Author interview: Kate Evangelista

1898007_10152009212331914_1530310742_n(Regular reader numbering in the Ones, if you haven’t noticed it yet, my blog went through a snafu that resulted in all the posts from October 2013 onwards to vanish into the ether. So I’m just uploading all of these transcripts without any garnishing because I barely remember what I wrote back then.)

RONREADS (RR): Congratulations! How does it feel?

KATE EVANGELISTA (KE): It’s a feeling unlike any other. I’m basically out of body. I was there, and I’m just watching myself singing all of these books. It’s another dream come true.

RR: When did you first hear that National Book Store would be getting physical copies of the books?

KE: Actually, I found out through the bloggers. They were telling me that they know what’s going to happen in March. I’m like “What’s going to happen in March?” (Laughs) They said “You know, the book signing?” And I’m like “What?” (Laughs) And then National emailed me. Macmillan just told them and confirmed that they were sending over copies. That started the ball rolling to this day. It was two months ago. 

RR: Was it something that you thought wasn’t going to happen?

KE: I just learned through experience that it’s better to finalize everything before announcing. That way, you’re sure. You don’t have the problem of backing out or canceling things. At least, when everything’s okay, everyone can share with the excitement and spreading the word. If you prematurely announce something, it can spread, and it’s hard to do damage control if it happens. Kapag sure na, ‘yun nayun.

RR: Why this book in particular and not the previous ones you’ve written?

KE: It’s because it’s distributed under Macmillan so it’s easier to bring the books here and price it in a way that’s affordable for the readers. That’s one of the things that really made it possible. With the other books, they might be priced higher if they do come here. Although, request it and I believe it will come. The power is really with the readers. If they want it, I believe the stores will provide.

RR: Does this still feel special? You’ve written other books before this one, and it’s not like they didn’t do well.

KE: Yeah, definitely. I think this is one of the hallmarks of being an author. I’m sure even the self-published authors still dream of being able to sign their book and share them with readers up close and meet their readers up close. And I believe a book launch, a book signing, does that. Even if you’re interacting through Twitter or Facebook, there’s still that gap. But being able to see your readers and share that love with them is still very special.

RR: How have things changed since “Taste”?

KE: A lot. First of all, my writing is more confident. I feel like i’m better equipped to put stories together. I’m more confident. You did mention that in your review of “Savor”. Since this is part of the first group of novels, you can see that I’m still finding my way in this one, so you’ll see when the second book comes out that there’s a big evolution in my writing style. At the same time, I’ve cultivated a lot of friendships with bloggers, with interacting with them and sharing what I know with them, with the fans, with other writers. That changed a lot since “Taste” because back then I didn’t have that much of a platform yet. Now, I’m beginning to have a platform and that makes me more conscious of what I say and share. But at the same time, I still want to be accessible to persons for questions and comments since you can never really avoid questions and comments from people if you are the type of person who will interact. Plus, for the first time since I started this, I finally feel like an author. It took the sixth book for me to say that I am a published author and to actually accept that.

RR: How would you describe your evolution?

KE: Before, when I started writing, I really did not feel as confident with what I can do. It’s almost like you think will people like this? Will it be accepted by readers? And then when you slowly start building that platform and you see that readers are accepting your work. Whether they liked it or not, it’s still an acceptance, really. for me, my goal is to be read. Whether you like it or you don’t is up to you. When you see readers starting to buy your work and email you about it, you gain confidence. I started to realize that i can do this, it fostered the love.

I also learned from my editors along the way. Their feedback is very important. They’ve taught me so much in terms of writing, how to structure a story, character motivation. I enjoy the editing process even more. The more editors I work with, the more style I learn. i enjoy it even more and I want to learn more. That’s why now, I’m going back to querying agents again. I want to find an agent. This year, my goal is to find an agent and hopefully work with a bigger publisher to be able to learn form that side. I want to see the differences between a smaller press, a medium press, and a big press. Publishing is evolving. You’re not necessarily pigeonholed in that one area. You can be traditionally published or self-published. There are writers who are successful in both. I want to see what the bigger publishers can offer.

RR: A lot of authors are now expected to have a presence in social media. Having been in social media before becoming a writer, do you think it makes you better equipped to traverse this new landscape for writers?

