Whenever an issue of Usok comes out, I conduct a short interview with the authors, to give readers some insight into the creation of the stories, as well as the authors themselves. As we started our interviews for Usok 2 with VN Benedicto, who did the art for “Elsewhere“, we’ll begin the author interviews with the author of “Elsewhere“: Eliza Victoria, one of the country’s most prolific authors of speculative fiction. Don’t believe me? Check out her newly minted author’s page here on the site, and see for yourself.
Tell us a bit about how you came up with the idea for your story.
It was just a what-if that came out of nowhere: What if there were a natural phenomenon – like lightning, or rain – that could create superheroes, but those superheroes couldn’t choose their powers? I thought it was a scary idea, and a sad one, and I had to write about it.
What aspect of the story gave you the most difficulty?
There is a secret in the story, and it is always difficult to hide a secret.
What aspect of the story gave you the most joy?
I’ve always wanted to try my hand at using a different structure for the short story. I’d planned to use the structure of a film script, and even studied a handful, but couldn’t find a narrative to sustain the form. Then one day my boyfriend mentioned taking up a comic-writing class in the University of the Philippines, our alma mater, and I insisted on seeing his script. Before I saw his comic script, I already had the idea [for “Elsewhere”] in my head, but as usual couldn’t start it because I couldn’t figure out the right way to tell it to make the story different from all others. Then I saw my boyfriend’s script, and I realized, here it was: a narrative structure based on images, a structure I could use.
Not long after, he lent me several comic books, one of which was a copy of Neil Gaiman’s Marvel 1602. 1602 contains a sample script of the graphic novel. I studied that closely, and had fun writing those portions of the story.
However, I still don’t know if I could write an actual comic book script.
Have you ever worn a costume? What was your favorite one? What about the most ridiculous?
What is this question doing here?! I don’t wear costumes, and have never attended a costume party, because I’m boring like that. Well we had to do a presentation at the company anniversary party, and I wore a cheerleader outfit. I was never a cheerleader, and never aspired to be one. So that’s definitely ridiculous, haha.
Does your cultural background influence how you write, or what you write?
Definitely. All of my stories are based in the Philippines, usually Bulacan, where I grew up, or the Cagayan Valley, where my mother grew up, or the city, where I live now. My mother has several fantastic stories from the Valley, made more fantastic by the fact that she considers them true. My stories involving the aswang and witchcraft came from her, from the stories she told me and my siblings about her hometown.
What was the best piece of writing advice you ever read or received?
Of course there’s “Start with what you know” and “Show, don’t tell” but the one writing rule that I adhere to was advice that I didn’t receive but, instead, something that I realized after several creative writing classes filled with workshops and critique: you can’t please everybody. So I write what I want to read, not what I think other people will want to read, because I don’t know what everyone wants. It is a sad, sad thing, to receive praises for a story you’re not even proud of, or to change a story in order to please an audience. I write because I want to share something, not because I want to satisfy a certain group of people.
To hear other people say that they read and like my stories or poems (and even like some of them enough to give me an award!) is a bonus, and a lovely bonus at that.