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Snippets of an Interview with Mina V. Esguerra

My friend interviewed my favorite Filipino chick lit author, Mina V. Esguerra, for one of his classes. Mina talked about it a bit in this post. My friend sent me a copy of the entire interview and I got permission to post some of the questions and answers here on my blog. I thought it would be a good idea to share snippets of the interview with the rest of Mina’s fans. If you haven’t read any of her books and would like to check out my reviews, here are the links: Fairy Tale Fail, My Imaginary Ex, Love Your Frenemies, No Strings Attached, Interim Goddess of Love.

When did you start to write?
I started experimenting with writing when I was in Grade 5. We didn’t have school newspaper for our elementary school and that’s when I started trying to set one up although we only have one issue for it in a year. In Grade 6, that’s when I started to write more in fiction, trying to write short stories and in High School, that’s when I seriously write, plotting things and finishing stories.

How has social media helped you as an author? Has blogging community help you find your audience and vice versa?
I started the blog because I felt that I should as everyone else was doing it. My benchmark were international authors who have their own blogs, talking about what they did, talking about their process. Then I started to see reviews of my books in social media, in blogs, in Facebook, in Friendster. I saw that when I had published a book, people were mentioning it in their social media accounts. Before, I was just hiding, just looking at them without commenting back or replying. After a while, I realized I should say something as it has been so nice of them to have bought the book, read it and shared it with their friends. And I should acknowledge it somehow so I started all the social media accounts in case they want to reach out to me and I can actually reply.

It also did help me find my audience as that’s where I discovered book bloggers. I didn’t realize how active they were and that they actually would pay attention to the book I had just released. Through people’s blog, I also discovered what kind of people who read my books, their age range, where they live, if they are Filipinos or they aren’t. And vice versa, it helped certain people to find me by just being there.

What do you consider your greatest achievement in relation to your work as a writer?
There is little victory in each book especially Fairy Tale Fail. I put it up on Amazon and it exceeded my expectations in terms of sales. I’m very proud of that because it sort of proves in my mind that international market for Filipino written work is there. At that time, I really set it as an experiment if people would buy it and people bought it. That is an achievement I am proud of.

Of all the books you have written, do you have any personal favorite?
I feel proud of each one in different ways. For example, “My Imaginary Ex”, which Im proud of because it is the first one I sold and the first one to have been published. I am very proud of how it turned out story wise. “Fairy Tale Fail”, on the hand, is because of what it achieved overseas. “No String Attached”, the third one, which was also published by Summit, has a premise of a 29 year old girl dating a 24 year old guy. Certain people are affected by it. I am proud of it because the kind of responses and feedback I got for that book is different. The fourth one, “Love your Frenemies”, I am proud of that because it was difficult to write. It was a personal writing challenge and the fact that there are positive reviews, I was able to validate that I took on the challenge and survived it. Then the latest book, “Interim Goddess of Love”, because it too was an experiment for younger crowd and so far the response is very nice.

Are we expecting more books soon?
I have a Summit book coming out in a few months. Then I plan of releasing two more in Amazon. The one in Summit is already done. The other two, I still have to write but the outline is already there and it’s just a matter of filling out the books.

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Thank you, Mina and Mister O, for letting me post this! Looking forward to Mina’s next book. :)


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Queen’s Thief Week: Guest Post by Vince Natale

Vince Natale is the incredibly talented artist responsible for the matching covers of the Queen’s Thief series. I seriously love these covers so I wanted to feature Vince here on the blog for Queen’s Thief Week. I’m pretty clueless when it comes to interviewing illustrators so I asked my friend Capillya of That Cover Girl to help me out with the questions. Also, his concept art for the series has been featured on Sounis, which you can view here and here (click on the links only if you’ve read the books, some images may be spoilery).

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Have you always wanted to become an illustrator? How did you get into illustrating book covers?
I knew I wanted to become an illustrator during my second year of art school. I’d always wanted to be an artist, but wasn’t really aware of the potential in the commercial area, the interesting and broad variety of things that people/companies needed to have art for. When I met my illustration mentor Peter Caras, I was really attracted to the types of things he was doing and decided that illustration was the thing for me.

I got into book covers, I suppose, because of the great demand, the fact that my mentor was a book cover illustrator, and with books there was lots of room for creativity, and varied subject matter.

