking Lemuria Books website- I realized I could buy and get my book signed (book signings make me VERY happy!)

So, I waited. And then I went to the book signing- and from the name Ashton Lee- I was expecting to see a cute girl reading and signing books. I couldn’t have been more wrong, and yet I was delighted because Robert Kuehnle (pen name Ashton Lee) was charming, funny and theatrical. Of course- with Robert being from the South – theatrical was practically his birthright!

As I sat around and let other people get their books signed, I overheard Robert tell another person “Make all the people think the fun characters are them and the negative characters make them think they are not them!” This was in regard to a question of was his characters based on people he knew. The book signing, was fairly well-attended- 10-12 people where there and Robert had a stack of books to sign!

The reading was quite good as well. I love a good reading and Robert delivered! The Cherry Cola Book Club, based of small-town Mississippi, has the feel of a small Southern town down pat. Ashton Lee nails the surroundings, the language, the feel of small town Mississippi. But, after all, growing up in Natchez and now residing in Oxford- he not only knows the feel of a Southern town- he is a Southern town. As he read, he put feelings into the parts, into the reading. In the small reading area section of Lemuria, people sat and watched Ashton as he read- all of us smiling and laughing at parts because while we did not know each other- we could all relate to the story, as most of us had a tie to a small Southern town.

While I have not read The Cherry Cola Book Club (yet!), I’m happy to know that there is a sequel in the works- The Reading Room: Cherry Cola Book Club (release date March/April 2014). Will there be more books in the Cherry Cola series? Time will tell!