Welcome everyone. Today, we’ve an author who writes YA, NA, and women’s literature (OK, she calls it “chick lit”, I’m a little behind the times it seems). Let’s welcome Ines Bautista Yao from Manila in the Philippines.
Ines, can you get us started with a little bit about yourself, and where you started?
- I studied Communication Arts in college because I always wanted to write. It didn’t matter what form it took, I just wanted to write. Then when I began working in a public relations company, a friend suggested I teach in my former high school. I had no idea what to teach, but something inside was ignited and I couldn’t sleep that night. The next day, I called the school and asked if I could apply. I figured I could try to be an English teacher. It was my favorite subject anyway. So I got accepted and I studied my masters degree in English Language and Literature Teaching (I am a comprehensive exam and thesis away from my degree). Afterward, I joined the editorial team of Candy magazine, a teen magazine. My life has always been in flux between writing and teaching.
- Right now, I freelance and work from home because I have two little girls and I want to be there when they need me.
I can definitely sympathize about trying to balance two or three full time jobs when writing is one of them! Do you have a special memory that helped you decide to become a writer?
- I began writing when I was a child. I guess, like all writers, I love to read, and as a child, I always carried a book around with me wherever I went. Somehow, the natural progression was to begin writing my own stories as well. At first, I began writing in a diary because I was given one by an aunt, but I grew tired of merely recording what happened to me that day. So I made up my own stories and the thrill and freedom that came with that hasn’t left me.
- I remember always carrying around a notebook and a pen as a child. Whenever I found a free moment, I would write. I loved having another world to escape to, one I created, one I could call up any time. What made it even better was I had readers who wanted to know what happened next: my sister and my cousins! But to be technical about it, I’m sure it started with my love for books. I loved stories so much, I wanted to create my own as well.
- I started my first book when I was pregnant with my first daughter. I was editing chick lit manuscripts and something inside told me I could do this too! So one day, I sat at my dining table, my laptop open to a blank page, and began to write. I had no idea what I was going to say or what story I wanted to tell. And because of that, after I had written about 13 pages, I read it and decided it was crap. So I hid it in a folder. It was a good thing I didn’t delete it because three years later, while I was looking through stuff in my desktop’s folder, I came across it. I began reading it and realized it wasn’t crap after all. In fact, I wanted to know what was going to happen next! So I began writing. Two months later, my first book was complete.
Sounds like you’ve had a lot of support through your journey. Was it all from the family, or did you have someone outside the family who supported you as well?
- I guess friends fall under the family category as well. They are as supportive as my family members. So my answer is: my readers. I love it when they contact me and let me know how inspired they feel after reading my books, how they could relate to the main character and how they know now that they can move on and find something better for themselves (because my main character was able to do it). It really warms my heart and it keeps me writing.What surprised me was when I announced that my new book was out, the one I indie published, I actually had readers contacting me asking how they could get copies and if they could deposit the payment in my bank account and if I could ship to them. It was wonderful. It made me feel that going the indie route (after traditionally publishing) was definitely not a mistake.
Since you’ve been both traditionally published, and have now self-published, along withe the work you’ve had in editing, would you say that writing is your career?
- Yes definitely. Or maybe a vocation.
Do you have a particular instance you can point to and say “There! That’s when I became a writer.”?
- I’ve always been writing, so I think I’ve always considered myself a writer. Maybe you can say I truly considered myself a writer when I joined a publishing company as an editor. I wrote tons of articles (I still do) for different magazines and because it was legit, my name on a byline and getting paid for it too, I could actually say I was a writer and not just someone who liked to write.
With everything you’ve written, have you developed a single writing style, or does each piece have it’s own “voice” and feel?
- I guess you could say my style is simple. I’m not one for long, flowery sentences with words you need a dictionary to understand. However, I do like to get into my character’s heads and make them as real as possible.
Makes sense to me. Are you working on anything now that you can share?
- I am joining writing workshops to push myself to write more this year. Last year, I only got to complete two short stories and that was it. I did publish Only A Kiss, but I had completed that the year before. And I want to be able to write more. It’s very hard because I have a very active 18-month-old, but the deadlines motivate me to focus — and to keep writing. So the good news is I completed two short stories and it’s only March! Can’t wait to share them with everyone.
- I am trying to finish a prequel of sorts to Only A Kiss. But I was too busy last month with the short story I was writing for a workshop and with another short story for something else (how vague can I get? Haha!). I am now struggling to finish a novella by the end of May for another workshop. I have no idea when I’ll finish this prequel! It might be doomed to be a short story just so I can finally release it.
- My current work is entitled Only A Kiss. It is a sweet romance set in the Philippines about two best friends, Chris and Katie. They went to the same grade school and always had each other’s backs. When high school hit, things began to change. Chris had his heart broken for the first time and his life spun out of control (at least, according to Katie). In the end, they learn a thing or two about love and friendship.
With all of the activity you’ve got happening in your life, what would you say has been the biggest challenges you’ve faced and over come?
- Right now, I want to be able to write a full-length novel. My books are all novellas. This means going beyond 50k words. My second book was 49,500ish words. I almost made it! I want to go beyond that and not worry that I won’t be able to sustain it or run out of steam as I write.
- This book was so easy to write. It was the easiest one so far. I think the hardest part was pressuring myself to finish before I gave birth, but since I began early, I knew I had time and the pressure was actually good for me. Not too stressful.