What’s it like doing the artwork for the Queen’s Thief series? Was there pressure to make them have the same feel? Did they give you free rein in coming up with a concept?
Working on the Attolia series was a great experience. I really had a lot of fun with these covers. They were limited in their complexity, which meant I could focus on interesting detail, work with creative lighting situations, and color schemes. There was a need for these covers all to have the same “feel”, but I wouldn’t call it “pressure”. Most of the “feel” I think came from the squarish shape of the art, and the kind of zooming in on details of a “scene” rather than a whole scene itself. Hands were important, and kind of the focus, and definitely a common thread in the covers, as well as no complete faces.

For the first three books the publisher (editors/art directors) had a rough idea of what they wanted for the covers. and sent me some mocked up comps to go by. Of course visual things changed a little bit due to my input and interpretation, but the basic idea or concept remained. The last book, though, was a different story. I was given the manuscript to read and come up with concepts. I sketched out quite a few ideas for the publisher – there was just so much imagery in the book that really could have worked well in expressing the theme and color of the story. After seeing my rough concepts the editors decided that something including a horse in it might be more appropriate. I wasn’t in total agreement with them on this as it would force the cover to have a decidedly different look, content and design/composition wise, than the rest. They were OK with that, and after I delivered sketches of the main character on horseback, that’s what they decided to go with.

I love the common theme of hands and only partially seen faces in the covers. Did you get to read any of the books? If so, which one was your favorite, and did it have a connection to the ease of illustrating for that cover?
The only complete book I read was the last one (A Conspiracy of Kings). Reading it gave plenty of fodder for visual imagery and it was somewhat easy to come up with ideas. For the other books I was given synopses that gave me enough information to get a good idea of the characters’ personalities, looks, attitudes and behaviours. They also gave me good idea of plot and atmosphere, as well as background settings to work from in order to decide on a “tone” or “feel” for the individual illustrations.

How would you describe your particular type of artistry?
Hmm. I suppose my style of work would be considered contemporary realism. Some say photorealism. Me, I just call it realism.

Can you give us samples of other book covers that you’ve designed?
Gee, I’ve done so many. I’ve done covers in the genre’s of Horror, Fantasy, Mystery, Sci-Fi, Mens Adventure, Historical, Romance, Urban Fantasy, Vampires, and Young Adult.

What are some of your favorite book covers?
The Attolia series happen to be a few of my favorites. Others that I like, and liked doing were some of the covers for “The Vampire Huntress series” by LA Banks. Generally, my favorite things are on the darker, more mysterious side.

If anyone is interested in seeing more work, feel free to point them to my website.

Can you give us sample sketches that you did for the covers?
These first four are my “tight” or final sketches for the covers showing some color notes as well.

These are the rough sketches I did for Conspiracy of Kings that were rejected. I was REALLY hoping to do the one of him in the embroidered coat with his hands on the hilt of the sword… Oh well!

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Thank you, Vince! Isn’t the whole creative process behind the covers so very interesting? What I love about these covers is they represent the contents of the books really well (except probably for the size of Hamiathes’s Gift in The Thief). I think the sketches for A Conspiracy of Kings are great because those are actual scenes that Vince envisioned while reading the book. I really want to have matching hardcover editions with these beautiful Vince Natale covers. What you think of the Queen’s Thief covers and everything else that Vince shared with us?


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Interview: Hazel Osmond, Author of Who’s Afraid of Mr. Wolfe?

Who’s Afraid of Mr. Wolfe is a contemporary romance novel that I thoroughly enjoyed reading (my review). It’s the debut novel of UK author Hazel Osmond and I got my copy from the Book Depository. I wanted to learn more about her writing process for the book so I decided to do an interview and yay, she was kind enough to answer some questions for me. Please give Hazel Osmond a warm welcome! I hope you have fun going through her answers – a certain tall, dark and handsome hero from a BBC series is mentioned several times.

Who’s Afraid of Mr. Wolfe is your debut novel – can you tell us more about your writing process for it? When did you decide to become a writer?
In the past, I had written one or two short stories, but every time I thought about writing a book, I ended up looking at a blank computer screen. I just did not feel inspired. Then I saw actor Richard Armitage in the BBC’s adaptation of Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South and went to a website to check out who he was. There I stumbled on fan fiction… basically storytelling that uses existing characters from a book, play, film or TV series and builds on them to create new stories. After reading a few of them, I felt inspired to have a go myself and wrote a kind of adventure/love story featuring another Richard Armitage character, Guy of Gisborne.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it felt. You post chapters and get feedback from the readers and while I was writing, the rest of the world just seemed to disappear. I knew I’d found my genre… the stories I wrote were very long and definitely book length, so when a reader suggested I should have a go at a modern romance, I didn’t feel daunted. The idea came to me quickly and I finished the first draft in about four months.

