Interview with Mina V. Esguerra

Published 2013-12-21.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first story that actually had an impact on what would become my work as an author? A book called "Teacher's Pet" (Sweet Valley Twins #2). I was at a friend's house when I was eleven and I saw this book on her shelf, and asked to borrow it. It was the first book I'd read about a young person almost my age, and since then I bought, borrowed, and read as many YA books as I could. Eventually I discovered that I liked the romantic subplots of these books, so I focused on that -- and I've been writing YA, NA and adult romance ever since.
How do you approach cover design?
I work with cover artists and designers I trust, and I pretty much let them do their thing. Some of my books are published by Summit Media (a traditional publisher in the Philippines) and so far they've produced wonderful covers without having me be so involved in their process. Tania Arpa is my most frequent collaborator as an indie publisher, and I usually start off with a peg, then she just surprises me with her awesomeness.
What do you read for pleasure?
More romance (but steamier than the ones I write) and YA. When I like an author I tend to get all of their books now. Recently I decided to try books that people just love, even the ones I normally wouldn't pick up. That's worked for me! So far I've been pleasantly surprised.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a Kindle Paperwhite (that I've named Joaquin), but I also read on an iPad and an Android phone. It really depends on what's most handy at the time, although I do get a lot more reading done on a dedicated device like Joaquin.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
The things I do that I feel work best: Online presence. Being accessible to readers through social media. I give away books a LOT. But the best "marketing" for me is a happy reader, really. I was invited to speak at a university where an entire class knew who I was because of one student liking my book and lending it to everyone.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up, and still live in, Metro Manila in the Philippines. The most obvious influence that it has on my writing is that the characters in most of my books are Filipino, and they're set in the Philippines. But I grew up reading international-setting (US, UK, etc) novels, and everyone I know who grew up here and reads is so used to those tropes and stories. I've made it my mission of sorts to create stories that are similar, but closer to my experience. At the same time, my family lives in Texas, and I acknowledge that it's also home, in a way. My books are starting to reflect that as well.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
At first I was just surprised that it was free and easy to publish an ebook and have the world be able to buy it. I continued at it, despite already working with a publisher, because of the control being "indie" gave me over every aspect of my book. I think that everything I'm learning about publishing, digital, marketing, and engaging readers is making me a better author.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords has been so helpful! I rely on it so much since it gets me into retailers that aren't dealing directly with authors in my country. As a retailer itself, I actually like directing people to Smashwords because of the file types offered, the lack of DRM, and how relatively easier it is to pay for the books. By design it actually presents solutions to a lot of the "excuses" I've heard over time, the various reasons why people don't buy, read, or try ebooks.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Getting it right. Usually I have a point to make when I write a story, and I consider my job done when I feel I got it right, that I managed to convey it in a way that another person gets it too. That is a rush.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When not writing, I do things that are related to writing or publishing: I edit. I help people publish their books. I teach writing classes. I facilitate training programs in publishing. Somewhere in there I manage to read, and eat, and spend time with my family.
What is your writing process?
I now have a tiny notebook in my bag and a nice pen, so I can start writing things down as soon they come to me, wherever I happen to be. The serious writing is scheduled, about an hour a day, three days a week at least, and that's ideally just re-writing what's in the notebook. I find that this is a better use of the limited time I have and cuts down the staring-at-the-laptop-screen that tends to happen when I schedule writing time and have nothing pre-planned.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author or publisher.

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