June 8, 2021

Mia Manansala Serves A Killer Dish

Mia Manansala Serves A Killer Dish

Ep:087 Mia P. Manansala (she/her) is a writer and certified book coach from Chicago who loves books, baking, and bad-ass women. She uses humor (and murder) to explore aspects of the Filipino diaspora, queerness, and her millennial love for pop culture. Her debut novel, ARSENIC AND ADOBO, came out May 4, 2021 with Berkley/Penguin Random House.
 
A lover of all things geeky, Mia spends her days procrasti-baking, playing JRPGs and dating sims, reading cozy mysteries and diverse romance, and cuddling her dogs Gumiho, Max Power, and Bayley Banks (RIP) (bonus points if you get all the references).

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Pride Book Fest 2021 Links

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas

Brad Shreve's Website


Transcript
Brad Shreve:

Coming up. I have two guests with a special announcement, Justene raves, more about one of her book recommendations than I can recall in a long time. And Mia Manansala discusses, Filipino food, diversity in mystery novels. And is it okay if someone calls your book a good beach read? I'm Brad Shreve and your listening to Queer Writers of Crime, where we feature LGBTQ authors, of mystery, suspense, and thriller novels. If you're hoping to hear from Justene today to give her book recommendation, don't worry. She will be coming up in just a few minutes. But first I have a couple of guests on, I have Steven and Jacob and they have a special event coming up pretty quickly. It's the Pride Book Fest. Hello, Steven.

Steven Salvatore:

Hello. How are you? Thank you for having us.

Brad Shreve:

Oh, thank you for coming. Hello, Jacob.

Jacob Demlow:

Hello. It's a pleasure to be here.

Brad Shreve:

Happy to have you, so let's just start right off the bat Pride Book Fest. What is it?

Steven Salvatore:

So Pride Book Fest is a book festival for Queer authors and Queer books to celebrate. anything that, these authors really wanted to talk about, to highlight Queer books in a way that we've never seen Queer books and queer stories highlighted before, It it came from Jacob and I have in conversations about, wanting to showcase these queer stories. and, and, and highlight the things that make them unique and beautiful, and, um, really give these authors a platform in a way that we haven't seen done before.

Brad Shreve:

And what is that going to be?

Steven Salvatore:

We are launching the festival on Friday, June 11th, and that's going to continue into Saturday, June 12th and Sunday, June 13th. Oh, yeah, we haven't, we haven't decided on the schedule yet. We're still playing because we're still recording, a couple of panels. We haven't figured that out, but that's going to be announced most likely on June 7th. Uh, I think that's a Monday. and yeah, it's going to be pretty much all day, Friday, all day, Saturday, all day they Sunday.

Brad Shreve:

And this is all on YouTube, correct?

Steven Salvatore:

Yes. Yeah.

Jacob Demlow:

the majority of everything will be on YouTube. We will have a couple like, kind of pop up events like on Instagram live and maybe some other platforms, but everything primarily will be through our YouTube. Correct.

Brad Shreve:

I'm excited and I'm sure our readers will be excited that you do have a panel called Be Gay Do Crimes, which had writing Queer thrillers and mysteries. And there are a few folks that are on the panel that have been guests on our show. A Wendy Heard's been on. PJ Vernon's been on.

Steven Salvatore:

Love them.

Brad Shreve:

And coincidentally later this episode, Mia Manansala is my guest.

Steven Salvatore:

Oh, fabulous. We love every single one of those authors. Mia, Nekesa, Nick, PJ, and Wendy. They are rock stars. And we recorded that panel a week ago from the time of this, this recording. And it was such a blast. And I think your listeners are really going to love everything that they talk about it. They take, you know, a craft. Point of view talking about, plot building and character building and, and, you know, the difference between like a slow burn mystery and more of like a high octane thriller. Um, and they really just, I think eluminate a lot of things, for both readers and writers out there who might want to try their hand at writing a thriller or a mystery.

Jacob Demlow:

And then, and the cool thing is I think by the time this premiers, the schedule will be out. So I think the idea was that we'll announce the seventh. I think this goes out the day after. If I'm correct. and so, but if you're listening to this, now you can go to any of our, platforms and find the schedule And, find out exactly when that, panel will be

Brad Shreve:

And to find you on YouTube, what do they search for?