KE: Yes. Blogging is a very important part of our society now. It’s expression, and when you express yourself you learn how to interact with people also, even if it’s just through the internet. That’s also readers giving you feedback when they comment on your blog post, and you sort of evolve as a person. You know that you said this the wrong way, that you shouldn’t do that again. You start to learn how to say things properly. I think a lot of authors who don’t begin with that platform end up either saying or reacting to something without thinking that it’s going to have a negative impact on the readers. You become more comfortable interacting with readers that way. It’s a good place to start a platform.

RR: Has it also made you more resilient when it comes to reviews that aren’t necessarily complimentary?

KE: Yes. They say you have to have a thick skin to be a writer. You don’t have to have a thick skin right away. I think learning to embrace the whole process, knowing that you can take the good with the bad, you don’t necessarily have to have a thick skin to do that. I think understanding the process and the business makes you grow more as a person, and you’re not necessarily like “They don’t like my work so I’m not talented!” You learn that you can’t please everybody and you start to learn what you can do to be better, to hone your craft. Who can I meet to open doors for me or teach me.

RR: Do you think this has come at the right time for you or do you think this could have happened earlier?

KE: I think it came at the right time. Those that become popular right away sometimes end up stumbling because they’re not equipped to handle it. It’s scary that you’re just an unknown and then you suddenly become a bestselling author. Having a gradual growth process allows you to learn and grow and mature, instead of just being suddenly famous.

RR: Could you talk about how “Til Death” came about? When we first talked years ago, it was supposed to be your third book to come out.

KE: With “Til Death”, it was part of the first three books I ever wrote. Those were the first three books that I ever submitted to publishers. “Til Death” came to Entangled. The thing with Entangled is that it grew so fast because a lot of bestsellers were coming out of it, so it suddenly switched from being able to publish books really fast to a more traditional route, which is a two-year wait before the book comes out because of the editing process.

I think it’s good that “Til Death” came out now because if it came earlier, we wouldn’t have been able to refine it as it is now. It’s actually evolved because the dual perspective was not there originally. Dillan’s part was really small, and through the editing process I found out that he could be a major character. That’s why he has his own perspective in the novel. Editing is really big.

There were moments were I thought “Is this ever going to come out?” But I realized that the publishing process, even if you’re in a big press, unless you’re J.K. Rowling, you really do have to wait to get a book out.

RR: How much does this version of “Til Death” differ from the original?

KE: A lot, because the original story called for certain information that I will not divulge because it will come out in the second book. That information originally was in the first book. Taking that out I think hampered the pacing. The common consensus of readers is that the pacing is a little bit slow, and I see that. I think if I were a more confident writer at the time I wrote this, that information would not have been taken out. I would have been better equipped to actually weave that into the story and make sense. When I initially wrote it into the story, it didn’t make sense and I didn’t know how to handle that. Experience is really important. I think if I wrote this book today, it would be so much better.

RR: How do you switch between genres? Is it difficult for you do do you find it easy?

KE: It’s difficult. When I write contemporary, it’s so hard not to put a vampire or a werewolf. with paranormal, there’s so much that you can work with that’s magical. There’s so much you can explore. Things can explode, things can transform. That alone gives you a lot of things to work with when it comes to description, world-building.

With contemporary, you have to stick to everyday life, and you have to find out how to make it not boring. I think that’s why paranormal and anything supernatural is popular. It takes us away from that boring place and transports us into a new world. I think we’re really fascinated by things that couldn’t be possible. When I was writing “romancing the Bookworm”, it was originally paranormal. Xavier used to be a mermaid. But when I worked with my editor with it, I could not fit in the paranormal so well. It didn’t work as well with the other books. She said why not make it contemporary, so I said I’d try. I did and thank God I survived it. It was hard! I wanted to put scales on him. Writing contemporary is a challenge on its own because you have to make the everyday more interesting, and that allows you to delve into the characters more and develop the dialogue more. I think if you have snappy dialogue, you forget that it’s contemporary and the story just keeps moving forward.

RR: Are we going to see more contemporary form you though?

KE: I’m writing a contemporary right now. I think I like switching it up. Sometimes when I’m immersed too much in the paranormal it gets boring also. I’m the type where I’m finished with that for now, then I’ll move to contemporary. And when I’m done with that, I’ll move to paranormal.

