Friday, May 27, 2016

Author Interview: Catherine Torres, Sula's Voyage

Friday, May 27, 2016

There are two reasons why this post today is special. First, because I interviewed one of the Filipina authors who won in the Scholastic Asian Book Awards 2014 and second is because today is the publication day of Sula's Voyage. That means you can now go to your local bookstore and see her book in the shelves. Isn't that awesome?

But before you go there, let's get to know the author behind Sula's Voyage and her journey to publication.

1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I'm a diplomat and writer based in Berlin, Germany. I'm also a mom and my seven-year-old son, Sam, recently landed his first book deal (he sold me a comic book he made for 5 Euros). My husband, Jay, is Korean and teaches English at a university in Busan. He also loves books and doesn't mind when I buy lots of them (he'd probably mind if I buy lots of shoes and clothes, but I don't care too much for those). I was born and bred in Manila, and have also lived in Tokyo, New Delhi, and Singapore. I love coffee and dream of having my own book cafe someday. Oh, and I play the ukulele!

2. Can you describe Sula's Voyage in 15 words or less?

Dark-skinned drifter finds her moorings with help from family, friends, and the sea.

3. Just like superheroes, I think it's safe to say that books also has an origin story before they became what they are right now. It might started out as a thought, an experience, a dialogue you heard, a conversation with a friend, or an idea that has been plaguing your brain for quite sometime. So tell us, what's your book's origin story? And what made you decide to write it?

Elsewhere, I have mentioned that I was inspired to write the story after having seen the Diwata ng Lahi, a 'reincarnated' Balangay, sailing into the Singapore harbor in 2010. But let me go deeper and farther back in time than that experience--many things we do have reasons or motivations beyond the immediate ones. I have always been something of a closet environmentalist. Back in grade school, a friend and I put up this 'Sisters Against the Destruction of the Earth' or SADE (obviously, I had not yet heard of The Marquis at the time). Unfortunately, it didn't prosper: the one project we were planning, a cleanup of the banks of the Marikina River, did not even push through. But deep inside, I have always wanted to be something of a warrior for the earth. The sea, in particular, has a special pull for me--maybe because we live in an archipelago, and our ancestors were wave-riders. So the story is a sort of vicarious wish fulfillment. And I hope it inspires the same love and protectiveness of the sea among its readers, some of whom might be braver than I am and become real sea warriors someday.

4. While you were in the process of writing this book, did you ever doubt yourself or second guess the reason why you are writing this story? If yes, how did you overcome those obstacles?

Oh yes. Even from the start, I knew I wanted to submit the manuscript to the Scholastic Asia Book Award (SABA)--that was my prompt and incentive to write in spite of my hectic schedule. So sometimes I questioned my motives. Was I writing the way I was writing in order to win the prize? But when I finished the book, I knew I could be at peace with myself and that I had accomplished a labor of love. One of the things I learned in college, having majored in Psychology, is that extrinsic rewards can actually be less effective that intrinsic ones. But sometimes, a combination of both can be quite effective.

5. As an aspiring author, hearing about how authors got published is always fascinating and inspiring to me. So can you tell us your journey to publication? And what was the first thing you did or said after you got the news about the book deal?

That's the wonderful thing about SABA. Winning it, or even just being a finalist, could land you a book deal. Sula's Voyage was first runner-up in SABA 2014. That was announced in May of that year. Two months later, an editor from Scholastic Asia contacted me and said they were evaluating the manuscript for possible publication. A month later, she e-mailed me again with the news that they would, indeed, like to publish it. The first thing I did, diplomat that I am, was to reply to her e-mail to say thanks. Then I posted a long status update about it on my Facebook timeline. I suppose I should have popped a bottle of champagne or something, but I wanted to share the news with my family and friends who had always believed they would see my name on a book spine someday.

6. Tell us what it's like to become a published author? What was your most favorite moment in this whole experience, aside from seeing and holding a physical copy of your book?

Let me tell you a secret--I haven't actually held a copy of the book, yet. As we speak, I am in Berlin, miles away from the launch in Singapore. At the same time, I have another book scheduled for release in Manila, a short story collection, Mariposa Gang and Other Stories, to be published by UST Publishing House. So within a month, I go from unpublished author to having two titles under my belt. It's a little intoxicating, especially for someone who loves the printed word, but I'm taking it with a grain of salt. In one of my favorite books on writing, Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott says, "If what you have in mind is fame and fortune, publication is going to drive you crazy." I've been warned enough by other writers whom I've spoken to and whose books on writing I've read so I don't expect those things at all. I'm thrilled simply to be able to let my stories out of their cage, to let them spread their wings, and sit on the shoulder of someone who, at that very moment, might need to hear some bird song.

7. What is your advice to all the writers who are just beginning their writing journey?

Embrace the adventure of writing, but not to the exclusion of everything else. Go out into the world and see what it's like. Read, every chance you get. Sit by the sea or under a tree and be alone with your thoughts now and then. Trust your inner voice and seek to be authentic, and you'll be fine.

Thank you so much Catherine, for dropping by my blog! Congratulations on being a published author. Have an awesome publication day!

About the Author:
Website | Facebook | Email

Catherine Torres (Catherine Rose Torres) is a diplomat and writer from Manila. Her work has taken her to postings in New Delhi, Singapore, and now, Berlin. When foreign affairs, as well as domestic ones, permit, Catherine travels around the world on boats made of words. Occasionally, as with Sula’s Voyage, she even builds the boat herself. Her short story collection Mariposa Gang and Other Storieswill also be released in 2016.

Title: Sula's Voyage
Release Date: May 27, 2016
Publisher: Scholastic Asia
Genre/s: YA Coming of Age, Fantasy

Fifteen-year-old Sula has always known she is different. Even though her parents have shown her nothing but love and acceptance, she sees her dark skin as a reminder of how she doesn’t fit in with the rest of her family.

What’s worse is she also feels that her parents are hiding something from her. After getting expelled from school, Sula reluctantly goes to stay with her mother’s friends. There she unexpectedly finds herself on a journey of self-discovery — a journey that keeps drawing her to the sea. Sula must not only figure our her parents’ secret, but also just how different, and possibly magical, she really is.

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