Jacob Demlow:

Pride Book Fest.

Steven Salvatore:

Pride Book Fest. Yeah. Pride book Fest on Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

Jacob Demlow:

And we have a Link Tree. So Link Tree dot com slash pride book fest. You can find links to everything there.

Brad Shreve:

Okay. I'll post the link to link tree in the show notes to make it easy for folks to find you that will be nice and easy. Are you writers yourselves?

Steven Salvatore:

I am a writer. My debut young adult novel. It's contemporary. It's not, it's not a thriller, it's not a mystery. It's just straight up contemporary. and that came out in March. I have another, contemporary YA coming out next March, and I have a couple of other things in the works as well.

Brad Shreve:

What's wrong. Why do I have you on here? If you didn't write a mystery?

Jacob Demlow:

Because we're giving out good mystery content for Pride Book fest.

Steven Salvatore:

Exactly.

Brad Shreve:

I'm thrilled at the number of young adult and kids books that are being written by queer writers. So thank you we're seeing more and more and I think it's really important

Steven Salvatore:

Absolutely. Thank you.

Brad Shreve:

What more can we expect other than just the mystery panel?

Steven Salvatore:

Oh, bah, Jacob, what do we have? We have so many things going on.

Jacob Demlow:

As of recording this panel, we have panels about. Fantasy, uh, which is, you know, retellings and a magical world. We have adventures pirates, mermaid, space opera, and we have a whole panel. That's going to be dedicated to talking about the craft of writing queer characters.

Steven Salvatore:

Middle grade writers. We have, um, a panel all about, queer activism. What else? We have a coming of age panel, which talks about, you know, coming out and first loves and all of that in, teen stories.

Jacob Demlow:

We have a panel about queer coding, the history of like monsters and villains and the idea of queer coding them and how authors are reclaiming that kind of those tropes.

Steven Salvatore:

We have, a body positivity panel

Jacob Demlow:

We'll have a panel about sex positivity in queer YA.

Steven Salvatore:

So many a panel on bisexual identity in publishing and how publishing treats, bisexuality, uh, we have a panel all about own voices and online harassment that Queer Writers face.

Brad Shreve:

Holy shit. That's a lot.

Steven Salvatore:

We're missing some.

Brad Shreve:

You guys have been busy as hell. I'm concerned about the bisexual panel, because you know, bisexuals don't really exist.

Steven Salvatore:

I know, right. It's it's a, it's it's such a crazy Yeah. That's a mystery

Brad Shreve:

Yeah. Yeah. Uh, Wendy and I discussed that when she was on the show that, uh, there are still plenty of people that believe that.

Steven Salvatore:

Yeah. And, and, you know, a lot of, a lot of bisexual authors face a lot of online harassment. So that's something that we definitely wanted to have, specific authors talk about, because I feel like it doesn't really get talked about that much.

Brad Shreve:

So again, give us the dates.

Steven Salvatore:

Friday, June 11th, Saturday, June 12th and Sunday, June 13th. Um, we're probably gonna start around noon on Friday and go until probably eight o'clock on Sunday. Um, Eastern standard time. We're gonna, you know, we're not going to upload anything in the middle of the night, but, um, yeah, everything's going to be airing during the day on, on those three days.

Brad Shreve:

Okay. And again, I'll have the Link Tree in the show notes, and you can look at the outrageously huge number of panels that are going to be, at Pride Book Fest, as well as other things going on. And, uh, I personally want to thank you very much for doing this Especially thank you for having a mystery panel.

Steven Salvatore:

Thank you for having

Jacob Demlow:

us. Thank you for having us.

Brad Shreve:

Okay. And coming up, me and Justene I gotta tell you, Pride Book Fest coming up in a couple of days. Sounds really exciting, but I know I cut into some of your, time here, so I'm not going to banter with you at all. I'm sorry, I'm going to be boring. I'm not even going to bring up Paul Rudd.

Justene:

Yeah. I know you, you send me Paul Rudd. videos all week, so, you know, I don't need any more banter about Paul Rudd.

