Hi everyone! It’s my tour stop today for the #ButterflyTour hosted by Shut up, Shealea, Your Tita Kate and The Little Miss Bookworm. For my two-part blog tour post, I will be sharing a review and an interview with debut middle-grade author of My Fate According to the Butterfly, Gail D. Villanueva.
Today, I’m happy to welcome her here on Tale Out Loud for another blog episode of author spotlight I called Behind the Pages. Also, don’t forget to check again my blog for my review post within the next few days!
My Fate According to the Butterfly
by Gail D. Villanueva
Published by: Scholastic Press
Publication date: July 30, 2019
Genre: Middle Grade, Contemporary
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Indiebound | Wordery
Light and deep, smart and funny, crushing and hopeful all at the same time, My Fate According to the Butterfly will open your eyes to both the world’s potential for magic, and to its harsh realities.
When superstitious Sab sees a giant black butterfly, an omen of death, she knows that she’s doomed! According to legend, she has one week before her fate catches up with her—on her 11th birthday. With her time running out, all she wants is to celebrate her birthday with her entire family. But her sister, Ate Nadine, stopped speaking to their father one year ago, and Sab doesn’t even know why.
If Sab’s going to get Ate Nadine and their father to reconcile, she’ll have to overcome her fears—of her sister’s anger, of leaving the bubble of her sheltered community, of her upcoming doom—and figure out the cause of their rift.
So Sab and her best friend Pepper start spying on Ate Nadine and digging into their family’s past to determine why, exactly, Ate Nadine won’t speak to their father. But Sab’s adventures across Manila reveal truths about her family more difficult—and dangerous—than she ever anticipated.
Was the Butterfly right? Perhaps Sab is doomed after all!
Hi Gail! Welcome here at Tale Out Loud and congratulations on your beautiful, debut middle grade novel, My Fate According to the Butterfly!
Thank you, Karlita! I’m so happy and honored to be here.
To start, kindly talk us through the joys and difficulties of creating this story. What are some of the challenges you have experienced during the first stages of your publishing process?
I wrote my first book in November 2014 during NaNoWrimo and queried the mess of a manuscript before I even did significant edits. I received rejection after rejection for that book, before finally deciding to shelve it and work on a new one. I wasn’t the right author to write the story at that moment—I needed more writing experience to handle such an ambitious project.
But My Fate According to the Butterfly would have gotten nowhere if I hadn’t worked with my amazing mentors, Kate Messner, Erin Entrada Kelly, and Anica Ricci. They really helped me improve my craft. I sent my first query to agents for this novel in January 2017. Unlike with my first book (which got loads of rejections hehe), I got four offers of representation by mid-February.
My agent had me do several rounds of revisions over six months before we finally went on submission to editors and received an offer of publication from Scholastic Press. Though I had a long publishing journey, it’s definitely not the longest. We often hear about overnight sales and fast offers, but for most of us, it takes years from story concept to actual publication. Traditional publishing is slow, but it’s totally worth it.
Sabrina, your book’s main protagonist, a ten (almost eleven) year old Filipino girl believed her death is near when she saw a black butterfly landed on her locket. As part of our culture, Filipinos are known to subscribe to superstitions or “pamahiin”. Among all the superstitions we believe and follow, why did you choose the black butterfly?
Well… It’s the superstition that I actually believe in. 🙂 My lola was the one who first told me about this superstition, but she insisted it wasn’t real. Still, I believed in it. I believe I saw the black butterfly when a friend passed away. I believe I saw it when my grandma herself died.
I fictionalized the black butterfly in my story a bit more because it was just too real for me. I felt like the magic needed to be more visibly magical to separate it from the actual black butterfly I grew up believing in.
And this is why I will keep on writing Filipino characters—to remind fellow authors, and even myself, that our stories are worth telling. That we matter.
