Hello fellow book nerds! Today, I have a special something for you! I had the chance to interview Rin Chupeco, author of Wicked As You Wish which was just released this Tuesday, March 3, 2020.
The book follows Tala Makiling Warnock, a descendant of the legendary Filipino heroine Maria Makiling, who negates magic around her. She, together with the last Avalon prince and the Order of the Bandersnatch, must do whatever they can to reclaim their frozen kingdom and protect it from the evil Snow Queen.
I loved reading Wicked As You Wish and it has a special place in my heart! It’s also been amazing to be a part of the street team and I am so excited to see this book out in the wild!
So, without further ado (and before I fangirl too much), here is the interview!
1. Let’s start with the simplest one: tell us about yourself!
I once quasi-broke my hand jumping off a diving board into shallow water, so now I can fold my hand lengthwise. I know what the sound of one hand clapping is. This is probably the weirdest starter to an introduction, so I would also like to say that I look after about six cats who have been using my house as a sanctuary initially without permission, and a fortune teller / geomancer once told me that I have a negative aura, which apparently means I will never be haunted by ghosts but the weirdest things will always happen to me. I have so far been in the areas where bus explosions, mall explosions, and shootouts have occurred, so I guess she was pretty accurate? (I realize that this was an even weirder thing to say.)
2. What can people expect in your latest book Wicked As You Wish?
Fairy tales in one alternate universe! A lot of teenage humor! A firebird really doing its best to be a jerkwad to everyone it meets despite being the key to saving a kingdom! A Filipina teen who really, really, REALLY doesn’t want to be a heroine, but is sort of pulled along with it because her best friend happens to be a prince in hiding fighting to save his country from the Snow Queen. Plus an ensemble cast of different personalities and hot takes trying their best to help them out and occasionally being successful at it!
3. What was the best/most fun part in writing Wicked As You Wish? What was the hardest?
WICKED AS YOU WISH was the first book I’d ever written, and compared to the other books I’d published before it was greenlit, it’s very… happy. Hopeful. Optimistic. Very different from the rest of my writing. Going back to revisions after writing mostly angsty horror fantasy felt extremely refreshing. WAYW is a reminder of who I was before I started out looking for an agent, so rewriting all of it for another attempt at publication also brought back memories about me as a person then. And that was also the hardest part of writing it – the push for diverse books wasn’t a thing yet when I first started looking for an agent, and almost everyone who showed interest in the book asked me to revise with a white male character in mind. It was the hardest thing to say no to, but I’m glad I stuck to my guns.
4. For fun: What would be the Hogwarts houses of Alex, Tala, and the members of the Order of the Bandersnatch?
Tala – Hufflepuff; she isn’t here to save anyone, but her friends are in trouble and that’s all she needs to be there for them, come what may!
Alex – Slytherin; he’s had to live life constantly on the run, and that involves a lot of plotting and scheming to survive. He’s willing to do whatever it takes to get back his throne, although he will balk when friends are involved
Ken – Gryffindor; Ken is my lovable goofball, my dumbass himbo Asian. He will run into danger regardless of the odds, which makes him fun to write, but stressful to everyone else with him!
Zoe – Ravenclaw; she really does her best to go by the book and come up with a game plan before heading into potentially dangerous situations. Unfortunately, everyone else enjoys rushing headlong into battle without thinking (with Ken leading the charge)
Loki – Hufflepuff / Gryffindor hybrid; they work hard and are the best at what they can do (climbing trees! parkour!) but they try their best to balance common sense and bravery, and so doesn’t get into as much trouble as the others!
West – Hufflepuff; he is extremely laidback and happy and just wants everyone to get along. He also probably has the most insight in the group, though he doesn’t know it himself
Cole – He’s a Hufflepuff pretending to be a Slytherin; he’s the descendant of the Sheriff of Nottingham, among many other villains, so people expect him to be a Slytherin! He’s sarcastic, but tends to keep out of everyone’s way, knowing most people’s feelings about him and his family
Nya – Ravenclaw; she is extremely sensible and knows a lot of things about potions and magic, but being extremely intelligent means she has to constantly keep yelling at other people not to be dumbasses (most of this is directed at Ken)
5. The world-building in Wicked As You Wish is intricate and unique! How did you come up with the idea of melding magic and fairy tales into a modern day setting?
Very painfully. None of the fairy tales have magic that could be logically explained, so I had to do a lot of mind-bending to hammer everything into one rational magic system. The problem is that the magic system then became so big that the many other possibilities for magic become bigger than what the book required – and I didn’t have the space to talk about them all beyond just focusing on context! It took me a couple of months, and very tiring!
6. You tackled several real-life issues in Wicked As You Wish—sexuality, racism, abuse, the unfair treatment towards refugees just to name a few (thank you, by the way, I loved it!). Do you think more of these kinds of issues should be discussed in YA?
