Saturday, March 29, 2014

Aswang Wars: Interview with Enita Meadows

Hello, everyone. Re-starting the blog. Just now pumped the pedal a couple of times and turned the key. A little sluggish, but the engine turned over. Coupla puffs of blue smoke and here we are, humming okay. Checking the mirrors and the seat adjustments. Ready to go. Seat belts, everyone. Okay? Ennnnngage.

Earlier this month, on March 7th, the TV show Grimm aired an episode titled "Mommy Dearest." The cool thing about this episode for me as a Filipino American is that the spine-chilling creature of that week — the Wesen, as they say on Grimm — was an aswang. Yes, the Filipino aswang. If you're a regular follower of this blog, you know of my extreme interest in the aswang . . . three poems and some illustrations on the blog. Turns out the Grimm character police Sergeant Wu is a Filipino, a Chinese Filipino probably, who grew up in the Philippines, raised on the aswang and other Filipino legends. (The actor who plays Wu, Reggie Lee, is also Filipino and hipped the show to the possibility of using the aswang as a Wesen.)

I'm a pushover for anything and everything aswang. Well, friends, Enita Meadows, a Filipino American author of paranormal/fantasy YA lit ("young adult," ya know), is now two-thirds through publishing her aswang trilogy, The Aswang Wars. Wait, what? A Filipino American literary series centered on the aswang? Who'd a-thunk it. Gotta find out more, right?

Well, I'm pleased and honored today to present an interview with Enita Meadows, author of The Aswang Wars trilogy. I won't say anything here about her life and work . . . she can fill us in on that herself. Here we go.

Vince Enita, welcome! Can you tell us something about yourself? Where were you born and raised? How did you become a writer? How did you get into writing YA books?

Enita Of course, Vince. I grew up in Seattle, Washington, so I was raised with a lot of diversity in the cultures all around me. I've always been fascinated by cultural mythology and folklore, so as a kid with an overactive imagination, I started coming up with lengthy stories around the age of ten.

That's when I started writing, and I actually ended up crafting a full-length fantasy novel based on Chinese mythology. That one never saw the light of day, but my writing grew as I got older. By age 18 I had already signed the contract for my first paranormal YA novel, The Messenger, which is based on Native Northwest lore.

Vince That's wonderful that you started writing so young and have continued. Congratulations on your literary successes. Would you please talk about your previous published books before we discuss The Aswang Wars?

Enita Gladly! I currently have two books out aside from The Aswang Wars. My first contracted novel, of which I spoke just now, The Messenger, is a YA Paranormal Romance novel based on the Native American folklore I was exposed to growing up in Washington State.

The second, Eire, is a novel I chose to self-publish, and it's done quite well so far. Typical of me, it's also based on cultural folklore, this time largely on old Gaelic. The novel's title character is a young gryphon who, with his bondmate Ashling, sets off on a reluctant journey to rebuild the Otherworld.

Vince You're being too modest, Enita. I know that besides the book-length works, you also have short stories out as e-books, "Password," "O Clever Wolf Am I," and "Chainmail." But let's get to The Aswang Wars, shall we? What is an aswang, first of all?

Enita As an American, that's hard for me to answer even after writing three books on them! In the Philippines, the term aswang covers a wide range of fantastic but terrifying ghouls. The Philippines has many different cultural variations between provinces, but in general an aswang is described as a shapeshifter — popular forms include beautiful young women, and common animals such as dogs, cats, pigs, and bats — who feasts on the bodily organs and fluids of human beings. They usually have a sweet tooth for pregnant women and young children, and very few true weaknesses. The scariest part is that they hide in plain sight, and you may not know that even your closest friend is a blood-sucking monster!

Vince I know that The Aswang Wars is made up of three books, two of which are out and a third due out soon. What is the larger arc of the trilogy as a whole? Without giving away any spoilers, of course.