I don’t limit myself to different genres because all of them pose a challenge in their own way. They challenge me creatively and it allows me to grow as an author. After the contemporary I’m going to go back to writing a dystopian.

RR: How do you pick mythologies to play with?

KE: Whatever comes to me. Sometimes the story dictates it. With banshees, I actually discovered the banshee because of Dillan. He’s traumatized by them and they’re part of his psyche. That’s why I began the book with banshees and I ended the book with banshees. With the manticore, it kind of came naturally from what the story was asking for. 

I’m actually conceptualizing one with a manananggal, a romance novel. The manananggal is an immigrant from the Philippines to the States. I’m still thinking of how I can properly explain that without Americanizing it too much.

RR: Is it important for you to include aspects of the Philippines in your story?

KE: Not necessarily. I go where the story takes me. I think, initially, because these novels are set in the West, it’s not because I intentionally did it that way. It’s because the story called for it. Now that I am more confident with my writing, a lot of my influences from the Philippines are coming out and I think I can better handle it. I don’t want to do it injustice. You come from here and you do it injustice? I want to do it while being true to myself without pandering to my nationality. But at the same time, I want to do it justice. I had a yaya who used to tell me these stories and I want to incorporate these stories also. Little by little, I might be able to do that. But I don’t want it to be forced.

RR: What fears do you face now, years after “Taste”?

KE: I think my worry is hitting a dead end when it comes to learning more about my craft. I want to keep growing as a writer. With critique partners, I’ve learned that it’s easier to do it in-house. I have a new critique partner that is also part of Entangles, so I know that leaking will not happen.

But the most important part of my life as a writer is my craft and knowing how to become better, to learn more. I think if I stopped doing that, that scares me the most. I want to keep moving forward with my career and growing as a writer.

RR: Most of your female characters are not wallflowers. Is that something you push for consciously?

KE: They come formed that way. I’m pushed by the story. If I have a character is more of a wallflower, then that’s why. My characters are pretty much fully-formed in my head and they only change in the editing process. I feel detached sometimes from my female characters because they do things I normally wouldn’t do.

With Selena, she’s very naive as a character even if she does have a confidence. She’s obsessed with people keeping secrets from her that she’s not seeing the bigger picture anymore. I think I want to talk to her some more and see where we can improve on that in the next book.

RR: What can you say to younger authors looking to break through?

KE: It’s finish the book first. You can’t do anything as a writer if you don’t have the manuscript completed. How can you query if you’re only half-finished with the book. How can you have it published if it’s not even done? Complete the project, then that’s when you start doing another one. I don’t believe that writers only have one book in them. The moment you finish, start the next one, so you have many projects that you can work with. The moment you stop, you get rusty. I think that’s when the doubt comes in. If you keep going, eventually, you will break out.

RR: You gave a talk to students at your alma mater. Is mentoring other writers something you’re looking at?

KE: I do have information I can share. I will keep learning anyways, so I think I feel more comfortable with what I can share. Obviously, I am not the be all and end all of things. My journey is not necessarily their journey. I want them to find their own way, but any way that I can help to ease that transition or avoid the pitfalls that I experienced, then I’m very willing to help out in that regard. When I was starting out, I really did not have anyopne to relate with. I only found Sam by accident because I followed a link to her blog. That was my first experience. I don’t want writers to feel alone anymore. I want to lessen the trial and error of what they go through. If I can share what I know and help them, then I’m glad to do it. Keeping it to myself won’t help me and it won’t help anybody.

RR: Is going independent something you would recommend to authors, or is there a specific constitution for that?

KE: Not necessarily. Do your research. When I said that if I didn’t get a contract for my books that I would self-publish, I was already doing my research. What do I do, who do I need to contact? With every endeavor, the more knowledge you have going in to it, the less you will fail. Or if you do fail, the easier it will be for you to stand up again. Arm yourself with information whether you want to go self-publishing or the traditional route. It’s not a black and white world out there and there are lots of people who can do you harm as an author.

RR: You’ve spoken at book events here in the country. What has that experience been like?

KE: It’s been wonderful. I get to see people and see what goes on in their heads and what questions they like to ask. At the same time, it opens me up more. Writing can be very isolating. Being able to talk with other readers and writers opens me up, humanizes me, and humbles me. That interaction is very important.

 

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