In Her Suitcase is an interview section on the blog that turns the spotlight on women who inspire me, who can inspire you, and who try to create their best lives by coloring their journeys in their own unique and remarkable ways.
Kath Eustaquio-Derla has gone a long way since her successful blog on Cosmo.ph called Bedroom Blog by Veronica. She has always wanted to use her own experiences to reach out to young Filipino women by writing about dating and the single life in Manila. Though already based in Malaysia, Kath was finally able to launch her first print novel, Before I Do, which tackles exactly just that — the adventures of a single woman and her frustrations with nagging relatives, and how she sometimes needs to become who she is first before “I Do”.
Read on as Kath shares her journey as a writer and author, as well as the lessons she’s picked up along the way. Can I just say how much I admire her for being able to juggle work and publishing books at the same time?! Kath’s story also tells us that our interests and the things we are drawn to are no coincidence — her fondness for shows like Sex and the City and Gossip Girl may seem trivial, but these have actually helped define her as a writer! Congratulations on the book, Kath!
1. THANKS FOR YOUR TIME, KATH! SO WHAT’S KEEPING YOU BUSY LATELY?
Work definitely eats up most of my time during the day. I write for a New York-based media company and several firms in Manila and Singapore. My nights, at least the last few waking hours before I finally succumb to sleep, are spent on my passion projects.
Before I Do is my first print novel. It has an online counterpart, as a serialized piece, on Radish Fiction with new episodes every Wednesday. The prequel – What Am I To You – is also a serialized piece on Bookbed, with new episodes every Thursday night.
Despite the heavy workload, I box three times a week at a local gym here in Malaysia. Some weekends, my husband and I perform in open mic sessions at local hangouts or meet some friends for ‘no mercy’ badminton matches and movie nights.
2. TELL US ABOUT YOUR JOURNEY AS A WRITER AND AUTHOR. WHAT HAS BROUGHT YOU TO WHERE YOU ARE NOW?
Looking back, I think one of the most significant moments in my journey as a writer was when my good friend, Cheekie Albay, asked me if I want to write for Cosmo.ph’s “Bedroom Blog.” Back then, it was like an online version of Sex and The City (the series, not Carrie’s column). I submitted some samples from my personal blog and was hired.
I have to clarify though, I believe there were a few bedroom blog posts published in the magazine where the protagonist had the pen name “C.” That’s not me. The bedroom blog I started was the one called Bedroom Blog by Veronica.
Under the pen name “Veronica,” I wrote about dating, relationships, men and female friendships. Some events happened in real life, some were mixed with fiction. But the characters, all of them, were real. The blog ran from 2009 to 2012, I think.
After Bedroom Blog by Veronica, I’ve always wanted to write a short novel about being single and dating in Manila. In early 2014, Mina Esguerra, one of my favorite Filipino authors, asked me to join her anthology project. It’s called “New Adult Quick Reads’ Say That Things Change Vol. I.” It’s a collection of short stories written by Filipino authors and it was published as an e-book. It was the first time “Before I Do” was published.
Then, I discovered Wattpad and joined fellow author Nayin Yagdulas’ Wattpad writing contest and won. In 2015, I produced my own printed copies and started writing the prequel and sequel.
3. WHY DID YOU CHOOSE TO BECOME A WRITER? WHAT PARTICULAR GENRE ARE YOU INTO, AND WHY?
I actually wanted to become an architect, but I am bad at math. So I let my sister achieve that dream for me. She’s one of the two architects who worked on mural and interiors of that Harry Potter-themed café – The Nook Café – in Maginhawa.
I think writing just came to me naturally. I grew up reading books and watching classic movies. Then I discovered SATC and Gossip Girl, two TV series that highly influence the way I write these days. I love sarcasm and I love cliffhangers. My genre is definitely romance. I tried writing science fiction back in college, didn’t work, haha. It was horrible.
4. WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE THAT YOU HAD TO OVERCOME IN YOUR JOURNEY AS A WRITER?
Procrastination. I think many writers will agree. Unlike other disciplines, writing isn’t something that comes to you as soon as you sit down and open Microsoft Word. Sometimes, the inspiration comes when you’re in the middle of a kickboxing session. Sometimes, it comes when I’m rushing an article for a Singapore-based client. Sometimes, it doesn’t come for two weeks and then it hits you when all you want to do is just sleep because it’s already 3:00 AM.
So you have to come up with techniques on how to get yourself to write. As for me, I write lines in my head. I create conversations for the characters first then I scribble them down or type it as fast as I can for future use.
I create scenes in my head before piecing it all together when I have enough. Lastly, I have a love-hate relationship with wine and scotch. They help me write. Black coffee helps me tweak the gibberish.
5. NOW, TELL US ABOUT YOUR BOOK!
SPOILERS AHEAD: Before I Do is a play on the famous wedding vows “I Do.” But the title actually has two meanings. One is Before “I Do,” which refers to actual wedding part. The second is “Before I do,” which refers to the quarter life crisis some women go through when they reach the so-called marriage-ready box regardless of current relationship status.
Just by looking at the title, people think of it as a wedding planning sort of book. That’s the biggest misconception and probably the biggest joke. People who actually finished it send me messages on Facebook saying “Oh I thought it’s a wedding guide!” There’s actually no wedding part in the book.
Before I Do is about one woman’s frustrations about the “When are you getting married?” inquiries from tactless relatives.
There’s a part in Chapter 1 where Kit’s tactless aunt told her she might be infertile because she and her boyfriend haven’t had a kid yet. That actually happened to me. For as long as I can remember, some of my relatives have always compared me to a female cousin who’s the same age as I am yet has had kids way ahead of me.
I’m using this medium to tell the young Filipina that she is not alone and that sadly, the inquiries about marriage don’t end when you say “I Do.” Through the book, I want to show that a grand wedding isn’t the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. It’s not even a destination.
More and more women are coming to terms about who they want to be and what they want to achieve first before getting married. That’s the adventure I took before I followed my husband and left a good life in Manila to start a new one abroad.
Sometimes, you need to become who you need to become first before you can find the right partner who will continue to challenge you to become better. But what if becoming better involves meeting other people first? That’s what the book is all about.
6. WHAT’S IN STORE FOR THE ROAD AHEAD?
What Am I To You is the prequel to Before I Do, it’s currently a serialized piece in Bookbed, so you can read it for free. Here, we will see Kit’s journey from being the hopeless romantic to the queen bitch people love to hate in Before I Do. The print version will be available later this year.
Before I Do is also available on Radish Fiction. Just download the Radish App via the Apple Store and you can read the chapters/episode for free.
Before I Do is a trilogy. I’m also working on the sequel.
7. LIFE IS A JOURNEY AND IN EVERY TRIP OR JOURNEY, WE BRING SUITCASES. INSIDE OUR “LIFE SUITCASES” ARE THE LESSONS WE’VE PICKED UP AND CARRY WHEREVER WE GO. WHAT’S IN YOUR SUITCASE?
Never settle. Always push to become better versions of yourself. My current version is 3.0. Master the art of constant reinvention and you’ll be surprised just how much you can do when you decide to just, finally, do it. In every endeavor, you should always deliver high performance.
Be generous. I made generosity a part of my growth strategy this 2016. I am very fortunate to have people in my life who open windows of opportunities for me. Whenever I can, I extend the same generosity to people I meet.
Love fiercely. It goes without saying, family comes before anything else.
Before I Do is available in National Bookstore and Powerbooks!
You may follow Kath online:
Kath’s hair and makeup by Rachel Aberasturi Cadiz.