Saturday, April 13, 2024

A Chat with Laura Friera-Gonzales

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A Chat with Laura Friera-Gonzales

Continuing the series and getting to know more of our local authors, I interviewed author Laura Friera-Gonzales on her upcoming debut book, At Last.

Ginny: So tonight Joining me is one of the up-and-coming authors of PaperKat Books. Her book is going to be released this September. Let me introduce Laura Friera-Gonzales. Please tell me about yourself.

Laura: Hi, everyone. My name is Laura, Laura Friera-Gonzales and I am currently a stay-at-home mom to a six-year-old kid. I am a nurse. I am an EMT. And I write. My first book, my debut book, At Last, as Ginny said, will be coming out this September. So I hope you guys look forward to it.

Ginny: So I have to ask why the title At Last? Is that referring to how long it took to get the book out (jk)?

Laura: It basically stems from the main character’s waiting period because he’s immortal. So he’s been waiting or living life for so long, longer than any one of us that? What’s next for him other than your daily routine as an immortal? What else is new? Right? It kind of stems from that.

Ginny: Okay, is this set in the Philippines?

Laura: It is not. I’d like to write my work without a clear-ish vision of where it is. I’d like to leave that to the readers. Because personally, when I read, I appreciate authors who set the tone the setting of the story.

It’s just that personally, for me, I’d like the people who read it to imagine where they think it is, how the characters look, how the places would look. I mean, of course, I help with the words that I write but I want you the readers to actually enhance your imagination on what’s happening in the surroundings. The look of the houses, the rooms, the feel of it, basically.

Ginny: I hear you. Some things are better because we imagine it ourselves as a reader. It makes the story feel in a way more connected to us as the reader. So, a quick background of At Last. I take it immortal and human?

Laura: Yes.

Ginny: This is a romance? science fiction?

Laura: It’s romance fiction. Yes. I’m not particularly – I don’t know; I can’t write science fiction for the life of me. I’d like to I guess it’s just that I think it’s a bit more complicated for me to write sci-fi or any other genre other than romance, and I guess a little bit of fantasy in there.

Ginny: How did you get started writing?

Laura: How I got started? I dabbled a bit on and off during high school. I think I started with writing quotes or free verse poems in my notebook. And then I guess, come sophomore or junior year, high school, I started reading novels again and that kind of inspired me. Maybe I can write fan fiction or maybe something else entirely. So I guess I started from there. And then it just went on and off all throughout, then and now.

Ginny: Why did it take this long to get you to publish?

 

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Laura: I did not have the confidence in myself to publish. Up until now. I guess. I always thought that my work, my writings, my scribbles, I always thought they were unfinished. Not good enough for the public, I guess.

I’ve sent a few of my work to a handful of people, but not to the general public. Because when you know people close to you, they say, oh, it’s really good. It’s really good. It’s nice. But in my head, it’s you’re supposed to say that. You know me. We’re friends. So you’re entitled to say that. So I don’t really count it as good feedback back then.

And then I guess my sister, my younger sister, and my husband, they finally gave me that one, push or shove, to actually write something that I really and to send it out to people who might publish it. So it’s, I guess it’s there.

Ginny: Did you try to do traditional publishing? Or did you really prefer self-publishing?

Laura: I did not know a lot about publishing in general, whether self or traditional. I tried sending it out to a few literary agents outside the Philippines because I, you know, you shoot for the stars, I guess. But I didn’t know that you could send your stuff here. And you know, the big houses here in the Philippines.

And then I came across Kath’s (Kath Eustaquio-Derla) name in our children’s orientation last year. And she mentioned she was a she’s a publisher, and I kind of took the leap.

Ginny: So opportunity came knocking on your door in the form of Kath. Why didn’t you know?

Laura: I can only name two of the big traditional publishing houses here in the Philippines off the top of my head. And that’s Adarna books and Psi-Com. I didn’t think I could submit it to them. Because I read one, I can’t remember which publishing house that was; that said, I had to print it and submit it to the office itself. And I’m like, “I don’t really want to do all that work (This was during the pandemic).”

I didn’t want to go out. I didn’t want to go out of the house. Because, you know, I’m still kind of terrified of COVID and all that. So I’m like, “Can’t I just send it by email?”

Ginny: So COVID played a part in your decision not to go with traditional publishing,

Laura: I guess. Okay.

Ginny: Given a chance. Would you, now that you know, would you be willing to try traditional publishing? Or do you now prefer self-publishing?

Laura: I mean, there are perks to both. And there are cons to both. I think, right now, as a debut author, I would prefer self-publishing. Because when, well, technically, nobody knows who Laura is. So, I mean, aside from the PaperKat Books inner circle and Kath’s mentors and mentors friends like you, no one really knows me as a writer.

So I don’t think I would go for traditional publishing as a debut author, but I think I would go to traditional publishing if I make a name for myself already, like maybe a few books out there already. But we’ll see. We’ll see where the wind takes us.

