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On Best Beginnings: An Interview with ‘Before I Do’ Author Kath C. Eustaquio-Derla

BY TWILA BERGANIA

When we first read Before I Do (BIDO), it was refreshing to find what Kath C. Eustaquio-Derla’s writing brought to our bedsides and shelves. As in our book review, it felt a lot like chatting with a really good—albeit brutally honest—friend over coffee. Heroine Kit Castille’s strong sense of growth made sense after her younger years in its prequel, What Am I To You, first released here on Bookbed.

But after self-publishing fictionalized romance, the author decided to change course, and late last year, she released the BIDO Anthology, a compilation of love stories Filipino romance readers would love to sink their teeth into.

Photo by Genzel Habab

Written by 32 writers, the anthology contains real-life accounts of 32 writers on the highs and lows of relationships, dating, weddings and marriage—both from the female and male perspectives.

Kath. C. Eustaquio-Derla is a journalism graduate from the University of Santo Tomas in Manila, Philippines. She wrote Bedroom Blog by Veronica, a relationship blog for Cosmopolitan Philippines from 2009 to 2011, which covers most of her single dating life. She is passionate about coffee, red wine, books, and “Mad Men.” She stopped collecting hearts when she got married in 2013 and went back to collecting Archie Comics instead. Tweet her @kceustaquio. | Photo by the author

 

THE WRITER: KIT’S ALTER EGO

Hello Kath! First of all, can you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you first get into writing? How many books have you published so far?

I’m a Filipino writer based in Malaysia. I was once a graphic designer, digital marketing specialist, events person and lastly, an internal communications specialist for a multinational company. But in between these stints, I’ve held several writing jobs—copywriter, managing editor for a Fil-Am travel magazine and features writer before I finally decided on the kind of writing I want to focus on. I have self-published the following books: BIDO in 2014, BIDO Anthology last year (2016) and Make A Colorful Impression, a coffee table book about our family business.

We love Kit’s feisty character and all the other characters brought to life by BIDO and WAITY. How did BIDO come about and how did you create Kit’s character?

The original story for BIDO came when Mina V. Esguerra asked me to join her anthology project. She gave me two weeks to finish a manuscript. The first draft was published as part of the ebook titled Say Things That Change (New Adult Quick Read Volume 1).

Kit Castille is a play on my real name: Kit-Kat, a play on the famous chocolate brand that we all love to break; Castille from my middle name, Castillo. Basically, Kit is my not-so-different alter ago. In many ways, I am her.

What’s one word that would best summarize Kit as a character?

Fierce. She’s the queen bitch that you would want to have as your ally. Amazingly, Kit is the kind of girl people (who don’t know her) are quick to hate and even quicker to judge. But she’s a rare gem to the people closest her. If I may, her fierceness is the equivalent of an entire cheerleading squad and about 10 fabulous and fierce gay friends.

What was the best thing about writing BIDO? How about WAITY? How different are these writing experiences for you?

I wrote BIDO as a satire. As I mentioned in my author’s notes, some parts are meant to annoy several relatives and that was so much fun to do! But I did receive several comments that BIDO lacks some heat. So when I wrote the prequel, I packed in as much heat as I can give it. And well, as you may have noticed, it’s quite steamy. The prequel paints a different kind of Kit Castille. Here, we are shown the experiences she went through that sort of shaped her into the strong character she is in BIDO. (Related: What Am I To You Episodes 1-23)

ON THE BEGINNINGS OF BIDO ANTHOLOGY AND THE IN-BETWEENS

How did the BIDO Anthology project start?

You know what they say about the ideas you get when you’re taking a bath? We’ll, that’s true. I remember one day, I came out of the shower and told my husband about the book project. I know of many female friends who couldn’t wait to get married, while some are so scared of commitments. Then, there are also newly married women shocked about some marital revelations and those long-time married women who would laugh at the younger generations for being so cuckoo. I thought, what if these women come together and share their stories?

As for Bros Before Hoes, the idea came to me when my husband’s best friend visited us in Kuala Lumpur in mid-2016. We were talking about what scares men about commitments, especially marriage and from there, the idea to include the male half was set in stone. And from the boys’ perspective, we are not as different as we seem to believe.

Photo by the author

What’s it like working with different authors of different backgrounds, genders and opinions?

