Author Ai Love is frank, open-minded, and most of all, utterly honest. Be that as it may, she makes it clear right at the start of her email, responding to a set of questions sent to her, that she is terrified of losing her anonymity and right now she has been using the cover art of her book as her profile pics. That doesn’t stop her from sharing her thoughts, however. And although she is very open to fan questions and interaction, she prizes her anonymity too much for a meet and greet or video performance.
A former political journalist, who has written op-eds for several large publications in the United States of America, the fourty-year-old, who is currently residing in the Rocky Mountain Area, the US, tells Stavyah Vatsarah, a roving editor with the Literary Express, in her response email that she worked full time until she got laid off in 2019. In the email, she writes about everything under the Sun – her published works, her hobbies, her family… Quite interestingly, she goes on to state that her first erotica entitled ‘Becoming Monsters’ has zero profanity because she is not too fond of using profane words. ‘If you can’t find something good to read, write it,’ she states.
A LITERARY EXPRESS EXCLUSIVE
Stavyah Vatsarah: Glad to make your acquaintance. To begin with, could you let us know when you started writing?
Ai Love: I wrote my first short story when I was 10 years old. I wrote over a million words of awful fanfiction throughout my teens, and no, I will not provide links (the internet is forever, and I need to hunt down these servers and burn them to the ground). When I got a degree in English, I started work in various jobs while getting into politics and writing op-eds for several large national publications. I worked on this full time for about five years until I got laid off last year.
During all this time, I tried to get my fiction off the ground. But a number of rejections hit me hard for years. So, the writing was slow. When I got laid off, I said screw it and dived straight into an erotica story I’d been outlining for over two years, and within a few months and some help from an editor friend I met in college, I got my book published.
Stavyah Vatsarah: Tell us about your published works. How did they happen? What’s your latest book about?
Ai Love: …I should probably read all the questions first rather than answering them one at a time…
As mentioned, I have a lot of stuff published. However, as Ai Love, I only have Becoming Monsters Book 1: Growing Problems. Published in Feb 2020, I would say it is a bit of a unicorn in the erotica genre: a long-form explicit story. It mostly happened because I read a lot of erotica, and I have long been frustrated with how short many of them are. Also, I like transforming monster girls and growing female anatomy, a sub-niche of the genre that I feel doesn’t have enough content to satiate me. On top of all that, I don’t like profanity. Becoming Monsters has zero profanity, which is downright unheard of in erotica. As they say, if you can’t find something good to read, write it.
The main story of Becoming Monsters follows Honoka, a shy girl living in Boston five years after the Change when everyone in the world got LitRPG magical powers with levels, classes and – in some cases – new Races. Honoka received all that but is frustrated she hasn’t been able to unlock the secrets of her own unique Race and class. This is all about to change when she has a chance encounter with a succubus prostitute (the cover showcases this meeting) and Honoka quickly realizes there is more to her Race than meets the eye, something that could change the world all over again.
Stavyah Vatsarah: Before you start with a book, do you in your mind have the plot and the characters you are going to incorporate, or do you not know how the story is going to unfold?
Ai Love: I am an outline fiend! Growing Problems has over 30,000 words worth of notes spread out in over a dozen documents with a 12,000-word outline on top of that. Character biographies, which usually include an etymology history of how I got the character’s name, world-building notes, random ideas for chapters… A third of these notes are just about how the LitRPG system works and keeping track of all the stats for all the characters.
Then I have all the sexual stuff. Because many of the characters grow various parts of their anatomy, I have special calculators that help me approximate realistic weight and size and fluid volume even as parts of their body grow larger than a car. I have whole spreadsheets dedicated solely to the main character and her changing body. On the page, it just reads a girl growing out of her clothing, but on my Scrivener page, I have multiple pages up tracking how to make these unrealistic changes as real as I can.
Book 2, my current WIP, has almost double the number of notes and outlines. I also have a master outline for the trilogy, so I also know basically what will happen in Book 3.
When I write though, I use my outlines as guideposts. That way, I leave myself room to let the characters act organically. I’ve already gone WAAAAY over my chapter word count limit for half my chapters in Book 2 and it is because the characters are acting outside of my outlines. It’s frustrating, but a good kind of frustrating.
- Stavyah Vatsarah: We’d love to know who your favourite authors are.