Ginny: I’ve asked this question of many people and you know, it is sad to say – I admit I am guilty of it as well – that although there are many outstanding Filipino writers, not a lot of people read Filipino romances still. We have a huge untapped market. And the question is, why? Why do you think people are not reading enough? Filipino written works?

Laura: I think that stems from how we consume media in general. Because most of what we see online or on TV or whatever, it’s usually not our own. So I think it plays into that.

Personally, I am guilty of this though. I don’t. I’m so sorry. But I don’t. Or I have not read a lot of Filipino authors’ works. And I think I’ve only started pretty recently to actually immerse myself with Filipino creators and authors on what they do. And I think there are just some people who like me, are a little bit who find it difficult to read in Filipino.

Ginny: Welcome to my world. Amazing writers out there but their writing can be so deep I get lost in the language.

Laura: The Filipino language in itself is a beautiful language we have. We have a variety of words we can’t really translate in another language, which I find amazing. It’s just that sometimes they are just too damn deep.

Ginny: Not to in any way make our community feel that one writing language is better than the other. That is not true.

Laura: That’s not true.

Ginny: I think many of us just grew up reading English romances. And even though it’s been over 20 years, Filipino romances have been available. It’s just been slow.

Laura: Sometimes it’s just too hard. Yeah. Yeah. And personally, I find it – Kath knows about this. And I mean, no offense to writers who write like this, but I find it difficult to read in two languages mixed in one book. Aside from Tag-lish as long as there are two different languages in one book, I’m lost. It’s probably it’s a me problem.

Ginny: But that is the challenge that we have. So would you ever take the challenge and write in Filipino?

Laura: I don’t think my vocabulary is vast enough in Filipino. Technically, I grew up in a household where we were exposed to very Western ways, but you know, the TV’s always on Blue’s Clues. My dad would always talk to us in English. So my sisters and I prefer English when we talk. So I really find it difficult to express not quite express myself in Filipino but I guess to write a full-length story in Filipino.

I am not confident enough to write in Filipino. I do salute everyone who writes in Filipino because I know sometimes it can get hard because you know how Filipino now in this generation is entirely Taglish. So sometimes when you wanted it to be full Filipino, sometimes it just turns into Taglish.

Ginny: Let’s talk about your writing process. What is your writing style?

Laura: I have no idea what my writing style is to be completely honest with you all. I think I’m a little bit chaotic in my writing because I don’t really keep a schedule. I barely outline my own stories, although I do try as per, you know, PaperKat Books mentoring; it’s really a mess. I just, I just tend to write as I go on; for example, today, I get that burst of energy and inspiration and the words just flow from my mind to the computer. But then the next few days, it’s like blank. So I don’t really have a clean style of writing. So I think it’s more messy.

Ginny: So, you would say, plotter or pantser?

Laura: Pantser. (laughs)

Ginny: How much research do you actually do to create your characters and create your world?

Laura: I do the research part itself. I tried to do it as I’m writing so I don’t forget. So, for example, a certain place in the story if I want if I wanted it to be as realistic as I wanted it to be, I’d try to search for images of it or other words to describe it properly. So that you know it’s not just oh, it’s green. Oh, it’s Leafy. Oh, there’s grass everywhere. You know, I tried to expand how you will see that scene.

Character-wise. I think I researched more on how they go about work-wise. Like for example, my this character has a job as I don’t know I said, let’s say a teacher for example. I tried to search for what exactly a teacher does other than teach it and make lesson plans. So it all comes down to that, I guess?

Ginny: Okay. I know that you’re writing under a pseudonym, why did you decide to write under a pseudonym?

Laura: Okay. Let me be a little weird here for a second. I did – and am still doing – meditation from back when I was in college up until now. And one of my meditation sessions, I learned that my earth name or my soul’s Earth name is called Laura.

So when I was writing, I thought that I wanted to honor that somehow. So it’s not just this lifetime that I was able to do what I wanted in life, I guess, like a dream come true. I wanted to honor Laura, my earth name my soul, to just thank her for giving me that inspiration, that sudden mood to write about a lot of things for some reason.

Ginny: You were telling me a story about how you wrote At Last. Your laptop broke so you were writing At Last on your phone?

Laura: I was writing on my phone because my laptop, which was a second-hand laptop, became so slow it couldn’t be used anymore. Before my second laptop came I was writing on my phone’s notes as my ideas came to me I was just writing, writing, writing.

Ginny: Did you finish writing it on your phone?

Laura: I didn’t but I wrote up to chapter four or five on my phone.

Ginny: You also said you were writing in a bubble.

Laura: I would usually write when my son is in school for two and a half hours. At night when we were about to sleep or if he was already asleep I would get up as long as there was a scene in my head because I didn’t really want to have it disappear from my head because I know myself well enough if I sleep I’d forget about it.

As long as my brain was working I would write. That’s why it took me two to four months before I had anything to submit to Kath.

Ginny: Okay, At Last, is finally about to hit the shelves. Is there a second book in line?

