How long did it take to write this book?
I wrote the first draft in 2016, and I sold it to a publisher in 2021. It went through more than 13 revisions in between – mainly because I didn’t have a good revision process in place. I drafted 2 other books between 2016 and 2021, but I kept coming back to The Moonlight Blade.
There are a lot of books and free resources on writing, but not so many on editing. Through all the trial and error, I learned how to edit a complete manuscript, and what method works for me. If you want to know a little about my editing process, I wrote about it here.
Will there be a sequel?
Unfortunately no. The publisher declined my proposals that would have made this a trilogy. Book 2 was planned to be from Kuran’s point of view, and Book 3 would have been from Virian’s. Maybe some day I’ll find a way to get them out in the world, but in the meantime I have other stories already in the works with with my agent.
Was Arawan (their homeland) really destroyed?
Narra is a very unreliable narrator thanks to her stubbornness and guilt. A lot of the things she believed to be true, weren’t. So…
Just because they assume it was destroyed doesn’t mean it actually is. That’s something I looked forward to exploring in a future novel, but it will have to live in my imagination for now.
Where did the inspiration for this book come from?
I’d just had a baby, and had a terrible experience both with pregnancy and post-partum. This book about mothers and daughters poured out of me after more than 2 years of being unable to write. I spent a lot of that time thinking about good parenting intentions gone wrong, utang na loob (what we owe our parents), how I was raised, and how complicated family can be.
It’s not a coincidence that the supreme Diwata Omu in this story is a mother figure to Astar, in contrast to Narra’s human mother Shora. There’s also the contrast between Oshar and Narra’s maternal grandmother Yirin.
This was also the first book where I attempted to incorporate my culture into fantasy. I didn’t know how to do that. Unlike other established fantasy subgenres, there isn’t a shorthand that can be used for the worldbuilding (for ex. wuxia, or K-dramas). When I was querying the book, one of the agent commented that “I don’t see what’s Asian about this book.” I kind of took that as a challenge during revisions and added MORE rather than editing things out.
But that’s also why it was very difficult to sell this book. Our culture isn’t really showcased much in Western popular media (that includes books), so it was hard to explain or find anything to compare it to. But also, what is Filipino fantasy supposed to be? I think it’s something that we’re all still defining and I think we need a lot more stories before we can call anything close to an answer.
What are you working on now?
Something gothic, dark, and full of monsters, but I personally like to call “Kaiju Karaoke”. For vibes, check out my Pinterest.