It is a pleasure to welcome Sasha Wasley back to my blog, Mrs B’s Book Reviews for A Tea Break with Mrs B, a author interview series. To help celebrate the release of Spring Clean for the Peach Queen we sat down for a chat. Thanks Sasha!
What is your drink of choice as we sit down for a chat about your new book?
I really like the Higher Living Goodnight tea and I drink it at any time of day!
Can you give us an overview of your writing career to date?
I have been writing for my whole life (well, since I could physically write) but I didn’t get my first book published until 2014! Writing was my career before that, however. I was an academic – PhD candidate and casual lecturer – and then a copywriter. My first few books were young adult paranormals published through indie presses in North America and Canada. My big break happened in 2016 when I got an agent and was signed for three adult novels with Penguin Random House. The Daughters of the Outback series – DEAR BANJO, TRUE BLUE and LOVE SONG – came out between 2017 and 2019, and have been translated into German and audio, and optioned for film. I was contracted with Pantera in 2019 for two books: SPRING CLEAN FOR THE PEACH QUEEN and my 2022 title will be A CARAVAN LIKE A CANARY.
How different was the experience of writing Spring Clean for the Peach Queen, compared to your previous releases?
It was quite different because I honestly wasn’t sure if there was going to be a romantic happily ever after (HEA) for Lottie at the end, whereas all my others had a definite HEA. This book explores other issues, like family relationships and community, the social media façade and the dog-eat-dog world of celebrity. The romance is important but secondary to the plot and I’m not telling you if Lottie gets her HEA or not!
Can you tell us what inspired the creation of your new book, Spring Clean for the Peach Queen?
It’s a bit odd, but it was actually a sign on the side of the highway!
I was living in the Swan Valley at the time and as I drove home along Great Northern Highway I saw a sign for a Spring Ball. It fired my imagination and I started to think about what the event would be like and imagine a scenario where something explosive happened at a small-town ball. Then I thought of Lottie coming home to that small town in disgrace and the story was born!
What is the significance of the title to the book?
Lottie is a pseudo-expert in the Kondo method of decluttering and she decides she needs to spring clean her life. She eschews lying, faking, fake friends, social media and caring about her looks, which means she has to start living a completely different way from what she’s used to. It also means some awkward conversations because she can’t even tell little white lies anymore. She was crowned the Peach Queen of the Bonnievale orchard town before she left 10 years before – so it’s quite literally a spring clean for the Peach Queen – hence the title. I love the little rhyme in it.
Where did the inspiration for your characters come from?
Lottie was based on the young actors you see in Home and Away or Neighbours. She’s pretty, talented and determined, experienced in the live-stage scene and desperate to make it in the bigtime. She wants to be the next Isla Fisher. But her desperation lands her in trouble – she suddenly gets famous for all the wrong reasons. Angus is her polar opposite. He stayed in town, never went anywhere or did anything and he’s just as miserable as Lottie. Mrs Brooker is a bit like my two nannas and Pris Brooker is every well-meaning small-town busybody I’ve ever met. Lottie’s mum Penelope is based a little bit on me – she was a student activist at uni and is still a passionate feminist who struggles to understand her daughter’s choices.
What issues do you explore in Spring Clean for the Peach Queen?
The book explores issues of feminism and what it means to different generations, how women reclaim some autonomy and control over their lives, and what empowerment means to different women. It also explores the difficult relationships we can sometimes have with our parents, even as adults (or especially as adults). Another important theme is community, particularly the way people can come together despite fault lines and conflict. And a side theme is the unique and often disheartening experience of being a primary producer in challenging conditions.
Can you tell us a bit more about the setting base for Spring Queen for the Peach Queen?
Bonnievale is a beautiful orchard town a couple of hours’ drive from the city. It is magical in the spring and summer, heavy with blossom and stonefruit. But it’s a town in recovery: for several years, the flagship crop was stricken with peach spot, a bacterial disease of stonefruit, and the farmers had to make the agonising decision to rip out most of the heritage orchards and replant resistant stock. So money is tight and confidence is wobbly. But they are three years clear of peach spot now, and it’s time to celebrate with the time-honoured tradition of the Harvest Ball – and crown a new Peach Queen.
What is the most surprising thing you discovered while writing Spring Clean for the Peach Queen?
How difficult it is to make a really good homemade jam!
What do you hope readers will take away from the experience of reading Spring Clean for the Peach Queen?
I hope they will close the book feeling warm, joyful, inspired and comforted. And I hope I’ve added to the complex conversation about the ongoing need for feminism in these contemporary times.
When you are not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
I like breaking up the long commute to my daughter’s school with a coffee stop, wandering and exploring around country towns, and sometimes gardening (but not right now because this summer is going on forever. Come on, WA – it’s almost Easter!!).
What book is next on your reading pile?
I’m currently reading The Serpent’s Skin – an amazing read! I’m lining up The Trauma Cleaner which I’ve been eyeing off for a couple of years now.
What are you working on writing wise at present?
I’m doing structural edits for A Caravan Like a Canary (my 2022 release) and drafting my next book, which will be a historical novel set in country WA during WWI. I’m also working on a middle grade mystery series.
Thank you for the lovely tea break and chat Sasha. Congratulations on the upcoming release of your new book Spring Clean for the Peach Queen.
Twelve years had passed since the last Harvest Ball.
I was just eighteen when my hometown crowned me their Peach Queen with a blossom coronet. And I was eighteen when I left.
One tanked career, one badly timed glamour shoot and one dead boyfriend later, thirty-year-old Lottie Bentz is finally going home.
Back in the orchard town of Bonnievale, Lottie embarks on a radical declutter of her life, Marie Kondo-style. She casts out everything that got her into trouble: her phone, socials, make-up and a tendency to tell little white lies – to herself and others. But home has its own issues, not least Lottie’s staunchly feminist mother, who is furious with her.
When Lottie lands herself a place to stay in exchange for helping kindly Mrs Brooker try out the Kondo method, it seems like the perfect farm escape. That’s until Angus, Lottie’s former Peach King and heir to the Brooker orchards, makes it clear she’s not welcome – especially when Lottie’s declutter begins to stir up long buried memories and half-truths.
As Lottie finds her way back to herself, can she use her talents to coax Bonnievale and the Brookers out of the past? After all, everyone deserves to feel love, hope and the occasional spark of joy.
Spring Clean for the Peach Queen by Sasha Wasley is published on 30th March 2021 by Pantera Press. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
Connect with Sasha here: