I had the wonderful opportunity to connect with author of the wonderful novel Secret Shopper, Tanya Taimanglo. (You can read my book review post here)
Tanya Taimanglo is a Navy wife, mother of two, a writer, and fellow blogger at Guam Goddess in Training.
“I am originally from Guam, raised in the Chamorro and Korean ways, now living in Washington State. I was a former high school English teacher. I enjoy solo trips to concerts and movies. I love Comic Cons. And, I’m obsessed with Wonder Woman, just ask my friends.”
Let’s take a peep into this author and fellow writer’s world!
How did you start writing? Have you always been a writer?
I’ve always enjoyed writing, since perhaps middle school where I took a liking to poetry. I’ve kept a personal journal since the 8th grade. I enjoy the occasional short story contest and love NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). But, it wasn’t until I was 19 years old did I actually sit down to write my first novel, which never got past its outlining stage. So, twenty years, with actual fruition only in the past five years or so.
What do you love the most about writing?
It’s my form of expression, my art. I find that my upbringing as a Chamorro (from Guam) plays into my writing a lot. But, my favorite genre would be women’s fiction with a strong romantic element and a dash of comedy; Nora Ephron being one of my favorites in this genre. I also have a few Young Adult (YA) projects in the works. I want to bring back a John Hughes’ style of storytelling; I mean who hasn’t been struck by ‘The Breakfast Club’ or ‘Sixteen Candles’? I love a wallflower become super hero type story.
Is this your first novel? I hope we get to see more of your writing.
It is my first full novel. And, yes, I do plan to write as long as I can. Thanks! I actually have my YA novel and red pen in front of me. But, in 2010, I released a collection of short stories and a children’s book. My younger brother, an artist, did all the graphics. It’s very Chamorro-centric, and in its modest indie way has made a small impact back on Guam. Attitude 13 (short stories) and Sirena are available on Amazon.
Can you tell us a little about your experience with writing a novel–a sneak peek to what it’s like to publish a novel?
There were two routes I ventured. Traditional publication and the Indie route. With Secret Shopper, I pitched the idea to an agent in San Diego at a Writer’s Conference (a very expensive one) in 2010. She was opened to the idea of Guam and secret shopping and it took 3 years for me to complete the final book. By that point, the indie route had gained more respect and access. Amazon’s Createspace made it a free option. Perhaps my confidence didn’t make me reach out to that particular agent, so I decided to go “indie” with Phoenix. It’s been rewarding so far and I appreciate every new reader.
For my next novel, I’m going to go through the traditional channels of writing a query letter, submitting requested chapters and securing an agent. I feel that will bolster my author status. The indie route is respectable, but really tough to make a living at.
What I enjoyed the most about Secret Shopper was Phoenix and how she developed as a character. How did you go about creating her character?
In many ways, Phoenix was me (except for the divorce part). She is me in another reality, because I wrote myself into the character. That was the easy part. It was also fun to see how she handled herself in situations and her reactions would probably mirror my reactions. So, if you ask anyone who knows me personally, they kept saying they couldn’t shake my face out of their minds as they read. I apologized to them for that.
If you look up Moon Bloodgood, the wonderful half Korean actress, that is who I envisioned as I wrote Phoenix.
What was your inspiration for Phoenix’s story?
I like women who don’t break after heartbreak. I wanted to explore that because in my twenties (many moons ago), I too had a major break up. I too ate chocolate, curled up in the fetal position for weeks. But, I bounced back and became stronger, a better version of myself. I really love books and movies that explore this—a character who wasn’t valued for her true worth, who becomes stronger and the one who let her go later regrets what he did, but can’t get her back, ever. Love it.
What was the moral of your story? What did you want to show your readers?
Oh dear. This is deep. The moral would be that we are all individuals. We don’t need an outside entity (man) telling us we’re worthy. It’s nice if someone can do that, but we need to love ourselves first. Cheesy, but true. If I may quote something that sums it up nicely, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Perks of Being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky). I know now, that I deserve the best in a relationship. I have that and I don’t settle for less. My character, Phoenix knows that too.
I like how Thomas and Phoenix seem to “communicate” through karaoke. I thought that was cute. What kind of songs do you like to listen to?
Karaoke, so therapeutic! I love a wide array of music. But, you’ll see me at a rock concert typically. My favorites currently are Jason Mraz and Ed Sheeran. I love covers of popular songs, so I waste a lot of time on Youtube. But, music from the 90s has stayed with me from my formative college years. The Beastie Boys, Live, Stone Temple Pilots, The Smashing Pumpkins and although she doesn’t really fit here, Sarah McLachlan.
I liked the setting of your story and I’d love to visit Guam one day. What made you decide on using Guam and San Diego as the backdrop to your story?
I drafted the story while living in San Diego, fresh off the plane from Guam so to speak. Like I mentioned, this story is perhaps the closest to me personally (even down to the loss of Phoenix’s father, my father passed away in 2007). It was a natural fit. My work in progress YA novel is set in Washington State. And, I think that makes it ring more true to the readers.
I have a nearly completed romance set mainly in Sicily. I have never been there, so I spent many hours researching the island, the culture, watching tourist videos on Youtube. It was a lot of work, but I wanted it to be a true portrait.
If an author wrote a story set in Guam, part of me would wonder if he/she was truly there and I would question inconsistencies. So, authors really need to treat things like setting with genuine appreciation and respect.
What advice would you to give fellow writers?
I would tell fellow writers, or aspiring writers to keep chugging along. Keep writing, reading, editing. Editing is a necessary evil. I cringe at a few things that got past me with Secret Shopper, but that’s the perfectionist in me. I would also suggest that you not only write what you know, but what you like. What you yourself would enjoy reading.