Ask the Author: Rin Chupeco
What would you like readers to know about you?
I have lived in the Philippines all my life and still am! It’s the question I get asked the most – readers are often surprised to learn that I’m not American nor do I live in the US, but have had my books published by some of the biggest publishing houses there since 2014. I’m a weird unicorn in that way – there were a lot of obstacles that I had to go through just to get published, much higher than people living there already go through, so I’m pretty proud of reaching this point. While it’s not considered a ‘native’ language, English is still very common in the Philippines – we always use Taglish, (Tagalog interspersed with English), and we’re very in tune with a lot of American media, especially when you live in the cities here.
What is your book about for those who haven’t read it?
My last two books were released in 2019 – the first is the sequel to THE NEVER TILTING WORLD, called THE EVER CRUEL KINGDOM. The duology is about young twin goddesses torn apart when their world was split into night and day due to the adults ignoring the very deadly effects of climate change in their country, with dire consequences. Now they must make their way toward each other – fighting through monsters borne from this split, along with other stubborn adults who still continue to oppose their efforts, believing they’ve done nothing wrong – and figure out how to undo the destruction before it consumes their world. And if this sounds like a censure against real life events and real-life adults currently in charge, then it probably is.
My other book is WICKED AS YOU WISH, the first in the A HUNDRED NAMES FOR MAGIC series, and it has an alternate timeline from ours in that all fairy tales are actually part of real history. A young Filipina teen winds up with a neighbor who turns out to be the long-lost prince of Avalon who is in hiding from the Snow Queen, who wants to end his line. They wind up teaming with others committed to defending their king, all with their own assortment of fairy tale-esque abilities, to get back their kingdom, which has been frozen by the queen for nearly a decade. It’s a book about found family, especially for queer and BIPOC folk, and inspired by my own experiences and personal journey, and the friends that I’ve met and treasured because of it.
What has been your inspiration for writing it?
THE EVER CRUEL KINGDOM is probably more obvious about it. I live in a country where the terrible results of climate change have been very clear. The irony is that we contribute very little to causing it, yet we are among those suffering worse for other people’s greed (American and Chinese companies for the most part.) WICKED AS YOU WISH was something, I’ve had in my head for years now, and it’s actually the first book I’ve ever finished. As a kid, I was surrounded by all these gorgeous fairy tales popular in Asia, juxtaposed with the usual stories from Western tales. I was convinced back then that all fairy tales were part of the same universe, and the idea for that stuck with me even as I grew older.
What was your favorite scene or part of your book to write?
In THE EVER CRUEL KINGDOM, it’s the scenes where I write about Arjun getting into trouble. Arjun is one of the four main protagonists of the book, and is also a character I’ve admitted in the past that is the most like me – practical and street smart, but also sarcastic and given to complaining all the time, with the hots for a cute goddess who he nearly tried to kill (and who she nearly killed) the first time they met. It is likely a strange form of self-flagellation on my end. The running joke is that said goddess very much resembles my irl partner in personality, though I didn’t actually realize this until a reader who is also a mutual friend of us both pointed it out.
WICKED AS YOU WISH has this very annoying firebird who also serves as the prince’s main weapon, and I have to say that I really enjoyed writing scenes where it gets to annoy both enemies and friends alike. Again, this is probably the closest thing I have to a self-insert in this book, so this is really just writing about how I would act if I was a mythical bird myself.
What books or authors inspired you to become a writer?
Stephen King was the first author to interest me in writing (I was only about 6 or 7 years old then, so probably not age-appropriate for his books, but my parents supported my reading habit and I loved horror even at that age). David Eddings is the first fantasy book that absolutely inspired me to be a writer in the fantasy genre. Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series only increased my infatuation with it. But the biggest push was when I was one of the winners of a writing contest that Neil Gaiman had sponsored in the Philippines, and it was talking with him and his encouragement that made me take that scary leap into writing fulltime, and I’ve never looked back since.
What advice would you give to aspiring authors who want to write a book?
I try not to give too specific advice unless I’m talking about my own writing process (occasionally, I post a #RinWrites hashtag on Twitter where I explain my writing habits and techniques in the hopes that people can find inspiration from those) because everyone’s styles differ. What works for one writer may not always work for others. Stephen King for example, advocates writing every day, but I don’t – I have other commitments such as also being a stay-at-home parent, but I aim for a specific wordcount every week and work on a flexible schedule (when raising kids, flexibility is key) to meet that.
Being an author is one of those strange careers where you must be humble enough to acknowledge that your book needs critique to be better, but also where you must be confident enough to believe that your books are worth reading. It’s a strange tightrope to walk on, but it’s natural to feel impostor’s syndrome when it comes to your own work. But the one thing writers can’t lose is their passion for their own work, the idea that you’re creating something special for others to read. So, my very general advice for this is always to write like you’re on fire and the words are water – to write about the things that interest you most, and the things that describe you best. It’s as easy – and as difficult – as that.
Buy link for THE EVER CRUEL KINGDOM: https://www.amazon.com/Cruel-Kingdom-Never-Tilting-World/dp/0062821903
– Twitter, Instagram, and Clubhouse: @rinchupeco