Thursday, October 8, 2015

Interview: Cecilia Brainard's Novel "Magdalena" Revealed

The protagonist in my second novel is a woman who defies Philippine society and takes on a lover. Following is a student interview regarding my novel, Magdalena.

Interview Questions from Shiela Mae P. Abas, BA Literature IIIA:

When did you realize that you wanted to be a writer? 
Did someone push you to become one, or was it your will as it was your dream since you were young? 
Are there authors who influenced your work particularly Magdalena? Who are they? 
What/who inspired you to write the book, Magdalena
Could you give us an insight into your main character? What does she do that is so special? 
Did you use real-life facts based on true stories? 
Who is your target reader? 
As a literature student myself, what is your advise for young writers like us? What motivates you to write?

Cecilia Manguerra Brainard's Response:

1. I seemed to always like to write. After my father died when I was nine, I wrote him letters to update him of my life. When my sister gave me a lock-and-key diary, I started journal writing, something I do up to now.  (I have a lot of information about this in a YouTube interview of me - go to YouTube and search my name)

No one pushed me to become a writer. This was something I thoroughly loved then and now.

2. Many writers have influenced me. These are some of them, but there are many more whom I like: Graham Greene, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Gustave Flaubert, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and our Cebuana writer Lina Espina Moore. These writers taught me how to write. For instance Graham Greene is excellent in handling dialogue. I like the "surprises" in Marquez's work. Espina Moore taught me about "voice." They all taught me that character development is very important in story telling.

3. My second novel, Magdalena, is all fiction. The characters are not based on real people. I was interested in how the Vietnam War touched the lives of the people in Cebu. Mactan Airbase was near Cebu and I had seen the young Americans who used to visit Cebu City for R & R.  I remembered stories about World War II as told by my parents to me. And since I am interested in history, I also reflected on other times of violence in the Philippines. I wanted to explore the effects of wars on people's lives, on women in particular. In Magdalena therefore we have the stories of three generations of women whose lives were affected by wars - Philippine American War, World War II, and the Vietnam War. 

Still another thing that I was thinking about was the double standard for men and women in the Philippines. Philippine society has always tolerated the querida system, for instance, and some husbands have mistresses, while their wives stay home and wait for them. 

These were some of the thoughts that ran around my head while Magdalena was being written. It was an unwieldy novel, very difficult to handle because many characters and situations cropped up. In fact, at some point I gave up on the novel, and I went back and tried to salvage what I could. What I mean is that I tried to pull out short stories from the draft.  It was then when I saw what the novel's form was meant to be.  The novel is non-linear and fragmented.  This was not something I consciously set out to do, but the novel evolved that way.

What is special with Magdalena is that she dared defy Philippine mores. 

I don't write for a target audience. I focus primarily on figuring out the story. Most of the creative energy goes into knowing the character and finding out what happens to him or her in the story. 

My best advise is to read a lot and to keep a journal

Good luck,

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Tags: Cecilia Brainard, Philippines, Philippine, Filipino, literature, author, writer, book, novelist, Magdalena

This is all for now,

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