by KB Meniado
“You read those stuff?” is something romance readers commonly hear from other people—and let’s be real, it often comes along with strong judgment. Funnily enough, when you drop by bookstores, chances are the romance section is usually the most packed. (And most likely, many people you know have “romance stuff” in their shelves, physical or digital.) Not surprisingly as well, several of them look for hot, sex positive romance. (Can we get a heck yeah?!) Good news: we can find some locally—and one in the form of Bianca Mori’s works. Here, she talks about why sexual agency awareness is important and what aspiring Filipino steamy romance writers should keep in mind.
Bianca Mori writes contemporary romances, romantic suspense and crime fiction set in the Philippines, Asia, Europe, the United States and all points in between. Her steamy stories have been called “fast-paced and super hot,” “engaging,” “vivid” and “engrossing.” She lives in Manila with her family and a hyperactive pug.
Hi, Bianca! You write in different genre and categories (under different names, too), and while this might not be fair to ask, we want to know: if you could only choose one to write about forever, which one would it be and why?
What a difficult question! I guess I would have to say contemporary romance. It’s such a flexible and evolving genre that you can do so much with it, experiment with different tropes, narrative styles, plots. For an author like me who likes to try different stuff, it’s a good field to play in.
In your guest Book Thingo podcast interview in 2017, you referenced to an experience about promoting your steamy novels to a group of students and receiving a not-very-welcoming feedback. (“It’s too explicit, I can’t read that.”) In spite of, you went on to write more sex-positive characters and stories, such as One Night At The Palace Hotel (~elite romance) and Chasing Waves (~single mom lit). Why do you think it’s high-time for Filipino young readers to pick up more books like yours?
Filipina women have a long journey towards becoming sex positive and becoming aware of their sexual agency. I speak on this based on my own experience. Through reading romance and engaging with the romance community, I felt empowered and enlightened when I realized that a lot of the unhealthy beliefs I had towards sex were patriarchal constructs used to divide women against one another and reinforce an arbitrary ‘pecking order’ that assigns value to a woman based on her sexual experience—and all these constructs always benefit men. We hear these beliefs so many times and think it’s conventional wisdom, so it takes a while to unlearn.
But the more we read about women in a myriad of sexual experiences, the more we realize how normal and healthy sexuality is, and the more we become aware that women are valuable and precious no matter what we choose to do (or, sadly, what has been done to) our bodies. Sometimes I feel we’ve made so much progress, and then it only takes the next viral scandal to see that rape culture, slut-shaming and victim-blaming is still very much ingrained in us. My hope is that in time we women can progress together and support one another.
“Diversity for readers is always important. Man can’t live on bread alone, just as a reader can’t live on the same few genres publishers deem ‘sellable.’ For that reason, I think crime is important to read and be written.”—Bianca Mori, from “Uncovering Crime Fiction (Part 3 of 3): An Interview with #HeistClub Authors”
Preach! We women do have to stick together. Onto your other work, the Takedown trilogy, only one of the most exhilarating romantic suspense series I’ve read. In your interview with us in 2015, you said it was difficult to keep the “balls up in the air”…
“I’d planned all three books, knowing at which point I’d reveal what, etc. But before the reveal, it was important I’d plan some clues so that the reveal wouldn’t feel unearned. It’s something that felt like the more technical side of writing where the timing had to be right, avoid info-dumps, that kind of thing. So yeah, that was haaaaarrrd.”
… But if given the opportunity, time and energy, would you write something like this again? What do you think would be the book description?
I would love to write something like this again! I’ve just seen Ocean’s Eight (and re-watched it like five times in four days) and I was so inspired. An all-female heist team is so cool! I just have to think up a smart new concept. Or maybe do a crossover with Mina V. Esguerra‘s Scambitious team. OMG!
You mentioned in this interview that you’ve always enjoyed and wanted to write crime fiction—and you did that with Snakehead. What is one unsolved mystery you’d like to write about for your next one?
I’d love to do a Philippine historical unsolved mystery. Who really killed Ninoy Aquino? Where is Yamashita’s Treasure located? Something wild like that. I would also like to do a Philippine historical AU (alternate universe). I often think about how Ferdinand Marcos was imprisoned for shooting his father’s rival Julio Nalundasan but was set free by the Supreme Court because he did so brilliantly at that year’s bar exam. What if that order of events didn’t happen? How would the course of history change, and different or how the same would the Philippines be? That’d be wild to write and even wilder to research!
Any specific pieces of advice, tips or words of encouragement to Filipino writers aspiring to write 🔥 explicit steam 🔥?
I think we all have deep reservoirs of steam within us just waiting to be unleashed! 😉
- Read steamy books! Then ask yourself: what scenes connect with you? Why? Often the best steamy scenes are an extension of a character’s growth and their journey. It’s never just a “He did this and she reacted this way.” When a steamy scene captures why that act is meaningful between the characters, for me that’s the best. (Then again maybe your style will be more along the lines of erotica, and in that case, go wild!)
- Whatever style you want to pursue, remember: CONSENT! All parties must be explicitly consenting to what’s happening. Any time there’s coercion or manipulation, even if it’s only a hint, I ‘NOPE’ out of there. That’s not sexy, and it really disturbs me when I read that, so I hope to read less of this!
- Also, please have your characters practice safe sex! This is one mistake I had with my early steamy works, especially One Night At The Palace Hotel, which I corrected in a new edition. Steamy writers have a responsibility to depict safe and consensual scenes and I hope we all take it seriously. ☁️