Willow Aster on Caring, Listening, and Finding Balance

Willow Aster is the USA Today best-selling author of True Love Story. Whore, which released this week, is her latest work.

MW: So the novel Whore, takes place in Louisiana and the novel has such a timeless feel that when I started it, I thought maybe I was reading a historical romance. When I figured out that I wasn’t, I still googled whether or not brothels were legal in New Orleans. Tell me about the world you created for Whore and why you chose a present day time line with an old world feel to set the story.

WA: I couldn’t think of any place that would work to do this BUT New Orleans. I love the city so much. You can feel transported to a past era on one street, and on the very next street feel like you’re in the future, seeing things you’ve never seen. I wanted to capture some of that old-world feel but still keep it modern day. There are dark areas of New Orleans and happy places, which I tried to convey with Maison D’amour and its contrast, the community center.

MW: Was it challenging to create a romance where the heroine, Lilith, is raised to sell her body and not equate sex with love? And in a genre where the woman is often the ingénue, did you worry readers would struggle to accept a female character with grit and the experience to back it up?

WA: Yes! It was so challenging! I did a lot of rewrites with this book, just wanting to get it right. It felt like a fine line to make Lilith a sympathetic, yet strong character. I wanted to make her relatable, despite her profession, but also get the point across that everyone deserves love.

MW: Talk to me about Soti and Nico. What went in to creating these two opposing men?

WA: Soti was definitely easier to write. I actually had his POV every other chapter in the beginning, and it came easily but gave too much away. With one character it was hard to show the mysterious, and with the other, it was hard to show the humanity.

MW: This is your first novel in two years, did you take a conscious break from writing and publishing or were you working the whole time?

WA: I was working the whole time. This book tortured me a bit … it took way longer than I thought it would or should.

MW: What does balance mean to you today as a writer?

WA: Balance is something I feel I’m always striving for and never quite accomplishing. It seems as if something is always coming up short and I’m just sort of trying to make my peace with that.

MW: Are you working on something now? Can you tell us about it?

WA: I’ve started a few projects recently and am still trying to decide which will be THE next one. I have several chapters and complete outlines on three that I hope will all get written eventually. It’s just a matter of which one starts taking over the most at this point.

MW: For readers who haven’t yet read your work, which novel would you have them start with and why?

WA: I usually tell people they should either start at the beginning with True Love Story (published first) or with my favorite, In the Fields.

MW: What kind of writer are you and where do you pull your inspiration from?

WA: I heard a podcast by Elizabeth Gilbert once where she talks about two different kinds of writers: dolphins or otters. I am an otter. The gist is this: dolphins can do the same trick every time and often are so successful because of it. Many bestselling authors are dolphins. Otters might feel like doing a trick or they might rather float around when they’re supposed to be bobbing a ball on their nose… they like a little variety and aren’t as predictable, in other words. It’s a great podcast … if you get a chance, it’s worth a listen.

So many different things inspire me—life, most of all. My husband often talks about the way I listen to people and remember the small details that he wouldn’t, and I think that’s how writers get a lot of inspiration, by listening and caring. I don’t get to be by it enough anymore, but the ocean inspires me. Any large body of water works actually … any will do. I can get lost in that for a while and the ideas start flowing.

MW: What are some of your favorite books and who are some of your favorite authors?

WA: This is always such a hard question for me to answer. I like so many authors and styles of writing that it’s hard to narrow down! How about I just say authors I like. Madeleine L’Engle is an all-time favorite, as well as Elizabeth Strout, and Gillian Flynn. I’ve been impressed by Sarah J. Maas and have enjoyed several of Jojo Moyes’ books—I could go on and on. I’m passionate about reading … almost as much as I am about writing.

MW: Can you share something that would surprise your readers? A secret talent or hobby?

WA: My secret talent/hobby is singing background vocals on Indie artists’ projects. Besides writing, singing in the studio is my favorite. And when the books are slow in coming, I usually write a few songs in the meantime. Some will never be heard; others have been recorded by me, my family, and/or various Indie musicians.

You can read more about Willow Aster and her work on her website: http://www.willowaster.com/ or on her Amazon page. Living in the pages, a podcast by Willow Aster launches January 4th. You can find the link on her website.

Mara White is a contemporary romance and erotica writer who laces forbidden love stories with hard issues, such as race, gender and inequality. She holds an Ivy League degree but has also worked in more strip clubs than even she can remember. She is not a former Mexican telenovela star contrary to what the tabloids might say, but she is a former ballerina and will always remain one in her heart. She lives in NYC with her husband and two children and yes, when she’s not writing you can find her on the playground.

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