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. 🙂
________________________________________________________

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