What's in a Page: Asha Bromfield on Hurricane Summer celebrating a young woman's pleasure
Asha Bromfield is best known for her roles on Riverdale and Locke & Key — but as of this week, she's also a debut author. Her novel Hurricane Summer follows a young woman during a summer in Jamaica visiting her semi-estranged father; she uncovers powerful family secrets that affect her own life, all while a hurricane threatens to bear down on the island. The book tackles everything from colorism to the troubles of coming of age to self-liberation. Here, Bromfield tells EW how she got into writing in the first place and what she wants readers to know about her debut work.
What is the first thing — ever — that you remember writing?
The first thing I ever remember writing was a novel I was working on when I was 12 years old. It was YA fiction, and it was called The Truth about Megan Riley. It was actually the novel that landed me my first agent, before I got into acting. The story followed a group of girls after the suicide of their best friend, and ironically enough, I remember working on it when I was a child spending summers in Jamaica. The novel was never published, but at the time it was a dream come true to land representation, especially so young. I felt so grown up and proud of myself, and it was so confirming to me that I was supposed to be an author. The agency that I signed to was full-service, and they represented actors, so eventually I made the natural transition into acting because I loved theater. But that's a fun fact about me that not a lot of people know — I got my start in the acting industry because of writing!
What is the last book that made you cry?
I really loved Junauda Petrus' The Stars and the Blackness Between Them. Her work is stunning. I thought her writing was so beautifully haunting and poetic. I could feel the essence of life woven throughout the story, and those are my favorite kinds of books to read. I'm deeply spiritual, so anything that incorporates the exploration of our connection to God and our ancestors naturally lights me up. I also loved the authenticity of the Caribbean representation while also exploring Black spirituality and our connection to the stars.
Which book is at the top of your current to-read list?
I read a lot of self-help books, and I'm really passionate about books that help me evolve on my spiritual journey. I love anything written by Eckhart Tolle, and I'm currently reading Fear, by Thich Nhat Hanh. I also love to read multiple books at once, so I'm also re-reading The Universal Christ, by Richard Rohr, and Conversations With God, by Neale Diamond Walsh. They are incredible gems if you are looking to deepen your spiritual practice! In terms of fiction, I'm really looking forward to reading Adam Silvera's Infinity Reaper and Tomi Adeyemi's Children of Virtue and Vengeance. And I'm so excited about Blackout, by Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Nicola Yoon, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Dhonielle Clayton.
Where do you write?
I like to mix it up. I wrote Hurricane Summer almost everywhere — Vancouver, Toronto, Chicago, L.A. My bedroom and coffee shops. I was traveling a lot for work at the time, but I wrote the majority of my first draft in the school library of the University of Chicago. I was staying near the campus at the time I was writing it, so I would spend my days in the library computer room finishing this book. It was pretty funny because everyone would be studying for the bar exam and I would just randomly be there, writing this 400-page story. Looking back, they probably thought I was dedicated to writing a crazy essay!
Which book made you a forever reader?
The Private series, by Kate Brian. I loved those books so much, and I used to stay up all night reading them in elementary school! There was so much great world-building, and I loved the nuanced depiction of the women. I really love exploring the bonds that women develop between each other and I'm fascinated by world of private sororities, wealth, and upper elites. I hope to write a novel like that one day!
What is a snack you couldn't write without?
It's not really a snack but I'm generally obsessed with tea. I'm really big into alkaline herbs and healing the body through ancestral medicine, so when I was writing Hurricane Summer, it was so important for me to have a hot cup of tea while I wrote. Or should I say, multiple hot cups of tea! I just think it sets the mood and helps to invoke this feeling of openness when I'm writing. My favorite blend is burdock root, damiana, moringa and dandelion root!
If you could change one thing about of your book, what would it be?
I'm actually really happy with my debut exactly as it is. I think the beauty of this novel is that it's a story about the beauty of destruction. It's a celebration of mistakes and imperfection, and speaks directly to how those exact things are what make us beautiful as people. The messy, complicated parts of us are a part of what makes us whole. There is purpose in our journeys and our stories. There is so much power in using our voices, even when they shake with fear. Nothing is perfect, and that's what makes us human. That's what makes this journey so beautiful. I think this book reflects that, and I wouldn't change that for anything.
What is your favorite part of Hurricane Summer?
My favorite part of this book is how it amplifies the message of liberation, self-reclamation, and forgiveness. I was really driven to explore the complicated journey into womanhood, because I believe that there's so much healing available for young women when we speak honestly about our journeys. I wanted to take a nuanced look into the ways in which we as a society treat and value young sexualized women. I knew the father-daughter dynamic was an integral part of that, and with this book, I wanted to explore how that relationship could shape the course of a young woman's life and drive a lot of her choices. It's an honest reflection of how society can weaponize the sexualities of women, and how our pleasure can be used to persecute us with.
Hurricane Summer is a celebration of a young woman's pleasure, by following the journey of how she reclaims herself and takes it back. The summer that Tilla experiences destroys her in a lot of ways, but her destruction is not the end. It's the beginning. She represents the resilience of so many young women, and that's definitely my favorite thing about this story. I want to teach young women that their voices are powerful. That they are powerful.
What was the hardest plot point or character to write?
The father-daughter dynamic was definitely tricky at some points, but only because I wanted to make sure that it was written authentically, especially culturally. In typical Jamaican culture, there might be some conversations that Tilla and her father might not necessarily have because of the vulnerability that's required. But it was necessary for their healing, and I wanted to make sure I did those scenes justice. So much of this book is about forgiveness, and the journey of setting yourself free from the hurts and disappointments that are caused by others. Tilla's father caused her so much pain, but when she figures out how to make sense of that pain and use it for power, she discovers her purpose. She becomes the hero of her own life.
Write a movie poster tag line:
How beautiful it was, to be destroyed.