What does it take to be a successful published romance author?
These two authors found success with their Wattpad novels that were successfully published under the Pop Fiction imprint. To get their unfiltered thoughts on the writing process, we asked this pair to interview each other. The Despicable Guy writer, Leng de Chavez (a.k.a shirlengtearjerky) and Secretly Married creator forgottenglimmer learn they share a thing or two in common in this candid Q&A about their journey from writing online to becoming print bestsellers and what they’ve learned in between.
FG: Did you ever plan or dream of becoming a writer?
STJ: Somehow. If you were to see my elementary and high school yearbooks, “to be a journalist” and “to be a scriptwriter” ang nakalagay sa ambitions ko. I’ve always loved writing, even when I was young, but I never dreamed of writing a book. I was more excited in the thought of seeing my name in the byline on the front page of a newspaper or among the end credits of the movie I wrote. But writing a book? Nah, not in my plans. I probably had a desire to get serious with writing when I entered college.
STJ: What was the most memorable comment you got online about your story?
FG: What I can’t forget until now was when somebody told me she had named her daughter after Phoebe, the main character in Secretly Married. It’s flattering, and at the same time, I feel so undeserving. But yeah, I’m still thankful.
STJ: Same! Some of my readers named their children after my characters. I remember the first time I learned somebody named their child Jersey, hindi ako makapaniwala. Because of that, I became friends with that reader, and after almost 10 years now, we still are.
FG: The Despicable Guy was actually the first published book I’ve read. I was intrigued by it because of the title. I thought, “The Despicable Guy” sounds and looks perfectly fitting to be a book title, so I picked it up. And the story arcs are very realistic. How much did you draw from real life into writing it? Are the characters based on real-life people?
STJ: I get this question a lot, haha! Most of the story characters are actually based on my friends and people I’ve met in UPLB. Karamihan din sa mga nakakakilig na eksena are inspired by my imagination, stories, movies, and songs I consumed while writing the story. Actually, I’ve realized lately that The Despicable Guy Book 1 is like a diary of my freshman year in UPLB because some of the scenes were based on events that happened to me (sadly, they’re not nakakakilig, LMAO).
STJ: I used to read arranged marriage fanfics. That’s why I was intrigued by Secretly Married. It was my first time to read a story about an arranged marriage in Taglish with celebrity characters, which got me hooked. What was your inspiration for writing it?
FG: To be honest, I’m not very sure what made me type the first few chapters. Whenever I was asked all these years for the story’s inspiration, palagi kong sinasabi, it was probably because I was really fascinated about marriage and the institution itself. I actually just found out that my parents were secretly married first before their church wedding. But maybe it was just too much flights of fancy back then—too much daydreaming that prompted me to write silly situations that [won’t] even plausibl[ly] happen in our country.
FG: How would you describe your writing habit? Are you a pantser or a plotter?
STJ: I’m a plotter ever since, but the difference now, I pay more attention to the characterization and world building of my stories. Before, I’m okay as long as I have a general outline of the whole story and the characters’ simple profile. But now, I can’t write a story without plotting everything in detail first.
STJ: How has your writing routine changed?
FG: I think it’s inevitable to improve and develop a writing routine that suits you best. So, even though I’m still a pantser now, I make it a point to write in motivations and intentions whenever I write scenes. Another very important thing I’ve learned in every storytelling is character development, which I really didn’t pay attention to before. Of course, this took a lot of the “fun” away, unlike the earlier days when writing was just pure bliss. But it’s the only way to go.
FG: Is there anything you’ve learned while writing The Despicable Guy that you’ve applied in writing your next stories?
STJ: First, I don’t need to have a great plot twist to make my story interesting. Having a great plot twist at the end of the story used to be a trend in Wattpad, so you can write a book 2. But I realized some also like to read a simple love story, one without too much conflict, drama, and a love triangles. I really don’t like writing those kinds of stories, that’s why I promised myself I won’t. Another lesson I learned is the importance of a detailed characterization. I brought these lessons with me in all that I write after The Despicable Guy.
STJ: If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
FG: Just submit yourself to the process. Relax.
Ready to immerse yourself with the worlds created by these two authors? Get yourself a copy of shirlengtearjerky and forgottenglimmer’s recent books in e-book and print format on Summit Books’ shops on Lazada and Shopee for only P165 and P199 respectively.