The ad agency setting of Who’s Afraid of Mr. Wolfe felt realistic and it actually made me want to work in an ad agency. Was that inspired by your own working experience?
Yes…and no. I worked in an ad agency in Newcastle, in the North of England, so it was not as glamorous as the London agency that Ellie works for, and our clients were not as high profile. But, the process of coming up with ideas and trying to sell them to others in the agency and to the client is very real. Also, while I have avoided basing any of my characters on real people, they are definitely true to the larger-than-life characters you meet wherever creative people gather.

Some of the real things I’ve heard about, or seen, during my time in advertising, I actually didn’t dare to put in!

Throughout the course of the novel, Jack Wolfe keeps being compared to Heathcliff. I wonder why you chose that particular literary figure? I actually prefer the Richard Armitage (Mr. Thornton) comparison. :P
I very much wanted to write a chicklit that had all the traditional elements – Alpha male, scruffy heroine who needs to up her game, gay best friend – and give it a bit of a twist. I suppose I chose Heathcliff as the most brooding, closed down character I could think of… and wanted to suggest to the reader, that Jack was similarly afflicted. With Ellie loving books so much, it also allowed me to show how, like you, she’s not very impressed by the real Heathcliff, nor by Jack, at the start. Of course the twist is that there is something softer under all Jack’s granite and whereas love is a destructive force as far as the real Heathcliff is concerned, with Jack it’s quite the opposite.

Somewhat related to the previous question, who are some of your literary fictional crushes?
The first one ever was Ross Poldark in the Winston Graham books. Then there was Jem Merlin in ‘Jamaica Inn’ by Daphne du Maurier. Recently I’ve had a bit of a thing for Jonathan Strange in Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Suzanna Clarke. They’re all tall, dark, kind of brooding, a bit naughty so there’s a definite pattern there.

A certain section of the novel goes like this:


“Jack shook his head. ‘Books. What is it with women and books? My sisters were the same. They were always buying books for boys they fancied.’
Ellie bent down and picked up the stone and put it on the table. ‘It’s like sending a love letter without having to write it yourself,’ she said softly.”


What are some of the books that you think would make excellent gifts for guys?

I think it depends on the age of the guy. As a teenager, I wanted to give boys Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Tragic, high emotional intensity… I’m sure it would have sent them running. I think Scott Fitzgerald, Tender is the Night or The Great Gatsby have that air of beauty, sadness and glamour that you’d like a guy to know moved you. Also Anna Karenina, Anais Nin short stories as they are very ‘ahem’ and definitely Ian McEwan’s Atonement. Hmm… there aren’t many of these that end well, so I don’t know what message I’d be sending out!

Who’s Afraid of Mr. Wolfe falls under chick lit or contemporary romance. What are some of your recommended books under that genre?
I love Freya North, particularly Secrets… I like how she takes her time with a story. Harriet Evans, The Love of Her Life. Philippa Ashley’s Decent Exposure and Jill Mansell’s To the Moon and Back.

Are you working on your next novel now? Can you tell us a little more about it?
I’m actually working on my third! The second one is out in May though, and I’d love to tell you about it. It’s set in Northumberland this time, not London, and is about Mack,an ex tabloid journalist who is blackmailed into working undercover to try to find out all he can about a big star’s love life. To do that he has to make friends with the star’s cousin, Jennifer. He knows it will be a hard job to do, but the moment he sees Jennifer he understands it’s going to be much, much tougher than he thought.

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Thank you, Hazel, for your thoughtful answers to my questions! I hope this interview generates more interest for your novel. I need to look up the books that you mentioned and read the ones that I haven’t encountered. I’m looking forward to your second novel next year.

Learn more about Hazel through her website or follow her on Twitter.


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Interview: Hannah Harrington, Author of Saving June

Saving June is one of my favorite reads this year (read my review) so I was delighted when the author, Hannah Harrington, said that she’d be willing to do an interview on my blog. YAY for awesome authors! Saving June is her debut novel and is a contemporary YA novel focusing on Harper and how she’s dealing with her sister’s death. Saving June was released early in Australia (lucky Aussies!) and will be released in the US on November 22. Let’s all give Hannah a warm welcome. :)

What inspired you to focus on the themes present in Saving June – suicide, grief, road trips, music, etc.?
Everything just seemed to tie together! Music is something that meant a lot to me as a teenager. It felt sometimes like it was another way to identify yourself, by what you listened to, in the same way teens identify or express themselves by what they wear or what films they like or what books they read. For me at least discovering new music and figuring out what I liked and what I didn’t was a means to self-discovery. I think too at that age that loss – any kind of loss, not necessarily death – affects you differently, especially if it’s your first time dealing with something of that nature, and we all lean on different things. For me, music was always something I turned to a lot, whether to be comforted or just wanting to connect to something – or even just to escape for a little while. And the road trip just made the perfect frame for the story.

