When I first tell people what Ash is about, I usually say, “It’s a lesbian retelling of Cinderella.” That’s the basic truth, but it does strip away the complexities of the story.
At its heart, Ash is about a girl who is grieving the loss of her parents, who both die 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.
In the first draft I wrote, Ash actually fell in love with the prince. It was only after I got feedback on that draft from a friend, who told me she found the prince a bit boring, that I realized Ash was falling in love with someone else — a woman.
I chose to retell the story of Cinderella because one of my favorite books of all time is Robin McKinley’s Beauty, a retelling of Beauty and the Beast. She has retold other fairy tales, but never Cinderella, which has always been my favorite fairy tale.
When I decided to leave graduate school at Stanford in 2002 and become a freelance writer, I also began to write a novel. I had written three novels already, back when I was a teenager (I’d always dreamed of being a writer), but I was extremely rusty. So I took the simplest path: I wrote the book I’ve wanted to read since I was a kid. The gay part was an unexpected bonus!
Obviously, I hope that Ash will speak to straight readers as well as LGBT ones. I certainly don’t think you need to be gay to relate to a gay love story. I must admit, though, that I especially hope that lesbian and bisexual girls will enjoy Ash. We want to fall in love with the woman of our dreams just as much as any straight girl dreams of Prince Charming.