As some of you know by now, I am a Filipino-American. I was born in New York City in the *ahem* early Seventies, but grew up completely in the Philippines. I moved back with my husband and then one-year old daughter in 2002 to carve out a life of our own. A lot has changed (for the better) over the past ten years, but I'll talk more about our "Coming to America" story another time.
More and more Filipinos are making their mark in the arts on a global scale. The likes of Matthew Labatique (cinematographer), Monique Lhuillier (fashion designer), Enrique Iglesias (singer), Lou Diamond Phillips (actor) and many more acknowledge their Pinoy heritage.
In the area of literature, there are many novelists and poets who have Pinoy blood ties. One of the latest ones to break into the publishing world is the lady I am introducing to you today. Joining the ranks of traditionally published authors such as Jose Garcia Villa, Melissa dela Cruz, and Marisa de los Santos is Samantha Sotto.
Samantha sought publication from the Philippines, which is not an easy route to take. It turns out that Sam and I have multiple connections to each other that it's a wonder that we've never met personally. I look forward to that day when we actually do sit down over a pot of tea and some baked eggs and maybe another round of 11 Questions.
How early in life did you realize that you were a writer? At what point did you decide to pursue publication? What brought you to that decision?
I’m not a “real” writer so I’m not sure if I can answer that question. Writing is my “mommy break.” It’s a chance to hang out with my imaginary friends while the kids are in school. The decision to pursue publishing Before Ever After only came about after I had typed “The End.” My hubby and I thought that getting it published was a good way to inspire the kids to pursue their dreams.
Before Ever After is my first work of fiction. I originally planned to write the story as straight-up comedy like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy but my characters had other plans.
Is there a specific topic, whether within your genre or outside of it, that you feel you cannot write about? Would you explain to us why?
I don’t think I could ever write about teenage romance and angst. I’m too chicken to do the subject justice. Just thinking about my own kids hitting puberty in a few years is scary enough.
Could you describe for us the birth process of your stories? Are all your stories born or developed the same way?
Before Ever After popped into my head while I was stuck in traffic. Ideas like to creep up to me from behind and scare the *bleep* out of me. They think it’s funny.
Where do you typically find inspiration for your stories and the characters you create? Is there a particular source that you return to regularly?
I don’t have a go-to source for inspiration. I wish I did. Ideas ambush me ninja-style and I really don’t have much say in the matter.
Can you describe for us a typical writing day? Do you write every day? Do you dedicate regular hours to writing? What would be the optimum conditions for a “perfect” writing session?
I like to write every morning after I go to the gym. I don’t think that there’s such a thing as a perfect writing session. As long as I’ve added to what I wrote they day before, I’m happy. It doesn’t matter if it’s a couple of paragraphs or an entire chapter. My goal is simply to keep the story moving forward.
After a writing session, how quickly can you step out of your story to tend to real life?
I stop playing with my imaginary friends the moment the kids need help with their homework or are looking for a snack. I shut my laptop and switch to mommy mode.
I know you have a business and family life. How does this affect your writing life? Is it a hindrance? Or is it a refuge?
Each facet of my life enriches the other parts. I don’t think I’d have much to write about if I didn’t have these other experiences. “Playtime” wouldn’t be as special if I had it twenty-four seven.
Have you ever found the inkwell dry? How do you refill it?
I believe that inspiration isn’t a very reliable writing partner. It calls in sick a lot and likes to play hooky. I’ve learned that I need to strap myself to my desk chair and write whether or not inspiration decides to show up for work that day.
What part of the writing process do you enjoy the most? Like the least? Why?
I enjoy the research phase. A lot. I enjoy discovering obscure facts and adding to my “things-that-might-come-in-handy-when-I’m-on-a-game-show-one-day” jar.
I HATE proofreading. Typos are my sworn enemy.
This is a question that was posed on the blog of one of my favorite authors, and answering it helped me identify my priorities in terms of what I want to focus on as a writer. So, I’ll ask you: “If you had just one story left in you, and it was guaranteed to be published, what would that story be?”
I could tell you but my agent would probably kill me ;-)
You seem to have such a laid-back perspective on writing. You don't seem to "stress" about the actual writing, and just do. Does living in the Philippines (where we have extra "help" to get us through our daily lives) have an effect on how your perspective?
That's a very interesting question. I don't believe anyone has asked me that before! :) Living here has its advantages but it isn't primarily because of the support system (since I am pretty hands on). I believe that living on this side of the planet is a plus for me mainly because it helps me keep my "relationship" with my overseas settings intact. I don't think I'd feel as excited or romantic about these locations if I still lived there. I view writing as a vacation which is why I prefer to write about places that I don't get to see on a day to day basis. This way, I can look forward to revisiting them in my stories.
Samantha Sotto is the author of Before Ever After published by Crown, a subsidiary of Random House. You can follow her travels and other exciting undertakings on her blog and follow her on Twitter as @SamanthaSotto.
Before Ever After is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and from a local independent book store you can find through Indiebound.