Ai Love: Jim Butcher and Ilona Andrews are two contemporary favourites, love their imaginations. I love how Butcher weaves a story with character decisions that are both intelligent and plausible. Andrews can bring the heat without sacrificing good characters and a good story. Mary Shelley is a major classical influence, and her treatment of what it means to be a monster has been an inspiration since I was a child. I blame BustArtist for getting me into the expansion erotica kink. But the author that has done the most to influence me and inspire me to write is JC McCrae and his phenomenal series Worm. So much in how I write and craft a story hails back to reading those chapters every week.
Stavyah Vatsarah: When do you generally write? Do you follow a schedule, or do you write when you have an urge to pen down your thoughts?
Ai Love: I work full time in a job that has me spending 50-70 hours a week doing paperwork. Mostly, my writing time is after the gym but before work starts (7-8 am), some time between eating lunch (12-1 pm), then a little more time after work (7-9 pm). I then get a few more hours on Saturday, and I don’t write on Sunday normally. Depending on if I’m doing something else or being distracted, I could lose some or all of these times a day, but I can usually fit in at least an hour a day.
Stavyah Vatsarah: I’m sure your readers would want to know if becoming an author was a conscious decision you made.
Ai Love: I’ve always been an author, but mostly I wanted to be one of those girls huddled in a room and typing away all my stories while letting everyone else do all the other stuff. When that didn’t work, I’ve realized over the last year that all that other stuff is really hard and time-consuming, and I don’t like it.
Marketing is hard!
Hiring an editor is expensive!
Amazon doesn’t like erotica!
Anyway, I’ll just keep writing, which is my favourite part. Second favourite. Reading a steamy story is my favourite.
Stavyah Vatsarah: How do you juggle writing and other tasks? What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?
Ai Love: By putting a lot of them off until the book is done. I love playing simulation games like Minecraft and Satisfactory but haven’t had time for them. I also used to run with a TTRPG crowd and did weekly game nights but not for over a year. Right now I haven’t read many new books for over a year, and that makes me sad. Only thing I get is an episode or two of anime curled on up the couch with my spouse a night, and that’s about all I have time for.
When the trilogy is done I plan on taking a huge break just to get myself centered again.
Stavyah Vatsarah: Could you let us know about your works in progress?
Ai Love: Becoming Monsters Book 2: Heralds is currently 28.5 chapters completed of the rough out of about 38 total chapters. The sequel to Growing Problems, it continues the story less than a week after the end of Book 1 and raises the stakes for Honoka and her growing harem of wives. I don’t want to say much more but unedited previews of various chapters can be found on my blog. WARNING, explicit content ahead.
I hope to do this full time, but so far I’ve sunk thousands of dollars into this project and haven’t even made back my investment. I hope to see where I’m at when Book 2 is released early next year, but I’m too anxious to dwell on future success or failure. I’ll just have to wait and see.
Stavyah Vatsarah: What would you like to tell the budding authors who lose motivation if a few of their works don’t do well?
Ai Love: Being an author isn’t a race and success is different for everyone. Start with writing your first chapter instead of writing a whole book. Eat the literary elephant one page at a time. In no time you’ll find yourself with something to publish and then the real work begins.
Stavya Vatsarah: What’s your routine on a normal day like? And do you speak any languages besides English?
Ai Love: I wake up, hit the gym, pump iron until I can’t feel whole muscle groups, drink a protein shake, go to work, do some writing, make a decent amount of money doing something I don’t like, lunch while writing, more mindless paperwork, home and late dinner with spouse while watching anime or doing some more writing. Shower and get not enough sleep. Saturdays involve more writing and chores. Sunday involves church (I’m a devout Christian), lazy naps, and cuddle marathons.
Answering the second part, I am partially fluent in Japanese, mostly from reading too much manga as a child. I say partially but I can hit a 60-80% understanding rate with a lot of light novels I have read. My problem is I can’t speak a word of it in conversation, having never had any opportunity to practice. I can probably muddle my way through writing a simple story in Japanese, but I’ve never tried.
Stavyah Vatsarah: And our final question: If there is one thing that you’d like to change in the world, what would that be?
Ai Love: Amazon’s stupid policy involving erotica and how they dungeon explicit works. Put a warning label on it, put us in our own category, but don’t banish us from the search algorithm entirely! If there was another platform with even half the reach as Amazon, I’d be using them, but Amazon is too big to ignore.