We are very privileged to have the multi-talented and award-winning Russell Molina as our featured storyteller for our current bimonthly theme here in GatheringBooks. Here is our brief tete-a-tete with one of the Philippines’ best children’s book writers.
How did your childhood influence your decision to pursue writing for children?
I’m actually a late bloomer when it comes to writing for children. Growing up, I never really had an inclination for writing. But I loved to draw and create things. I also grew up in a house that embraced and encouraged creative thinking. So I guess my foundation was solid.
When are words better than images?
When you want to tease the reader and not give everything away. Words are better when you want them to create their own pictures.
Give us three picture books that you have created that will best describe who you are as a writer.
I love surprise endings and misdirections. 3 of my books with plot twists:
TUWING SABADO (Every Saturday)
MADYIK SILYA NI TITOY (Titoy’s Magical Chair)
SANDOSENANG KUYA (A Dozen Brothers)
Can you share with us what was the experience like on having your first book on print? What is the story behind it?
It was like seeing your firstborn! Something that came from you is finally ready to greet the whole world. It is always a proud moment (and scary too).
What inspires you to develop an idea for a possible story?
I get inspired by real life stories — the kind that I experienced during my childhood. When you think about it, your experiences offer a wellspring of ideas and insights. I also love to browse through my old picture albums. These old images provide a trigger that takes you back and relive wonderful memories. Some of my books are inspired by family experiences, my parents, my siblings, etc. And I love the idea of retelling those experiences for my daughter and for the next generation as they weave their own stories.
In connection with #5, what are some of the current things happening in our country that you believe has significantly affected your storyline or the themes in your narratives?
The traditional concept of a family has evolved through the years. The increase in migration, for example, redefines how we look look at roles and relationships. Absentee parents and seasonal orphans are also common nowadays and we’ve learned to cope with that. My books mirror these realities because I want the stories to be relevant.
As we move from print to digital, how do you think children’s book writing would evolve, say, 7 years from now (fast forward to 2020)?
Digital as a platform will provide more room for interaction. Readers will now have the chance to experience a story in totally new ways. Rather than just becoming passive readers, children will become co-creators — re-creating and re-imagining the stories in the digital universe. Writing as we know it now will definitely change to accommodate interactivity and collaboration. Ideas and insight though will never change. Every good story, be it on print or digital, should have those.
How much time do you usually spend on a typical project? To be specific, how long did it take you to write the story for “Tuwing Sabado” as compared to your new book with Sergio Bumatay, “Edsa”?
Both books were challenging to write because they entailed a lot of research. It took me a month or two to write the first draft.
When you are not writing stories for children, what is your typical day like?
I work in advertising and ideas are what we sell. So I guess I spend a lot of hours cooking up concepts, mining insights and finding new and exciting things that can inspire and spark creativity.
I also daydream a lot. I think you need that when you are in the creative business. You should allow your mind to wander.
You wake up one night and find a Djinn (or a diwata) standing by your bed. You were asked to name three artists/authors across the globe that you would like to work with. Who are they, and why?
BANKSY (the graffiti artist and painter) — I would love to collaborate with him and maybe do a story mural in Manila. Imagine a story that you can enjoy while going out for a walk or driving around. That would be amazing!
BONO and U2 — Because songs are stories and I think the world needs more children’s songs.
THE GUYS FROM PIXAR — Because there are a lot of great Filipino children’s books that I would love to see turned into an animated piece.