When I first started exploring the wonderful world of Wattpad late last year, I chanced upon a story called It Started in the Library (ISITL) by AlaraChan.
ISITL is the story of Aya and Prince, whose romance of course started in the library. Those two almost wrecked my kilig meter—they are just so right for each other! But wait, there’s more! Enter the Zabalas, Aya’s seven older brothers, each one handsome as hell and perfectly unique in their own way. Homaygulay. I was hooked!
I followed Aya, Prince, and the Zabalas all the way to Sagada, Bulacan, Eastwood, Tagaytay, and of course U.P. Diliman. I started fantasizing about creative ways to use Nutella. I began wishing I were ten years younger (para bagay na kami ni Ali!). I obsessively began waiting for new chapters, devouring them minutes after they had been posted and waiting impatiently for the next installment.
When the story ended last December, I cried. Serious. My son even handed me a tissue. Hahaha! It was just so good I had to read it all over again.
So when I was thinking of authors to feature on the blog, AlaraChan was one of the first on the list.
Read our fun interview below:
CPSanti (CPS): ISITL of course started in the library, and it makes one wonder why. Have you ever had a similar experience in a library?
AlaraChan (AC): Well, back when we were freshies from Manila, we had a research on the Sambal Ethnic Language and there was this particular book from the archives that me and my friends borrowed from the UP Main Lib. Unfortunately when we opened it, may nag-vandal nito and we couldn’t help but feel enraged. As in, same type with Prince and Aya, somebody used the book as patungan and the ink seeped into the page and rendered the text useless and it was a kind of research book na pioneer work.
CPS: So why the library in particular?
AC: Well I guess I’m the type of person who likes to stay in the library but I don’t particularly read there. I actually use my time in the library to draw anime and manga. I love to use the spaces between the bookshelves and find a quiet nook where I could daydream and put those thoughts on paper. When I was younger, I was more interested in the arts than actual story writing. I guess it helped too because being more art-oriented, I see angles and things usually ignored by other people. Where other people see cloth, I see light and shadow, tension, creases – a whole different story in a glance.
CPS: Why seven brothers? Is there any particular reason for the number?
AC: Hahaha, no particular reason. I just always felt that seven is a powerful number that’s all. Okay din sana ang twelve pero that would be too many characters already (haha, as if ISITL didn’t have so many
Screen capture of AlaraChan's Wattpad banner
CPS: Who among the Zabalas is your favorite brother? Be honest ;-)
AC: Alfredo. He’s patterned out of my real-life brother and thus, I feel him the most. Chapter 24 Chasing Cars is a real-life experience. Sobrang close kasi kami because there’s only two of us. My brother has always been my hero and a lot of the Zabala brothers’ characteristics are derived from him. He’s the one who puts adventure on my calendar.
CPS: Although ISITL started out as a love story (which was really sweet), I enjoyed the action bits the most. Was it really planned as a romantic-action-thriller?
AC: The truth is, I was experimenting on what type of stories would click in Wattpad. I’ve always liked to write but it was difficult for me to finish stories (most of the time it takes years and some, I simply lost my muse.) Romance is the easiest to write at karamihan ng stories sa WP ganoon ang theme but I didn’t want my story to be a cliché so I took a spur-of-the moment decision and changed the flow of the story at chapter 14. I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing action stories pero most of them fantasy/medieval ang dating. Ngayon lang ako nagsulat ng action na walang bahid ng fantasy.
CPS: What authors / books / movies do you enjoy? Are they the same genre as ISITL?
AC: Ahaha, I really do love action and adventure type of stories. The ones who will make you think (Inception), those that have strong female protagonists (I love Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo Trilogy). I love action movies, lalo na yung may mga cars (Gone in Sixty Seconds, Fast and the Furious, etc.), mga mecha (Transformers), or yung fantasy (LOTR, Game of Thrones, Neil Gaiman novels, Sword of Truth, etc.) I don’t think same genre sila ng ISITL kasi malaki yung pina-play na role ng Romance sa story ko pero well, ayun.
Screen capture of ISITL's Wattpad page
CPS: ISITL deals with a whole lot of things . . . fast cars, Italian, restaurants, and call centers (among others). What kind of research did you do to prepare for the book?
AC: Hmmm . . . not a lot. Most of the things in the story were derived from my own experiences. Some of the technical ones, I had to look into magazines and the internet or turn to my brother, especially about cars. The places that I used are the ones I’m familiar with (Eastwood, BGC, Sagada, Baguio, UP Diliman, UP Manila). Naniniwala kasi ako na “You only write what you know". Writing comes from inside of you: the summary of your thoughts, beliefs, mores, and even the way you think and how you would react in a certain situation,” kaya kinuha ko lahat ng alam ko at maipapaliwanag ko. Mahahalata mo rin kasi sa writer kung nanghuhula lang siya or kung hindi niya alam first-hand yung sinusulat niya. The ability to touch others with your writing comes from the shared human experience.
CPS: Very true! Now back to the Zabalas. I noticed that they each have their own ‘fan clubs’. Were the love interests of the brothers named after ISITL's most avid supporters?
AC: Yes. I would say ISITL belongs to them, as much as it belongs to me. I might be the first to create the characters, but they were the ones who cheered me on, criticized me, and taught me how to be better along the way. In return, I made them part of the story.
CPS: I will never look at Eastwood the same way again. Why did you select that area in particular for Ali’s headquarters?
AC: My first job was in Eastwood so the place is pretty close to my heart.
CPS: How did the Nutella thing start? And has the ban been lifted?
AC: Hahaha... it was an inside joke in our FB group. Pare-pareho kasi kaming mahilig sa Nutella. Then si lunatrix made the first ISITL fanfic titled, The Nutella Adventures.
CPS: You've already started posting chapters of Ali's book; are there any other brothers who will get their own book?
AC: Albert has his own story titled, If It Kills Me. Noon gusto ko magsulat ng story ni Alfredo na dapat ang title TZE: The Zabala Effect pero focus muna ako kay Ali for now. Actually we (me and the rest of the Kabutes *) are toying with the idea of writing the Zabala next gen pero wala pa talagang concrete plans.
Note: *we call our group Kabutes kasi pasulpot-sulpot lang kami sa WP
CPS: Any future projects we should look out for?
AC: I'm trying to finish my other story in WP called, Dear Mr. Otaku. Hopefully I'll finish it before I continue with Star-Crossed. I also have a fantasy story in the works. I hope you will continue supporting the Zabalas in Star-Crossed. XD
CPS: Thank you very much! Not only for this fun interview, but for sharing Aya and Prince’s story with us. It was truly a wonderful journey!
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If you haven’t read ISITL yet, please do! You won’t be disappointed!
But just a friendly warning, Alistair is mine! *insert evil laugh here*