Brad Shreve:

Okay. Hi. Well, I'm going to let you jump right into it. What are we, what book are you going to talk about today?

Justene:

I want to talk about The Psychology Of Time Travel. And I got to say, this is, this is a phenomenal book. We all know how much I love time travel, but this is unique. Most of the time travel books start at the present, and then they travel back to some past event. And then you've got, you know, the, the Yankee In King arthur's Court, you know, the person at a time, This is very different. This book, the four women invent time travel. And then, over the next 50 years, time travel becomes very common, It becomes part of the fabric of life. I will say. that I, I did some looking through the reviews on this because I wanted to make sure since it was in the LGBT category, I want to make sure that it was actually had some, lesbian characters. These were all women, mostly so lesbian characters. Cause we all know that just because it's in the LGBTQ mystery doesn't mean it's. LGBTQ material nor does it always mean it's a mystery. So sometimes you got to read through those reviews.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah, there's some sneaky devils Who wrote the book.

Justene:

Kate, I knew you were going to ask that question. Mascarenhaus So the reviews say that it was pretty hard to follow. I did not find it hard to follow at all. Each chapter has got a date. It's got a character name and, you know, they're short. They don't get overly twisted. It it's very easy to follow in my view. So some of the rules about time travel are not, as you usually would imagine them. You can actually meet yourself. You can run into yourself in the past, in the future. So. what happens in some of the scenes is that say a woman gets married. Her future and past selves will often show up. So at one wedding, there were seven. What they call, uh, the older one, the future selves, or silver me the past selves or green me. So at a wedding, there'll be seven silver me versions of the woman there. At one wedding, there were five versions of the woman and she was a ballerina and she performed all the parts of a ballet and other places. There are only one, version and the one version gets there and realizes that, she's disappointed that there aren't other versions of herself there. So that is the one, one of the rules that they, that they break.

Brad Shreve:

it sounds like things can get really messy if you change things in time.

Justene:

Well, that's the other rule. You can't change things in time, but, and I'm not quite sure how to explain this. You're all gonna have to read the book. you can't change things in time. But You can learn from them. So just as you can't change the past and you know, you'll learn from it, you can go back and think about it. You can talk to people about it. The same is true of the future. You learn from the future. Your future self will come back and tell you, or you'll go to the future and you'll see how things are. And you'll learn from that also, you can make a. Decisions based on that you find out who you're married to and then you meet them and you know, okay, this is the first time I'm going to marry. Sometimes you're happy sometimes you're not, but that's the person you're going to marry because you it's in the future. And you know, it,

Brad Shreve:

You can't back out.

Justene:

Um, now one of the more intriguing things, two of the women who ended up married in the book do not. come from the same time. So when they're actually together the same age, but one is 40 years older in her chronological time. But the version that shows up is not as the same age as the woman that she's talking to. There are only a few people that time travel. A lot of people. Don't time travel. Apparently, if you have any sort of history of mental illness, the travel through time does weird things to your brain, that your brain can't handle.

Brad Shreve:

And I don't think I'd want to know what's going on.

Justene:

Well, I it's really it's as if the future is part of the past. It's really living life in a different order. And I think if you read the book, you'd go, oh, well, that makes a lot of sense. That doesn't seem much different, how it is now. It's a little more complicated, but it's not much different and you can go back and. See people that after they died, you go back and you see them and they know you're back there from the future. So it's not like you gotta like, not change the timeline or anything. This one woman goes back and visit with her father pretty frequently, uh, before he dies and they get to know each other when she's an older person. So he died when she was a kid. And then she comes back from the future as an adult, and they've developed a whole new relationship that way. Right.

Brad Shreve:

It sounds fascinating. I'm interested to see how I mystery fits in this.

Justene:

Well, what happens is that there is a murder pretty early in the book and the murder takes place at a time certain, and then they, don't know exactly who gets murdered and they travel back and forth in time to put the pieces of this. case together. now what's interesting is that. Criminal investigations. You can't share details. So if you're investigating a crime, you can't go back and tell your earlier self what the, what the evidence is and who did it. So time, travel and preventing a crime is you don't prevent it, but you go back and you have to collect the evidence yourself, but you can't go and tell your younger self of it. And they have their own the, where they have the Conclave which is a time-traveling Institute. They have their own set of laws and rules because legality has changed throughout. So if you're committing a crime in 2027, and you're being tried back in 2000, well, You know, the laws are all going to be different all over. So the time-travel Institute and the time-travel people all have their own sets of crimes and they, police time-travel.

