If you’ve been on the Parlé Mag site the last couple of years then this author’s name is probably pretty familiar to you by now. If you aren’t familiar, that’s okay, it won’t be that way for long. The name Ashley Te’Arra is one you will be immensely familiar with! With the release of her debut novel, Ashley Te’Arra is helping define what it means to be a young, black and success oriented black woman. Her uncanny ability to tell stories, mixed with her relentless pursuit of following her goals makes her a force to be reckoned with.
On May 11th, Ashley released, Fallin’ For A Nola Hoodlum: A Houston Love Tale, a passion project that has been years in the making. While it is just a debut novel, readers can expect it to be the first of many, maybe one day with a catalog as expansive as a couple of her favorite authors, Eric Jerome Dickey and Wahida Clark. As an editor of many of her previous stories, media related, I am happy to see her make this leap into the next phase of her career.
I caught up with Ashley to discuss her passion for writing, this debut novel and much more. Check out the full interview below…
Parlé Mag: Before we get into your story, who were your favorite authors coming up?
Ashley Te’Arra: Wahida Clark and Eric Jerome Dickey. They still are. That’s what’s so intriguing about urban fiction. There are so many realms of it. Whereas Wahida offers those hood, ratchet types of stories, Eric provides a realistic depiction of black love with a dash of drama and everything in between. I love it.
Parlé Mag: Favorite book of all time?
Ashley Te’Arra: “Keep the Faith: A Memoir” by Faith Evans. Although it’s a nonfiction book, it is still my absolute favorite! I am obsessed with autobiographies.
Parlé Mag: You’ve been working in media for the last few years, what if anything have you picked up for this transition as an author?
Ashley Te’Arra: The biggest things that I’ve picked up is the importance of having a thick skin, knowing your value and what your talent brings to the table—not discounting it for anyone, and remembering that everybody isn’t going to like what you write and the way that you write it.
Anyone who knows me would agree that I’m extremely sensitive. So, the smallest things get to me. But I’m learning that you just have to let some things roll off your shoulder like a grain of salt. Everyone will have their opinions, but you don’t have to listen to them.
I’m still on the road to that carefree zone in my life, but it takes time. I’m constantly growing, and it’s a process.
Parlé Mag: I feel like in these times only the passionate are still writing. What do you enjoy about writing/telling stories? What has helped you maintain at this point?
Ashley Te’Arra: I enjoy having the ability to touch people with my words. Whatever I write, whether it’s an article, an interview… whatever, I always try to write with a specific intent. I want people to take a message away from it. Even down to when I’m coming up with questions for the people I interview, I ask myself, ‘How do I want to get this person’s story out to the public?’ and ‘What do I want people to get from reading their story?’
As for what has helped me maintain, I would say, the reminder that I’m doing this for a reason. God wouldn’t have opened all of these wonderful doors and brought so many amazing people in my life to offer me guidance if he didn’t mean for me to be traveling this path.
I struggle with self-doubt, anxiety and depression, which has often made me want to give up, but I just always remind myself that I’m exactly where God wants me to be. I’ve come too far to throw in the towel, and I have so much further to go.
Parlé Mag: Do you remember the first thing you wrote for other people to see that wasn’t school related?
Ashley Te’Arra: Before I wrote my debut novel, I had a number of other unseen and unfinished story documents that were stacked away in my computer files, collecting dust. I don’t remember the name of this piece that I wrote, but it was something about a young girl who came from a broken home, and she was living with her drug-dealing brother. [laughs] I let my sister read it, but I never completed it.
Parlé Mag: Talk to me about your passion for writing. When did you realize that existed?
Ashley Te’Arra: It’s a funny story because I didn’t actually realize that writing was my “calling,” so to speak, or something that I was passionate about until I was a teen. As a child, I always thought that I would either be a psychiatrist or a celebrity makeup artist.
In school, my favorite subject was English, but I think it really all began with my mother. When I was younger, my mom was HUGE on collecting books for us to read. She was enrolled in all types of book clubs, and when my sister and I came on up in age, she enrolled us into book clubs for children as well. Every month, we would receive loads of books through the mail. This was back when e-books weren’t really popular. Heck, I don’t even think we knew about those. [laughs] The shelves in our home were literally filled with books, and we even had boxes upon boxes and some packed away in our storage building. So, then, my fascination with reading eventually sparked my interest in creative writing. I was probably between the ages of nine and eleven.
I had these notebooks that I would keep and write short stories and poems in. I was also big on keeping journals. But again, I was young, so I had no idea what having a “passion” for something meant… exactly. You can like something, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a passion for it. You know? I was just writing, and I knew that I liked it a little bit. [laughs] I knew that I liked making up stories, having something to tell. I was a shy kid, so writing was my comfy place and something that I did when I got bored.
As I grew, somehow, I drifted away from that though. For a while, I thought that I wanted to go to college and study Public Relations. But I got into blogging, which then led me into journalistic writing. I was still telling stories, but the only difference was… these were real stories about real people. Through working in journalism, I was able to go deeper and explore what was beneath the writing surface and everything else that came with it. I started soul-searching.
