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. 🙂

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

No Strings Attached by Mina V. Esguerra

No Strings Attached is Mina V. Esguerra’s latest chick lit novel. As usual, it’s set in Manila, featuring a girl in her late twenties. I did a post about the book here when I bought it a few days ago. It’s available in all Book Sale, National Bookstore and Fully Booked for P150.

Here’s the summary from the back of the book:

Carla is a whiz at her job: she’s efficient, reliable, and a total genius when it comes to putting something together at the last-minute. The snag is she’s single and turning the big three-oh in a few months. Her girl best friend (yes, she’s married just like the other girls in Carla’s barkada) keeps trying to set her up with stable banker-types, while her guy best friend (single – the other single one) encourages her to play the field – no strings attached. Then, through no set up or extraordinary circumstance, Carla meets Dante. Hot, smug, sexy Dante. Definitely not a banker-type and seemingly too good to be true. So there’s got to be a catch. There is. He’s five years younger. Is the universe telling Carla to finally let loose and enjoy a fling with a younger man? Or is there a lot more to this awkward situation that she bargained for?

It’s funny because the main character in this one reminded me somewhat of the main character in Amazing Grace. I think it’s because they’re both in their late twenties and they’re both being pestered by friends to settle down and get married. That’s a pretty accurate portrayal, actually. I’m in my mid-twenties and three of my friends got married this year. I’d like to think that the Philippines is more liberal nowadays but most people still believe that a girl should be married by the time she reaches her thirties. Carla feels like she’s different from the rest of her barkada (group of friends) because most of them have their own families already. The only other single person in their group is her best friend Tonio and he’s single because he enjoys playing the field. Carla’s fed up with all the set-up schemes of her friends. Even if she’s turning thirty, she’s not exactly worried about finding someone to marry. Aside from that, her friends also keep telling her to move up the corporate ladder and that it’s not good to be stuck as an admin assistant forever. When she meets Dante, she agrees to date him on the condition that they should keep things simple – they should just have fun when they’re together and not worry about the future.

Carla thinks that her age gap with Dante is a big deal but I don’t think it matters that much. I think it’s funny that even though it seems like Carla and Dante don’t have much in common and they have different personalities, they still get along really well. I enjoyed reading No Strings Attached but Fairy Tale Fail is still my favorite out of all the local chick lit books that I’ve read. Even though Dante’s described as a hot guy, there aren’t that many kilig (swoon-worthy) moments in this one. The focus isn’t the build up of the love story but rather the complications involved in their relationship. It’s a quick and light read and the kind of book that you can finish in one sitting. Recommended for fans of chick lit. I hope Mina comes up with something new soon because she’s already in my auto-buy list.

Click on the images below to see my reviews of Mina’s other books, Fairy Tale Fail and My Imaginary Ex:

Other reviews: (manually generated)
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Ficsation
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