Major Works as Ashton Lee
- A Cherry Cola Christmas: A Cherry Cola Book Club Novel #4 (2015)
- The Wedding Circle: A Cherry Cola Book Club Novel #3 (2015)
- The Reading Circle: A Cherry Cola Book Club Novel #2 (2014)
- The Cherry Cola Book Club #1 (2013)
Major Works as Robert Dalby
- A Piggly Wiggly Christmas (2010)
- A Piggly Wiggly Wedding (2009)
- Kissing Babies at the Piggly Wiggly (Putnam 2007)
- Waltzing at the Piggly Wiggly (Putnam 2006)
- O Bed! O Breakfast! (Genesis Press 2000)
- God of the Door (1993)
- Year of the Dragon (1992)
Robert Dalby/ Ashton Lee was born Robert Kuehnle in Natchez, Mississippi, in 1946 to R. D. and Helen Jenkins Kuehnle. Dalby’s father wrote pulp fiction novellas and was an editor and writer in New York after World War II. Dalby grew up in Natchez and graduated from South Natchez Adams High School in 1964. He then obtained a B.A. at Sewanee: The University of the South.
To date, he has published seven novels under the pen name Robert Dalby including God of the Door, O Bed! O Breakfast! Waltzing at the Piggly Wiggly and Kissing Babies at the Piggly Wiggly, which was recently awarded Best Fiction of 2008 by the Mississippi Library Association. The third in the Piggly Wiggly series entitled A Piggly Wiggly Wedding, was published by Putnam in 2009. A Piggly Wiggly Christmas was published in 2010.
He recently changed publishers from Putnam to Kensington not long after the Piggly Wiggly series ended. Kensington asked him to change his pen name to Ashton Lee so that he could be exclusively associated with them. He is completing a six-novel contract with them. In 2013, the debut novel in his new series as Ashton Lee was released–The Cherry Cola Book Club It was followed by The Reading Circle: A Cherry Cola Book Club Novel in 2014; and then The Wedding Circle: Cherry Cola Book Club Novel released in March of 2015; and next A Cherry Cola Christmas: A Cherry Cola Book Club Novel was released on Sept. 29, 2015. In 2016, Queen of the Cookbooks: A Cherry Cola Book Club Novel will be released; and in 2017, A Cherry Cola Baby Boom: A Cherry Cola Book Club Novel will be released.
All the novels are about a young idealistic librarian named Maura Beth Mayhew, who gets a directorship right after getting her degree from LSU in a small Mississippi town called Cherico. She must fight to keep her job and the library open when devious Councilman Durden Sparks gives her a five-month ultimatum to show why the city should keep funding the little-used library. He has a hidden agenda, however, which Maura Beth must also negotiate. Succeeding novels deal with Maura Beth getting a reprieve for her library, uncovering embezzlement to use as a tool for getting a brand-new library, falling in love and getting married.
He currently lives in Oxford, Mississippi.
What are your parents’ names? What can you tell us about them?
My father is R. D. Kuehnle and lives in a retirement home in Mobile, Alabama. He is 90 years old and was a fighter pilot in World War II. He was also a writer and editor in New York right after the War. My mother, Helen Jenkins, has been deceased since 1992. She was both a dance instructor (ballroom) and an interior decorator.
Where and when were you born? Do you have any siblings?
I was born in Natchez, Mississppi, in 1946. I have one brother who lives in Mobile, Alabama.
Are you married, and do you have any children?
I am single.
What author or authors do you think influence you the most? Many
Southern writers have influenced me–such as Ellen Douglas, Ellen Gilchrist, Rebecca Wells, Fannie Flagg, Larry Brown and Willie Morris.
Why did you decide to write a story with Piggly Wiggly as its setting?
I was looking for a warm, fuzzy Southern icon when I hit upon the small fictional town of Second Creek as my locale and universe. Most Southerners are familiar with the Piggly Wiggly, and there are still 600 of them doing business across the country.
When did you become interested in writing? Was there something in
particular that got you interested?
I became interested in writing when I was a small boy and started reading my father’s pulp fiction novellas which he wrote when he was in New York. I wrote my own stories and illustrated them during grade school. I’ve often thought this might be a matter of genes.
Do you have a “day job”?
I have represented various publishers and distributors to public libraries in five Southern states for about twenty-five years. I have a defined territory and travel a lot.
What kind of student were you in high school?
I loved English and languages. Wrote for the school literary magazine at South Natchez Adams High School. I was also involved in musical theater and was the features editor of the school paper.
About a year and a half.
Are you working on a new book right now? What can you tell us about it?
I just finished the third novel in the Piggly Wiggly series–A Piggly Wiggly Wedding. It is scheduled to be released by Putnam in the spring of ’09. There are to be four novels in the series so far.
Have you received awards for your writing?
Yes. The second novel in the series, Kissing Babies At The Piggly Wiggly, was recently awarded Best Fiction of 2008 by the Mississippi Library Association. It will be awarded at their 2008 Convention in my hometown of Natchez, where I will speak at their Book Dinner. Waltzing At The Piggly Wiggly was also nominated for Best Fiction of 2007 by MLA, and the first two novels were also nominated by the Mississippi Institute of Arts
And Letters for Best Fiction of 2007 and 2008.
Do you have any advice for future writers?
Know your subject. If you haven’t lived it, then research it well. Remain persistent and determined. Do not let rejection deter you from your goal. Network with other writers. Attend conferences and workshops and hone your craft. Try to get an agent for your material.
What are you most proud of?
How has Mississippi or living in Mississippi influenced your writing?
Mississippi (and my hometown of Natchez particularly) has been the inspiration for my work. I am proud of my home state and believe that there are many wonderful and positive stories to tell about it and the people who live here together. Our past is checkered but rich with pathos. I believe we are solving our problems in the new millenium and will continue to provide the nation with literary talent, continuing our rich tradition.
Oxford, MS July 2008
- Kensington Publishing page for the Cherry Cola books with discussion questions.
- Kensington author page for Ashton Lee.
- Author includes local Natchez eatery in book.
- Robert Dalby blogs about his life.
- Book review of Waltzing at the Piggly Wiggly.
- Powell’s Books reviews of Waltzing at the Piggly Wiggly.
- Info about Dalby’s O Bed! O Breakfast! published by Genesis Press.
- The Pulpwood Queen Blog talks about Waltzing at the Piggly Wiggly and her memories.