Just to show you it’s not all hot girls in tank tops and lacy underthings (not that there is anything wrong with that, nothing at all), let’s talk books. And, to put a finer point on it, let’s talk one book. Let’s talk “Ash,” the first book by Malinda Lo. Many of you will remember Malinda as the former AfterEllen.com managing editor. She still writes the column Notes & Queeries and her vlog The Lo-Down will return next month. Malinda left the site last year to complete “Ash,” a lesbian retelling of Cinderella. Now it is set to come out in September. I’m about a third of the way through and can happily report that Malinda has created a lush, lavishly-descriptive universe that will immerse readers young and old.
Malinda has graciously agreed to giveaway two autographed advanced copies. But before you start clamoring for a copy, let’s find out a little more about the story.
A quick Q&A with Malinda about “Ash”
DS: Describe the story of “Ash.”
ML: In the most blatant of terms, it's a lesbian retelling of Cinderella.
Stepping back from that concept a bit, Ash is about a girl who is grieving the loss of her parents, who both die in quick succession when she's only 12 years old. That loss sends her into a deep, almost suicidal depression. The novel tells the story of Ash coming out of that depression and choosing to live. The fact that she falls in love with a woman, as opposed to a man, is almost secondary.
DS: Where did the idea come from?
ML: I chose to retell the story of Cinderella because as a kid, I loved reading Robin McKinley's retellings of fairy tales, and she never retold Cinderella. I wrote Ash because I wanted to read it.
DS: What was it about the Cinderella story that you thought was ripe for the retelling?
ML: I actually had no idea if it was ripe for retelling — I didn't choose it, so much as it chose me. It's always been my favorite fairy tale.
DS: Did you always want to bring gay storylines into your work?
ML: Funny you ask that, because the answer is no. The first draft of Ash was not gay at all — Ash initially fell in love with the prince. After I gave it to a friend to read, she pointed out that the prince was pretty boring. I looked at the story more closely and realized that Ash was actually falling in love with someone else, and that someone else was a woman — Kaisa, the King's Huntress.
DS: Was it hard, getting mainstream publishers to accept a lesbian storyline in young adult fiction? Was there any resistance?
ML: I haven't had any resistance at all. My agent was behind it 100% from the get-go, and we received offers from several publishers who were all very enthusiastic about the lesbian story line. My editor, honestly, encouraged me to intensify the romance between Ash and Kaisa.
What I find interesting is that my publisher, Little, Brown, isn't positioning the book as a lesbian book, really. If you read the cover copy, it's not even entirely clear that Ash falls in love with a woman. It's being positioned as a mainstream YA fantasy — even more so in the U.K. I just got the cover copy from my U.K. publisher, Hodder, and there's basically no hint that there's a same-sex romance in there.
I don't think they're trying to hide it, because they're very supportive of reaching out to LGBT readers. I just think they believe the gay part is mostly irrelevant.
DS: What do you hope readers, both young and old, take away from the book?
ML: I just hope they'll find an enjoyable story — that sounds really basic, but it's true. And since I didn't write Ash as a young adult novel (I just wrote it — the categorization came after it was finished), I do hope adults as well as teens pick it up.
Other than that, I must admit that I really hope lesbian/bi readers like Kaisa. Not that straight readers can't like her too! But I think she deserves to be crushed on. :)
DS: Are you working on your next one? What’s it about?
ML: Yes, I'm currently in the middle of revising my next novel, which is sort of a prequel to Ash. It takes place several hundreds of years before, but it's set in the same world, and it's about the first woman to become a King's Huntress. It's my version of a quest story, so there's a dangerous journey, powerful magic, ancient fairies, and romance — plus, of course, lesbians. Barring unforeseen circumstances, it should come out in fall 2010.
If you are interested in receiving a free copy of “Ash,” leave your email address in the comments section (spelled out if you’re worried about spammers) by noon Thursday PST. I will pick the two winners via my friend the random number generator and post them on
Friday Monday. Find out more about “Ash” and Malinda at her website, www.malindalo.com. Happy reading.
NOTE: Unfortunately, this giveaway is limited to US and Canada residents. I believe it's for legal release reasons. But Malinda said she hopes to have another giveaway for all non-North Americans once the UK edition comes out. So please stay tuned and my apologies.NOTE II: Entries are now closed. The winner will be announced on Monday. Thanks so much for your interest!