On Genre-jumping, Video Games, and ‘Of Myths and Men’ — An Interview with Catherine Dellosa

Essentially every Filipino kid grows up knowing that August is Buwan ng Mga Wika, or the month-long celebration of Philippine languages. In recent years, August has come to be Buwan ng Mga Akdang Pinoy as well, a season of uplifting books and other literary works authored by Filipinos.

In keeping with these traditions is WIKATHON. Launched by Your Tita Kate during the first year of the global pandemic, this August-long reading challenge is open to all readers from around the world, but reserved for Filipino literary works.

As one of the WIKATHON hosts for 2022, it is my honor to help shine the spotlight on this year’s newest and most noteworthy Filipino talents — beginning with Catherine Dellosa and her Young Adult fantasy Of Myths and Men.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Eighteen-year-old Ava has saved the world 152 times – ever since she got her hands on her first console. It’s all fun and games, but after a mysterious encounter with not-a-vampire Brad, she discovers that the mythological creatures she’s only ever seen in video games are actually totally real. Brad reveals they’re alien refugees living among humans – bonus points because Ava finds the guy really, really cute.

As she’s suddenly thrust into a quest with a surfer wendigo, a friendly manananggal, a telepathic nine-tailed fox, a Sudoku-loving centaur, and a huggable Bigfoot, Ava embarks on an actual mission to fend off an alien invasion – and she soon realizes that this time, she just might need to save the world for real.

Where’s a save point when you need one?

As I found out for myself, this book was an interesting mixture of the modern and the supernatural; the plot thoroughly action-packed. Readers are met with twist after twist, with moments of quiet in between. And by the last chapter, the story acquits itself as an earnest affirmation of gamers.

Of Myths and Men is now available in print and on Kindle from Penguin Random House SEA. In the WIKATHON reading challenge, it can be read for the Enteng Kabisote prompt: Read a fantasy book written by a Filipino author.


Last month, author Catherine Dellosa and I had a chat about Of Myths and Men and the genres to which she and her book belong. This is the first in a three-part WIKATHON interview series with Filipino creators — so keep an eye out for more in the coming weeks!

The interview that follows has been edited for length and clarity.

Hello, Catherine! Kumusta ka? Read or played or watched anything interesting lately?

Hi, Ena! I’m doing wonderfully. I’m always playing something because of my line of work, but the most memorable one that comes to mind from the recent ones is Streets of Rage 4 on mobile — a franchise I’ve been a fan of since the first one came out on the Sega Genesis in 1991!

So how does a #RomanceClass* writer end up writing YA fantasy?

YA has always been my first love, whether it’s contemporary or fantasy. I may have been working on some #RomanceClass books in between, but I actually started writing Of Myths And Men in 2015, so it was always lurking around in my backlog.

* RomanceClass books are independently published books from Filipino romance authors.

It’s cool how there seems to be no fully separating contemporary fiction and fantasy for you. What’s it like to be a writer in two seemingly disparate genres? Are there times when you like one more than the other?

To be honest, I like contemporary over fantasy in general. I suppose it’s because that’s the genre I grew up in. (Sweet Valley!) Even when I write and read fantasy, I prefer low fantasy over high fantasy because low fantasy still has some contemporary elements to it.

As for what it’s like to write them, the processes are very different for me. I have to consume similar things to write a certain genre, so if I’m writing contemporary, I have to read or watch contemporary. The same goes for fantasy. It’s hard for me to switch between both mindsets.

Do you have any go-to media to get you into either the fantasy writer mindset or the contemporary writer mindset?

Books in a similar genre or theme are a must-have for any writer, I feel! But when I’m actually writing, I like to listen to a curated playlist to make sure I feel all the feels as I’m writing. It’s nothing too specific: just any kind of music that can evoke strong emotions will do.

Have you ever encountered any challenges with being a Filipino writer in either genre?

Ah, that alone should be a whole thread in itself! Being a minority in a whitewashed industry is always challenging. More than the fewer opportunities, people particularly have expectations. If you’re an author of color, you’re expected to write only about your culture. Thankfully, there are rising voices now who are speaking out about this — who are asserting that as an author of color, you shouldn’t be boxed by the culture you’re in. You can write about magical fantastic worlds that have nothing to do with your identity as a minority. You can write beyond your own world. We are not defined by our cultures alone; we’re limited only by our own imagination.

A fellow Penguin Random House SEA author, Eva Wong Nava, once said that we shouldn’t even be called authors of color just because we’re minorities. We should simply be called authors.

Let’s introduce people to your book. If you could sum up Of Myths and Men in six words — in the style of Hemingway’s six-word stories — what words would those be?

Such a fun but challenging question! Okay, here it is: “Press START to save the world.”

You said that you’d been working on this novel since 2015. Would you say the story has changed much between then and publication day?

It definitely has changed! So many details evolved through the years. The first draft was only about 45k words long, and the final book is around 75k words, I think. Aside from my own self-revision, I also had to revise based on my amazing editors’ comments from my publisher, so the manuscript was still changing up until the last few months before the official Publication Day.

What media — movies, other books, games and so on, local or otherwise — would you say most informed your writing of this book?

I’d say the full Uncharted series: I’m such a huge fan of the game franchise that I actually mention the game in the book. As for books, that would probably be the Penryn & the End of Days trilogy by Susan Ee.

But the most influential source for this book is definitely my husband. The whole premise was his idea in the first place!

That’s so sweet! What was the original idea, and how did you build up on it?

Thank you! Initially, the goal was to find a way to paint these seemingly scary mythological creatures in a kinder, friendlier light. Why do they always have to be the bad guys in media, right? So my husband wanted people to know that these myths are on our side, and that kids shouldn’t be afraid of them. From there, it was a lot of research on myths and just plenty of long conversations where we bounced ideas off each other.

Of Myths and Men is the first in a planned trilogy. What can we readers expect in the sequels, in terms of the romance and fantasy?

Definitely more creatures! There’s such a vast arsenal of myths to choose from out there; if I could only include them all, I would. There’s also going to be some soul-searching mixed in there somewhere as our protagonist tries to find herself in the midst of all the chaos.

The invasion will also expand to other countries, and Ava will have to find the strength inside her to fight the horrors to come. As for who else will be fighting alongside her, I suppose readers will just have to read the sequels to find out!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Catherine Dellosa Lo plays video games for a living, reads comics for inspiration, and writes fiction because she’s in love with words. She lives in Manila, Philippines with her husband, whose ideas fuel the fire in her writing. She has penned The Bookshop Back Home and Raya and Grayson’s Guide to Saving the World as part of #RomanceClass, a community of Filipino authors who’re equally in love with words too.

GAMES MENTIONED BY CATHERINE
Streets of Rage 4 from DotEmu, Uncharted series from Sony Interactive Entertainment

MORE INFORMATION

CONTENT WARNINGS FOR OF MYTHS AND MEN
Gore and violence, death, sexual intimacy, trophy hunting
IMAGE CREDITS
Book cover art by Ananya S. Author photo from Penguin Random House SEA on Instagram.

Let’s talk!

☞ Have you read this book yet? What did you think of it?

☞ Are you joining WIKATHON this year? What titles are you considering for the Enteng Kabisote prompt? I’d love to hear from you in the comments!

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