On The Far Shore: An Interview With Rodello Santos

Posted by Paolo Chikiamco On October - 20 - 2009

“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 Rodello Santos, author of “Queen Liwana’s Gambit“.

Could you tell us a bit about your story?

Absolutely. My story is about a young boy who wanders the countryside unsupervised with his best-friend, a chubby yellow rodent who shoots electricity. No wait, that’s Pokemon. Okay, now I remember. My story is about an old woman who bargained with dark powers in her youth and who must now face the consequences. It is based loosely on my own experiences pretending to be an old woman.

How did you hear about the Farthest Shore anthology?

Some of the voices in my head are psychic. Or perhaps I read it on Charles Tan’s Livejournal.

Prior to that, had you ever written a secondary world story before?

Yes, the majority of my stuff is speculative fiction set in secondary worlds. This world is far too boring.

How long did it take you to write the story?

That’s a tough question. The first incarnation of this story was written in 2006 for one of the weekly Flash Challenges at the Liberty Hall Writers’ Forum. For these challenges, writers are given a “trigger” and 90 minutes to write a story. The trigger can be a word, a picture, lyrics, or whatever. So, it took it me 90 minutes to write the first draft, then three years to complete the final revision. :)

What aspect of the writing did you enjoy the most?

The final draft. By that time, it just required some fine-tuning, and I could enjoy the story without having to make any major choices.

How do you know when a story is “ready”, that it’s time to stop making those minuscule corrections?

When I run face-first into the submission deadline (I can be a terrible procrastinator). I don’t know that one can ever stop tinkering with a story. If I do a few read-throughs and nothing leaps out at me, that’s one sign that it’s about ready. Of course, an author is often the worst judge of his/her own work. Getting feedback from other writers can be invaluable.

What aspect did you find most difficult?

The actual writing part.

Were there any particular sources of inspiration for your story?

In retrospect, this may have been inspired by a Simpsons’ Halloween episode. It’s the one where Homer sells his soul to the devil (played by Flanders) for a donut. However, the deal is made null and void because of an old love letter he’d written– his soul is saved because it was already pledged to Marge.

Are you working on any new stories or projects now?

I just sent out something for an anthology on female pirates. Currently I’m working on at least four short stories in varying stages for various venues. This includes a retelling of the Apple of Discord myth, as well as an entry for next quarter’s Writers of the Future contest.

And of course there are the novels, which haunt my conscience. I have two in the works, one humorous and one laughable. Sorry, just self-deprecating. Actually the two novels do reflect a dichotomy I find in my writing: one is light-hearted fantasy about unfinished works, and the other a darker tale interweaving Filipino folktales. It seems I either want to make people laugh or scream.

I’ve found that comedy and horror are some of the more difficult elements to inject into a story. Do you feel the same?

Absolutely. My approach with comedy is to have the characters act seriously–no matter how absurd their actions and dialogue are. My approach to horror is to write simply and let the situation speak for itself. Of course, I’ve read some terrifying stories with really elegant descriptions. Of the two–comedy and horror–I’d say I have an easier time with the former. But that’s subjective. I know my first draft is never as funny as the final version.

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?

I love George RR Martin’s series, A Song of Ice and Fire. While I haven’t written a short story in that world, I did create an adventure for an RPG session. The tricky part was creating a plot complex enough to be interesting and true to the flavor of the series, while not screwing up with the continuity or canon already established. It revolved around a reputedly miracle-child, and a misleading prophecy that seemed to be about an assassination attempt on the King, but was actually about the High Septon (the religious head of the Seven Kingdoms).

Where else can we find your work?
I’m glad you asked. My humorous stuff is under “Rod M. Santos” and can be found online at The Town Drunk and Flash Fiction Online. My more serious stuff goes under “Rodello Santos” and has appeared in Every Day Fiction, and the now defunct Dragons, Knights and Angels. Lastly, my stories appear in the print anthologies Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol. III, Cinema Spec, Cheer Up Universe (forthcoming), and Paper Blossoms, Sharpened Steel (forthcoming). By some miracle, my PSF3 story received an honorable mention in the 2008 Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror anthology. Oh, I also have a tale in this cool anthology called the Farthest Chore, or Fascist Score, or something like that.

Joey and Dean will murder you for that. I know there are writers who use different names when writing different types of stories, but you’re the first I’ve interviewed–can you tell us a bit about why you chose to use different names?
Oh dear, I sure hope they don’t murder me. Now I’m going to be checking over my shoulder all the time. Regarding the use of different names, I didn’t want fans of my humor stories to accidentally pick up something about monsters who drive hearses, and vice versa. I might revisit this strategy and end up lumping everything under “Rodello Santos.” I guess I’ll decide eventually…then change my mind again.

Anything else we haven’t touched upon that you’d like to talk about?
Squirrels are awesome. Also, the music of Savage Garden is neither savage nor botanical. Discuss.

We’d like to thank Rod once again for agreeing to this interview. Next week we speak to one of the head honchos, editor/contributor Joey Nacino, about the Farthest Shore and his story “Brothers-in-Arms“.

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