Music is a huge aspect of the novel. Aside from the playlists already included in the book, do you have other songs in mind that readers can listen to while reading Saving June?
I spent a lot of time putting those together and even then I’d later remember another song I wanted to include and kick myself for leaving it off! It took a lot of restraint not to just list one hundred songs, haha. If I could, I’d add songs like “One Headlight” by The Wallflowers, “Born To Run” by Bruce Springsteen, “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac… those are just off the top of my head!

If you had to choose between music and books, what would you pick?
Ahh, this is impossible for me to choose! If I pick music, does that mean I can still listen to audio books? It’s the only way I can make a decision.

Clever answer to the previous question! While you were writing the novel, did you ever think that readers would develop fictional crushes on Jake? Do you have your own fictional crushes?
Ha! I did not really think that far ahead when writing Jake – I wanted to make him appealing to me as a reader, or more specifically appealing to Harper. He was the most fun character to write so I love hearing that other people enjoy him. And yes, I have fictional crushes of my own! Troy Barnes from the TV show Community (played by Donald Glover) is totally adorable to me. He is definitely my TV boyfriend.

Saving June is a contemporary YA novel and I’m always curious about what other books authors can recommend in their own genre. What are some contemporary YA novels that you love?

I love contemporary YA – it’s what I read most growing up, and I still love it now. Some recent favorites have been Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers, Wide Awake by David Levithan, and The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty. All of them are wonderful!

Are you working on another book right now? Can you please tell us more about it?
Right now I’m preparing for my second book, SPEECHLESS, which will be released by HarlequinTeen in September 2012. It’s the story of a girl named Chelsea Knot who takes a voluntary oath of silence after her gossip-mongering ways yield unexpected consequences… there’s a boy involved, too, of course!

Yay, another Hannah Harrington to look forward to! Finally, Saving June has been getting a lot of positive feedback from bloggers and readers all over the world, how does it feel to have such a successful debut novel?
It’s very exciting, and humbling! It’s been a bit nerve-wracking knowing that people are finally reading it now, so to know that some people really connect to and love the story is a thrill. I can’t express how much it means to me!

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Thank you, Hannah, for being so nice and friendly and for sharing more of your thoughts with us! Looks like I have to listen to a couple more songs, watch the TV show Community, read Cracked Up to Be and Wide Awake, and TRY to wait patiently for Speechless to be released. Saving June fans, hope you enjoyed learning more about Hannah and for those who haven’t read the book, I hope this interview encourages you to pick it up. It really is a lovely book and I can’t recommend it enough.


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BBAW Interview Swap: Reviews by Lola

My interview partner for this year’s Book Blogger Appreciation Week is a new-to-me blogger, Stephanie of Reviews by Lola. She’s 27-year-old and is from Columbus, Ohio. Lola is actually the name of her first dog as an adult and that’s why she decided to use that name for her blog. Get to know Stephanie through her answers to these questions…

First off, give us an introduction of you as a reader – what genres do you like reading and who are some of your favorite authors?

Over the years, I have gotten a great idea of who I am as a reader. I mostly stick to literary fiction and literary mysteries. Blogging has opened my eyes to other genres and I do feel like I have opened up a little more as far as my reading habits go. Pre-blogging, I rarely read YA, but now I do like to add some YA into my reading diet every now and again. I try to keep my mind open to suggestions from other readers and bloggers now because the majority of my reading selections comes from blogs now.

As far as my favorite authors, I do have a few. Nick Hornby was one that I didn’t love until I read The Polysyllabic Spree and its counterparts earlier this year and now I am ready to read High Fidelity now and some of his other books, because the fiction from him that I have read thus far hasn’t been my favorite, although I did love Slam! Another author I count among my favorites is Joyce Carol Oates. I have had some hits and misses with her as well, but when she hits a home run, it is amazing. Blonde and My Sister, My Love were both phenomenal.

One of the things that I love about the book blogosphere is how nice and friendly everyone is. When you’ve been blogging for a while, you form friendships with fellow book bloggers. Who are some of your blogging buddies or favorite bloggers out there?

One of my favorite bloggers is Amanda, from the now defunct The Zen Leaf. I was so sorry to see her shut down her blog earlier this year but I understand her reasons and I am happy to follow her personal blog instead. I will always miss The Zen Leaf though!

