Interview with Sonyo Estavillo
How did you become a writer?
Great question. It’s something that's always been a part of me. Being a military brat, I turned to writing as a companion. I carried a pen and notepad with me wherever I went, to the point that I eventually accumulated cases of writings. I remember my second-grade teacher telling me that I’d grow up to be a writer, when I thought I wanted to be a doctor or something that would actually make money. I suppose I’ve always had too much to say to be anything but a writer.
What inspires you to write?
Self-expression, storytelling and a desire to share my innermost desires, fears, and inadequacies as well as commentary on the world we live in.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
I like to create flawed, complex characters who resemble both myself and the real and imagined people in my life. I’m an information sponge that enjoys meeting and conversing with intriguing individuals, whether they be the homeless woman who shuffles down my street every day, the 7-11 clerk, or the guy bagging my groceries. There are so many quirky people out there who have influenced my character development.
Could you share some of your challenges as a writer?
I have a full-time job in content creation, so I’m constantly creating either visual (via videos) or writing content. Most often I’ll write for nearly eight hours straight at work; then, I come home to do more of my own writing, working on my new manuscript in the evening. I’m also a mom to a precocious preschooler, so my struggle is creating adequate time to work on my manuscripts. My daily goal is to complete at least 1,000 words. Sometimes I’m well over, but too often I’m under. In a perfect world, I’d love to write specifically on my novel for eight hours a day. I hope that writing novels will be my full-time job in the future.
Tell me about your protagonist. What's your favorite trait and/or weakness?
Liam “Happy” O’Brien is conflicted because he’s about the most miserable yet remarkable character one could imagine. He suffers – or so he thinks – from a condition known as Moebius syndrome, which is essentially partial facial paralysis that prevents him from smiling. In fact, he’s never smiled during his entire life. Yet, he has a brilliant mind and a cutting wit. He was born with a silver spoon and is well educated, but despises his circumstances. He’s a spoiled brat who is also a victim of a highly dysfunctional family, which many of us can empathize with. He’s experienced a lot of mental anguish perpetrated by his parents, and he doesn’t particularly like the person he’s become. He’s inherently uncomfortable with himself, but he’s able to thrive in spite of it all.
How does your antagonist create conflict?
Gordie O’ Brien, wealthy business mogul, serial cheater, and expert at hurling insults, is a hard man to please. As successful as he is at profiting from lucrative business deals, he’s nowhere near being a good husband or father. His behavior caused Happy’s mom to abandon the family early on, leaving an indefinite strain on father-son relations.
What are your current/future projects?
I am currently working on an adult thriller novel that features an incredible female detective who is investigating several murders of undocumented immigrants, while also struggling with the murder of her own father years before. It is my first third-person present tense manuscript written in three points of view.
Do you have a routine you follow when writing?
My manuscripts, so far at least, have begun with the idea of a strong central character and certain plot elements that mirror what’s going on in our culture or my own life. In terms of a process, I tend to write in-depth character sketches and backstory beats before drafting. While I do some plotting, at the same time I’m not a heavy plotter. If that makes sense? So I’m not a “plotter” or a “pantser,” but a hybrid. The biggest thing for me is to understand and develop three-dimensional characters.When I do this, the plot tends to flow much smoother. My background in film and screenwriting has helped me to visualize the stories I write. I tend to have an overall scope of what the story is about, any intended twists, who did it, and the ending.
If you could go back in time to give yourself advice, what would it be?
Never compromise your goals for somebody else’s.
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Never stop writing and don’t give up. The publishing world is very difficult and it’s a long journey that takes tenacity.
What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you?