Laura: At Last is, sadly a standalone story. However, I am working on a few other stories that I hope will get published because I’m nowhere near halfway done.

Ginny: I can understand that. So what did you edit out of the work?

Laura: Edit out. Nothing much. Really, if anything we just played around with a lot of the setting of the story because there was this one scene in the story where it’s a lot like a very famous pop culture story.

So we didn’t want to, you know, connect things with that because they might, you know, people might accuse me of plagiarism or something. So, we tried to edit that not really edit it out, but more of transform it into something else entirely.

Ginny: Okay, so removing the possible reference to the existing pop culture to make this uniquely yours. Are there any characters that are based on real people?

Laura: I’m not entirely real people. Although I did. I did take a few references like the likeness of a person appearance-wise. I took some from a few celebrities and maybe the personality itself, maybe from a few people I know. But basing the characters themselves on a real-life person, not exactly.

Ginny: Okay. So no secrets are being told here.

Laura: Not quite. I was very, very much told not to spoil a lot of (trailer off into laughter)

Ginny: Why should we read this book?

Laura: At Last is about a man tasked by the gods to run the circuit of the earth for centuries. And then come the present day, he meets a reincarnated version of his long-lost love. And to me, I think you guys should, should read it because I firmly believe that the world right now is just very hateful.

So I want to bring with At Last, I guess, I’d like to bring back a little bit of that. Not really a fantasy type of love, but more of believing that someone out there really is for you. Even though it takes like a lot of time waiting and waiting and waiting. If they are for you, they will come. Okay, I’d like I think I’d like to spread that thought more.

Ginny: Do you believe in true love?

Laura: I do. I do. But I, I believe that true love. It’s not like what you see in the media where whatever it takes, you know, you guys are still together and all that. True love for me means choosing that person over and over and over. And over and over and over. Regardless of the struggles you guys face together.

Or, you know, true love within yourself. Because it wasn’t necessarily true love doesn’t necessarily mean romantic love. It can also mean self-love. It can also mean love for your family for your friends.

Ginny: Okay. Some quick questions: Favorite book?

Laura: My favorite book is the All Souls series by Deborah Harkness.

Ginny: What is the first book that made you cry?

Laura: The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom.

Ginny: Most memorable line from a book?

Laura: There’s this one line in the All Souls trilogy, or the also series where let me just set the background a little bit. The main character is faced with like a huge dilemma between what they are trying to do versus rescuing her husband. And there was a part there when she said, I know what the goddess wanted to take from me. And then she said, It’s fear. So I think that that stuck with me for a while.

Ginny: On Your shelf, what books do you read and recommend?

Laura: I have a lot of books on my shelf. I have my favorite series, the All Souls Series. I have another series, The Blue Bloods Series, by Melissa de la Cruz who is also a Filipino. She broke into the international scene with Disney.

One of my recent favorites is The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I have a few old copies of the Twilight Saga in there and a few PaperKat Books. I have Before I Do by Kath Eustaquio-Derla, Under the City Lights by S.J Wolf, and Echo by Kylie Milanes.

Ginny: Books you recommend to inspire new writers?

Laura: I think the first book you read that you deem has a certain impact on you is the best inspiration for you to write. Even if it is not one of those thick books like Lord of the Rings. It doesn’t have to be something so deep as long as you get that inspiration, there you go.

Ginny: Are any upcoming books written by local artists that you absolutely recommend people read?

Laura: Aside from my book, At Last. You guys should definitely check out Alamat: The Awakening by Kadi Serafica. It’s just amazing how he built that world. The quick and funny banter the characters get – It’s something to look forward to.

Also, Aftermath 2089: Regenerate by John Luke Chica. The premise is really exciting. It’s sci-fi and it’s really cool.

Ginny: What’s your advice to new writers?

Laura: Keep writing, keep writing. Someone out there is waiting for that story that only you can write. And I know I’ve read that somewhere. And it really just hit me. Even if I enrolled with PaperKat and with Kath, with the mentoring, the publishing, and all that, I still have that tiny, tiny, tiny voice in my head that says, oh, it’s very, you know, done before, and stuff. So, I keep thinking that when I saw that quote, that, you know, someone out there is waiting for your story.

I realized that this story, the one that I wrote, At Last, would only be told as I wanted it by myself; it’s not going to be written by someone else. Exactly how I wanted it. Sure, someone else might have the same idea and play around with it, but it’s not gonna be exactly how I play it out in my head.

So to young, aspiring writers, even though you know, there’s no, technically there is no deadline or an age for you to publish. As long as you write, you write, you write and you have fun with it. It’ll happen for you. If it’s for you, it’s for you.

Ginny: Would you like to plug your new book?

Laura: Yes, please. At Last is about to hit the shelves in September. We are about to start the pre-orders very soon, and I hope you guys stay tuned for that. I am on Facebook and Instagram. My Instagram is lauratriestowrite and my Facebook is Laura Friera-Gonzales so we can write and be a mess together online.

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