Brad Shreve:

I know you don't like things too convoluted. It sounds like this could be. And I presume since you liked it, it's not

Justene:

it's convoluted, but she explains it very well. She walks you through it and, uh, They have, uh, one toy that they invented from time travel, where it's called a candy box and a kid puts something in the piece of candy and the candy box, it disappears. And then it reappears a minute later. So it's basically a toy fun thing. And that ends up figuring into a lot of the plot as you go along, it starts out as a kid's toy and then it becomes a clue in the murder.

Brad Shreve:

Interesting.

Justene:

So I liked it. I got to say it was, it was a fun, it's a fun recommendation for me. I had a great deal of fun with this

Brad Shreve:

This is the second fun recommendation we've had,

Justene:

Okay.

Brad Shreve:

I think, cause that's one of the new ones you created.

Justene:

It is one of the new ones. It's also delightful. It's a little delightful recommendation too. The, the fun book did not really strike me as delightful but This is delightful book.

Brad Shreve:

This is fun and delightful.

Justene:

Yeah, the author is a professor, I think of psychology and, feminist studies. So she explores a lot of, You know, big topics, but you know, plays with some within the fiction.

Brad Shreve:

Well, her background makes it sound like it would be really cool.

Justene:

It is really cool. I keep telling you it's really cool. What do you mean? It makes it sound like it's really cool. It is cool. It's a

Brad Shreve:

Well, I mean, you

Justene:

I recommend everybody read it and it's just, it's really amazing.

Brad Shreve:

I'm saying on top of everything else that you just made. It sound even cooler. So we have a fun, delightful recommendation

Justene:

Yeah. It's terrific.

Brad Shreve:

And before I let you go. When you said that you can actually go back in time and see yourself, I got to tell you something that came to my mind, and I'm going to apologize in advance because I know your daughter is a kindergarten teacher. So we usually try to keep your opening segment clean.

Justene:

Oh, God, no, no, no,

Brad Shreve:

what immediately, what immediately came to mind was that somebody said, go fuck yourself. You could say, okay.

Justene:

Yeah. They addressed that too.

Brad Shreve:

No, now I have to read this.

Justene:

That's right.

Brad Shreve:

All right. I never expected that to be real, but anyway, it sounds good.

Justene:

I did. It's a great book. It's a, you know, I, I think in a month or two, I'm actually going to reread it again. Knowing the end I think will appreciate the ride a little more even. This is one of my favorite books ever

Brad Shreve:

Well, I have coming up Mia Manansala and, she was a lot of fun to talk with. So hope you enjoy.

Justene:

All right. See you later, Brad.

Brad Shreve:

My guest today is Mia P. Manansala and she'll correct me if I said that wrong, is a writer and certified book coach from Chicago who loves books, baking and bad-ass woman, She uses humor and murder to explore aspects of the Filipino diaspora queerness and her millennial love for pop culture, her debut novel Arsenic And Adobo came out May 4th, 2021 with Berkeley Penguin, Random House. A lover of all things geeky, Mia spends her days, procrasti-baking,playing J RPGs and dating Sims, reading, cozy mysteries and diverse romance and cuddling her dogs. (I'll hope I get this one right too) Gumiho, Max Power, and Bayley Banks Rest in peace. And you get bonus points. If you get all the references. Welcome Mia.

Mia Manansala:

Yeah. Thanks for having me Brad

Brad Shreve:

It's a pleasure to have you, uh, I briefly kinda sorta met you when we did Queer Noir at the Bar together, which these are usually done in coffee houses across the country, but we did it on YouTube. And not only was, I impressed with your reading, as soon as it was done, a friend of mine who listened in to hear how I did, he didn't talk about how I did he raved about your reading. He was like, "All I could think of while she was writing was WOW.

Mia Manansala:

Oh, well, thank you so much.