I just love the sense of community that you get from other book bloggers and it never fails to amaze me how friendly everyone is. That is why I love community events like BBAW, because it gives me an opportunity to meet new bloggers!

You have to admit, blogging takes a lot of time and effort, do you ever get tired of it? What do you do to get out of your blogging slump?

I had a big slump for the first few months of this year and my blog remained silent for weeks on end. I really wasn’t sure if I would come back to blogging, but the issue wasn’t really the blog but the fact that I had lost interest in reading. I have been a reader my entire life, so it is no surprise that it eventually went away. However, I have always vowed that I won’t push myself to blog. It is supposed to be a fun hobby, and once it starts to feel like a job, then I will have to reevaluate. Now that I have been blogging for over two years though, it is like blogging and reading go hand in hand for me… almost like I can’t have one without the other!

Like you, I love hearing about other people’s favorite books so I’m going to steal one of your questions (I hope that’s okay!) – what are the books that you can’t stop gushing about?

My two favorite books of all time are Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell and The Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole. Although they are two very different books, they both involve very memorable characters, which is why they will always remain favorites. Scarlett, Rhett and Ignatius are so real to me and I am always intrigued and amused by the three of them.

As far as this year goes, I have had some very memorable and enjoyable books. I read The Art of Losing, by Rebecca Connell, last month and could not get it out of my mind. Brooklyn, by Colm Toibin was another that really affected me. What Was She Thinking? Notes on a Scandal, by Zoe Heller, gave me much food for thought. I feel like 2011 has been a superb year as far as my reading goes, which is really lucky considering how badly the year started off!

Finally, this is something that I like to ask in every interview since I’m based in the Philippines – what are your thoughts about international book bloggers? Do you follow any foreign bloggers?

To be honest, the nationality of a blog or blogger rarely crosses my mind. I usually just find other blogs by word of mouth or I stumble across them, and when I come across a new blog I just browse the past few posts to see whether we have similar tastes. If we do, then I automatically add the blog to my Google reader.

There are two bloggers that I have followed since the beginning of my blog two years ago that are not from the US, so they come to mind first. The first is Jackie from Farmlane Books Blog. Jackie lives in England and has great taste when it comes to books. Occasionally I am disappointed when a book she reviews is not available in the US yet, but it’s a rare issue and certainly not one to dissuade me from her blog! The second blogger is Guatami Tripathy from Everything Distils into Reading, who is from Delhi, India. She has a lot of cultural references in her blog, which I always love, including her beautiful pictures.

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Thank you for your thoughtful answers, Stephanie! I had fun getting to know you through the interview swap. I hope the rest of you enjoyed reading Stephanie’s answers to my questions and that you got to know her a little better because of this interview. Feel free to give her blog some love by dropping by to say hi. You can also check out my answers to her interview questions here.


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ArmchairBEA Interview: Kaitlyn

For the ArmchairBEA interviews, I was assigned to interview a new-to-me blogger, Kaitlyn of Kaitlyn in Bookland. As always, I had fun coming up with interview questions (although it wasn’t easy!) and I hope Kaitlyn enjoyed answering them too. Check out her answers below to learn more about her blog and the books that she likes to read.

1. Give us an idea of what your reading taste is like – what genres do you like reading and who are some of your favorite authors?
I generally have a pretty eclectic reading taste. It’s true that I usually like YA books more than adult books, but I will give anything a chance. My willingness to try anything has allowed me to find some amazing reads that I wouldn’t have found if I would have stuck in my YA comfort zone. My favorite authors include: JK Rowling (this list would never be complete without her), Suzanne Collins, Charlaine Harris, JA Konrath, and John Ajvide Lindqvist.

2. I love talking about characters in books, I feel that sometimes, we can think of them as real people. Who are some of your favorite characters and why do you love them?
You’re right! So many characters seem like real life friends (or enemies). Some favorites of mine are…

  • Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series by JK Rowling. She’s smart, loves books, and got Harry and Ron out of trouble so many times. Even when her heart was broken, she continued her journey to save the wizarding world.
  • Katniss Everdeen from the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins. She is so tough. I couldn’t imagine having to support my family when I was 12. She is flawed, but that’s what makes her so real!
  • Pam Ravenscroft from the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. She is so funny. Her one-liners have me laughing so hard. Her sense of humor is so dry and fabulous.
  • Eric Northman from the Sookie Stackhouse series and Shane Collins from the Morganville Vampire series by Rachel Caine. They’re both babes. Enough said.

