Interview with Ashley Poston, Author of Geekerella


By: Haylee Fisher (@haylee_fisher)

It’s been said to write about what you know, and for Ashley Poston, that is all things nerd. A veritable wealth of geek knowledge, Poston’s latest book, Geekerella, is a modern retelling of Cinderella with a sci-fi leaning. This young adult novel features a diverse cast who feels authentic – they’re funny, passionate, tenacious, and actually resemble real teenagers, which seems to be a struggle for so many authors of the genre. Because of that truthfulness to the characters, it’s a must-read for those who love funny books, heartfelt books, nerdy books, and just books in general!

I recently had the chance to speak to Poston over email during her adventure at a book convention in the U.K. wherein we discussed the impetus behind Geekerella, what makes her versions of the characters different and distinct from the classic fairy tale versions, what makes fandom people the best people, and more.

Geekerella has been out for about two months now. How has life changed for you since its release?

I’ve gotten so many messages from readers — I’ve read every single one of them, but replying tends to be a slightly slower process! I reply to every message I get, so it’s hard to make sure I don’t miss any of them! But to me, that’s important, because without readers Geekerella wouldn’t find its way to new readers!

Besides, it’s always fun to fangirl/fanboy over fandoms we share!

For those who may not know, what is Geekerella about and how did it come to be?

Geekerella is a geeky retelling of Cinderella at a sci-fi convention. My editor at Quirk came to me with a pitch for the book, and I loved the idea so much I knew I needed to write it.

Fandom is such a huge part of Geekerella. What are some of your favorite fandoms/what fandoms are you a part of?

The first fandom I sank deep into was Yu-Gi-Oh!, actually! I wrote my first fanfics in that fandom, and then Inuyasha, Fruits Basket, Sailor Moon, and G Gundam. One thing led to another and I found myself in the Harry Potter fandom, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Star Trek — even some Disney fandoms (don’t think I didn’t write a few Frozen/Rise of the Guardians crossovers because I totally did).

I grew up in fandoms. I didn’t really have a lot in common with a lot of my peers, since I grew up in a small southern town. I felt like I was trying to force myself into a shape that I didn’t quite fit. Fandom — message boards, fanfics, LJ communities — they helped me become who I am, and they accepted me for all my weird curves and sharp edges.

I can’t thank fandom enough, really. It taught me that I am not nearly as alone as I thought.

What were the biggest fandom or pop culture influences on the book?

Star Trek and Mass Effect were two really big influences in Geekerella. I’m a huge Trekkie, so the movie drama (and Elle’s feelings on the matter) in the book might or might not be a direct result of my feelings for Star Trek Into Darkness.

How did you land on the idea for Starfield to be the fandom in the Geekerella world?

My editor gave me the name of a TV series and said, “So it’s sci-fi. And go.” So I ran with it. I drafted plot summaries of all 54 episodes. I wanted to make Starfield as real as possible, and I knew the only way to do that was to actually create the show the fandom is based on!

The climax of the book takes place at a convention. Did any of your con experiences inform the book and if so, how?

I love cons! I’ve been to so many I can’t count them anymore. Every con experience is different. The larger ones attract bigger names and better cosplay, usually, but the smaller cons always have the best artist alleys — and I love artist alleys. I drop way too much money in them at every con.

One thing I really appreciated about Geekerella was that the “prince” is a person of color. Why was that important to you?

I’ve always been annoyed that all sci-fi shows up to the early 90s were full of white male leads. While I love Captain Kirk and Captain Picard, I wanted to imagine a sci-fi show where the leading male was someone different, and I wanted to imagine his love interest as being just as necessary to the plot of the show as the main character himself.

Another thing that stood out to me was that the story was told between the perspectives of the two main characters, Elle and Darien. How and why did you did decide to do it that way?

I knew I wanted Elle’s perspective, because she’s the Cinderella character, but I also knew I wanted the prince to be more than the foil for her “Happily Ever After.” I kinda wanted the prince to be the one who needed saving. To do that, I knew I had to write two POVs, and I really can’t imagine Geekerella any other way now!

I feel like it’s inevitable readers will fancast the movie version of the book. Who do you see as Elle and Darien?

I always thought of Elle as a Mae Whitman type of character (it might be because to me she always sounded like Katara in my head.) As for Darien? Dev Patel, full throttle.

Unlike Cinderella, who can sometimes feel a little “damsel in distress,” Elle is no-nonsense, strong, and persistent. Why were those such crucial characteristics for you to give her?

I wanted Elle to be her own person, and I wanted her to earn her own happily ever after, not wait for her prince to ride in on a white steed to save her. I knew she had to be the kind of person who would in the end stand up for herself! She just had to find that spark, first.

What lessons do you hope people take not only from Elle, but also from the book as a whole?

That it’s okay to like what you like — be it a TV show or a film or a book or a video game or a band. That it isn’t silly, or childish, or stupid. That if you enjoy something, then give yourself permission to enjoy it. Haters gonna hate, and that’s on them — not you.

I also want to touch on Elle’s friend/co-worker/stand-in fairy godmother Sage and her food truck — her vegan pumpkin food truck, at that! That’s such a niche market! What would an Ashley Poston food truck serve?

An Ashley Poston food truck would totally serve the best peanut butter and jelly sandwiches ever!

Elle introduces Sage to Starfield and she in turn makes Elle’s cosplay for the contest. What life do you see for Sage post-book? Do you see her diving deeper into fandom and her and Elle becoming con buddies?

Oh, I could totally see Sage diving deeper into the con life — especially competitions. I don’t think she’d be the one to wear it onstage (she’d get a certain someone you meet in the book to do that), but I think she would go on to the international championship with a stellar costume fit for Princess Amara herself.

What about Elle and Darien? Where do you see them in the future?

I see them, years down the road, rolling onto the Santa Monica pier in a food truck called Charfield, serving up the best bacon cheeseburgers on the beach.

What advice to you have for people who are aspiring writers?

Give yourself permission to suck at first, and just keep at it. You don’t have to write every day, but when you do you should aim to finish. You can’t publish anything you never finish!

Finally, what’s next for you?

Next for me? Sleep! Ha! And then I’ll start promo for my next book, Heart of Iron. It’s basically Anastasia meets Firefly, where a young woman must save the very kingdom that wants her dead. It’s coming out in February 2018 from Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, and I hope it’ll quench the thirst Starfield left behind!

Follow Ashley Poston on Twitter at @ashposton.

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