Romance is having something of a renaissance. While there have always been brilliant romance novels out in the world, the past five years have brought an explosion of diverse, exciting, and groundbreaking stories that are bringing the genre to even more readers. Ashley M. Coleman’s Good Morning, Love is the newest contemporary romance to charm our socks off. The delightful debut introduces readers to Carli, a songwriter who dreams of following in her musician father’s footsteps. Until then, she’s a junior account manager at a big name media company. But a chance meeting with rising R&B star Tau Anderson sends Carli and her carefully curated world into a tailspin. It’s the kind of breathtaking, authentic, and lovely novel that will wrap you in a warm hug. And Coleman brings something truly unique with her immersive and lyrical live music worldbuilding.
To celebrate Good Morning, Love’s release we chatted with Coleman about writing, music journalism, love, and the magic of discovering the notes that make you feel something.
Nerdist: I’d love to know what the origin of Good Morning, Love was?
Ashley M. Coleman: So it’s funny because I feel like debuts are really the books that take you a lifetime to write. I’ve worked in the music industry for over 10 years. And, honestly, you meet so many characters, quite frankly, and it’s kind of this surreal subset of real life. Everything’s so accelerated and really it’s just a composite of those experiences: coming up in the music industry, seeing how folks interact with one another. Then also having a little bit of my own story—my husband’s a music producer—and just pulling in all these parts of my life and experience over the years within the music industry. That was the onus behind it and I just kind of took it and ran with it.
When was the moment that you were like, “I think this needs to be a book?”
It was about 2017 and I was applying for a fellowship. The fellowship needed a 20 page sample, and I had been listening to all different kinds of music. I’m a big R&B fan! So I thought, oh, you know, there’s always playboys in R&B and then I thought, well, what happens if the playboy actually falls in love? And that was the question I asked myself to write this 20 page sample. And although I didn’t get into the fellowship, I thought, you know what? I really like this story. Let me see it through. And that really gave me all these different ideas and it was easy to just follow the story. So I just kept writing.
That’s so great! Something that really spoke to me about Good Morning, Love was how well you translate the feeling of live music, whether in clubs or concerts, to the page. What were the challenges of bringing that aspect to life?
I think it comes from just being around it so much. As a byproduct of the job, you go to a lot of live music. I’m from Philadelphia, which is a huge jam session town. So a lot of musicians come together and they just play, and people freestyle. So I’ve spent so much time in that environment. And I think naturally as a writer I’ve mined those moments, right? l
I’ve lived in the moment of like, oh, how does this note make me feel? I’ve even done some freelance feature writing and you have to describe the environment. I’ve worked with a lot of musicians and, like, I distinctly remember interviewing an artist named PnB Rock, and just trying to describe the setting of the green room with like this little dog running around everywhere, smoke in the air. So really having to home in on those descriptions, I think that’s been the nature of some of the writing work that I’ve done already. And just being so familiar with exactly what that feels like and being able to describe it as best I could.
Carli is such an authentic and relatable lead, especially when it comes to her struggle with work life balance and how love fits into that. Could you speak to creating her?
I just thought about a lot of our generation and their blind ambition. Specifically as millennials, I feel like we have to be this generation that’s very goal oriented. We’re very much trying to attain these dreams and goals. And that wasn’t as much of the reality for our parents, right? So I was really just intrigued by what really penetrates that for us. And really trying to portray this idea that maybe it’s not all or nothing. Maybe you can fall in love and also still be working towards your dreams and goals.
I’ve just always loved strong female leads. That’s just ingrained in me. And I also really love the show Insecure. Issa and Carly are very different, but I felt like it was still along those lines of trying to figure yourself out. And I think not as much emphasis is put on that particular age group in fiction writing. It’s not YA, but you’re not women’s fiction yet, you’re still this young ambitious person trying to make sense of adulthood.
Good Morning, Love feels like it could become a new romance classic. What are some of the iconic love stories that you hold on to?
Oh my gosh, so they are only my icons because I’m not sure they’re like wildly iconic. But there’s a show called The Game that Mara Brock Akil wrote. I loved Melanie and Derwin, they were my faves. They were a mess, you know? And that always speaks to me. I’m also a big fan of Love and Basketball by Gina Prince Bythewood. So Q & Monica were favorites. Even stories like The Best Man and, as we talked about, Insecure. I was always rooting for Lawrence. I love a come back around romance. So those are just a few of my faves.