Hey guys, gals, and non-binary pals! After reading my and the blog tour participants’ reviews of this amazing debut novel, we’ve now come to the penultimate part of the #EverlastingNoraPH blog tour. I’m so excited to share this interview with you because not only is Marie a lovely person, she has a ton of beautiful insights about writing and getting published, especially as a Filipino author.
Ready to hear from the author of Everlasting Nora herself? Let’s get on to the much-awaited interview with Marie Cruz!
1) Let’s start off with 3 interesting facts about yourself!
I’m not a very interesting person but I will give this a try, lol. Let’s see… I am a licensed cytogenetics technologist. I analyze chromosomes and look for mutations. What else? I love knitting fingerless gloves (because knitting fingers are hard!) And—I have a shameful collection of journals and planners.
2) You mention that part of your inspiration for Everlasting Nora came from visiting a cemetery during Undas Weekend. What are some of your favorite Undas/All Souls’ Day/Halloween traditions?
My favorite aspect of All Saint’s Day/Undas is not exactly a tradition per se. It was simply an activity kids created for themselves to keep from being bored in a time when electronic devices did not exist for children. I used to watch my younger cousins collect wax from melting candles. They would peel off the warm, soft wax rivulets flowing over the sides of the candle and form them into balls. There was no real purpose for these wax spheres. It was something they just did only on All Saint’s Day. It was one of my fondest memories of my years in high school and college.
3) Where in the Philippines would you most like to visit and why?
I would love to visit Coron Lake in Palawan. It looks so beautiful, so pristine, and almost otherworldly. Places like that inspires me to write.
4) Did getting published changed your process and/or perspective as a writer?
Becoming a published writer helped me become more disciplined and it forced me to develop a process of revising novels that worked for me. As far as perspective goes, I’ve learned there is one virtue you need whether you are published or “pre-published” and that’s PATIENCE. It’s tough to master!
5) What made you decide to write this Filipino-centric story? Have you always wanted to write about Filipino characters, settings, and the culture?
I became a writer for this very reason. There are so few Filipino authors here in the U.S. and even fewer stories with Filipino MAIN characters and/or ones set in the Philippines, especially in books for kids. I felt the need for it keenly when I was shopping for books with my children.
6) Was it difficult to write about characters living in abject poverty? What research did you do? How did you make sure to remain respectful of such a plight?
It was difficult, especially since I had never experienced homelessness. I was not rich—I didn’t have a telephone at my house and our family didn’t own a car—so I decided to write the story of someone experiencing homelessness for the first time. I had read articles about the squatters who lived in cemeteries and poured over photo archives for my research. I think this helped me depict their life as realistically as possible, and in turn with great respect for the hardships they endure everyday.
7) What scene or part of the book did you enjoy writing the most?
I have a few favorites but the scene that comes to mind right now is the one where Jojo shows Nora the nice side of the cemetery, where the celebrities are buried. I love this scene because Nora and the reader get to know Jojo a little better. It’s also a quite moment, where all the focus is on Jojo and Nora and their friendship.
8) Conversely, what scene or part of the book did you struggle with?
I would say, it’s part of the ending scene when Nora’s mother has a chance to explain things to Nora and to ask for her forgiveness. The tone of the scene was difficult to maintain without lapsing into melodrama.
9) I appreciate how the Filipino words in the book weren’t italicized, and so did quite a number of readers. Was this a conscious decision?
This was actually an editorial decision made by my editor Diana Pho. I had been toying with the idea of not using italics for Filipino words but then decided to go with what seemed like the acceptable convention at the time (using italics.) I’m so glad editor clarified this for me. It makes me very happy to know that Filipinos all over the world appreciate this.
10) What advice do you have for Filipino writers wanting to write about the Philippines and/or Filipino characters?
Keep going!! Your stories are needed! And not just by Filipinos who live in other countries, but for those folks who want to learn about who Filipinos are as a people. Also stay true to yourself, and don’t be afraid to open yourself up and dig deep to make your words real and your story one that only you can tell.
11) What message is Everlasting Nora trying to tell its readers?
That hope exists, even in the hearts of those whose lives have been shattered by tragedy.
12) And lastly, any plans of visiting again? I know a ton of bloggers who’d love to meet you!
Oh, I’d love to come and meet you all! I’m hoping to make a trip next year. Fingers crossed!