You’ve got questions, I’ve got answers.
Where do you get your ideas?
My brain never stops. Seriously. There are hundreds of little workers in my head. I imagine them like the Doozers from Fraggle Rock, constantly running my mind-machine. I think of new stories every day. That doesn’t mean I write all of them, of course. Some stay in my brain for two seconds and then flitter away. Others get comfortable for an hour or so, while a select few refuse to leave and eventually become short stories or novels.
One reason I’m full of ideas is because we’re surrounded by inspiration all the time. No matter where you are at this moment, you’re surrounded by inspiration. My stories start with characters. And characters are people. And you are never without people, even when you’re alone. There are people in your head, made-up and otherwise. And you are a person, obviously. (Unless you’re an extra-terrestrial, in which case I’m happy to see that you’re doing an in-depth study of fiction for young readers!)
My short answer is: I get my ideas from everywhere.
Do your books come from your real life?
My first book, Blackbird Fly, is heavily influenced by my real life. Like Apple, I was the only Asian in my school. I was embarrassed of my Filipino heritage and resented my mother. I was teased and bullied and even hid out in the library for a while (just like Apple). You can read a little more about my background on my bio page.
I am different from Apple in several ways.
I don’t play any musical instruments. My best friend in middle school (Nicole) was (and still is!) very nice. I have an older sister named Anna. My dad is alive and well.
Were you born in the Philippines?
No. I was born in the States. My mother is from Sogod, Southern Leyte, and currently lives in Cebu. My father was also born in the States. I am mestiza, which means “of mixed blood.” Most of my mother’s family—the Entradas—live in the Philippines.
I identify as Filipino-American.
(P.S. My mother speaks a Cebuano dialect, and so do my Filipino characters. Sometimes readers expect to see Tagalog, which is the national language, but I’m not familiar with Tagalog, since I was raised listening to Cebuano.)
How do you come up with character names?
Character names are usually easy for me because the characters tell me their names. Book titles are trickier! The original title for Blackbird Fly was “Apple Unplugged,” and the original title for Hello, Universe was “Virgil and Valencia.”
What is your writing process?
Some writers begin with a fantastic plot. Others start with a general idea. I start with a character.
Before I put pen to paper, I let the idea build to make sure it’s something worthwhile. (Not all ideas need to be written).
Once it’s formed into something, I buy a special notebook and write down my character and idea. Then I write an entire chapter outline and the first draft in the same notebook.
I don’t set aside specific times to write. I only write when I feel like it. Many writers think they have to follow a routine, but that doesn’t work for everyone. I wrote about it at Writer’s Digest.
The writing process is different for everyone, so you have to find the one that works for you.
I also sketch a lot. I love to draw trees.
Do you visit schools?
Indeed, I do! Most of my visits are geared toward elementary and middle schools. Please contact me for information on fees.
Also: I attended public schools where 70 percent of the students (including me) were on free or reduced lunch. If more than half of your school is on free/reduced lunch and you don’t have a budget for author visits, please let me know so we can discuss.
What advice do you have for young writers?
Keep writing. Keep reading. Stay true to you.
More questions? Contact me.