3. We all get tired of reading and blogging from time to time and we need a good book to get us excited again. What book would you recommend to get someone out of a reading/blogging slump?
My answer for questions like this is always going to be one of the Harry Potter books. I have a slight (okay, maybe not so slight) obsession with them. But, seriously, how could a journey into a world filled with magic not get a reader/blogger excited? If Harry Potter isn’t your thing (I don’t know if we can be friends…I’m kidding. Maybe.), I would suggest revisiting one of your all time favorites. There’s nothing like re-reading a favorite book. It’s like visiting friends you haven’t seen in a while.

4. How did you get started on blogging? And do you think blogging has changed your life or influenced it in any way?
Last summer I was bored waiting for graduate school to start. I had been checking out book blogs and thought, “Why not?”. Blogging has definitely changed my life. I find myself more aware when reading books when I know I’m going to be reviewing them. It makes me focus more so I know I can write a cohesive and informative review. I definitely try to read more as well!

5. One of my favorite things about book blogging is the wonderful community. I mean look at the organizers of ArmchairBEA, they made this happen for those of us who can’t go to the actual BEA. What’s your favorite aspect of book blogging?
ArmchairBEA was a fabulous idea, wasn’t it? The organizers are definitely awesome. One of my favorite aspects of book blogging is definitely the networking. When I am done with school, I would love to get involved with social media marketing. Book blogging seems like such a good stepping stone for that. I really enjoy communicating with other people via social networks that have a passion for books. Not too many people in my real life enjoy reading quite as much as I do, so it is nice to talk with people who do!

6. Aside from reading and blogging, what else do you enjoy doing?
Oh boy, tons of things! I love visiting with my old friends from college. I miss them every day! Other than that, I love movies, softball, photography, traveling, and going to the zoo. :)

7. What are some of the best books that you’ve read this year?
Sean Griswold’s Head by Lindsey Leavitt. Loved it!
Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini. This is such a good novel about demigods! So good.
Lockdown: Escape from Furnace by Alexander Gordon Smith. Furnace would be such a scary place to be.
All of the Pretty Little Liars books by Sara Shepard. These are such a guilty pleasure.
Suck It, Wonder Woman!: The Misadventures of a Hollywood Geek by Olivia Munn. Very funny in audiobook form.

8. So many books are being made into movies and TV shows lately. Do you have any favorites?
I feel so redundant, but Harry Potter! Deathly Hallows Part 1 was amazing and I cannot wait until July for Part 2. It’s going to be so bittersweet. A movie that I actually enjoyed slightly more than the book was Beastly. I thought the changes the movie makers chose to do worked very well.

9. I think books and coffee go well together. You mentioned in your blog that you love coffee so what’s your favorite drink?
Ah, glorious coffee. If I’m studying, I brew my coffee and home. Usually I use some flavored coffee beans. A favorite of mine is Sea Salted Caramel. It’s delicious. If I’m going out, I can’t resist an Extra Coffee Caramel Light Frappuccino with whipped cream from Starbucks. That order sounds so pretentious, but it is heaven in a cup. Any coffee that is flavored with toffee or vanilla is amazing as well.

10. Finally, since I’m book blogger from the Philippines, I’d like to get an idea of what you think of international book bloggers.
I think international book bloggers are amazing. It is so fun to get opinions from people from other backgrounds/cultures. It would definitely be interesting to compare book reviews to see if culture has an impact. I’m thinking of a case study!

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Thank you so much for your answers, Kaitlyn! I’m a fellow Harry Potter fan, I also enjoy hanging out with both high school and college friends and I love to travel when I could so I have a feeling we can be blogging buddies. :P Maybe the next time I’m at the Starbucks near my office, I can give that caramel light frap a try.

Drop by It’s All About Books to see my answers to Suey’s interview questions.


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Interview with Mina V. Esguerra and Giveaway

Today, I’m delighted to have one of my favorite authors, Mina V. Esguerra, here on the blog to answer some questions. Mina V. Esguerra’s novels are light romances/chick lit set in the Philippines and written in English, usually with a twenty-something woman based in Manila as a main character. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I love reading her work. Her latest novella, Love Your Frenemies (Amazon, Smashwords) was released early this week.

Your latest novella, Love Your Frenemies, has a main character who was an antagonist in one of your other books, My Imaginary Ex. Did you have the former in mind while you were writing the latter?
The simple answer is that I didn’t have Love Your Frenemies in mind when I wrote My Imaginary Ex. I was happy just to have finished MIE and gotten it published, and didn’t have any grand plans for doing more.

