I first encountered Carla de Guzman on Twitter. I had just discovered #romanceclass, a community of readers and authors of Filipino contemporary romance, which she is a part of. I remember feeling excited when I first started reading their books. The settings and characters were so realistic and easy to relate to that I thought I was entering into a world familiar and new at the same time. It made me miss the Philippines, my first home.
When I found out she was planning on visiting Melbourne (my second home), I gladly took the chance to meet her in person and it was such a delight. We bonded instantly over delicious cakes and talked about books, music, the Philippine entertainment industry and even politics. (We forgot to take photos—we were having so much fun!)
Now that I’ve read all her books (Chasing Mindy, a contemporary romance set in Paris, being one of my favorites), I took the opportunity to ask her about writing, fierce female characters and body positivity ahead of her newest novel, How She Likes It, which releases TODAY, October 1!
If you ask Carla de Guzman what she does for a living, she will tell you that she’s not quite sure.
By day, she works a regular day job and writes for a lifestyle website. By night, she’s an author and an artist, spending her midnights at her desk and making these silly love stories. She loves to travel, coming home to her dog Kimchi and spending her weekends having dinner with her crazy family.
She’s currently on a quest to see as many Impressionist paintings as she can, and is always in search of the perfect pain au chocolat.
Hi, Carla! Thank you for being here on Bookbed again! As for me, though, it’s my first time here, and so I’d love to know first of all: What made you decide to go into writing? And why romance?
I suppose it all started with fanfiction! I was really into Yu Yu Hakusho when I was a kid, so I started there, making romantic fantasies come true through my computer screen… because I was incredibly in love with Youko Kurama!
[Meanwhile], I had just finished crying over the Doctor losing Donna in Doctor Who (and ficc-ing my way to making it all better) when I decided it was time to try my hand at writing my own thing. Then I met and joined #romanceclass after Mina (V. Esguerra) helped me self-publish my first book, Cities. After that first live reading with Gio and Rachel, I was done. There has never been any other genre for me, really. (Related: Cities in So Stellar’s “#bookbedblinddates: Blind Dates With Books”)
In your latest book How She Likes It, I loved the fact that you wrote Isabel Alfonso as a genuine career-driven woman who knows what she wants and how to get it. Very refreshing. How important is creating self-assured and independent women characters for you?
It is EXTREMELY important to me! One of the things I’ve learned from reading all of these romance books, especially [the works] of Mina V. Esguerra and Bianca Mori!, is that self-assurance and independence is sexy. Women who are fierce, know what they want and do everything in their power to get it are the best kinds of characters. Once you have that, nothing and nobody can take it away from you.
And I want that for myself, so it’s a bit of projection too. In the span of [close to] five years I’ve been writing romance, I find myself wanting more things than I thought possible. And I kind of want my characters to have that same desire to be Their Best Selves.
Another theme I’ve noticed in your books (If The Dress Fits especially) is body positivity and being comfortable and content with what you have and who you are. What made you decide to tackle body image issues and how do you think can we help finally get rid of this stigma?
I wrote If The Dress Fits for #romanceclass2016 (has it been that long??), and I just happened to be on this phase where I was reading books with plus size characters in it. This is usually where my MC (main character) inspiration comes from—all the women I was reading or watching either: 1) got thin in the course of the story, or 2) had their entire life defined by the fact that they can’t control themselves. So I dreamed up Martha—a successful career girl who had everything, and didn’t really need a boyfriend, but hey, there’s someone who adores her. I just wanted to see what it was like to have someone adore someone like me.
Oh, trust me, a lot of people adore someone like you (and YOU, of course)! Now for something completely different. I know that travel and exploring new places is one of your passions, being that your Instagram bio says: writing to travel, traveling to write. (Follow her @carlakdeguzman for gorgeous travel photos!) Going back to what you wrote for Bookbed in 2016, has this already happened?
The other day I was standing in line for a buffet, considering my food options when out of nowhere, a little voice in my head wondered, “What if a cute guy suddenly approached and commented on your buffet strategy?” Would we talk about the order in which you had to eat the food? Would he be the adventurous type or the kind to eat the same things in buffets?
… What has been the most fun and kilig-inducing meet-cute you’ve ever experienced during your travels so far? Anything like that of in Chasing Mindy (somehow)? *wink*
HALA NAMAN! Haha. I have limited experiences with meet-cutes as I am an awkward, shy turtle. But when I was at the Hong Kong airport, my family and I were eating on this bar stool type table because there was [very little] space. So while waiting for them, I ended up sketching in my travel journal next to this guy. I didn’t even get a good look at him, I was just kind of… aware of his presence.
Then he stood up, took his surfboard (!), leaned over my shoulder and said, “Hey, that’s a great drawing!”
I was so flustered, I could only reply “thanks!”
And then he said something like, “Well, I have to go catch my flight.”
Then he left. I will never know where he went with that surfboard, but seconds later, my sisters were poking me and asking my why on earth I didn’t talk to him more. But how. How.
Well, HOW did you let that pass you by, Carla?! Just kidding, more meet-cutes await! Speaking of those, how do you imagine your perfect ka-meet-cute to be?
Honestly? Look at Max Angeles (If The Dress Fits). Felipe Macasaet (The Queen’s Game, review here). Javier Tiangco (Chasing Mindy). Adam Sevilla (How She Likes It). All these guys represent some kind of characteristic I like, or else I wouldn’t be able to write them! ☁️