by Romy Peña Cruz
Author Agay Llanera enjoys writing about food, and her readers are rewarded well for it. In her books like young adult novellas Choco Chip Hips and This Side of Sunny, she displays her talent for mixing topics of self acceptance, body image and family issues with scenes about baking confections and sampling Pinoy delicacies.
Mango Summer, her latest release—an adult contemporary romance, doesn’t delve too far away. In it, Agay once again adds a food (and fantasy!) element to the love story: (magical!) mangoes from our shores.
Magic is in the air…
For the first time in a century, the fruit in San Antonio’s most famous mango farm all turned sour. Fiona, thirty-six and single, knows why. According to her family’s legend, the only way to keep the mangoes sweet is for the women who run the farm to be married and bear children. If Fiona doesn’t find anyone soon, the inheritance her family has been protecting for generations is in danger of rotting away.
Greg used to have a massive crush on his older sister’s best friend. When he drops by Fiona’s farm to get his sister some of San Antonio’s sweetest mangoes, his quick visit turns into an extended vacation. As the days go by, his feelings for Fiona begin to take root and grow. At twenty-eight, how can he convince Fiona that he’s more than her friend’s kid brother? Get a copy: Amazon / Read reviews: Goodreads
“I guess it’s because I just love to eat,” she says about incorporating food into her writing. “You can put a lot of descriptives in [the story] and it can sound really delicious. It can sound poetic.”
Agay, who also had written for three food TV shows in the past, got the inspiration for Mango Summer from a fellow romance author, and visiting the beach at her father’s hometown in Zambales.
“Whenever we’d go to the beach in Pundaquit, we’d pass by a mango farm,” she recalls. “And I wanted to write something Laura Florand-ish. Laura Florand is a romance writer and she writes about chocolate: The Chocolate Thief, The Chocolate Kiss.
“It’s so sensual, the writing. So I wanted to write something like that that involves our local produce. And what else should I write about but our mangoes?” she goes on. “I also wanted an older character and something that’s set in the province.”
Out of all the books she’s written, Agay says Mango Summer took her the longest—two years.
“Not because it was a difficult story to write, but I wrote it when I became a new mom with my second son,” she says. “I would write while breastfeeding my baby and typing with one hand, so it took me a really, really long time. And since I was sleep-deprived most of the time, I think I was writing trash. So I had to revise it two times—no, three times, just so I could get it right.” (Related: “Writing Mango Summer“ on Agay’s blog.)
Having started as a children’s book author, it was a challenge transitioning from writing for children to writing for older readers. “It’s very different because the children’s books are very short,” Agay explains. “You have to think of them in a visual way before you even write them. But in novels, it’s the words that really speak for themselves.”
Being a member of the #romanceclass community helped her power through, according to Agay. It was in 2012 that she joined a class, which led her to self-publishing Vintage Love, a fashion-centered romance novella, and later on, a few more titles like the moving coming-out story of Another Word for Happy and volleyball themed Once upon a Player.
“It’s best to have support,” Agay says. “People who will cheer you on while you’re writing, people who will read your stuff, beta read for you, edit for you. And just the simple act of retweeting or reposting your post, helps a lot in promoting your book and giving you the writing energy to finish the book.” ☁️
Anything to share? :)