Lulu Astor - Love Triangles, Bad Boys and Redemption
When Lulu Astor isn't teaching literature to college students, she writes captivating novels in a variety of genres, from paranormal to romance to mysteries, depending on where inspiration hits. As our Author of the Day, Astor reveals how she used light and darkness in her book Heart to Fear, why she thinks bad boys are so irresistible and just how much she enjoys writing.
For the readers who haven't read about it yet, please give us a short introduction to My Heart to Fear
When 23-year-old Ali Spencer registers for an art class taught by the gorgeous Dr. Geoffrey Blake, she’s anxious to take a brief walk on the dark side with the professor as her guide.
But Ali might just have met the true Satan when she crosses paths with Eric Damien, a heartstoppingly handsome and powerful businessman whose sterling reputation is a cover for his dark nature: Damien is a man who blurs the lines between right and wrong. He is also the man who decides he will have Ali at any cost.
Geoffrey Blake, however, doesn't plan on making it easy for him anytime soon.
Two men, both alphas, want her but only one will prevail. The question is which one and will Ali survive the powerful tug of war?
What inspired you to write My Heart to Fear?
To make a long story very short, I began to write a novel about a love triangle—a young woman torn between two men, both strong alphas. After I’d just outlined the characters and begun to write the treatment, I began reading a novel entitled Consequences by Aleatha Romig. At the time I was reading books involving kidnap because I was concurrently working on a book that dealt with Stockholm syndrome. In Romig’s book the male character is evil incarnate but in the sequel, he does a 180 and becomes for the most part a good guy. I began thinking about redemption and if it’s something that only happens in fiction and if it can even be believable. So I took My Heart in a different direction, rather than focusing on the triangle, I made that a subplot and focused instead on evil and redemption.
What do you enjoy most about writing?
Enjoy writing? Haha, you’re funny. But seriously, I honestly can say it’s almost torture at times for me to write yet I have to do it because it’s what I do. My favorite part is the polishing of the prose. I love words and I love language efficiency. Hemingway used to write thousands of words and then pare down over and over until he had just the bare bones of the story. It’s called his “Iceberg theory.” Paring down is difficult for any writer because, after all, every word is a pearl, but it’s very necessary if one wants to write a good book or short story.
Light and darkness is a prominent theme in Heart to Fear. Was that a conscious choice?
Oh yes, very conscious. Once I switched direction and decided to write about evil and redemption, light and dark became very necessary metaphors in telling the story. Heaven and hell, light and dark, good and evil—all opposing forces that the protagonist, Ali Spencer, must contend with once she meets the two men. I like the imagery it evokes.
You've been married for 24 years. Do you believe love conquers all?
No, but it sure can help. Love in all its forms is integral to the human condition. I shouldn’t even say human because animals experience love as well. Without it, life would be… I can’t even imagine it.
For your own reading, do you prefer ebooks or traditional paper/hard back books?
First off, I love books and printed matter. I’m a writer and every single writer starts out as a reader. I love holding the book in my hands and I like to refer to earlier parts and a printed book is much easier to navigate. I also love good covers, especially scary ones.
I never wanted an e-reader and I told my husband not to get me one. Well, he did get me one and that was when they were quite pricey. It sat in the box for a long time. Then one day I picked up a copy of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson and finished reading it at eleven at night. I desperately wanted the next one in the trilogy and suddenly remembered my e-reader. I grabbed it out of the box and ordered the sequel and in ten minutes I was reading the sequel without ever having to leave my bed. That story should be entitled How I Fell in Love with My Nook.
Ali makes some bad choices, but she has a lot of support from her family and friends. How important do you think are our non-romantic relationships in life?
Non-romantic relationships are critically important for so many reasons. I’ve never felt a purer love than I do for my sons, my dogs, a few of my cats that I’ve had over the years (I make that distinction intentionally because some cats, boy…) and one of my sisters, too (another distinction, ha ha). I adored my father and because I lost my mom as a babe, he was everything to me. Apart from sexual attraction, non-romantic love is crucial to everyone.
