Louisiana-based author Ashley Elston made a name for herself in the literary world after writing six successful young adult novels. But her debut adult novel, First Lie Wins, proves that she’s just getting started in her writing career. This hard-to-put-down thriller set in Louisiana keeps readers guessing until the very end. Released just last month, it’s already a New York Times best-seller and the newest addition to Reese Witherspoon’s popular book club list. We caught up with Elston to learn about everything from getting her start to adapting First Lie Wins into a Hulu series starring Octavia Spencer.
“My first book was terrible, but I felt more equipped after writing it. The next book I wrote was published and sold. No one was more surprised than I was that I became an author.”
What made you want to pursue a career in writing?
Prior to writing fiction, I was a wedding photographer. But with three young boys who were starting to play sports, I hated that my weekends were consumed with work. I took a step back from that and suddenly had more free time on my hands, and I’ve just always loved to read. My first book was terrible, but I felt more equipped after writing it. The next book I wrote was published and sold. No one was more surprised than I was that I became an author.
What was the inspiration for First Lie Wins?
Because of my background in photography, I’m a very visual person. I could see a group of people sitting around a table and began imagining what they were discussing. Then I thought, what if someone was there that shouldn’t be? I continued to “what if” as the story progressed until the plot had developed.
How does Louisiana and southern culture play a part in the novel?
I love it when the setting is like its own character. I might not call the city by its name, but someone familiar with the area would be able to tell what city I’m talking about because of the description. There are also parts of the book that just aren’t likely to happen anywhere else other than the South, like when they go to a Kentucky Derby watch party.
What was it like getting the attention of Reese Witherspoon and having your book chosen for her book club?
When my editor called me to let me know, I was in complete disbelief. It was one of those “if I could have anything in the book world, it would be this,” situations for sure. One crazy part about it, though, was that I found out in October and wasn’t allowed to tell a soul. That was a very hard secret to keep!
What was it like getting picked up by Hulu and working with Octavia Spencer?
It was another one of those pinch-me moments. The screenwriting is incredible, and it’s very true to the book but elevated for television. I’ve had a few calls and Zoom meetings with Octavia Spencer, and she is just so lovely and nice. It still shocks me when she comments on my Instagram posts.
What’s next for you?
My plans for the future involve working on a new book. It’s still in the very early stages so I don’t have any details yet.