What were the hurdles that you had to overcome when you were writing the retreat?
Initially, the hurdle was that there were four story ideas in my head and I couldn’t make up my mind which one to focus on. I wanted to do a 90’s inspired murder mystery where the lead singers of popular local rock bands were getting killed off one by one (the title is 3B4U). I also wanted to do a family massacre story where the sole survivor is an eleven-year-old girl and the prime suspect is her twelve-year-old guy best friend (the title is Breathe). Then there is the modern akyat-bahay story (the title is Climb) that I wanted to write because it was happening in our village. And lastly, there was the story of a woman who was raped as a five-year-old child by a neighbor (the title is Lost).
And the way I overcame the hurdle? I told myself, I will cover ALL four, so I had to think of a premise where that would be possible. So I basically fictionalized the #HeistClub writing workshop into something a bit more mysterious, sinister, and provocative. A challenge from one of the biggest publishers in the country, for authors to write a true-to-life crime story set in the Philippines, not fully resolved. The authors should be willing to go on a writers’ retreat in an undisclosed place, cut-off from the real world, without telling anyone. And the prize would be enough money to retire and just write with a guaranteed platform for release.
And with that, I had the stories of my four writers retreat participants.
What made you take a chance to write crime fiction?
I love crime fiction. I love reading and watching it (TV series or movies) and am really just interested in anything related to crime, mystery and suspense. I also am interested in police work and the workings of court cases. I used to want to be either a detective or a lawyer, then I said maybe I would be better as a psychologist and focus on abnormal psychology and be a profiler, but I ended up as an Accountant who went into IT and Project Management. Reality bites, huh? So I guess, the next best thing for me was to write about crime and crime solving, since I couldn’t live it.
How was it different from your other books: genres you write in?
I always said that I could write in any genre. It all depends on what story is stuck in my head and needs to come out. Having said that, I’ve written speculative fiction (time travel and alternate realities), paranormal romance, children’s literature, romance and now crime. What’s different is that crime fiction needed more research and more believability. I had to ensure that I had all my facts straight. A lot of my crimes had to be psychologically sound, so I use a lot of resource persons to validate my character portrayals.
Have you always wanted to write crime fic? Why so?
My earliest writings when I was a child could be filed under crime fiction, because I was a Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys fan – the books and the TV series way back. So yes, crime fiction has always been something I wanted to write and the #HeistClub writing workshop was a welcome surprise and suddenly, I was back to my first love in terms of writing.
The retreat is not your first book right? There's turning points and in my dreams, right? So this is your third book?
Yes, The Retreat is my third book released. Turning Points was the first. This is the speculative fiction book about time travel and alternate realities. It is also a product of a writing workshop-#JustWritePH. In My Dreams is the paranormal romance which was written as part of Mina V. Esguerra’s #StrangeLit workshop. So you could say that I write mostly well under pressure and on a deadline, as those three books would be proof of. I am working on a romance book right now, again for Mina’s #romanceclass workshop, and let me tell you, out of all the genres, romance is probably the most difficult for me to write. And it’s because of the dark part of my brain which lets me write crime fiction well. I always want something dark and sinister to happen, and in romance, everything needs to be done based on a structure, with of course a happy ending. My initial draft actually had elements of crime that I was not aware of, and I have to clean it up so it becomes a real contemporary romance story. So yes, crime fiction is in my blood.
Other things that you would like to share
I mentioned earlier that I included the concept of four stories in The Retreat, as these were the manuscripts brought by the authors participating in the writers’ retreat that were reviewed, critiqued and in the process, solved. These four “manuscripts” will be released as the next part of The Retreat. They may be released individually (probably in ebook format), or in tandem (maybe 2 in a book for print release), or maybe as a whole – an anthology with four stories for print release. But the four stories have more or less been written, three completed and in the process of beta reading and revisions (3B4U, Breathe, and Climb), while one is in the process of being completely written (Lost)—it is a bit more challenging, and it is because of the nature of the topic. This is the story of the woman who was raped when she was five years old. What is hard is that it is a true-to-life story and I need to be able to write it well and get it right, in fairness to the person this horrible crime happened to. That is my challenge right now.