For the digital release of Alternative Alamat, I ran interviews with several of the contributing authors, asking them about writing in general and their stories in particular. I wasn’t able to interview everyone, however, so for the print launch
this coming Saturday [EDIT: LAUNCH HAS BEEN POSTPONED TO JULY 25, FRIDAY, 4PM, SAME VENUE] I went back to the contributors I wasn’t able to interview last time.
TIMOTHY JAMES DIMACALI
Timothy James M. Dimacali, author of “Keeper of My Sky”, has always been fascinated by the intersection of science and mythology. He is currently the Science and Technology Editor of GMA News Online, but loves to play his violin every now and then. He has been a fellow for fiction at the annual Silliman University National Writers Workshop and the Iligan National Writers Workshop, and graduated with a degree in Creative Writing from the University of the Philippines.
The people of Panay tell the story of the god Tungkung Langit’s eternal search for his wife, the goddess Alunsina. They speak of how Tungkung Langit scattered Alunsina’s jewels in the sky in an effort to call her back to him; how her necklace became the stars; her comb, the moon; her crown, the sun. According to the old story, she never returned. Perhaps she had a good reason.
Without spoiling anything essential, could you tell me a bit about your story?
It’s a love story based on a very simple premise: What is it like for a god to be lonely?
The structure you used for the story was very striking. What led you to the decision to construct the story in this way?
I tend to write my stories in chunks, not necessarily in a specific order. If I think of an interesting scene or turn of phrase, I’ll write it at the bottom of the page. I’d collect several of these and move them up the page if I find a place for them to fit. But somewhere along the line when writing Keeper of My Sky, I realized that a lot of the random scenes I had thought up could be tied together as a parallel narrative. From that point on, it was just a matter of weaving the two streams together.
What part of the story–or the writing process–was the most fun for you?
The whole writing process is fun for me! It’s like being on a rollercoaster that you built yourself, except that you’re riding it *while* building it. You have just a general idea of where you’d like to go, but the track is never quite the way you plan it and you never really know for sure how it’ll all end.
What part of the story–or the writing process–was the most difficult for you?
I honestly think it’s waiting for the pieces to fall into place. Sometimes I’d stare at the page and all I’d see are just bits and pieces, fragments that I’m not quite sure will fit together if at all. And that gut-wrenching feeling when you know that you’ll inevitably have to throw something out.
How were you first exposed to Philippine mythology?
My single fondest memory is of a little book of Philippine myths and fairy tales, written in the 1960′s, that I found in my grandfather’s house.
Is there any myth, epic or legend that you wish would be adapted into a novel, or comic, or movie?
Not any story, in particular, but the fabric of it all: the texture of the languages and cultures. I’ve always been fascinated by how closely Tolkien’s world echoed the myths and cultures of ancient Europe, and I feel that something similar can be done to Philippine mythology as well.
Who is your favorite character from Philippine mythology, and why?
Seriously, it’s always been Tungkung Langit and Alunsina. Yes, that’s two characters, but they might as well be a single one. We often talk about lovers being “made” for each other, but just imagine what it must be like to be gods who have only ever existed for each other. And then imagine that, despite being a god, you can never be with literally the only other being in the entire Universe who completes you. That’s the loneliness that only a god could know.