Enita The books become more involved as you read through them. The overall arc of the story involves this seemingly emotionless and indifferent monster and his search for the memories that were blocked out of his mind. The first book, Manduruko, is a step in to test the water, following Jei Rivera in a journey that leads him to discover the things that others are hiding from him. In the second, Mantahungal, he has to discover things history has hidden from him. And the third, Segbin, . . . well, I guess you'll see.

Vince Does The Aswang Wars trilogy fit somehow into the overall vibe of your work in fantasy YA?

Enita The reaction I got from my editors when I submitted this series for publication was that it was really unlike anything they'd read before, and I'd have to agree. I've never heard of an American aswang novel before, and on top of that, the writing style is very different from my other books as well. There's very little dialogue, especially in the first installment, Manduruko.

Additionally, the writing style within the series changes slightly with the character. Jei Rivera starts out an indifferent club fighter and changes dramatically as the books go on. The writing reflects that. None of my books are set specifically, as I write how the story feels to me as its creator. However, I will say that The Aswang Wars is the first series I've seen through to absolute completion including publication, with good reason. It truly is something no one has seen before.

VinceWhat are your plans for The Aswang Wars? Both in terms of the characters and also with regard to any future stories and publications?

Enita The Aswang Wars trilogy is contracted with MuseItUp Publishing for another couple of years. After that, we'll have to see what makes sense when the contract is up.

The characters of The Aswang Wars will not have any more books written about them specifically. The world in which The Aswang Wars is set, however, leaves a lot of room to experiment with. Time will tell.

Vince Wonderful, Enita. Thanks for talking to us about your work. Where do you see yourself as a writer in five or ten years?

Enita I'm still growing as a writer, with several stories already locked up inside. In five or ten years I'd hope to have written a book that would reach a vast amount of readers. Although it seems every author dreams of money, a bestseller list spot, and movie adaptations left and right, my definition of success is to not have wasted the creativity. If my stories reach readers and entertain, that is where I want to be in five or ten years.

Vince To finish . . . what is the weirdest question you have ever been asked in an interview? And how did you answer?

Enita I get a lot of random questions when I do interviews, but I think one of the strangest ones was for The Messenger, my debut novel I metioned earlier: "What three items would your main character bring if marooned on a desert island?" Not only was that weird, but it was tough to answer. My characters are made of fantastic abilities and ancient lore, so the thought of them choosing objects was difficult. I believe my female protagonist brought survival supplies and a good book, while my male protagonist brought his special necklace (a big plot point in the story), a jug of water and a childish toy. Definitely a strange answer for a strange question!

Vince Well, I'm glad I didn't ask that question, though I guess I did ask it just now! Thanks so much, Enita. It's been fun interviewing you.

Enita Thank you for having me!

Okay, that's it, friends. To find out more about Enita Meadows, check out her blog. There are also an Aswang Wars website — and a Facebook page. The Aswang Wars first and second books Manduruko and Mantahungal are available as e-books; in addition, the first book has come out in print. The third, Segbin, is appearing soon, so watch out for that. It'll be quite a treat to have all three books available all together.

Won't you please comment to Enita or me below? We'd love some feedback. Look for a blue link below that says "Post a comment"; if you don't see that, look in the red line below that starts "Posted by" and click on the word "comments."

On keeping the blog humming along . . . in a couple days, National Poetry Month starts, and I'll be doing the NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day challenge. Come on back and check that out!

Oh, by the way, I'll be a guest judge for the April Poem-a-Day challenge (take a look at the Poem-a-Day link in the previous paragraph). Maybe I'll get to read one of your poems if you take part in PAD.

Take care, everyone — ingat. 


Laurie Kolp said...

Great interview, Vince! Nice to meet you, Enita. I'm excited about The Aswang Wars trilogy (learned a new word, too) as my kids will be... we love YA. Best of luck to you.

Amy Pabalan said...

Always great to hear about Filipino-American writers. Congratulations to Enita. I'll be looking for The Aswang Wars trilogy. I wish her continued success.

Thanks for this interview, Vince. Cheers!

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