Brad Shreve:

Thank you. It was a pleasure. Now Arsenic And Adobo is the first of the Tito Rosie's Kitchen Mysteries. And I want to happy to say that it's good to hear that it was the first, because that means more are coming and I can't wait to hear more. Your debut novel is with Berkeley Random House, you've had rave views, much talk in literary circles. And oh my God, I looked at your Goodreads and you have almost 10,000 reviews. Every author I know would kill to have over 9,000 reviews. How does all that attention feel?

Mia Manansala:

I mean, like, honestly, even good things can be overwhelming, right? And, and so even though I love that my book is getting a lot of attention, I have to kind of pretend that Goodreads doesn't exist. Um, so, you know, I fully believe that everyone. has their own opinion. No book is for everyone. No piece of media or art in general is for everyone. And that's fine, but I also don't need to subject myself to that. Um, I also think it's better when there's like a nice divide between like the, the author and the reader. I feel like readers should feel. comfortable and safe having their own opinions and being able to debate and things like, you know, I, you know, unless they're like, you know, racist, homophobic, you know, unless they're like prejudice and hate-filled reviews, which unfortunately I do have a couple. Um, but like, if you don't like it, you should feel comfortable talking about this book that you don't like without having to worry about my feelings and where I don't have to worry about, you know, These know these negative things as well. So I think when it's, it's healthy for both the reader and the reviewer to have that divide, um, but I am, you know, again, the attention always really great, you know, it's better than having like two reviews and no one knowing that my book exists. So, you know, it's, it's like good problems to have, of course.

Brad Shreve:

That is a good problem. So it sounds like you actually read your reviews.

Mia Manansala:

In the beginning, just because it was one of those, um, cause it was like early reader reviews. So when it was still an arc and I didn't have a physical book because I only had a electronic arcs and this is my debut. So in many ways it still didn't feel real. Right. I had that cover, you know, I knew it was all gonna happen, but. It still didn't feel real to me. So when I saw reviews coming in from people who didn't actually know me, um, I was like, oh my God, like, this is not just someone who was a friend of mine and kindly read my book to help support me. This is a random stranger who just requested. An early book, an early copy of my book because I thought it sounded good. So I wanted to see what happened. And again, even then the early reviews were pretty good, but that's when I realized, oh, these some, some of them were being very, very personal and the things that they were sharing about what the book meant to them. And I'm like, you know, maybe it's not necessarily meant for my eyes and things like that, personal on their part, not against me. So I, you know, I want to make that clear and I'm just like, you know, if they're going to be that open and vulnerable, maybe I should give them the space. You know, for them to feel comfortable doing that. So I stopped reading fairly early on, especially once the book of the month, pick happened. And like my reviews exploded. I was like, oh yeah, definitely not. My mental health cannot handle all of this.

Brad Shreve:

I will say, yeah, it's nice. When friends and family read your book, they'll almost always say it's wonderful. My sister, I remember saying I would actually buy this book and I thought that it felt good, but it is a lot different when people, you don't know. Are saying good things about your book. It really makes a difference because man, you know, people are, your friends and family are gonna say something nice. Based on my limited experience, I used to read my reviews and as you probably know, you'll get 50 great reviews and then one that isn't so hot and you focus on the one.

Mia Manansala:

Yes.

Brad Shreve:

Those that came before me suggested stop, bring your reviews, given that you have. Is there anything that you've read that you've learned from?

Mia Manansala:

Um, you mean like regarding the reviews

Brad Shreve:

regarding your writing or, or maybe future novel?

Mia Manansala:

