02 October 2015

Featured Author (October): Agay Llanera

Okay, so I know I planned to feature a different Filipino author every month, but as they say, life happened. I got so caught up with writing stories (and kindergarten---but that deserves a separate post), that I neglected the blog for a bit. But I hope to change that soon :-) So stay tuned for more featured authors, reviews, and general ramblings :-)

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Our featured author for October is Agay Llanera, author of Vintage Love, Once Upon a Player, and Choco Chip Hips :-)

Agay and I met through a common friend, and we were able to hang out a couple of times in college and after we'd graduated. Late last year, we 'found' each other on Wattpad and have since reconnected on social media.

I actually read her first #romanceclass book, Vintage Love before I realised I knew her. It was such a fun read! The narrative was beautifully textured and the descriptions were really vivid. And the sweet ending was just right :-) And I loooved Choco Chip Hips, which was released just a few months ago (read my review here).

I'm especially happy to hear that print copies of Vintage Love (Visprint) and Once Upon a Player (Spark Books) were released during the recent Manila International Book Fair *hoots, claps, and whistles*

Here's my interview with Agay:

CPS: What's the very first story you wrote? As in ever?

AL: I think I was 5 or 6 years old when I wrote “Bobby Elephant” on a sheet of pad paper. It was around three sentences short, basically describing where Bobby lived and what he liked to do. I remember even illustrating an elephant below the title.

CPS: Seriously, how much chocolate did you eat while writing Choco Chip Hips?

AL: Even when I don’t write, I consume copious amounts of chocolate. They don’t have to be the fancy-shmancy kind (for me, Twix and Mars are fancy enough); in fact, I’m content with just eating bowlfuls of powdered Milo.

CPS: How did you come up with the idea for Choco Chip Hips?

AL: I was taking zumba classes so I wanted to write something with a dancing theme. Also, if you’ve ever been to a gym, you know what the atmosphere is like: people lifting weights, treadmilling, and dancing as if their lives depended on it. I guess all that unspoken mantra of “burn, burn, burn those calories” I was exposed to on a regular basis prodded me to write about body issues as well. Before writing the story, I also consulted some writer-friends, who helped me build the foundation for the story.

CPS: Tell us a little about Jess; who's your peg for her?

AL: I have a zumba-classmate, who seems to be of high-school age. She likes dancing at the very back, and she’s the youngest in our class, composed of mostly mommies. In my head, I’m cheering her on, to not be shy of swaying her hips or twerking.

CPS: What's your writing process like? When and where do you write? Do you adhere to a schedule?

AL: I write in the afternoons when my son takes a nap. I usually aim to write 2 chapters a week. I write the first draft by hand. And then I type it on my laptop. Then I give it another run-through before uploading it on Wattpad. I upload all my works-in-progress on Wattpad because even if at least one reader reads or comments on my story, that’s enough to keep me going. Then when I’m done, I take the whole thing out of Wattpad. save for the first few chapters, and I self-publish it (after it goes through beta-reading and professional editing, of course). I write at the foot of my son’s bed, on the floor.

CPS: In the books you've published, who's your favourite character and why?

AL: (sighs) Must I choose? I fell in love with all of them. But someone puts a gun to my head and demands an answer, I’d choose Jessie from Choco Chip Hips because I love her transformation from wishy-washy to girl on fire.

CPS: You've written NA and YA romances, is there any genre you'd like to experiment with in the future?

AL: I’d like to write more YA stuff, but I’d also like to come up with mommy lit—basically stuff that Anne Tyler and Elizabeth Berg come up with. Novellas that are more adult in tone, dealing with adult issues, and exposing the complexity and vulnerability of the late 30s to 40s age group.

Vintage Love's new cover (Visprint ed.)

CPS: What are you currently working on?

AL: A New Adult something called This Side of Sunny. You can check out its progress on Wattpad.

CPS: Any advice for aspiring writers?

AL: Write, write, write. Learn to be critical of your own work. Listen to feedback. Don’t over edit, and publish as soon as you can. Then move on to the next, making sure you’ve learned from the last.

New releases from Spark Books! Can't wait to get my hands on them :-)

CPS: Where can we get copies of your books?

AL: E-books are on Amazon, Buqo and Smashwords. Physical copies of Vintage Love and Once upon a Player are available in local bookstores.

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Thanks very much Agay!

And hope to see Mela and Paolo's story on Amazon soon :-)

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