The possibly more interesting answer is that after MIE got published I did think that I could do more. I wasn’t sure yet what I would write about, but I did know that it shouldn’t be about falling for the Best Friend (been there done that). So I challenged myself to write two more: about falling for the Unattainable Crush, and the Jerk. These three guys always show up in the YA romances I read growing up.

Fairy Tale Fail and Love Your Frenemies came out from this. And then when I was planning to write the one about falling for the Jerk, I felt like I had to make the protagonist stronger so she could survive the way he treated her. Kimmy the former villain sort of got cast into that, which was easier than having me create another character who’d be just like her.

You write books that fall under chick lit or contemporary romance, what made you decide to write books in that genre?
I suspect now that this is the only genre I can write with any confidence or authenticity. I’ve tried branching out and always end up quitting. My first novel pitch ever was YA, but that was surprisingly difficult to write, and didn’t even get picked up. Or maybe I just need to work harder on the other genres.

What are some of your favorite chick lot or contemporary romance novels?
I wish I could say more, but only one comes to mind – Jennifer Crusie’s Welcome to Temptation. I haven’t read enough books in this genre, but I’m starting to.

No longer “contemporary”, but I read a lot of Sweet Dreams novels. I especially like the ones that feature banter, like The Right Combination and Kiss Me, Creep. But my favorite – and is still my favorite romance TO THIS DAY – is Wrong-Way Romance by Sheri Cobb South. Years ago I emailed her and told her how much I loved her book, and she sent me a signed copy. It’s the jewel of my book collection!

I love how you have such a strong online presence unlike other Filipino authors. You connect with your readers through your blog, Facebook page, Twitter and email. This makes me curious as to how you feel about reading reviews of your work. Can you please share your thoughts?
Love reading them, have to say. I used to pretend I didn’t see them, then I caved and started thanking people for the review. Because that took some effort, and I want to thank them for their time, no matter what they end up saying.

At the same time I don’t want to go into that review and really discuss things point by point, because by then a person’s read and judged the work and that judgment belongs to them. I don’t want to be so involved and visible that a reviewer will feel awkward knowing that I’m just there hovering.

You decided to go the e-publishing route with some of your work while others were published the traditional way. In your experience, what are the pros and cons of both experiences?
Hmm, it’s kind of a toss-up.

The two books published locally (My Imaginary Ex and No Strings Attached) are more popular to Filipinos, because my publisher markets and distributes these very well. Cons for traditional publishing in general – printing costs, availability of copies, and if an international reader wants a copy, shipping is always a problem. Summit has dropped hints that they’ll have digital publishing soon, so maybe this will change.

The audience for the two ebooks (Fairy Tale Fail and Love Your Frenemies) is more international. Amazon is a great distributor because it made the book available to the world. Every day the sales figures are a pleasant surprise, and so is the feedback from international readers. The “con” here is that Filipinos aren’t more aware that these are available. And if they know and want to buy, there’s always some hurdle – no credit card, or they think they need to own a Kindle to read it (not necessary), or they prefer paperback period.

So until the game changes again, the formula is this: If I want the work to be read by the world, I go with e-publishing. If I want the work to be read by my family, community and kababayans, I pursue traditional publishing.

On your blog, it’s mentioned that you have a day job. How do you balance that with your writing career?
It probably seems like I’m writing all the time, because the last three books came out within months of each other! But the very first drafts ever of Fairy Tale Fail and Love Your Frenemies were done in 2009. So it wasn’t difficult finishing these and having a day job, because once I got the drafts done, the only work I did was to revise.

No Strings Attached was different, because I imposed a regular schedule. I wrote for it for about half an hour every day, while waiting for my husband to pick me up from work. After a few weeks I got used to it, and if I got inspired at any other time I’d just note it down but only seriously write it at the appointed time.

Your previous work involved novellas and I was wondering if you’re planning to write something longer in the future like a full-length novel?
I’m trying! Got used to plotting and designing a story that builds up and peaks in under 40K words. The instinct there is to trim things, rather than add. I’ll need to work on it.

I’m sure your readers want to know what you’re writing now so can you please give us a hint and maybe an idea of when it’ll be released?

