Ever since Jang Min Hee walked into Gio’s small museum, she’s given him one excuse after another about why she’s vacationing at scenic Boracay Island. Rarely has Gio’s neat and organized world been shaken like this. Soon he finds himself scrambling over rocks, hiding in dressing rooms, and dragging her out of bars. But how can Gio tell what’s true from what isn’t? Their worlds are getting unraveled — one story at a time.
As of this writing, there is a tropical depression that’s moving nearer and nearer to where I am in the Philippines, so it’s been raining for the past few days.
Chris Mariano’s “Cover (Story) Girl” is the perfect book to read on days like these because it’s set in sunshiney Boracay Island. Not that it never rains there, but…well, reading the book is like entering a portal to a place where the lovely weather never changes. I’m so envious of all the fun things the characters got to do, the yummy food they ate (calamansi muffins!), and of course, the sea, the sea! I’m pretty sure that if we had the chance to ask her, Min Hee would say that falling in love is more fun in the Philippines. 😉
I’m sharing my Q&A with Chris below. I’m also including my comments and reactions to her answers, as well as additional questions which I never got to ask her / tell her as I would during a face-to-face interview. Feel free to join in the conversation via the Comments section. 🙂
THE GIRL WHO READ: How did the idea for Cover (Story) Girl come about?
CHRIS MARIANO: I wanted to explore the fact that Pinoys are more attuned to Hollywood than Hallyu! Not a lot of people would recognize popular Asian personalities if they were walking without makeup or an entourage. (Okay, maybe not someone like Lee Min Ho or G-Dragon.) With our proximity to Seoul, Boracay has proven to be a popular tourist destination for Koreans and seemed like a great choice for the setting. Add to that the fact that I’ve always wanted to write a story about my home province. A story was born! The plot came together quite easily.
[TGWR: I’ve been more attuned to Hollywood for the longest time, and have only very recently ridden the Hallyu. I’m glad to discover that I know enough now to spot all (I hope) of the references and meta in your story. 🙂 ]
TGWR: What made you decide to make the heroine Korean? Was it easy to write a foreign character?
CM: Thanks to the inspiration, I knew one of the characters was going to have to be foreign. But writing one wasn’t easy at all! That was why I chose to see things from Gio’s perspective. I didn’t want to fake through the culture and do the Koreans a disservice. Even if a Korean friend of mine acted as a consultant (I ended up naming one of the characters after her though she looks more of a Min Hee), it just seemed difficult to try to get into her mindset. I wrote Min Hee with a lot of caution, so making her hard to read got worked into the story.
[TGWR: I’ve only just realized that I never got to ask you why you decided that the girl would be the foreigner and the guy would be the local. It’s the opposite of what I would think would be the default characterizations (or maybe that’s just because that’s how it usually is in fanfic, haha!), but it was interesting to get more of the guy perspective this time. Was getting into Gio’s mindset difficult as well? ]
TGWR: The novella is a product of your participation in Mina V. Esguerra’s #romanceclass, right? What do you think is the most important thing you learned about writing romance from the class or from your fellow writers in the class?
CM: One is that having a strict writing schedule works. I gave myself writing goals, something that I wouldn’t have done if it weren’t for the class. I used to think in broader terms, like ‘I want to finish this book before the year ends.’ Nothing bad with that, but writing class made those goals more concrete. It was more ‘I want to write 1,000 words a day’ or ‘I want to finish Act One in three weeks.’ The other is learning to let go (more on that later).
[TGWR: How long did it take you to finish the novella, by the way? ]
TGWR: What was the most challenging aspect of writing Cover (Story) Girl? What is one lesson that you learned while you were writing this novella that you wish you already knew when you started?
CM: Editing CSG based on beta-readers’ and editor’s comments proved to be challenging. Though the main outline remains the same from the moment I first wrote it, I had to include scenes or lines that would address their concerns (and believe me, there were plenty). I consulted a lot of people — an Aklanon native, a student taking museum curatorship classes, a K-pop fan — while writing then made them read the novella during the editing process.
I also wish I knew that the marketing doesn’t stop! It’s been challenging but rewarding at the same time. I guess if I knew that before I started, I would have made more effort to set up a separate online presence for my author self.
TGWR: How does it feel now that your novella is out for all the world to read? 😉
CM: Both relieved and nervous. I’m glad Mina and the class taught me to let go. Now I can put a bit of distance between CSG and myself, and breathe a sigh of relief. I didn’t even want to publish it in the beginning because I didn’t feel it was ready yet but then I realized that I had already done so much for it. Might as well go and take the leap. I’m glad I did, but it still makes me antsy every now and then, especially when I think of someone new picking the book up and reading it.
[TGWR: You did well. :)]
TGWR: Random: Do you like museums? If you could be a curator for any museum in the world, where would you want to be assigned?
CM: I love museums! I try to visit one in every country I’ve been to. But if I could be a curator, it would have to be a toss-up between the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, the current home of the Antikythera mechanism, a very ancient astronomical device, and the Ghibli Museum in Japan, for sheer awesomeness.