- [I learned] that I could work with a given a deadline and meet it if I had to. I was pregnant and I wanted to finish before I gave birth. I gave myself a deadline and I met it!
From your experiences, if you were to forced to start over now with everything that you’ve learned, would you change anything?
- I wouldn’t change anything but I think I would add more descriptions about the Philippines. I originally wrote it for a Philippine audience so I assumed lots of things about the setting. But as more people outside my country read it, they ask me where it is set and they want to know more about the place. So yes, I would add but not change anything.
Do you have any books that you read growing up, or even now, that you look back on reading and feel they have changed your life?
- I think the books I read as a child influenced me the most. These were the books by Enid Blyton, the Nancy Drew books, Sweet Dreams, and Sweet Valley High books. These were the books I devoured and eventually wanted to write.
Are these still your favorites, or has someone new come along to claim that honor?
- Right now, I love Sarah Addison Allen and my favorite work of hers is The Girl who Chased the Moon. After I read it, I gave it away as a birthday gift to my closest friends. I love the emotions in her stories as well as the magic she weaves into them. She isn’t afraid to tackle big issues either. Her books don’t feel fluffy or heavy, but always magical.
What about authors? Anyone you look up to as a mentor, even if you haven’t met in person?
- The books I read as a kid or a teenager left the biggest impression on me. The one writer who did that was Jahnna N. Malcolm. They are actually a husband and wife writing team, Jahnna Beecham and Malcolm Hillgartner. I discovered them when I read one of their Sweet Dreams books, Practice Makes Perfect. Sweet Dreams was a set of teen romances written by different authors. When I read Practice Makes Perfect, I loved it so much that I looked for their other books. And when they came out with a detective series, I waited at the bookstore for the newest releases. Their books made me want to write.
How about anyone you’ve recently discovered?
- Yes! From our BGS (Books Go Social) group: I really love how Emma Scott writes. The way she strings words together is intense. I also really loved reading Christina Surretsky’s book, Divine Bloodlines and I am eagerly awaiting the sequel. I also have been reading a lot of indie authors over at my Clean Indie Reads group. My favorites so far are Lia London’s comedies and H.L. Burke’s fantasy romances. I have downloaded a lot of indie books and I can’t wait to read more and find more favorite authors!
- I just finished Unbreakable by Emma Scott and am now moving on to Big Sky Siren by LA Ramirez, both authors are from the Books Go Social author group. I love reading indie authors because I feel these are books that come from the authors’ hearts, books they wanted to write and not books that publishers or editors made them write (or revise an original work into). Of course I understand suggestions to make a book better, but what makes an indie work so great is it usually has more heart and less commercialism, if you know what I mean.
Indeed I do. From your own foray into the indie publishing world, do you have a tale to tell about how you came up with your titles and covers?
- For my first two books, the title came last. My first book didn’t even have a title when I sent it to my publisher. We had to do name studies and in the end, I chose One Crazy Summer. For the longest time, it was simply called “Ack!” which was the first word I had written in the manuscript. Haha!My second book had a title but the publishers didn’t like it and they changed it. So for this book, I figured Only A Kiss would be a good title because I wanted a book that tugged at your heartstrings and brought on the feels. Feedback from my last book was that it lacked the romantic feels. So I thought – how could I go wrong with a title like that? I came up with the title before I wrote anything or even knew what the story was going to be about.
- I contacted a craft artist named Ebony Paguia to do the papercut art for Only A Kiss. I found her work on Instagram (@handslovepapers) and fell in love with it. Then I begged my artist friend Steph Yapnayon to do the art direction for my book. She put everything together, made sure the papercut effect stood out, and added the calligraphy of another artist friend Lorra Angbue-Te. This book was definitely a collaboration! And it lifts my heart every time someone tells me my cover is gorgeous.
With the history your titles have gone through, it sounds like you pour quite a bit of yourself into your work. How much of your stories are based on your own experiences or in reality?
- My books all take place in the Philippines and the events that happen are usually based on what can realistically happen in this country and in the world. But no, I didn’t base the events on anything I’ve witnessed.
- I think almost all of it is realistic, meaning it can happen or has probably happened to other people. Nothing in it is based on my life or what has happened to me, however.
Do you ever weave messages into your work for your readers to find?
- That love will happen, though it may take time. It’s funny, I didn’t really set out to include a message in the book, but readers have been telling me that they’ve learned a lot from it and that they now have hope that someday, they too will find love. And even if I didn’t mean for that to happen, I’m glad that’s what they took away.
::Chuckles:: Sometimes the unexpected messages are the most powerful.
Now for the big question everyone seems to want asked, but no one seems to like the answer to: What advice would you give to other new authors if you could?
- Don’t give up. Learn everything you can about your craft. Don’t ever stop learning. And don’t ever stop writing. You can only get better with time and practice.
Ines, thank you so much for coming over today. Before I wrap this up entirely, do you have any last words for our readers?
- Thank you so much for giving my stories a chance. I hope you stick around and see where this writing journey will take us.
Sounds like it will be a fun adventure for everyone. Thank you again for stopping by, and I look forward to your return visit when you bring Katie in for her interview.
If you enjoyed the interview, and wish to connect with Ines, you can find her on her blog Here, on Facebook Here, or on Twitter Here. She’s also on Instagram as @inesbyao (I’d link, but don’t have an account… Ines if you wish, feel free to leave a link in the comments.)
If you enjoyed the interview, and wish me to host one for you, please stop by my Offered Services page, and send me a submission. I’ll get back in touch with you soonest to discuss details.