Candy answers some of our questions about her second young adult novel.
I started thinking about Shine three years ago at the height of Twilight mania. I thought, I'd like a bit of that and pitched a vampire story to my publisher - except it wasn't a European vampire but the Philippines' own vampire like monster, the manananggal. I even wrote a chapter in which a boy is sitting on the top floor of a double decker London bus at night when suddenly something flies into the bus. He has a glimpse of a fearsome face before the windscreen explodes and the bus is forced to stop. He gets off the bus with everyone else and while everyone is standing around muttering, he finds something in a hedge. A decapitated head.
Nice idea? Easy to write the first chapter but it got harder and harder to execute as time passed. It took me three years to finish Shine to my satisfaction during which I wrote three versions of the novel. I lost the vampire angle. There was a human trafficking story that came and then went. There were many characters that lost their roles.
In the end, the one thing I managed to retain from the original concept was an island where it never stopped raining. There is still a monster story - but it's not the monster that I had started out to write.
It was a tough path to publication, but the hardship was all in the writing. My publishers were patient with me and every time I missed a deadline, they simply moved my publication date along. I learned a lot in those three years - about myself not only as an author but as a human being.
What are the similarities between Tall Story and Shine? Were there elements from Tall Story that influenced you in writing Shine?
On a superficial level there are many similarities. In Tall Story, Bernardo suffers from gigantism and becomes a giant. He is seen as something of a freak. In Shine, Rosa suffers from a disease called the Calm and must hide away because she lives on a superstitious island where people like her are considered monsters.
In both books there is a tension between faith and science, Bernardo is seen to be a magical creature because he's a giant, whereas Rosa is feared because she is believed to bring death and danger. I promise that I wasn't trying to write the same book. It's just that living on the other side of the world, I am am constantly aware that what differentiates society here in the West and there in the Philippines is belief, or the lack of it.
I don't get much access to Filipino books over here so my reading is not representative of what's available at home. I am not up to date with what's available for younger children. But here are some good reads I can recommend for young adults - books and short stories - from the Philippines:
Subversive Lives by Susan F. Quimpo and Nathan Gilbert Quimpo - a powerful memoir written by siblings who were prepared to die for what they believed in. The Quimpos are my cousins and friends.
Manananggal Terrorizes Manila by Jessica Zafra - surprising and clever
Soledad's Sister by Jose Dalisay - a comic novella
The Butcher, the Baker, the Candlestick Maker by Gilda Corder Fernando - my favourite amongst the 13 short stories is People in the War, a tragic story from the Japanese Occupation of Manila, which you can read here.
What will we expect after Shine? Will there be a sequel to any of your books?
At this stage, all I can tell you is that my next two books will be historical. I'm not sure I would like to do a sequel to either Tall Story or Shine (though I have some ideas). I am not a fast writer and there are other novels I'd really like to write first!
Any last thoughts for our readers?
I am very grateful to my readers in the Philippines for their unstinting support and deathless loyalty. I am often told that Filipinos do not read - but becoming an author has put me in touch with so many readers, I am full of hope.
But it is not enough for us as a people to become readers, we must become writers as well, in fiction and non-fiction. We must tell the world our stories, in our own voices.