Marla Miniano knew she wanted to write books when she was a third grader, but it as in the sixth grade when she unofficially began her career as an author. She wrote the script for a play in the school program, and upon reviewing it, her English teacher told her, “This is really good. I think you should keep on doing this.” Young Marla took her mentor’s encouraging words to heart and continued working toward her dream of becoming a published author.
In 2008, two years after she graduated from college, Marla saw her dream come to fruition when Summit Books published her debut novel, Every Girl’s Guide to Heartache, the first in a trilogy of books that was well-received by readers all over the Philippines.
It wouldn’t have happened without the aid of Ines Bautista Yao, editor of Summit Books and Marla’s former boss at Candy Magazine, from her days as part of the Candy Council of Cool. During Marla’s final year in college, she got Ines to read her undergraduate thesis, which was a collection of short stories. Years later, Ines remembered her pieces and tapped her to write for Summit Books. “It helps to really let other people read your work. If Ines [had] never read my work before that, I don't think she would have asked me to write for Summit Books,” Marla, who is now also the deputy editor-in-chief of Candy Magazine, tells Female Network with a smile.
Three years have passed since then, and Marla has solidified her place as a Summit Books author, adding a short story collection called Table for Two to her list of published works as well as her newest novel, Fan Girl.
Fan Girl follows the story of Summer, a pretty average college student who engages in a love affair with Scott, the frontman of a popular local band called Violet Reaction. When Scott hits the big time and leaves for the US, Summer follows him and embarks on her own personal journey. Along the way, she learns new things--not just about Scott, but about herself as well. In the end, she must make another life-changing decision.
A LITERARY JOURNEY
Marla says that the story for Fan Girl was inspired by actual fans. Back when she was writing the novel, she worked as Candy Magazine's assistant lifestyle editor, and she would often receive messages from girls who idolized stars like Sam Concepcion and Zac Efron. She noticed how fan girls nowadays were more intense than they were years ago, when she and her friends used to idolize boy bands like the Backstreet Boys.
“It got me thinking, ‘How far are these girls willing to go for their celebrity crushes?’ I don't think there's even a clear distinction anymore between a celebrity crush and a real life crush. You sort of feel like you can be the girlfriend of this celebrity, that you have a shot with this celebrity,” she explains.
Even though Marla wasn't new to the novel-writing process, she admits that Fan Girl presented her with a new challenge. Unlike her previous works, in which her protagonists were high school girls with thoughts she could easily read, Summer was in her 20s with motivations Marla often found hard to fathom. “I just wanted her to be okay in the end, which is what most writers want for their characters,” Marla tells Female Network. “I knew she wouldn't end up with Scott in the end. That was all I knew. I didn't know anything else.”
Marla describes Summer as awkward and emotional, two things that made the heroine's personality very different from her own. Summer also lost her parents to an earthquake at a young age and lived with her elder sister. “She has this whole conflict about wanting to fit in but, at the same time, not knowing how to do that,” says Marla. “I've had a pretty normal upbringing. I had the support of my parents all throughout and my family and friends. You can say I grew up more normally than Summer did.”
But despite their differences, Marla rooted for Summer throughout the six months it took for her to finish the novel, and she rejoiced with Summer when she got to the end. Marla shares that, though she often ran into problems deciphering Summer’s motivations, she had a trick to help her get through these. “There were some scenes I'd imagine what I'd do and I'd write about the total opposite of that,” she shares, laughing. “It kind of works.”
A PASSION FOR WRITING
Despite having a full-time job at Candy, Marla makes it a point to get some writing done every day. “There’s always time,” she tells Female Network. When she was working on Fan Girl, she would write early in the morning before going to work as well as on weekends.
“If you do it at night, [there might be more time], but you're tired and your brain's not working as much,” she advises aspiring writers. “At least when you wake up in the morning, you’re fresh for the day. Even if, let's say, you only get an hour in the morning as opposed to three hours at night, you’ll still be more productive in the morning because the flow of ideas is better and you think better. You write better.”
If you still find it difficult to write regularly, Marla suggests making yourself a schedule and keeping to your personal deadlines. “By this weekend, I need to finish this amount of words,” Marla would tell herself. “Bawal matulog or bawal lumabas if you don't finish this number of words. ‘Cause if I didn't do that, wala talaga!” She laughs.
Most importantly, Marla has learned to always seize the moment when it comes to writing. She shares some good news for ladies who are currently thinking of writing their own novels: the Philippine market is ripe for a new crop of authors. “People get more excited about Filipino authors, and you get more support from the community, fans and readers and fellow writers. It's such a small community. This period is a good time to start ‘cause we're bringing Filipino books into the market, but it's not as competitive as Western markets.”
Want to start writing like Marla did but don't know where to start? Scroll through the gallery below to read advice from Marla and see photos from the launch of Fan Girl on January 26!
If you're interested in checking out Fan Girl, you can grab a copy of it at the nearest bookstore for P175.
Read an excerpt of Fan Girl here:
You can also read about Ines Bautista Yao, author of Summit Book One Crazy Summer, here:
(Photos by Mike Dee)