Trish Caragan Interview
How did you become a writer?
When I was a very, very little girl, I'd fold a stack of papers, draw pictures in them, then narrate a story that went along with the pictures. I'd usually read these to my parents or my grandparents. Eventually, I'd write fanfiction and other stories for fun. But it wasn't until I read This Lullaby by Sarah Dessen that I realized I wanted to pursue writing seriously, and I wanted to become a YA Romance author.
What inspires you to write?
As a Filipina-American, I never saw myself represented in any books, especially love stories. I want other Filipinos to feel seen when they read my books, to know they can be happy and loved as well.
How do you develop your plot and characters?
I'll usually outline the plot with an arc: Stasis, Inciting Incident, Rising Action, Problem 1, Problem 2, Problem 3, Crisis/Climax, Falling Action, then Resolution. In between Problems, I'll usually add a Solution.
I like to write character sheets for my characters. I'll usually start with the basics like their appearance and age so I can at least have something down. I'll then figure out their interests, traits, mannerisms, and internal conflicts. I also create character journals for my main characters so I can have a better grasp of their voices.
Could you share some of your challenges as a writer?
I usually struggle coming up with conflict. I'll have some fun scenes in mind, but it takes me awhile to figure out what bad things could happen to my character. Sometimes I'll come up with a moment that seems like a conflict, but to other people it doesn't seem like much of one at all.
I also have a tendency to think, "Ugh, this is bad" and feel this urge to start over just to rid myself of whatever I wrote.
Tell me about your protagonist. What's your favorite trait and/or weakness?
Emilyn is a shy Filipina-American (like me!) who loves photography. She's a major introvert who much prefers reading a YA Fantasy book and watching Netflix movies in the comfort of her own home. Emilyn is kindhearted, respectful, patient, and caring. In fact, she cares so much about her family that she'll do anything to make them happy. All her life, she's been expected to follow the path of her successful older sister Aprilette, who earned a degree in chemistry and now works at a pharmacy. But her true passion is photography, and she doesn't have the courage to tell her parents that she actually wants to attend an arts school and become a photographer.
My favorite trait of Emilyn is that she always sees the beauty in everyone and everything. She finds at least one good thing about someone or something and sees it as beautiful. Her weakness is that she cares way too much about what other people think. She's so afraid to speak up because she's afraid that someone will disagree or make fun of her.
How does your antagonist create conflict?
While Emilyn does love her family, they do often try to veer her away from her passion. They'll try to guide her in the direction of a scientific path by holding extra study sessions or pushing away any chance at her working on photography. This makes it harder for Emilyn to continue participating in the competition.
What are your current/future projects?
I am currently alternating between three projects, all YA RomComs. One of my projects is a grumpy/sunshine story about an animator who only likes fictional guys. She only affirms this when she's stuck working with the annoying new boy, who's now a voice actor in her animated short. But the more she works with him, the more she wonders if real-life guys aren't so bad after all.
Another is a dual-POV between a curvy Filipina ballerina who broke her viral YouTuber boyfriend's heart and an awkward Filipino pianist whose heart was broken by his popular cheerleader girlfriend. When only one spot remains for the Duos category in the local musical showcase, they team up for an epic ballerina-pianist performance. They've both sworn off love, so they only want their relationship to be strictly professional. At least that's the plan anyway.
My third project is my love letter to fandoms. A Filipina girl, who's the Class Secretary at school, runs a secret Twitter fan account (with over 2M followers!) for her favorite Pinoy boyband. When the mysterious boy from her AP English class finds out, she makes a deal to help sell his tattoo art if he keeps her fan account a secret. Oh, and he also helps her raise money so she can get Meet & Greet tickets to meet her four favorite boys in the world.
Do you have a routine you follow when writing?
I usually write around 7PM after I've eaten dinner. In early drafts, I write in silence. But when I finally have a scene or chapter figured out, I listen to whatever song goes with it. I write on weekdays so I can let my brain rest on weekends. It's helpful to take a break from something I know I'll be doing for a long, long time.
If you could go back in time and give yourself advice, what would it be?
Be proud to be a YA Romance author! The tropes and cliches you've been a fan of aren't bad, and you love them for a reason. Nothing's wrong with writing about relatability. You love your favorite books because you relate to them. There are people in this world who won't understand you, or who think romance is a silly, laughable genre. But YA romance is what you love, it's what makes you happy. And no one can take away your happiness! Write for the Filipinos, write for the people who need your book, and write for you!
Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?
Write for you. Don't write to impress people. The last thing you want to do is write something you don't feel passionate about. Write characters you genuinely love and would be proud to show to the whole world.