Here’s the fourth, and final, Usok #1 interview, featuring our youngest author in this issue, Celestine Trinidad. Celestine is the author of “The Coming of the Anak-Araw” which now has an illustration by Benjo Camay.
Tell us a bit about how you came up with the idea for your story.
I had originally written a story about a storyteller (the same character in my story, “The Storyteller and the Giant”) and his apprentice, and that was the story I was supposed to be writing for the Palancas, but it ended up too long that I eventually decided to just turn into a novel—which, as with most ideas, had a life of its own, I swear—morphed into a series in my head. In that series, the storyteller and his apprentice will eventually face the same anak-araw that appeared in “The Coming of the Anak-Araw”, and they will be helped by other characters found in this story. I guess this is sort of a prequel to that, of sorts.
That is, if I ever get around to writing that series.
What aspect of the story gave you the most difficulty?
As Pao can probably attest, this story was very different originally, before he did some wonderfully extensive editing, hehe. Mostly I struggled with the pacing of the story, since in my head it was already part of that series of books I wanted to write, but this is a short story, and hence should be written differently.
Do you remember the first short story you ever wrote? What was it about?
I think I wrote a short story (complete with really horrible illustrations, hehe) about an alien woman whose planet was destroyed, so she sought refuge on our planet, and became a teacher. I…think she battled the aliens who destroyed her planet? And fell in love with this human co-teacher who guessed her secret, probably—I always was a sucker for romances like that. I lost the original version of that story, alas.
Does your cultural background influence how you write, or what you write?
Of course, as mostly I like writing about Philippine mythology, and those stories are the ones I am most comfortable with writing. I find our myths on the whole really fascinating, and love how you can play around with them, reinterpret them in so many ways. Being a doctor also influences my writing, because I always tend to include medical-related things in my stories (Sari is a healer in this one, after all, and works with herbs I once studied), I guess these are things I can’t help either.
What was the best piece of writing advice you ever read or received?
From my former Creative Writing 10 teacher in UP: “Keep reading and writing. Don’t let what other people say stop you from doing so.” It’s really simple advice, I know, but whenever I face rejections and feel like I can never be any good at this, I remember all those workshops we had with him, when he always found something nice to say about what we wrote, while still offering advice on how we could make those stories better. He was never harsh, and I’m immensely grateful for it. I’ve kept on writing, because of those first lessons I learned from him.