From Sleepless Nights to Literary Success: Willow Winters’ Journey in Romance Writing

Empowering Women, Embracing Emotion, and Building a Self-Publishing Empire

PHOTO: Romance novels changed her life; she built an empire with romance novels

“Join us as we delve into the captivating world of Willow, an indie romance author who turned her passion for reading into a thriving career. Discover her inspirations, challenges, and the freedom of self-publishing.”

Willow started writing after having her little girl, Evie, December of 2015. All during her pregnancy with her she read romance novels. She only wanted to read romance novels and read everything she could get her hands on. She would read a book a day — sometimes two. In January she was staying up late with her newborn and thinking of all these stories. They came to her constantly. Finally she sat down and wrote.  Seven years later, she has built an empire with over 50 romance books published. 

What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?I fell in love with reading in high school and the book that pulled me down the rabbit hole is I Never Promised You a Rose Garden by Joanne Greenberg.  It pulled so much emotion out of me and I’ll never forget how hard I cried reading it and how much empathy I felt for the heroine.  It holds a very special place in my heart for that reason alone.  

What moves you most in a work of literature?

Emotions.  My highschool teacher once said, if a book makes you feel, then it is a good book.  I argued with her at the time because I felt anger that I had wasted my time reading the book in question, but nonetheless, she had a point.  I love writing emotion, feeling every rollercoaster ride of emotion as I write and I hope that’s what I deliver to readers as well. 

 What genres do you especially enjoy reading?

Once I started reading romance, I barely read anything else.  I used to read self help books, and women’s fiction, but one slip down the romance slide and I was gone forever.  

What books and authors have impacted your writing career?

Fifty Shades of Gray absolutely brought me down this path.  I’d never read a romance novel before and only read it because I had jury duty and a friend of mine gave it to me to occupy my time.  Needless to say, I was shocked and devoured the book within a day.  I’d never read so quickly.  I also had no idea that the books would impact my life the way they did.  I became nearly obsessed, reading more than I ever had before and finding myself coping with a lot of changes in my life through the works of fiction.  I read a book a day on average, for nearly a year until I had my first child.  My reading slowed until I was pregnant with my second and then I relied on romance once again as I had no energy and was home alone with a toddler most of the time.  When my little girl was born, stories came to me, demanding to be written.  As they say, the rest is history. 

What kind of reader were you as a child? 

I always loved to read. Everything from Black Beauty and The Secret Garden to Goosebumps and Grimm’s Fairy Tales.  I was also a bit of a nerd in school, and I loved to write as well.  At night, we would read a chapter before bed of whatever book we were reading and then once the lights were off, I’d make up stories for my brother and sister sometimes.  I remember once I had a story about a Giant and his house and I knew if I started to describe all of his house my younger siblings would fall asleep before I’d have to figure out what was actually happening so I would start from the beginning of that story as often as I could. 

When did you first realize you could make a career out of self publishing romance novels?

Within the first year of indie publishing, my husband was able to quit his job as a chemist to help me.  I was a stay at home  mom with a toddler and a newborn, but I saw so much potential in what I was doing.  I loved writing and I’ll admit I was reckless at the time with publishing, but the readers were there and each book did better than the last.  Eight months in, I had so many stories in my head that wanted to be written and so many readers following and waiting, I begged my husband to help me.  I’m so grateful he did.  My business wouldn’t be what it is without him. 

What is it like working with your husband in this industry?

Shawn quit to help me nearly 6 years ago and only a year into self publishing.  At first, it was rocky.  I needed help not only with the business, running advertisements and such, but also with our two young children.  It was quite a shift in our household in practically every way, but we survived and found our balance and now we’re thriving.  Shawn is in charge of a number of business aspects on the publishing side which allows me to focus on writing.  It definitely took a moment to figure out which tasks should be delegated to who and some time for Shawn to learn the ropes.  Sometimes still we have to pause to reevaluate and consider bringing in someone else for a task that we simply don’t have the time or tools to do.  The industry is always changing and I’m grateful to have my partner by my side with every shift. 

What is the hardest part of self publishing?

Remembering that it’s not about the launch and that it’s going to be okay. There’s no manual for self publishing that covers all the bases and is personalized to your book.  There’s not a team of professionals who are up to date with changes in the algorithms or markets and they’re ready to help if a new release falls flat or suddenly books aren’t selling and you don’t know why.  This industry is a wild roller coaster with a steep learning curve, as a creative as well as a professional, it’s difficult to separate the emotions at times to think logically and problem solve. 

What is the best part of self publishing?

I can make any changes I want, at any time.  If I see there’s a shift in the market for discreet covers for romance novels, I can make my entire catalog of 50+ books discreet with the snap of my fingers – which I have.  I’m not asking permission, I’m not waiting on a team of individuals who are wondering if it will be financially worth it or going over budget they have delegated for each of their authors.  I can simply do it with no one to tell me no (other than my wallet and husband).  That control and freedom is priceless.  Especially for someone like me who is obsessed with the industry and romance novel business.  Which is a multi billion dollar industry. 

What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

Don’t stop writing. Whatever you do, just keep going.  This industry changes on the whim of social media, retailers and other avenues to which we have no control.  There are high highs and low lows.  There are so many times I thought I was a fraud and not worthy of being an author when a book would fail and I remember, I didn’t go to school to be a writer, no agent took me on, and I was my own publisher.  So what made me good enough to do this?  That’s imposter syndrome for you and it’s very normal.  Just write the book for you and don’t stop.  You are worthy and there are so many readers who will love your work.  Even if you haven’t found them yet.

  • Excerpt from the book.  I get why Beauty fell in love with the Beast, but it doesn’t change who Carter is.  There’s no magical rose or kiss that will turn him into a prince.  All Carter will ever be is a beast. – All He’ll Ever Be
  • “I never thought I would reach this point of success to be honest. It’s insane to me that I have connected with so many readers and that romance novels have forever changed my life.”

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