“On the Far Shore” is what I’m calling this series of interviews with the authors/editors of “The Farthest Shore” an anthology of secondary world fantasy from Filipino writers. The anthology is available here. Today we speak with Eliza Victoria, author of “The Just World of Helena Jimenez.”
Tell us a bit about your story “The Just World of Helena Jimenez”:
Without spoiling anything, “The Just World of Helena Jimenez” is about a girl whose family has been a victim of a heinous crime. One day she just finds herself in a world where there is no crime.
How did you hear about the Farthest Shore anthology?
Prior to that, had you ever written a secondary world story before?
No. Or if I ever were able to write such a story before, the writing was done unconsciously. If anyone ever reads a story of mine and points this out to me, I’ll probably just dismiss the notion and say, “Oh, those things didn’t really happen, it’s a psychological thing, the character’s just insane”. Etcetera etc. When I write non-realistic fiction it is still very much rooted in our reality, so much so that the fantastic elements can be easily explained by psychology. Ha! I don’t know if that’s a bad thing. I can never do Lord of the Rings, where everything is created from scratch, even the language; I’m inclined to use the two-world trope. I suppose Harry Potter falls in this category. This world, that other world.
I can never erase this world from my stories, but that’s me speaking now. This may change in the future.
As far as reading goes though, does your present self share those same inclinations? Or, all else being equal, do you enjoy reading Lord of the Rings type epic fantasy as much as a tale set in our world?
Confession time: I haven’t read Lord of the Rings. (Please don’t shoot me.) But to be sure, I enjoy reading non-realist fiction as much as the realist ones. I read like crazy. I read whatever the bookstores and the book bargain sales and the online journals can offer (well, as long as I can still afford them). I don’t care if the story is set in this universe, or elsewhere. If the language is lovely, the plot engaging, the characters interesting, then I’ll pack my bags and board that plane to Wherever.
How long did it take you to write the story?
Hm, not too long, but longer than usual. However, it took years before the story finally assumed the form I wanted it to have. I started writing this story in 2007, my last year in college. I finished the story sometime after graduation I think. The first draft was more than 30 pages long. It pained me to cut it, so I just set it aside, then wrote other, shorter stories and sold them. When I heard about Farthest Shore, I revisited the story, rolled up my sleeves, and revised.
What aspect of the writing did you enjoy the most?
Creating a new world is always fun. Describing the culture, the surroundings – I enjoyed this immensely.
What aspect did you find most difficult?
Editing! Oh, editing this monster pained me, because it was so long and I had to cut so many conversations between the characters short. Also, the first draft was very graphic, very violent. I toned it down a bit; though the violence is necessary, I really don’t want to hit the readers too hard.
Ouch. Always painful to kill one’s precious babies. How did you choose what made the cut and what didn’t?
I remember a couple of scenes where the characters suddenly became melodramatic. Like telenovela-melodramatic. When I read the manuscript again after setting it aside for a little while, the dialogue made me cringe. So out with those scenes.
The other parts I didn’t really cut, I just shortened them. I mean if a scene can be shortened and it still works, then it doesn’t have to be that long, right? As a writer, you’re just wasting space. Or being clingy to your language, like, “Oh, but this line’s so beautiful/witty/whatever”. Enough with that – just edit!
Were there any particular sources of inspiration for your story?
Somewhere online I read a story of a hate crime in Wichita, Kansas. It was absolutely awful that the news item stayed with me.
When I became a senior I took up P.I. 100 (Rizal, in UP), and in one class our professor was talking about El Filibusterismo and anarchy. Now, I can’t remember what he actually said, but he said something about a (in)famous anarchist, often depicted holding a cannonball. Maybe I heard him wrong, but during that class I just had this image of a girl in black, with a cannonball, standing in a field of sand.
I found the image intriguing.
The hate crime in Wichita had a survivor. How is he/she now?
And there’s my story.
Are you working on any new stories or projects now?
Well, I’m working on a longish piece. Not sure if I can turn it into a novel. It’ll be fun to turn it into a novel and find a publisher for it, right? But baby steps.
If you could write in a secondary world created by another (literary, television etc.), which world would that be? What kind of story would you write? (‘cors if you’ve actually written secondary world fanfic, feel free to plug it!)
Ooh. I don’t write fanfic, but I enjoy reading it. I am so fascinated with slash fiction, and the fans who write them. Very interesting. (wink, wink)
Can we consider Haruhi Suzumiya as a secondary world story? I just finished the first season, and the world the characters live in seem so exciting.
I’ve written gay fic before, so yes, I’ll probably write something slasherrific for that haha. And quiet. That’ll be a challenge because Suzumiya episodes are normally riotous.
Neil Gaiman’s Sandman universe is insane and lovely, so for the Dreaming I’ll write something dark.
Haruhi slash huh? (Gets side-tracked by Kyon-ko) Aaanyway,where else can we find your work?
Oh! You know your slash! I love it!
In print, I have some goodies in the Philippines Graphic, Philippines Free Press, Story Philippines, Very Short Stories for Harried Readers, and Philippine Speculative Fiction IV.
I’m going to receive a Palanca award this year for my poetry, so maybe the awards website will upload those poems in the future.
Naks, award-winning poet. Congrats! Anything else we haven’t touched upon that you’d like to talk about?
Ha, so says the guy whose story didn’t win this year!
Please read our stories in Farthest Shore, please support Rocket Kapre, please support Philippine literature, and if you want to waste more time, you’re always welcome to read my blog.
We’d like to thank Eliza once again for agreeing to this interview. We’ll be moving regular interviews to Tuesdays from here on out, so check back next Tuesday when we speak to Mia Tijam, author of Spelling Normal.