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Q&A with Sarah Adler – Mrs. Nash's Ashes

Mrs. Nash's Ashes

By Cariad Wooster

We are thrilled to welcome Sarah Adler to The Reading Corner to talk about her new release Mrs. Nash's Ashes out on the 23rd of May 2023.

Two love stories decades apart. One chance to prove love is worth the ride.

A joyous road trip romcom, perfect for fans of Lucy Score, Rachel Lynn Solomon and Ali Hazelwood.

Former childhood star and die-hard romantic Millieis bound for Key West from Washington DC, determined to fulfil a promise to her elderly best friend, Mrs Nash, by reuniting her ashes with her long-lost love. And if this grand gesture also happens to reassure a recently heartbroken Millie that believing in love isn’t foolish, all for the better.

When flights are grounded, Millie is forced to catch a ride with Hollis, an also-stranded near-stranger from her ex’s grad school. Hollis, a rising literary star, doesn’t believe in forever-loves (or even for-now loves). He was headed to Miami for a no-strings-attached hook-up, in the hope of curing his writer’s block.

But as Millie and Hollis make their way across country, racing down open highways and staying in questionable hotels, will their trip turn into a love story all their own?

Mrs. Nash's Ashes

How did you come up with the characters of Hollis and Millie? Was there anything that inspired them? What about Rose and Elsie?

From the first sentence, Millie sort of told me who she was; her voice came to me very suddenly and clearly. But as far as the dynamic between Millie and Hollis, that was partially inspired by Nick and Jess in the first season of New Girl, where Nick is a bit grumpier and Jess a bit quirkier than later in the series, and there’s definite chemistry but also conflict as they learn to understand each other. I didn’t go in with much decided about Rose or Elsie, which was good, I think, because they were able to really build off each other on the page.

How did you go about writing the historical sections about Rose and Elsie? Women are often not discussed when talking about the world wars- was there any difficulty researching the lives they would have lived?

My academic background is in history, but I’m not a specialist in the twentieth century, so I had to do a lot of research to get the details right. Learning about the lives of women who served in the Navy during World War II in general wasn’t too challenging, because the US military does a pretty good job of cataloging its history and making resources available online. It was much more difficult to find information about women in the military having relationships with other women during that era. There’s a great master’s thesis by Catherine S. Cauley that discusses queer women in the WAC, which was the Women’s Army Corps, and I extrapolated some from that since there wasn’t anything comparable for the Navy. There’s also some scholarship out there on women in covert same-sex relationships during that period and immediately after, specifically by Lauren Jae Gutterman, that was helpful in understanding the social dynamics of women loving women outside of military life. I have these and other resources mentioned in the FAQ on my website for anyone curious to learn more (and also a few sources about pigeoneering!).

It’s rare for a romance novel to have death mentioned throughout the novel. Why did you choose to do this?

I’m not sure it’s really all that rare, actually! Beach Read by Emily Henry, Love in the Time of Serial Killers by Alicia Thompson, and Jessica Joyce’s upcoming You, With a View all involve a character coping with the death of a loved one as a major part of the plot. But you’re right that it’s a little less common in the romantic comedy space. I wrote Mrs. Nash’s Ashes in winter 2020-2021, smack dab in the middle of a huge spike in COVID-19 deaths. Part of me felt like it would be disingenuous to write a story where death isn’t present in some way when it was such a huge part of the world I was existing in at that moment. And I think, in a way, it helped process some of the underlying grief I felt. I’m also really big on humor and absurdity as a coping mechanism, so it made sense to... not make light of death and dying exactly, but to add a kind of morbidly silly twist. Because I believe that hard things are easier to deal with when we can find something within them to laugh about, and love is a risk that’s easier to take when we’ve known loss. So a romcom centered around someone’s death made a ton of sense to me on an emotional level.

Why did you select the locations for our protagonist Millie to visit on her road trip? Have you visited any yourself?

The trip’s route actually changed a few times as I fine-tuned the premise. There was a very early iteration (before any words were even on the page) where it was going to take place on a train, which would have been from Los Angeles to San Antonio, since that’s currently the longest Amtrak route. Once I realized that wasn’t going to work, though, I did some research into which US cities had naval bases during WWII and discovered Key West was one. I loved that Rose and Elsie’s story could take place in a beachy setting. From there, I knew I wanted it to be less than a day’s drive if you did it non-stop, because it needed to make sense that Millie and Hollis would believe it’s faster to do that than to try to wait around for another flight. DC wound up being right around the necessary distance, and I lived there for ten years, so it felt like a fun shout-out starting the trip in that area. Gadsley, South Carolina is not a real town, but it’s based on the ones I’ve been to while visiting my husband’s family. Sadly, I’ve never been to Key West and, since it was the pandemic and couldn’t go on a research trip, I had to rely heavily upon Google Maps to get a feel for things. It was nice to dream about being there while writing, though, and I really hope to get there sometime soon!

Where can you get this novel once it is published?

You can find Mrs. Nash’s Ashes in bookstores in the United States and Canada on May 23, and in the UK on May 25. I also recently learned it is going to be in airports! So that’s really cool.

What other books or authors would you recommend to fans of this novel?

One of my biggest romance influences is Jennifer Crusie, so I always recommend people check out the many hilarious contemporaries she published in the 90s and early 2000s—especially Welcome to Temptation, which is my all-time favorite. I also think my sense of humor is fairly similar to Sarah Hogle’s, whose You Deserve Each Other is one of my top romcoms of all time. And Kerry Winfrey! Her books are also full of great banter and pop culture references while still having a bit of an emotional undercurrent. She has a hilarious holiday romcom out this year called Faking Christmas that everyone should read.

Mrs. Nash's Ashes

Sarah Adler writes romantic comedies about lovable weirdos finding their happily ever afters. She lives in Maryland with her husband and daughter and spends an inordinate amount of her time yelling at her mischievous cat to stop opening the kitchen cabinets.

Sarah's Instagram: @sarahadlerwrites


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