Then it just sort of hit me that I really liked the art of storytelling. I’ve always liked writing, but I looked at it more so as a hobby than something that I could see myself doing years and years down the line. That changed though. Something just ignited in me, letting me know that writing was it. This was my passion and my purpose. It was no longer just a “hobby.”
I wanted my words to resonate with people, make them feel something. So, from there, it just stuck.
Parlé Mag: Let’s talk about this debut novel, Fallin’ For A Nola Hoodlum: A Houston Love Tale, first of all, how does it feel to be releasing a debut novel!
Ashley Te’Arra: The feeling is indescribable. I knew that someday I wanted to write a book, but I just didn’t think that it would happen this soon and in the way that it did. Once I started working in media, my dream of one day being able to write books just kind of fell to the wayside. I didn’t think that I could do it, honestly. So, I just stuck with what I knew, which was journalism.
I actually wrote this book about two to three years ago, here and there, and I uploaded it to an online community for writers, which was called Wattpad, just to see if it would get a response. Over time, it accumulated over 100k reads and a lot of great comments. People loved it. I felt like I was doing something. [laughs]
However, I never intended on getting it published, officially. I didn’t think that it was good enough for all of that. But I guess God had other plans!
A few months back, one of the ladies who actually read the book on Wattpad had actually became a published author herself. She shot me a message on there and encouraged me to send the book in to a publishing company.
At first, I blew it off. I remember telling her, ‘Girl, this book is nowhere near good enough. It’s not even formatted right.’ That went in one ear and out of the other though! She wouldn’t let up. [laughs] And I appreciate her for that. She wanted to see me win and really give this author thing a shot.
I did, and now look! Here I am.
So, I feel very accomplished, excited, nervous… so many emotions.
Parlé Mag: Tell us about the book.
Ashley Te’Arra: Fallin’ For A NOLA Hoodlum: A Houston Love Tale follows the story of two individuals who both come from broken backgrounds. The female character is still holding on to the baggage of her mother being addicted to drugs, and she’s also in an abusive relationship. While the male character is dealing with the troubles from his traumatic childhood and now a toxic relationship as well.
Somehow, they cross paths, and, in a way, they become each other’s safe haven. They realize that they have a lot in common, both hungry for a better life and both lost, still trying to find themselves.
However, the fact that they are so much alike and are both harboring the pain from their pasts causes a rift and challenges arise.
Parlé Mag: What inspired this story?
Ashley Te’Arra: A variety of things. When I started working on it, I didn’t know where I wanted to go with it exactly. So, I just pulled inspiration as I went, and most of the storyline just came from this crazy mind of mine.
Parlé Mag: How long did it take to write it?
Ashley Te’Arra: I was writing a little bit at a time over a span of like nine months. I wasn’t in a rush, and it was just something that I worked on in my downtime.
Parlé Mag: Tell me about the people that inspired your characters. Who were you imagining when you wrote them?
Ashley Te’Arra: The female character, Raven, her personality is sort of similar to mine. We have some things in common, but certainly not everything! So, with her, I kind of pulled from myself and other women around me, or who I came across.
As for the male character, everyone knows my strong liking for the culture of New Orleans, the people from there, and August Alsina. So, I just wanted to envision someone who would embody that. I took from his personality a little and also sort of created my own persona of how I wanted this character to be.
Ironically, the character’s name is actually August Warren.
Parlé Mag: Why this title?
Ashley Te’Arra: Originally, the title of the book was called “Dreamer.” However, I had to change it to fit the urban market.
I chose this title, “Fallin’ For A NOLA Hoodlum: A Houston Love Tale,” because it just made sense to me. Raven is the main character who falls for August, who’s a former hoodlum from NOLA. So, it was only right.
Parlé Mag: How would you describe this whole process of creating and releasing this novel?
Ashley Te’Arra: A roller coaster. Creating this novel came relatively easy. It was fun to write. But actually seeking to get it published and going through the motions made the process quite difficult.
Once I realized that it was really happening, that’s when the fear set in. It’s still there!
I just want people to buy my book, read it, and enjoy it. People rarely give new authors a second chance if they don’t like the first book. So, my only hope is that I will captivate them enough to want to read more and stick around.
Parlé Mag: What’s next for you?
Ashley Te’Arra: What’s next for me is a second book! I’m already working on it. Hopefully I’ll have that out by June. Also, I’m continuing to nurture my career in media. I love journalism, and it’s been a blessing to have the opportunity to interview all of these important people and really study the industry.
In the fall, if it’s in God’s will, I’ll be enrolling back into college. I don’t want things to just stop here. I don’t want to get too complacent. One day, I want to be on the red carpets, conducting interviews there, promoting my books and all that.
So, I want to take the necessary steps to do so, strengthening my knowledge of the field.
Distributed through Miss Candice Presents publishing company, readers should check out Ashley Te’Arra’s debut novel because it’s a great read that will make you laugh, fuss, and maybe even want to fight. It’s not your typical love story!
Purchase Fallin’ For A NOLA Hoodlum: A Houston Love Tale now through Amazon – LINK HERE.
Readers Might Also Like: