Eliza Victoria’s fiction and poetry have received prizes in the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature and the Philippines Free Press Literary Awards. She’s contributed to many of our projects here at Rocket Kapre, including Usok, Ruin and Resolve, and Alternative Alamat. She took the time to answer a few questions about her first solo book “Lower Myths”, which was just released digitally last week.
Why did you choose “Lower Myths” as the title of this novella collection?
I’m not sure if I first read this in a book or online, but some historiographers make a distinction between what they perceive as two kinds of myths. B?rendran?tha Datta discusses it here: “classical”/literary myths are considered “higher myths” while oral/folk myths are considered “lower myths”.
The myths that I’ve always loved are oral myths, and their creatures and characters appear in this volume.
Did you intentionally set out to write novella-length fiction, or were these simply the length you felt that the stories needed to be?
I distinctly remember making notes on these stories and thinking that the plots couldn’t be contained within 5,000 words (the length of an average short story). So yes, I guess the intention is to write longer stories. I didn’t think “novella”, I just thought they’d be “long”.
Did you notice any difference in the writing of novella-length fiction, as opposed to shorter stories? Were there any peculiar difficulties/benefits to the novella?
Working with a longer word count could give you a fake sense of freedom. You’ll write scenes the story doesn’t really need, go overboard with descriptions, etc. What I’m saying is, there’s no difference really. It just so happened that the novella was the length the stories needed.
BUT I have to say one difficulty to the novella is IT’S HARDER TO SELL. I once spoke with a print publication, and they told me that they love Lower Myths, but it’s not marketable. Most publications want short stories, or full novels. Good thing Flipside picked this up or this won’t see the light of day.
Was there any particular reason you chose to package these two novellas together? Do you feel that they somehow interact with each other, thematically? (An early review mentioned that the stories “visit both sides of the fence…”)
The stories mention the same creatures and at moments occur in the same setting.
“Trust Fund Babies” involves a war between families of witches and fairies. What kind of research did you have to do for this story?
I am a fan of mindless, mob movies. Just gleeful, plot-driven action. And I am fond of detective fiction. Whatever research this story needed, I’ve already done in the past I suppose.
Why did you choose fairies and witches in particular, as opposed to other available creature/sorcerer groups?
The story begins in the Cagayan Valley, and the stories my mother and grandmother (who are both from Cagayan) tell me “from back home” almost always involved witches.
As for fairies, I’m just fond of diwata.
Was “The Very Last Case of Messrs. Aristotel and Arkimedes Magtanggol” (where an aristocrat and his daughter consult sibling lawyers about a mysterious crime) inspired by any real life events?
If I told you what real-life event inspired this story, I’ll give the plot away! A clue then: turn to the news.
The book also features some fine illustrations. Can you tell us a bit about the artist, and why you chose to include artwork?
The inclusion of artwork (by Lester Banzuelo) was the decision of the publishing house. But [the illustrations] lovely, aren’t they? I really love the cover too [illustrated by Lester Banzuelo and designed by Adam David].
“Lower Myths” is an ebook, but you also have a print collection of short stories coming out later this year. Can you talk a bit about the differences and/or similarities in the publishing process for a digital book and a print book? How did you choose which collection to pitch for print/digital?
I pitched this collection for digital because it might be easier to sell a short book as an ebook than its dead-tree equivalent. And, as I’ve mentioned, I don’t think print publishing houses are keen on accepting novella collections.
As for the differences, print books take longer to produce, and are more expensive. During revisions, a digital book will be returned to you as a Word file with Track Changes on. Meanwhile, my short story collection was returned to me as a print-out, a hefty package with the comments penciled in. As someone who is used to working on a computer, the process seemed archaic to me (I had to sit on the floor so I could flip through the MS without ruining the pages, and take notes on a separate piece of paper). But it was beautiful! It was very romantic. It’s been a while since I last saw an editor’s handwriting.
Photo credit: Karen Lucero of the National Book Development Board