by Michael Jude Tumamac
Award-winning author Raissa Rivera-Falgui gladly shared the process of writing her latest young adult novel, Woman in a Frame (which was reviewed here last February), as well as the pros and cons of publishing digitally. She is currently finishing her master’s degree in Creative Writing at UP Diliman, where she also finished her undergraduate degree in Art Studies. She mostly writes for children and young adults and is a member of the Kuwentista ng mga Tsikiting (KUTING).
Kalatas: How was Woman in a Frame conceived? What was your inspiration in writing the novel?
Rivera-Falgui: I had the inspiration back in 1998, when I was working on my Art Studies thesis about women artists in the 19th century Philippines. There were very few that were known but Santiago Pilar, whom I interviewed for my thesis, conjectured that they were surely there in the background, working side by side with their fathers and brothers. Given how Filipino families are, that seemed very likely. Pilar also told me some entertaining stories about his search for old portraits in the provinces, and I thought I would like to write a story about such a portrait found in an old house used to cover a batya.
Kalatas: How did you make sure the accuracy of the details about painting and the historical period presented in the novel?
Rivera-Falgui: I have a good memory for anything I’m interested in, so I relied mainly on stock knowledge. Most of the events in the novel grew out of historical facts I had read. As I said, I wrote my thesis on the given period. I was so immersed in the period and facts and they remained in my memory all those years. I had always been fond of reading books and articles about history and artifacts of past eras, like Ambeth Ocampo’s works, Bambi Harper’s columns, the books Turn of the Century and The Governor-General’s Kitchen, and even Household Antiques and Heirlooms. I also got to visit a lot of old houses and museums when I was an Art Studies major. I did refer to historical research now and then, but I made it a point never to interrupt the writing of a chapter by stopping to do research. I did this for a class under Heidi Abad and after outlining and determining the time period based on important and interesting historical events, I tried not to stop to do research so I wouldn’t lose momentum. I would only do research when I was stuck, or going back to revise a chapter.
Kalatas: Can you describe the novel’s path to publication?
Rivera-Falgui: After finishing it, I submitted it to a couple of contests. It didn’t win. My friend Honey De Peralta started work at Flipside Digital Publishing and asked if I had a YA novel. I wasn’t really thinking of submitting this one because its being historical seemed to be at odds with it being published digitally. I support ebooks, really, but it just seemed a little ironic that a book on the past should be published in such a cutting-edge way. But the book I planned to give her (a martial-arts novel) was only halfway done and needed substantial research. I was still attending my MA classes and, in addition, I was pregnant so I didn’t want to stress myself out. I gave her the historical novel, and the rest is history.
Kalatas: Why did you opt to publish your novel as an ebook? What are its advantages and disadvantages?
Rivera-Falgui: I’m quite happy to have it as an ebook. As I said, I support ebooks even though I find it more cozy to read print books. There are great advantages to ebooks, though. You can easily share them or sell them to anyone in the world, for one. They’re better for the environment. And they cause less clutter, plus they’re cheaper. They can still have great art, some even have visual effects, though mine doesn’t. And it’s easy to search them, which is a great advantage for students or anyone who constantly goes back to a book to look up things. Plus they don’t easily get lost or misplaced, which is always happening to my print books because I have to keep hiding them from my son, who likes to bite them. Of course with all that I still love print. I was an art studies major, after all. I love artifacts.
The main disadvantage of ebooks is aesthetics for those who love the beauty of books as artifacts, the smell and feel of them. Not to mention ebooks have no value as collectibles and can’t even be signed. Plus you do have to adapt your reading style to them. I read very fast and I have to go slower with ebooks because less material can be seen on a page. This is not entirely bad as I become more aware when my mind is drifting when I’m reading.
Kalatas: What future book projects should we expect from you?
Rivera-Falgui: I have a few children’s books scheduled to be published this year by Adarna House, Canvas, and the Gig Foundation. I promise to finish my YA martial arts novel, which is also a book about domestic violence. But I have recently finished a novella for my thesis about love and marriage in the internet age, which I will probably expand a bit and publish very soon. My writing is very diverse, as diverse as I am. My projects don’t seem to have very much in common in terms of topic, but my focus always tends to be love and family, which form the center of my own life.
Si Michael Jude Tumamac ay miyembro ng Kuwentista ng mga Tsikiting (KUTING) at Linangan sa Imahen, Retorika, at Anyo (LIRA). Bisitahin ang kanyang blog xizuqsnook.blog.com o Facebook page Xi Zuq’s Nook para sa iba pang rebyu ng aklat-pambata.