Whenever I read a character that truly represents my culture, history, and identity, my heart overwhelms with joy. Is this one of your ultimate goals and intentions while writing this book? What else do you like to achieve as a Filipino author writing Filipino characters?
Oh, I’m so glad you feel that way! It warms my heart every time someone says they feel represented in my story. Because really, that’s one of my main goals for this book. Having grown up reading books featuring white characters, I never saw myself in the stories I read. This is why I want my book to become a mirror for anyone who needed one. Because seeing yourself as a hero/heroine in the stories you read is quite empowering—it tells you that you can be anyone you want to be.
Let me give you a specific example. Over the past year or two, I’ve been giving talks and panels about Filipino authors in US traditional publishing. In every single talk or panel, I’ve been asked if the world wants to read about Filipino characters and/or Philippine settings. It breaks my heart that we have to ask this question—and more so because I’ve asked myself this very same question a million times before. Do our voices matter? Are our experiences worth telling to the world?
Yes. Definitely, YES. But this “yes” means nothing if you can’t actually see it happening. And this is why I will keep on writing Filipino characters—to remind fellow authors, and even myself, that our stories are worth telling. That we matter.
Do you agree that Filipinos seeking visibility both in books, films or in any kind of field, can combat under-representation?
Of course. I don’t want to go into Oppression Olympics, but we are very, very underrepresented in media. I mean, just take a look at the Marvel Cinematic Universe. There’s only one Filipino American character (Ned Leeds). But he’s not an Avenger, he doesn’t have magic or powers, and he’s just Spider-Man’s guy-in-the-chair, “regular guy” sidekick. Like I said, seeing yourself represented in books (or media in general) is empowering, so yes, we definitely need to keep on seeking Filipino and Filipino American visibility.
Romeo and Wendell are both Filipino-American. How well do you think their characters help those who would like to explore their Filipino roots and understand the other half of their identity?
Romeo and Wendell were based on my experiences interacting with family and friends who are Filipino American. So, Sab’s story is really that of a Filipina growing up here in the Philippines and not in the diaspora. But her perspective can be a window for Filipino Americans who miss their homeland and/or are eager to learn more about what it’s like to actually live in the Philippines now.
One of the things that were given emphasis on your book has something to do with the Philippines’ current status on the war on drugs called “Operation Tokhang”. And recently, I heard in the news the death of another innocent life during a buy-bust operation in Rodriguez, Rizal that was equally heartbreaking and alarming. If you are a part of our PNP force, in what way things like this could be prevented from happening?
If it was up to me, I would have evacuated the area first before doing any police operations to avoid casualties. Or maybe even fire everyone with questionable record. Or perhaps I would have outfitted the team defensively (with body cams, of course) and have them carry tasers instead of loaded guns. Here’s the thing though. I can speculate on the many things I could have done to prevent the deaths, but I can never really know what I will do when I’m actually in the situation.
My dad is a photojournalist for a national paper, and I remember him telling me about that time their staff were shuffled from their usual assignments (this was ten years ago, I think). He was assigned to tail a police team doing a raid. When shots were fired, everything he thought he knew he should do flew out of the window. He doesn’t have the training that our PNP should have, so his reaction was understandable.
So, in short, for me to properly answer this question, I would need PNP training first and actually be part of an operation to say categorically what it’s like to be in one and how one should actually be run. I guess I’m just more practical than theoretical—I first need to do intensive research before formulating solutions and suggestions. 🙂
Remember: the moment you stop trying, the moment you stop writing, is the same moment you give up on your dream. Never, ever give up.
The Struggle: A Photo Series on Recovery is one of the things I love within the story. Do you agree that family plays a major role in helping someone towards change and recovery?
Oh, definitely. Loved ones, like family, are number one on the list in helping someone towards change. It’s a journey that requires love and support from the people close to us, but also considering the ones close to us too. Because everyone gets affected, especially the children—children are most often forgotten when a family member undergoes rehabilitation. Everyone in the family needs love and support from one another in the long journey of recovery.
