Hello book nerds! Today I’m featuring a Filipino author and her wonderful middle grade contemporary fantasy!
I am talking about Gail D. Villanueva and Sugar and Spite! This book was so, so wonderful, even more so as a Filipino reader! I read this book within 24 hours and I swear it left me all soft and gooey inside. I know kids, especially Filipino/Filipino diaspora, (and maybe even teens and adults!) will find comfort and love in this book as well. I am so thankful to have read this. (See my Goodreads review here!)
Now, I had the opportunity to interview author Gail. D. Villanueva as part of the Sugar and Spite Blog Tour hosted by TBR And Beyond Tours! We talked about inspirations for her book, Filipino culture, book recommendations, and upcoming projects!
Hello Gail! Kamusta? I hope you’re doing good! Please tell us a bit about yourself!
Hi there! Thanks so much for having me here. I’m Gail D. Villanueva, author of My Fate According to the Butterfly and Sugar And Spite.
Congratulations in advance for Sugar and Spite! Can you describe it in one sentence for excited readers?
Thank you! Set in a fictional island in the Philippines, Sugar And Spite is about a Filipino girl named Jolina Bagayan who uses gayuma (the Filipino version of a love potion) to seek retribution against her bully despite the magic’s dire consequences.
Can you please share how Sugar and Spite started? Where did you get the idea or inspiration for it?
Well, I’ve always wanted to explore the idea of using gayuma as a form of revenge. The western version of love potions is always romantic or cute, but the Filipino version is all about control. I thought that would be interesting. But to make it work in middle grade, there had to be consequences. So that’s when I got the idea of including a very loyal and very dog brave in it—a dog inspired by my very own “good boy,” Kubrick. Kubrick is in heaven now, and Sugar And Spite is my ode to him, all the pets I’ve had before.
Okay, quick icebreaker! Did you name your two main characters based on Filipino actresses Jolina Magdangal and Claudine Barretto? (Or is that just me lol!)
Haha. Good catch. Yes, I did!
As a Filipino reader, I loved seeing Filipino culture so up front and obvious in the story! What does it mean for you to be writing great and wholesome Filipino representation in middle grade books?
A whole lot. You see, I never saw myself in the stories I read when I was a kid. I then promised myself that every book I write will have a Filipino main character. So, I wrote Sab in My Fate According to the Butterfly. Then Jolina and Claudine in Sugar And Spite. I’ll continue to do so as long as I’m able.
You touched on several issues in the story including bullying, being an outcast, colorism, being poor in a society like ours, even having queer parents, and more. Do you think it’s important that young kids get to read about these kind of topics in middle grade books?
Of course. These are realities that kids experience. Reading a character who goes through the same thing makes them feel less alone.
If you were in Jolina’s place, do you think you would have also used gayuma to fend off a bully?
Believe it or not, I probably wouldn’t. My dad started me with martial arts very young, so I’ve internalized the idea that having the power to defend yourself means you have a greater responsibility not to harm others with it. So, if had Jolina’s arbularyo magic, the idea of using gayuma for revenge would definitely cross my mind, and I’ll probably imagine my enemy suffering from its effects… But I’ll never go through with it.
I’m not gonna give too much away but I have to say, that ending wrecked me. Did you always know what was going to happen in the end of the book?
I’m sorry! But yes, it’s always been how I wanted the book to end. Before I even start writing a story outline, I need to have the ending in mind so I know where it’s headed.
Do you have any other book recommendations by Filipino/Filipino diaspora authors?
My younger sister and I never miss any book written by Erin Entrada Kelly. Her latest is a heart-warming chapter book, Maybe Maybe Marisol Rainey. Mae Respicio writes great middle grade with STEM/STEAM themes, her latest being, How to Win a Slime War. Middle grade debut authors to watch out for are Tracy Badua (Freddie vs. the Family Curse, to be published in spring 2022), Caris Avendaño Cruz (Marikit Wears a Map to the Engkantos, to be published in fall 2022), and Kara Bodegon (Squalo and Mage, to be published in winter 2023).
What’s next for you? Any upcoming projects? Please share it with us!
I’m currently working on another middle grade set in the Philippines, featuring an 11-year-old epileptic Filipina who is thrust into the world of Tagalog gods, magical creatures, and vengeful spirits. Hopefully, I get to share more about it soon!
And that’s it for today. Thank you so much to Gail for taking the time to do this interview. This was so fun! Thank you as well to TBR And Beyond Tours for including me on this tour!
Follow the blog tour to see more reviews and creative content by other bloggers! Click the photo below!
Buy Sugar and Spite
Can a bully be defeated by a magical love potion?
Jolina can’t take Claudine’s bullying any longer! The taunts and teasing are too much. Though Jolina knows she’s still in-training to use her grandfather’s arbularyo magic, she sneaks into his potions lab to get her revenge. Jolina brews a batch of gayuma, a powerful love potion.
And it works. The love potion conquers Claudine’s hateful nature. In fact, Claudine doesn’t just stop bullying Jolina-now she wants to be Jolina’s BFF, and does everything and anything Jolina asks.
But magic comes with a cost, and bad intentions beget bad returns. Controlling another person’s ability to love-or hate-will certainly have consequences. The magic demands payment, and it is about to come for Jolina in the form of a powerful storm…
Magic and reality mingle in this brilliant new middle-grade novel by Gail D. Villanueva that asks whether it’s ever okay to take away someone’s free will.
About the Author
Gail D. Villanueva is a Filipino author born and based in the Philippines. She’s also a web designer and an entrepreneur. She loves pineapple pizza, seafood, and chocolate, but not in a single dish together (eww). Gail and her husband live in the outskirts of Manila with their dogs, ducks, turtles, cats, and one friendly but lonesome chicken. Her debut novel My Fate According to the Butterfly (Scholastic, 2019) was named a Best Book of the Year by Kirkus Reviews, an Amazon Best Book of the Month Editor’s Pick, and a NCSS-CBC Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People. Gail’s next book, Sugar And Spite, will be published by Scholastic on April 20, 2021.