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Meet the Goddess of Love Stories: An Interview with Romance Author Mina V. Esguerra

BY ALLANA LUTA AND CAKE EVANGELISTA WITH ART BY HAZEL URETA

Here on Bookbed, almost everyone is gaga over young adult and romance novels. (If it weren’t obvious yet.) So when we were talking about who we could feature as our first Filipino author, Mina V. Esguerra, one of today’s most popular Filipino authors of romance lit, definitely came on top of the list!

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We are huge fans of Mina’s work so it was exciting to get to know more about her. Plus, it’s International Literacy Day today so talking about one of our favorite writers talking about her favorite books is hitting two birds in a stone. Plus, plus! She’s teaching YA and adult romance writing this month at the Ayala Museum, we just knew this is one interview and workshop we couldn’t miss!

Besides her kilig-inducing work, another thing we love about Mina is how cool and friendly she is—always willing to engage her readers. We also learn what her current Top 5 romantic books are, what type of female characters she likes and her favorite quote from Neil Gaiman. Also, she seems to be as in love with Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl as we are! *Kanye West dance party ensues* Read on to find out more!

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Mina V. Esguerra writes books with kissing. Her published works include Fairy Tale Fail, My Imaginary Ex, Love Your Frenemies, No Strings Attached and Interim Goddess of Love. Visit her on minavesguerra.com or tweet her @minavesguerra.

LET’S TALK ABOUT BOOKS

You’ve said in interviews that the Sweet Valley got you into reading (and, eventually, writing). What was it about those books that captured your attention?

At the time, I was really into television, and those books felt to me like TV but … in book form. The Sweet Valley Twins series released a new book a month at the time. And by the time I had discovered it, I had over 30 books to read to catch up. It was really fun.

And then when I got all caught up there, I moved on to Sweet Valley High, and then Sweet Dreams. The episodic nature of the books and the simple take on romance and friendships got me hooked.

What are your Top 5 favorite romance novels? How about YA?

I can give you a Top 5 right now (because my Top 5 keeps changing). Here are my current favorite romance titles:

  1. Asking for Trouble by Tessa Bailey
  2. Big Boy by Ruthie Knox
  3. The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand
  4. The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers
  5. The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

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And Top 5 YA (right now):

  1. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  2. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
  3. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
  4. Divergent by Veronica Roth
  5. The Mediator series by Meg Cabot (this is years old but I only read it now)

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You, as well as other authors, have advised budding writers to read books outside the genre they work on as a way to improve their writing. What are your favorite reads outside the romance genre and how have they helped you?

Right now, I’m learning about museums and art, so I’m reading nonfiction (The Rescue Artist by Edward Dolnick). Fiction is informative, too. Something like The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach was interesting to me because of how it portrayed interconnected people and relationships.

Something like The Collector by John Fowles or Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn when you’re writing people who aren’t “likeable” and you want to see where the line is and how horrible you want your characters to be. And then I also read books that are famous for being “bad,” just because it’s fun.

THE HEART OF WRITING

How does being active and engaging with fans online affect your writing process in any way?

Maybe I write faster, because I know they’re there and willing to read what’s next.

Is there any romance novel you wish ended differently? How would you rewrite the ending?

Do I wish to rewrite an ending for one of mine? No. Come to think of it, I always come up with the ending first, so every ending is something I wanted since the story’s concept phase.

Now that you have a child, do you plan on writing children’s books? Or is that completely out of the picture?

I don’t think I will. At least, there are no plans right now. I’ve been asked about including more parenting issues in my books, so maybe it will go that way. I’ve actually made a decision recently to go more mature with my books, and not younger.

GRRRRRRL POWER!

What are your thoughts about feminism in love stories?

As a reader and writer, I prefer stories where women get things done, know who they are (or get there eventually), and know what they’re good at. I don’t particularly like it when women are treated like crap in romance fiction.

What do you think about romance/love story tropes and clichés? How do you work around them?

I think tropes stick around for a reason and a good writer will take a familiar one and make it seem new. I know that romance readers have tropes they prefer, and as a romance writer, you kind of have to use this to your advantage rather than avoid it.

What’s your opinion on “women’s fiction” and how it is viewed negatively in the literary world?

If anyone is avoiding “women’s fiction” because of the label, they’re missing out on a lot. If they happen to like reading something just because it’s been labeled “literary,” then I’m not particularly concerned about their opinions.

Romantic stories, in all its different forms and types, are very popular. What do you think is it about love that has fascinated people since the beginning of time?

To me it’s about the fantasy, and because it seems like there’s a greater chance of it happening in real life – to us. Depending on who we are, that makes us either delusional or hopeful!

EXTRA, EXTRA!

What is your favorite book and why?

Right now, it’s Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, and my treasured special edition hardcover edition. Fangirl just works for me on so many levels. Because I write, and I was deep into a fandom, and the book recreates how that feels so well.

Who is your favorite author and why?

Rainbow Rowell, right now. (See above.)

Your favorite reading/writing-related quote?

“Life is sometimes hard. Things go wrong, in life and in love and in business and in friendship and in health and in all the other ways that life can go wrong. And when things get tough, this is what you should do. Make good art.”—Neil Gaiman

Mina is teaching romance writing this September at the Ayala Museum! To attend, call Ms. Marj at 759-8288 local 25 or email her at villaflores.md@ayalafoundation.org.
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