Why even (Romance and Women and Filipinos and Happy)
Thank you! ???? #Repost @mai_lovesu with @repostapp ・・・ for so many times i re-read #FairyTaleFail it just occured to me that Ellie and I share the same hobby — planning hypothetical travels! hahaha! Finished reading this last night for the nth time and it doesn’t get old…I swear I still get that kilig feeling whenever Lucas “The Rock Star” shows up! Hay! #BeStllMyBeatingHeart
I haven’t been using the blog for reflections so much lately. I’ll do that now.
There hasn’t been a lot of time to write recently. Part of it is adjusting to a new routine at home, part of it giving up weekend writing time to organize events. And then there’s the part of it that feels I need to know what I’m doing, with the next book, and I want to do that when I’m good and ready. In the meantime, there’s been a lot of participation in events and literary discussions, and also a lot of thinking.
I experimented with writing non-Filipino characters with my New Adult books (now branded as the Addison Hill and Breathe Music series). That was fun, and I’ll keep doing that as long as I can find the time to. The experience opened doors for me, and the reasons why are complicated, but that all gave me an extra boost when I decided to go back to writing Filipino characters and settings again (the Chic Manila series).
So, a State of the Writing Strategy:
Why romance? I’ve stopped caring for this question, but here’s a new thought on it that I managed to articulate just today. As a reader, there are reasons why I chose not to read certain genres, or books from countries other than the US/UK, or by authors who weren’t vetted and recommended by the usual award-giving bodies. Those reasons are complicated too, but one simple way of going about it is, I was wrong, and I had associated entire blocks of things/cultures/places/people by the stereotypes that somehow carried over from wherever. So I chose not to read books about them or by them. But when I decided that I would read romance, then it became…easier? The familiarity, rules, beats of romance that many authors from everywhere followed, that grounded the stories to me, and I was able to explore more stories from more places and by more people. Than the usual. I realized that I might be doing the same thing, for other people, or at least that’s the hope. It’s not fun for me as a Filipino to keep putting up with the assumptions that I can’t speak English, that my education (considered one of the most expensive and best in this country) is less than someone else’s in another country, that where I live is the city of whatever it is you see in the news from some recent natural disaster. If we can get over that and read the romance, then yay. Continuing to do this is important, not just because it’s fun.
Why write about women? Last night, I tried watching a rom-com about a down-on-his-luck middle-aged screenwriter who takes a job as a creative writing professor in some small town university, and I wasn’t even halfway through when he had already slept with a promising young student and caught the eye of the feisty single mom who wanted in on his class. UGH. REALLY. I mean, the movie was self-referential and made fun of this, but the FACT THAT IT WAS EVEN MADE says something. I’m not going to tell anyone to stop telling stories that mean something to them. As a woman and a writer I’m surprised how often I’m told (directly and indirectly) that I should be writing something else, that I should be writing about other people. That I am writing, and that I write what I do, is a privilege. At the same time, I hope it comes through that even though my female characters are educated, live comfortably, they are still living in a world where they will be slut-shamed, body-shamed, smart-shamed, told what to wear, told to get married, told to stay home and take care of the kids, told that they are making the wrong parenting choices, told to sacrifice every time for family or love. Holy crap, seriously. There are women who are brave for doing one thing, and brave for doing the opposite. Let’s tell all the stories. (More on my feelings about this, here.)
Why Filipinos? When I started out, it was because it was what I knew. Now, I know more, and I’m writing Filipino characters again because I can see now what’s missing in the romance-in-English space, and what I can write that’s right in that spot. If I have the time, I’ll launch a new series to explore it. (I’m working on it now, tentatively calling it Love and Laws. WHY NOT, RIGHT?)
Why write happy stuff? Right now, it’s what I can do. Others are more skilled at writing something else, and they’re free to do that. It’s very possible that we’re serving two different audiences, and the best way to satisfy readers is us doing what we do best. Sometimes I encounter writers asking for advice, and I sense that what they’re looking for is to be told where to go, what to do. I’ve done that, can do that, and yet the writer has to be fully invested, right? It’s going to be a rare thing when a writer doesn’t believe in what they wrote, and yet finds success with it. So yes, real life is dire, but I’m not making it my job to remind my readers of it. We rise above it.
So, thoughts. I had them.