May 1, 2017

Ashley Herring Blake talks How to Make A Wish, queer rep and #ownvoices || #DiverseReads2017

Hi bookworms!

Can you believe it's May already? It's unbelievable! So is the amount of book releases that the month brings along.

Today's the release date of one of my favourite May releases! How to Make A Wish, a beautiful, heartwarming and fantastic contemporary by the lovely Ashley Herring Blake is releasing today and you should all read this wonderfully diverse #ownvoices novel! ( If you need more persuasion, check out my review here )

So today, we have Ashley over, to answer some questions about the book. Hope you all enjoy!

Describe your book in 5 words. 

Learning how to let go.

What inspired you to write How to Make A Wish?

I wanted to write a book about a bisexual girl, plain and simple. I wanted her to be out, I wanted her to fall in love with a girl. This is the book of my heart, in many ways. I also wanted to write about how difficult it is to choose ourselves sometimes. Selflessness is usually seen as a good quality, but not when it’s detrimental to our own well-being and Grace very much grapples with this in the book.

What would you like to say about the need for more queer representation in YA, especially bisexuality and f/f relationships?

I think any marginalized identity needs more representation in YA and in any category, really. As it’s my own identity, I love seeing more and more bi books on the shelves. I didn’t see myself in a book until I was 34, which is pretty unacceptable. I’m glad that teens don’t have to wait that long. As far as specifically f/f books go, I always want to see more of those as well. Often time with queer books, stories that feature m/m relationships are lauded and pushed more than f/f. There are a lot of reasons for this, I think, and they’re complicated and that’s a completely different interview. :)
However, I think any time we can elevate female stories (for anyone who IDs as female) that is always a good thing. Girls are constantly told they do not matter, and queer girls are often left even further behind or treated as tools for male enjoyment. But these romances are just as valid as any others and I always gravitate toward reading those stories.

How to Make A Wish is an #ownvoices novel which made the depiction of bisexuality extremely authentic. Share with us your thoughts on the importance of #ownvoices books in YA and your experience as one.

Own voices has revolutionized YA, in my opinion. There are stories that will never be mine to tell. They belong to someone who has lived them and I’m so glad we are putting more attention on those voices and learning how to listen to those voices. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that an author who has not lived an experience cannot write it well—I think it depends on the work they put in, on the readers they get to check the book, on how much they care to get it right, honestly. How to Make a Wish is about a mother and daughter’s toxic relationship and that is not an experience I have had.

However, identities are a little different. They’re a little messier, more tender, and more susceptible to hurt because they are things that are intrinsically us. They are not things that have happened to us. For that reason, I think readers often feel safer reading an own voices book. It’s not that a straight person can’t write a queer book. They can and they can quite possibly do it well. But I think that the risk is minimized when we know a book is own voices. I think this is an exciting time in YA and kid’s books in general and I’m interested to see more and more own voices on the shelves.

The relationship between Grace and her mum is so complicated, flawed yet beautiful. How did you manage to capture such a multidimensional relationship on the page?

Thank you for saying that! Grace and her mom are very special to me and I’m so glad to heard that they resonated. I read a lot of blogs about people who had experienced toxic parental relationships, as I myself had not. I listened when people talked. And, honestly, I developed them an individual people. I think when an author does their job in terms of character development, they will feel real to the reader. They may not match up perfectly to a reader’s experience, but then again, they shouldn’t. They are their own people, with their own histories. Often, Maggie took me on a journey within the plot that I hadn’t planned on and I that’s because she was extremely real to me. I hope she’s that real for readers as well.

What has been your favourite aspect(s) of the entire journey of the book?

Well, I loved writing the kissing scenes. :) I very intentionally included certain scenes with Grace alone, and of Grace with Eva, because I wanted queer girls to see themselves in the healthy physical interactions between Grace and Eva. My favorite scene, honestly, is the tree scene. I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read it, but I love it. You’ll know it when you get there! :)

What advice would you give for aspiring authors, especially but not limited to queer teens?

Write the story only you can tell. It’s okay to be scared of it. You probably should be, if it’s the right story. The important thing is to write through that fear. Also, read a lot. Like, a lot, all genres. Even badly written books, read those too because they’ll teach you what not to do. And then write. Butt in the chair. Do it.

Can you share with us what you’re working on next?

I can! I have a new YA coming in 2018 called Girl Made of Stars, and it is about a bisexual girl whose twin brother is accused of rape. It’s grittier than my other two books, but very much the story I needed to write. Also, the love interest is genderqueer and I love these two characters more than any two I’ve ever written. I also have a middle grade novel, Ivy Aberdeens Letter to the World, coming out in 2018. Its about a girl whose house is destroyed by a tornado and in the aftermath, she develops a crush on another girl at school. I absolutely love this story to bits.

Title : How to Make a Wish
Author : Ashley Herring Blake
Release Date : May 2nd 2017
Publisher : HMH Book for Young Readers
Synopsis :
All seventeen year-old Grace Glasser wants is her own life. A normal life in which she sleeps in the same bed for longer than three months and doesn't have to scrounge for spare change to make sure the electric bill is paid. Emotionally trapped by her unreliable mother, Maggie, and the tiny cape on which she lives, she focuses on her best friend, her upcoming audition for a top music school in New York, and surviving Maggie’s latest boyfriend—who happens to be Grace’s own ex-boyfriend’s father.

Her attempts to lay low until she graduates are disrupted when she meets Eva, a girl with her own share of ghosts she’s trying to outrun. Grief-stricken and lonely, Eva pulls Grace into midnight adventures and feelings Grace never planned on. When Eva tells Grace she likes girls, both of their worlds open up. But, united by loss, Eva also shares a connection with Maggie. As Grace's mother spirals downward, both girls must figure out how to love and how to move on.

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