Friday, June 21, 2024

Meet Casey ‘Caz’ Copengco


Meet Casey ‘Caz’ Copengco

Casey Copengco arrived 15 minutes early, a habit he acquired from his days as an on-air radio personality. He’s also a singer-songwriter (using the name Caz), though he has been focused on his writing more this past year. We chatted about our various fandoms before getting down to business, talking about his books and how he started writing.

His Writing Journey

He didn’t set out to be an author. Coming from a conservative Chinese background, he knew that he was fighting an uphill battle with such a career choice.

However, he never lost his love of books – knowing the joy, pleasure, and comfort of losing myself in the story. Caz shared that he was never without a book on hand. He’d have at least one for those times when he’d be waiting before work began.

Books were his security blanket.- he never left home without one.

He dabbled in writing short stories, writing things down as he saw them in his mind. Later, taking part in NaNoWriMo and being part of a writing class in speculative fiction and urban fantasy led to his toying with the idea of submitting his stories … of finishing his book. Eventually, he chose to be an independent author 

Caz saw that Amazon had provided a platform for indies (independent writers). It was basically a place where anyone could go and upload their ebook if they had a story they wanted to share. Because of the ease Amazon gave to share his work with a click of a button, it was a no-brainer to publish on Amazon.

He later decided to create his own publishing house called Spine Books. He says the name is because he is very particular about keeping the spines crease-free.

What pushed you to print what you write?

“I think everybody starts as a reader,” he mused. “The pleasure of seeing other people’s work on the shelves pushed me. I thought, what if my book was on the shelf?”

“Witnessing other new writers at the time who embraced their own vision. One writer who pushed me to consider if I had a story in me was Christopher Paolini, author of Eragon. He wrote it with the support of his parents, self-publishing it before bringing it to a better-known publishing house. Seeing this 18-year-old kid do that and there I was, buying books left and right, and being inspired by the stories I read. I felt like if someone young like that could do something with his imagination, I thought I could do the same,” he shared.

“The first thing I wrote was a poorly written draft of a very Tolkein-esque story. I presented it as a gift to my dad. It sent a signal to my brain na kaya mo palang tapusin yung inumpisahan mo. (You CAN finish what you start). He never read it, but it warms my heart to remember the look on his face in my memory when he saw that I finished something and gave it to him,” he proudly beams.

What he learned from NaNoWriMo

Though he no longer participates in the yearly event, he learned to hold himself accountable to a word count every day. He says, “Everyone will find their own sweet spot. Mine is 600 words/day.”

“I also learned we, as creatives, sometimes fail to reward ourselves. Even those little successes you achieve every day deserve to be rewarded.”

What do you like the most about writing speculative fiction?

“I enjoy changing things around, making what we know to be true to have their own history or backstory, and creating something new. It’s also taking what is familiar and presenting it as something else to the reader. That’s where my ‘what if’ mentality comes in.”

His Books

Take Me Now was the second book he completed, but the first he decided to publish. He writes under the name C.J. Edmunds – a combination of his name and his dad’s. He wrote it as part of his first NaNoWriMo, when Fifty Shades of Grey was the talk of the town. 

Caz decided to take the idea of erotica and run with it, adding an LGBTQ+ twist to it, as well as a supernatural component. Please note this book is definitely NSFW (not safe for work) and NSFK (not safe for kids).

It’s the first book of a trilogy set in a place called the Dark District, a magically cloaked community located in the heart of Downton Manila. It centers on Alvin, who discovers he is being followed by something after his first visit to the Dark District. Caz states, “It’s my nostalgic homage to the Manila that was and to the Manila I hope we can be in the future – magical and disciplined.”

He mentioned he actually wrote Sojourn first, and it’s the prequel to Take Me Now. It’s more of a book on soul-searching kind of characters. He was gathering a lot of ideas about the Dark District in this book.

Favorite character

“It’s hard to pick, but I’d have to say it’s David Lansing, the lead in the prequel, Sojourn. And it is probably because it was through him that I worked through my issues after my father’s passing in 2007. I channeled my grief and sense of loss, the things I wanted to say to my dad but didn’t,” he shared after some pondering.

“I do have a Gandalf-esque character in my shelved fantasy book. He would be the one if I hadn’t written the Dark District books. There’s something about wizards, something about magic, lore, and forbidden knowledge that appeals to me.”

The most difficult scene to write

“The HOT scenes which involved the lead character and a potential love interest,” he said with a smile. “It was nerve-wracking to write the scenes knowing people would read and judge them. As crass as it may sound, if the writing gets you off, then hopefully, it will have the same effect on the reader, especially when you are writing erotica.”

“You always want to bring something new to a scene like that. What makes their sense of intimacy different from all others will prove the utmost challenge.”

Favorite lines from his books

From Sojourn: “They say that when you are consciously in search of something, that means you are ready.”

The other one is: “Words could never convey the feeling of loss when someone leaves us. When you’ve been touched by death, you’ve been touched for life.”

His Must-Read list

  • Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice
  • The Historian by Elizabeth Costova
  • Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson
  • The Bookseller by Cynthia Swanson
  • Frontrunner by Patricia Nell Warren 
  • No Holding back by Kate Evangelista

Digital copies of his books are available on Amazon and Kobo

Physical (printed) copies are available through Shopee and at the Manila International Book Fair (MIBF) Booth. MIBF will be held from September 14-17, 2023, at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia Complex.

Caz’s album, Love Has Found Me, is available on Spotify.

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