It’s an eye-opener! I initially asked my writer friends to join, but then offered the chance to non-writers and we were surprised at the depth of insight. It’s such a wonderful experience to be able to give people the chance to immortalize their thoughts in a book that we launched on our own.

What’s one love advice or quote that struck you the most in BIDO Anthology?

Let me give you two quotes, one from each half.

 

“Honestly, I don’t have a problem with being a Tinder-less single woman in her 30s. But it does sting a bit when other people do point out that I am a Tinder-less single woman in her 30s.”—Paula Abiog
“Let’s say you’re out of town for work every now and then, while your girl is at some office party or comes from work meetings that adjourn a bit late. She has this guy friend (single), who constantly offers her a ride home, or is being sweet and all. I’m telling you right now, may balak yang putang-inang yan.”—Marco Villanueva

ON MAKING MAGIC ON PAPER AND FUTURE BEGINNINGS

What inspires you to write?

I have a vivid imagination, which makes me quickly plot story lines in my head. After I finish writing a synopsis, I delve into the marketing plan. This means I plan what I do after I get the book published. Having that vision inspires me to finish writing the manuscript and create spin-offs.

What’s the best thing about being a romance writer?

Being a Filipino romance writer allows me to weave my personal experiences in my stories. I live under constant scrutiny—from my decision to delay marriage and motherhood to my own career and lifestyle choices. I am always the star in the gossip columns of my aunties and uncles who have nothing better to do than talk about the lives of the people around them. For a long time, it frustrated me. But writing gave me a healthy option to let out my angst and turn these gossips into stories, which are pretty relatable and entertaining when translated into a rom-com manuscript. I have found that the things that once made my blood boil entertain a lot of people. And that’s what I’ve been doing ever since. My pen is mightier than their tongues!

What challenges do you usually encounter when you write?

I don’t follow a strict writing schedule, which I really should. Sometimes, I write 10 chapters straight; sometimes I can’t write for weeks. That’s one thing I’m working on this year.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Like many writers I know, I often deal with writer’s block. I try to box it out at the gym. Sometimes, I stay at a nice café and people-watch until words pour out. But most of the time, I just drink whisky and stare at my open laptop screen until I see words come out!

Sometimes, inspiration just comes when you’re not really ready to write. I wrote the ending to WAITY on a train from Kuala Lumpur International Airport back to our condo. I wrote the first few chapters of Mariposa, my upcoming novel, during a seven-hour flight from Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo. Sometimes, I write on table napkins and scratch papers! Not much of a ritual, but there is an organized chaos as to how I write.

One thing we particularly love about your books is that you write steamy and action scenes really well. What’s your secret? Are these scenes part of the writing plans or did they just happen along the way?

I follow a synopsis guide for my books but as for writing them, let me just say that I’ve read a lot of books. You know what they say about being a writer? That you need to read a lot of books.

What’s one thing all good romance writers know to be true?

I believe that for you to have a lot of readers, you have to be relatable. I write for people my age and, oh boy, we have a lot of drama, don’t we? I’ve been advised to write my entire manuscript in English and remove some of the actual places I included in my book. I politely declined. Why? Because there is magic when readers find themselves in the actual place where the scenes took place.

Also, I’ve personally been to these places and build the drama from there. I once walked the length of the Helix Bridge from the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore all the way to the other side and wrote the final scene of Finally, I Do, the final installment in the BIDO trilogy. There is so much magic to these places and I want to keep them. Plus, curse words like ‘pakyu’ and ‘leche’ are not as fun when translated in English!

We can’t wait to read more of your stuff! What are your current and future projects?

I am currently finishing the full manuscripts for WAITY and Finally, I Do. I am also working on Mariposa, which I plan to transform into a screenplay later this year. I have a writing and mentoring program called “You Are Cordially Invited – A Before I Do Series” which translates to #YAI2017 for short. Here, I teach new writers how to start, finish, produce and market their own books.

Lastly, what’s your advice to aspiring romance writers?

If you want to write, just write. But don’t stop there. The real work comes after you’ve self-published your own titles. The real work starts when you ask people to buy your books. It’s a long process that requires more than just the ability to write. You have to know how to build a brand and position and market your books to your target market. And now I know why my career road map (one that actually looks like a starburst) includes a stint in marketing—because now, I’m finally building my own brand. ☁

Buy Kath C. Eustaquio-Derla’s books here.
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