[TGWR: I’ve wanted to be an archaeologist since I was young, so I LOVE your first choice! I would love to see the Antikythera with my own eyes. I want to be assigned to the Cairo Museum or maybe the Smithsonian.]
TGWR: Random: Do you like K-pop / K-dramas? (I may already know the answer but I had to ask. 😉 ) Who are your favorite artists / actors / actresses?
CM: I enjoy watching K-dramas and movies! When I was younger, I would religiously watch Nonstop on Arirang. Old movie favorites include Jun Ji Hyun (Gianna Jun now) and Shim Eun Ha. My favorite K-movies are Pisces, Art Museum by the Zoo, My Sassy Girl, and Il Mare. My favorite dramas include 1st Shop of Coffee Prince and Queen In Hyun’s Man. Ji Hyun Woo and Yoo In Na are my new Korean OTP.
I listen more to K-indie than K-pop. My favorite group is Standing EGG. I also listen to 2nd Moon, though they’re more classical than indie. But I LSS on 2NE1 and FTisland a lot!
[TGWR: You know, I have yet to watch Il Mare. If you have a DVD or something, can I borrow it sometime? 🙂 Favorite dramas to date (I haven’t watched a lot): “The Moon That Embraces The Sun”, “Tree With Deep Roots”, “School 2013”, and “I Hear Your Voice”. I haven’t been able to force myself to get past Episode 2 of QIHM; unfortunately, I think I have a problem with watching In Na for long periods of time. 😦 Since you follow me on Tumblr, you already know that among younger actors, I have so much love for Lee Jong Suk. There is also Yoo Seung Ho, Joo Won, Park Ki Woong. ♥ Among older actors, it’s Ji Jin Hee, Song Kang Ho, and Jo Sung Ha. Actress: Ha Ji Won. Music: Nell, F.T. Island, Lunafly, Baek Ji Young, K. Will, Lee Seung Gi, Boyfriend, and sometimes, ZE:A. Okay, now I feel like we both just filled up a slambook. LOL.]
TGWR: If you were in Min Hee’s situation, what would be your cover story?
CM: I would pretend to be a college student on an exchange program! A bit boring to some, but I’ll be trying to pass myself off as someone ten years younger, so good luck to me!
TGWR: Random: Which Korean drama (or maybe Pinoy drama, if you can’t choose a K-drama) that you’ve watched (or maybe read about) do you think has the most thrilling romantic story line?
CM: Boys Over Flowers has such a classic romantic set-up, but I think stories with a time traveling component like Proposal Daisakusen/Operation Proposal, Queen In Hyun’s Man and Nine: 9 Times Time Travel give me that epic romance sense. I wish I could do a time travel story but I’m still thinking of a way that hasn’t been done yet.
Though they’re not too thrilling when compared to a filthy rich guy falling in love with a dirt poor girl, I also enjoy watching romances like the one in Pasta unfold.
[TGWR: Ooh, Nine is in my line-up! My favorite romantic set-up is, again, “I Hear Your Voice”. A noona romance / first love thingy can get iffy when not handled well, but this one was very well-written, acted, and directed. Just commenting about it makes me want to watch it again. 🙂]
CM: Random: There are shoutouts to some of the familiar scenes from K-dramas/movies in CSG. 🙂
[TGWR: I spotted a lot! 🙂]
TGWR: If you were to be stuck in an island with one author (living or dead, real or fictional), who would you want to get stuck with and why?
CM: This is hard! I think I’d like to be stuck with Neil Gaiman because not only will he be interesting company, his legions of fans will also come looking for us instantly! I would also like to be stuck with Amelia Williams, author of Summer Falls. She’s very well connected, I hear.
TGWR: Where can we buy calamansi muffins? And if you have a recipe, can you share it with us? 😉
CM: You can buy calamansi muffins from Real Coffee near Station 1. Very near Hawaiian Barbecue but before you reach Astoria (if coming from D’Mall). I would have mentioned it pero since the book was supposed to fiction (any resemblance to actual places is coincidental) ‘di ko na lang pinangalanan. Hahaha! But! Pepper.ph has a good calamansi muffin recipe.
TGWR: THANK YOU for your answers, Chris! And to cap off this conversation, I’m sharing my favorite original Lunafly song with all of you. The sound is perfect for lounging in the beach with some cool drinks, calamansi muffins, and an interesting man. This will definitely be in my playlist for when I finally am able to visit Boracay.
OH HEY, GIVEAWAY!
As part of the tour, you can join in a raffle to win 3 Swag Bags containing a signed paperback copy of CSG, set of postcards and bookmarks, vanilla shampoo/body wash (for residents of the Philippines only).
Chris Mariano (@dementedchris) September 17, 2013
Joining is easy! All you have to do is go to RAFFLECOPTER (click!) to register your entries.
May your luck be as dramatic as the poor girl who suddenly learns she’s the long lost heiress to a resort empire. 😉
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