Plus, people in love are stupid. I mean, really, all those endorphins flooding our brains evaporate our common sense and good judgment in a snap. It is imperative that everyone has a support system for all problems but certainly to help out when one falls in love with an evil megalomaniac as Ali does. That doesn’t mean it will help, but it’s nice to know people try.
Eric Damien is very much a bad boy, but Ali just can't stay away from him. What do you think makes a bad boy so irresistible?
I think bad boys make our bodies go up and down with endorphins and adrenaline, dopamine, etc. It feels like a roller coaster ride and it can become addictive. Bottom line is they’re way more exciting than good boys. Perhaps it’s the unpredictability or the fact that they have few boundaries that make them so appealing; however, those very attributes are what we also quickly tire of too. It’s an interesting paradox.
While writing Heart to Fear, did you also have a hard time choosing between Geoffrey and Eric?
At the very beginning, I didn’t know who would win but once I decided on the evil and redemption focus and knew it would be a two-book novel, I also knew whom Ali would choose. What I didn’t know was whom she’d end up with at the end of book two and I didn’t even know if Eric would live to tell the story.
One reason Ali is drawn to Eric is that they’ve both been psychologically damaged. Geoffrey is more of a stable personality in that respect, and so Ali gravitates to the more troubled of the two men.
Tell us a bit more about the title. Why did you name the book "My Heart to Fear"?
Book titles are a torture for me. There’s nothing original under the sun. Try naming a band as I tried with my son. Everything is taken. Since you can’t trademark a title, I try not to use anything that’s been used in the last four or five years. Since this novel is about evil and redemption, I thought I’d use lyrics from the song Amazing Grace. I checked on Google and no book had that exact title (of My Heart to Fear). Unfortunately, a band had it and they were slightly displeased but oh well. I chose those specific words because Ali’s heart was taught to fear because of her molestation as a child. Eric both relieves her of that fear but creates new jeopardy for her heart. It just seemed so appropriate. The sequel is another line from the song (But Now I See).
Which of the characters did you find the most challenging to create?
Oh by far it was Ali Spencer, the protagonist. I love doing evil men so Eric was easy. So was Geoffrey. I know enough insufferable but erudite professors since I was a professional student and now am an adjunct professor.
Ali is complex and we don’t know until the very end of the second book whether or not she leans more on the side of light or dark, good or evil. Walking that line and keeping readers from knowing for certain was tricky. I wonder how many readers realize that what they think are surprises are actually foreshadowed quite a bit and aren’t meant to be surprises. The real surprise is Ali’s true colors.
The book has a couple of great twists. Did you plan them out from the beginning, or did they just "happen" while you were writing?
Both. Some were organic and some were planned. I wasn’t sure how the second book would end but I knew how My Heart would end from the start. In fact I wrote the end first, right after I wrote the character outline and treatment.
My Heart to Fear ends on a bit of a cliffhanger. When can readers expect "But Now I See" on Amazon?
Both novels are available now on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords, which distributes them to iBooks, etc.
What are you working on right now?
I finished writing a mystery a few months ago that I may publish under a different name since it is a different genre. I am pursuing a traditional publication for that title and I’m very excited about it.
Currently I’m working on two novels: one is a dark romance and the other is a more traditional romance that follows a slightly different course. I don’t like to be pigeonholed into a specific type of storyline. My first novel, Complements, is a YA paranormal but not in the way people have come to expect paranormal novels to be—it’s quite different and so it is hard to categorize. Then I wrote a fan fiction story, which began as a spoof on 50 Shades of Grey but became a novel unto itself, and that had a comic tone throughout even though it contained some dark subject matter. Then of course there was My Heart, which contains some graphic and disturbing scenes. My mystery novel is entirely different.
So… no pigeonholing for Lulu Astor.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
I am always available on Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook and I truly love to chat with readers on a daily basis. Although I don’t do signings currently, I’m up for doing crazy things with a reader or two every now and then. I recently met one of my readers when we visited a farm animal sanctuary together, which was great fun despite the fact that it was raining, freezing cold, and we never got to meet the baby goat who was our reason for visiting. Our families who tagged along were not impressed.