Through Sab’s story, how do you wish readers remembered us, Filipinos?
My Fate According to the Butterfly is described by my publisher as “light and deep, smart and funny, crushing and hopeful all at the same time.” I think this is a great description, not just of the book (hehe) but of being a Filipino. We are a resilient people. We live through so many challenges and even disasters, but we still manage to stand up and pummel through. We stay hopeful as we continue to fight for change. We are a great people. I know my book barely scratches the surface of these qualities, but I do hope what little I managed to show will be remembered as Filipino by readers from around the world.
After My Fate According to the Butterfly, what is next for Gail D. Villanueva? Are you currently working on something new right now?
Yep. It’s still under wraps (I hope we’ll be announcing it soon), but to give you an idea, it’s also going to be another middle grade novel with a Filipino protagonist. This time though, it’s set in a fictional island in the Philippines. It will feature a lot more magic, and discuss consent, socio-economical privilege, and love in different forms.
If you could pass on advice to new and aspiring young writers, especially Filipinos, what would it be?
I know it can be a bit disheartening being a writer sometimes. Even though we’re now seeing stories from people of color, publishing is still very white. A rejection of “I can’t connect to the protagonist/story” can take on an entirely different meaning. But someone out there is waiting to champion a story like yours. Remember: the moment you stop trying, the moment you stop writing, is the same moment you give up on your dream. Never, ever give up.
If you read the previous interviews I did with Filipino authors, you will notice I always ask them about their favorite Filipino cuisine and desserts. So here, I manage to ask Gail D. Villanueva for a rapid round of questions, a segment of this author spotlight I’m calling, Quickfire.
Kwek-kwek or dirty ice cream?
Dirty ice cream!
Filipino books you are looking forward to reading?
Erin Entrada Kelly’s Lalani of the Distant Sea and Rin Chupeco’s Wicked as You Wish. I just need those books in my life!
Your favorite Filipino dessert?
Mais con hielo.
Kare-kare or Sinigang?
A special talent that no one probably knows?
Animals follow my commands. Like, even without training. I can lead a stray dog to a safe place with no effort, and my ducks will cease their noisy quacking if I tell them to be quiet. It’s weird, but it’s a fun talent to have.
What Filipino word would you add to the dictionary if you could?
Mata-pobre. I feel it’s not enough to say “snobbish” or “elitist.” Mata-pobre is a whole new level of being an elitist brat.
Your best childhood memory?
After a tiring and depressing day of not being able to catch up with my classmates in reading (I had a hard time learning to read as a kid), I found my mom (I usually rode the school bus) waiting for me right outside the school building. She knew we were having reading that day, and she was there to pick me up so we can get ice cream before going home.
About The Author:
Gail D. Villanueva is a Filipino author born and based in the Philippines. She’s also a web designer, an entrepreneur, and a graphic artist. 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.
Want to know who joined the blog tour? Don’t forget to visit these amazing book bloggers to learn more about My Fate According to the Butterfly. Also, don’t forget to join the #ButterflyTour Twitter Chat.
— Shut up, Shealea
— Your Tita Kate
— The Little Miss Bookworm
— Kaitlyn Gosiaco
— Book Freak Revelations
— Whimsy Wanders
— Camillea Reads
— Tale Out Loud (That’s me!)
— celuna maria
— Book Reviews by the Bloggisters
— Unputdownable Books
— Read at Night
— Oro Plata Myta
— The Bibliophile District
— Accio! Blog
— Utopia State of Mind
— Bookish Wisps
— R E A (D) I V I N E
— The Last Reader
— Chrikaru Reads
— The Ultimate Fangirl
— Tale Out Loud (That’s me again!)
— Flipping Through the Pages
— The Night Faerie
— Fil-Am Learners
— The Bibliophile Confessions
— #ButterflyTour Twitter chat hosted by @shutupshealea
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○ 9:00 PM Philippine Time