And today I’ve got another fun author interview! Thanks so much to my twitter friend and fellow indie author, M.E. Aster (he/they), for participating in a Q&A! (Also as a reminder, if you’re interested in being featured in one of these author interviews, please feel free to reach out via email/social media/or carrier pigeon!)

M.E. Aster lives in the country with their parents, their youngest sister, and their three cats, Ghost, Boo, and Snickers. They also maintain a full-time job in customer service. Aster has an educational background in music performance, web design, and computer programming, but they have decided to pursue writing as their favored career path. M.E Aster is the author of Three Halves of a Whole, Take His Place, & Hopeless, Breathless.

Hayley: Hey Mandy! Thanks so much for letting me ask you a few questions! So I’ve read Three Halves of a Whole, and I would definitely describe in as a deeply emotional read. What first inspired you to write it?

Mandy: Hello Hayley! Thank you so much for interviewing me! My inspiration for Three Halves of a Whole was actually real life events. I had a friend that I based Riley off of although we definitely didn’t have as much romantic connections as I wrote into the story, but he was the main inspiration for it. It was one of the first stories I ever finished and thought–wow I wanted to share this with people. Looking back after publishing three more books, I see so many things I could have done better, but I am still proud of that story, and it holds a special place in my heart.

Hayley: Whoa. That is really intense. Thank you so much for sharing. So I haven’t gotten a chance to read Take His Place yet, but are there any common themes or elements readers should expect from your novels? Any tropes you love or love to avoid?

Mandy: So Take His Place is very different from Three Halves of a Whole. It is a slow-burn, friends to lovers romance with a HEA. Although the stories differ in a lot of ways, romance pretty much always plays a theme in my stories, and almost all of my characters are queer. 

As a kid growing up, I never had any books about gay or trans or queer people in general, and now I want all my stories to represent some part of that spectrum. And as for tropes, I am a sucker for them so I am sure most of the traditional romance tropes will show up in my books eventually.

Hayley: Aw yay! I love happily ever afters and some romantic tropey goodness! I also absolutely love the reels on your TikTok! They’re always so catchy and poignant, and they make me itch to crack open your books right away. How do you go about making such accurate visual representations of your stories? Do those kinds of visuals help you in the inspiration process, or do you mostly make them after the story is written?

Mandy: Aw thank you so much! I am so honored that you like my reels. I am fairly new to Tiktok and making reels for my books/characters, but I have always loved making moodboards and aesthetics for my stories, usually at the planning stage to help give me inspiration. For some books I have a vivid picture of everyone already in my head, but other times I more have a personality and not so much a look, so I will browse Pinterest and put together inspiration boards to get me motivated. I have one for each of my books, and it really helps me to get in the mood for the story I am working on.

Hayley: That’s so cool! I used to be obsessed with Pinterest but have never tried it for book inspiration. I’ll have to try that out. So, I’ve seen you post about your full-time day job before and your three cats Ghost, Boo, and Snickers, so it seems like you stay really busy. How do you go about balancing your full-time job and the other aspects of your life with your writing schedule? Do your experiences in your job influence or inspire your writing in any way?

Mandy: Honestly I have not been doing the best job balancing things lately so I will get back to you on that…

I don’t know what happened but I used to find so much time to write, and now I am lucky if I sneak in an hour a day. I do work full time at a grocery store, and I also help care for my youngest sister who is disabled. Add that in with the cats and life in general and I feel like I am always busy.

But my work experiences have definitely inspired a lot of my stories. Kaleb in Take His Place is based off a guy I dated who I met at work. I also name a lot of my less likeable characters after people or customers who irk me. I actually attempted to write a version of my life as a story once as well, but I put that on the back burner because it hit too hard at the time, but I might come back to it one day.

Hayley: Oof. It definitely sounds like you’ve got a lot on your plate, and I hope you find more time for yourself and your writing soon! I’m totally smiling about the naming unlikable characters after customers that irk you though. That seems rather therapeutic!🤣Can you give us any hints on what you’re working next and when readers can expect your next book to launch?

Mandy: Well my next book actually launches on Nov. 29th, which is coming up way too soon in my opinion (I hope it’ll be ready by then.) It is an omegaverse novella titled Hopeless, Breathless featuring a timid alpha and his omega best friend. It is my first time dipping my toes into this kind of romance, but I have always loved reading this trope, and I had just as much fun writing it. If you are interested in checking it out, it is available for preorder right now for only 99 cents!

And as for my next story, I think I am going to focus my attention on finishing my Kindle Vella story Dancing With Monsters once Hopeless, Breathless is published. It’s a rockstar romance with tons of angst and once I finish it on Vella I want to make it available as an ebook and a paperback as well!

Hayley: Yay! I’m sure you’ll nail the book launch, and a rockstar romance sounds like so much fun. Thanks so much again for participating in the Q&A. I really enjoyed the interview! Now it’s time for a Lightning Round!

o    Favorite book you’ve read lately?

I am currently reading Face the Music by M.L. East and I am loving it! It is the sequel to Trick of the Spotlight and it is sooooo good!

o    Favorite quote?

I have always loved this quote by Oscar Wilde…“You will always be loved, and you will always be in love with love.” I don’t know why but it has always resonated with me. I am definitely in love with the idea of love, that is for sure.

o    Favorite show?

This is a hard question…I have so many shows I love, but I think if I had to pick just one it would be Dr. Who. That show was such a big part of of my childhood and although I wasn’t as a big a fan of this current season, it is still very special to me.

o    Favorite season?

I always want to say that Autumn is my favorite season but where I live (Texas) it really doesn’t exist. I love the cooler temperatures and the leaves changing and the festive atmosphere and all that, but here it’s more like “oh wow it’s 80 degrees instead of 100 degrees nice.”

o    Advice for aspiring indie authors?

My only advice is to write the story you want to read. You can try and pander to what is popular or what is selling, but if you aren’t enjoying it, then it won’t matter. And yes, you might not be a bestseller or make a lot of money, but if those are your goals then maybe being an indie author isn’t the best path. I attempted to query and find an agent and a publisher but in the end, I just wanted my books out in the world, and I wanted control over what I put out there. That’s why I chose to be an indie author and self publish, and if that is what you want to do, then go for it. You got this.

Aw, that’s definitely good advice! Thanks so much to Mandy for the fantastic interview! To hear more from Mandy, you can check out his Twitter here for updates. I hope you all enjoyed this interview, because I’m totally loving them and hopefully will be able to do many more in the future!