If I’m able to go back to my writing schedule and stick to it, I could release another novella this year. Likely one featuring Tonio of No Strings Attached, because I’ve been wanting to explore what it’s like to date someone as slutty as him. :)
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Thank you so much for your answers, Mina! I was really curious about these things that I asked and I enjoyed reading your answers. I need to find a copy of Wrong-Way Romance so I can read it and let you know what I think. As always, I’m excited to read your work so I’ll be waiting for Tonio’s story. Now that Amazon allows people to give Kindle ebooks as gifts, I’m more than happy to give away a copy of Fairy Tale Fail. I believe I can send the ebook to anyone who has an email address so it’s an international giveaway. To join, just leave a comment about anything related to Mina’s answers or why you’re interested in reading Fairy Tale Fail. Giveaway ends March 11, winner will be chosen through random.org.

Read my reviews of Mina’s books by clicking these links:
My Imaginary Ex
Fairy Tale Fail
No Strings Attached
Love Your Frenemies


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BBAW New Treasure: Interview Swap

I signed up for the BBAW interview swap and Reagan of Miss Remmers’ Reviews was assigned as my partner. Reagan teaches 9th Grade Reading at an AA High School in South Dakota and her mission is to instill in students a passion for recreational reading. As a result, she reads and reviews a lot of YA in her blog and I’m so happy that we have that in common. Please join me in welcoming the wonderful Miss Remmers!

Wow, so you’re a teacher who likes to recommend books to your students. What do you do to encourage your students to read?
It’s really important for me to have a list of books to recommend to students. Right now I’m recommending The Hunger Games, I Am Number Four, Before I Fall, 13 to Life, Hex Hall, and Need.

Has a student ever recommended a book that you ended up liking?
I have been keeping a list of books that students have recommended to me, however, I have yet to actually read one. It’s only the fourth week of school and I have a pretty hefty TBR pile. But hopefully, eventually, I will read my students’ recommendations.

Looking at your blog, I see that you read a lot of YA. I also read a lot of YA so I’m interested to know if it is your favorite genre or do you explore YA books for your students?
I really love reading YA and it is extremely convenient that it is also the genre my students’ prefer. :) I will sometimes be offered a fantastic book for review that is more Adult or Chick-Lit that sounds fantastic and I end up loving it. But I mostly try to stick to YA for my students’ sake (and for my enjoyment).

What are some of the best books that you’ve read this year?
Wow! Hard question! While I can’t pick just one, here is a small list: The Hunger Games, Before I Fall, I Am Number Four, Hush Hush, Beastly, Thirteen Reason Why, Some Girls Are, and Cracked Up to Be. Okay, that was a bit longer than I had wanted it to be. :)

If someone’s experiencing reader’s slump, what’s a book that you’ll recommend to get that person back into the game?
Definitely The Hunger Games, if you haven’t read it already. It really depends on the person though. Right now my freshmen are really getting burnt out on vampires and werewolves so I’ve been recommending Need by Carrie Jones. I’m also a big fan of The DUFF. Right now I’m currently reading Matched by Ally Condie; it’s really fantastic, it’s a lot like The Hunger Games in terms of government and lifestyle. Whew, that was a hard question too!

Contemporary YA, epic fantasy, urban fantasy, science fiction or dystopian – what’s your preference?
I’m going to have to say Contemporary YA.

One of my favorite things about book blogging is the wonderful community. I don’t get to talk about books with my friends so I enjoy reaching out to fellow bloggers. What’s your favorite aspect of book blogging?
I would definitely have to agree with you, Chachic. I love being able to talk books, authors, and literature with other readers. I spend most of my time trying to persuade students to read, book blogging is a perfect way for me to relax and connect with readers who I don’t have to convince that reading is (and can be) a fun, relaxing, recreational activity.

Ever since I started blogging, I’ve become more aware of what’s out there and this lead to my TBR growing exponentially. Has blogging changed your reading habits? Do you read books that you normally wouldn’t read now that you have a blog?
Another fantastic question! Since book blogging I have read more books in the past year than I have in the previous three. Blogging has really kept me focused in my reading and given me goals to accomplish. Blogging has become a part of my life that I hope to never give up.

Since I live in the Philippines, I’d like to know what you think of international book bloggers?
I was really excited to read your blog and see that you were from the Philippines! I’ve never “met” an international book blogger! I think international book bloggers are setting a spark around the world that will eventually catch fire. From a teaching stand point, to me international book bloggers represent review diversity for my own students and students across the world. They bring a different kind of culture to their reviews and book thoughts, it’s extremely refreshing. As a fellow book blogger, I would love to see more international book bloggers; it would be a great way to connect with readers around the world.
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Thank you for your thoughtful answers, Reagan! I enjoyed doing this interview with you and I look forward to being a guest reviewer over at your blog. To my blog readers, please drop by Miss Remmers’ Reviews to see my answers to Reagan’s interview questions.

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