J. Elle talks about love and family in her new book, ‘Ashes of Gold’

You are a former journalist and educator, when did you decide to become an author?
When I started writing, becoming an author was not where my head was at. Literally, there was a story [in] my heart that I really could not stop thinking about. It was this story I felt I needed to tell. When I got about 25% in I realized like, “Oh wow,” I really like writing books and I need to get this out to not just kids, but young adults. That is really where my desire to pursue becoming an author was truly born.

What writers have piqued your interest?
Growing up, I didn’t see authors that looked like me writing in the YA fantasy space, so it didn’t occur to me that I could be an author. So I went from reading middle-grade books to reading Eric Jerome Dickey and jumped right into adult books. There weren’t many books on shelves by authors that looked like me and YA was such [an] undiscovered territory, until Twilight. But I feel like we [Black readers] didn’t get the YA surge, it was largely a White audience. I credit [a lot of my ability] in this industry to people who have gone before me like Andy Thomas and Nick Stone and Daniel Clayton. These authors have gone before me to open doors to create a space for characters like Rue to exist because if I would have tried this 10 years ago, I don’t think we would be having this conversation, I don’t think my book would be a thing.

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