What I love most about YA, particularly in the SFF genre, is that a lot of issues are frequently discussed there, but – and I think I mentioned this in previous interviews I’ve made with THE NEVER TILTING WORLD, which deals with catastrophic climate change – the fact that it’s set in fantastical worlds means readers can have that necessary distance to process real world issues tackled in the book. They can enjoy the book on a superficial level without having to unpack what it brings up until after they’re done, when they have the space to think it out after the fact. But if you’ve put your books in a place where it feels so far removed from its readers because it doesn’t deal with key issues that they also deal with, then you’re writing SFF wrong.
7. Another question just for fun: If Wicked As You Wish is to become a movie or a TV show, which actors (Filipino or international) do you envision as your characters?
I love this question! (Bear in mind though, that since I started writing WICKED AS YOU WISH over ten years ago, so many of my original dream cast has practically aged out of the role. But I thought it might be cool to have people see who I originally envisioned for the cast! I haven’t really thought of a new dream cast when I finished the book, so a lot of this is going to be still so sorely outdated!)
Tala – Ylona Garcia! She is so pretty! And she’s exactly who I envisioned – the last thing I want is a fair-skinned Filipina playing this role, given how much I’ve stressed that her skin color is the reason she’s having a rough time living in Invierno.
And her mother [Lumina Makiling] can be played by Judy Ann Santos!
Alexei – George Shelley. I’m not even sure how I learned about him – I think I was scrolling through a site one day and his face popped up, and I was all, “this is how Alex should look!” It was added bonus points after learning he was also gay!
Kensington – I had the biggest crush on Yuu Shirota ages and ages ago, and he was actually the first celebrity I envisioned for the cast! I also like how Yuu is also pretty dorky himself, and thought he would play Ken so well! (I am also a huge Sailormoon and Prince of Tennis fan, so of course I’m gonna have a crush on the guy who plays both Tuxedo Mask and Tezuka.)
Loki – There’s this Chinese boy idol group in China that is also a girl idol group because enby!! and Min Junqian is my favorite there!
West – Noah Schnapp from Stranger Things!! I think he’s adorkable and lovable and can mix the weird kid vibe well with the kindhearted, naive personality.
Zoe – I’m a huge fan of Millie Bobby Brown (also from Stranger Things) and I think she would be excellent as the smart, levelheaded, very girly Zoe!
Cole – I think Diego Tinoco is that broody Latino guy who’d really play Cole well as the tough-acting dude who is really just scared he’s gonna die but trying hard not to show it!
Nya – Samantha Marie Ware from Glee was my very first choice for Nya, because I love her confidence. But also I learned about Marsai Martin very recently and love her, too!
Kay Warnock – Kay had always been Rory McCann ever since I first conceived of his character. I first saw him as the Yarp dude on Hot Fuzz and loved him so much, and that only increased after watching this show called Book Club where he played one of the romantic leads, which was such a 180 from his previous role. And then he played Sandor Clegane, only one of my favorite characters of all time, and I knew he’d be a perfect dad for Tala.
8. Wicked As You Wish truly went through a whole journey—through multiple queries, rejections, revisions, and more, mainly because they believed a Filipina character might not be able to resonate with an American audience. But now, it’s here and it’s out in the world! How does it feel? And is there anything you want to impart on other marginalized authors with their own stories to tell?
There’s a lot of us Filipinos right now trying to write Filipino stories and I’m glad we’re getting some recognition, like Gail Villanueva and Kay Villoso and Randy Ribay! But I also want publishing to understand that there is no one Filipino experience either, and that instead of focusing on just one Filipino book as the be-all end-all of Filipino culture, there should be more championing of more books about Filipinos and the different intersections of their Filipino identities, as well as with other POC-led books by POC authors!
9. What can we expect in the sequel? Any chance you can give us spoilers? (Maybe? Maybe not? Or maybe please?)
There is one absolutely real world issue in the sequel that’s minor as a plot point, but has catastrophic effects for one particular demographic that I also want to follow through in the third book. I have upped what is already a controversial take of it to like about eleventy-five billion percent more because it showcases the horrifying effects of magic if placed in the hands of someone who is both vengeful and doesn’t care about their own safety, and as I’m waiting for edits I still can’t guarantee if it’s too controversial to show in the final copy. But if it does, then maaan a certain set of the population is going to hate me so much, and the hate will probably be proof of their sexism. There’s also going to be a much heavier emphasis on capitalism as a problem, because someone mentioned only in passing in the first book will play the main villain in this one. Also, Tala’s going to be confronted with the repercussions of the decision she made in the climax of the first book – and she’s gonna be horrified to learn that it’s gonna be someone she cares about who’s gonna suffer the consequences in her place.
10. Are there any books that you think we should add on our TBR right now?
The Wolf of Oren-Yaro by KS Villoso should be on every SFF fan’s list. I am currently reading both Ghost Wood Song and Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky, and loving both!
Buy Wicked As You Wish
Follow Rin Chupeco
And there you have it! This was such a fun interview and I am so grateful for Rin for taking the time to answer my questions!
Wicked As You Wish is out now! Have you read it? Is it in your TBR? Tell me in the comments!