I mean, I guess for me. Okay. So I do read everything that is sent to me through like, I have like a contact form on my website. So those always do get read and. And the, the, like I said, like the, the, the vulnerability and the openness that people have been, been willing to share with me about what my book means to them, has meant a lot. There's one in particular that I can think of with, um, uh, an, an Asian-American writer up and coming writers not published yet. And she said that reading my book made her realize that it's possible. for her to tell her own story in her, because before she read my book, the book she was writing, her protagonist was white and she's of an Asian American background. And then she read my story and realized, wait a minute, why am I writing these characters that don't reflect me in my experience? Just because I feel like, you know, because she's writing a thriller. So she's like, oh, you know, I'm not yeah. Writing about Asian-Americans Y Y you know, but then she read my book, which again has an Asian American protagonist in a murder mystery. So it's, it's not about the identity. She just happens to be that she's like, oh, I want that. I want to be able to see myself in a page on the page where my identity helps shape the character, but it's not. The main point. It's not the only thing I get to, you know, I get to be in the suspenseful story and put my own background into it and just have it be a regular mainstream novel. And so she was like, it seems like it should be obvious that I should be writing my own story, but I, I, as in like the, the, the, the author, but she's like, but I didn't even think. About making myself a protagonist until I saw what you did in your book. And I realized it was possible. And like that meant so much to me. So I realized, you know, in my head, I always thought representation is important, you know, of anybody, you know, whether it's like, you know, queer characters, your characters of color, you know, all, you know, all their varying kinds. I always knew how important that kind of representation was to me. But hearing people reach out and explaining exactly how that representation impacted them, them and their writing and their point of view and their way of thinking. Like it made me realize how important it is, uh, like in, in a global sense, not just like personally for me, because I wrote this book for myself. I wrote Arsenic And Adobo because this is what I wanted to see. And now I realized by writing what I wanted to see, I can impact other people as well.

Brad Shreve:

I love the awesome story about the woman that wrote about the adversity that is great. In 2018 Sisters in Crime honored you with the Eleanor Taylor Bland award, and that recognizes an emerging writer of color working in mystery. I'm not going to say congratulations. I always say you don't get a congratulations because you earned it. So I'll say great job.

Mia Manansala:

Uh,

Brad Shreve:

How has diversity? I mean, when it comes to being Queer, we know Joseph Hanson in 1971, I think it was, wrote, Fadeout and as the years have gone on, Queer mysteries have become much more accepted beyond that. How has. other diversity, such as ethnicities been viewed in the past.

Mia Manansala:

It's strange because with publishing. They always are going to stress. So I've talked about this before with my, my mentor, Kellye Garrett, who's black. And so she was telling me that in the nineties, there was a huge boom in both like black publishing, like of all kinds in all genres. And I've also heard from other people like that. There was also a big in like Queer publications as well. Like there were like these big, like. Like lesbian imprints or like dedicated, silly games. Like in the nineties, it was big business. And then slowly they started to fade out almost as if it was a trend and suddenly these, you know, the, no one was reading them anymore, which we know is not true, but the money was no longer there pushing these stories. And so by the time I kind of joined, you know, the, the, the crime fiction community, It's not that they didn't exist. It's that? I wasn't aware of them because I'm I'm of a slightly younger generation, you know, in the nineties, I was still in elementary school. So when I was old enough to kind of like start picking out like my own books, these were not available to me because the marketing wasn't there. So many of them were out of print and it was so hard to find. And. so seeing like the slow growth where yes, it is changing, Maybe not fast enough. But it's, there is very encouraging. Um, and I just worry that. Publishing still sees this as like a diversity, boom. Like it's a trend and that eventually it's like, okay. we did our part and it's going to fade away again. And I really don't want to see that. Um, but what I would love to see more of is the intersectionality of these various identities, right? Because I am a person of color and I am Queer. And so a lot of times you'll see one or the other, but it's not.always as apparent that, you know, you, you can be more than one thing. So like, when I read like, you know, Cheryl Head's books, I was like, oh my God, this is great. I, um, um, I've just, I've recently become aware. I think Michael Nava has some great books. I'm so like, uh, you know, my list is like, My list keeps growing and growing, and that makes my heart feel so full as well. Um, but again, it's this, if, if you don't know what to look for, if you are not actively searching out, oh, I want more crime writers of color. Oh, I specifically want Queer crime writers. It's harder to find in the mainstream. It's harder for like a casual reader to find us. And that's where I think the issue is.

Brad Shreve:

It's great to hear that you wrote it for yourself. There are writers that write strictly to market, and I love hearing that you wrote what you wanted to write and still for your first book, extremely successful. So do you see it getting better?

Mia Manansala:

I mean, honestly, I hope so. This is my first book getting published, but it's not the first book that I finished. It's not the first book that I had an agent with or tried to sell. My very first book that kind of introduced me to the crime fiction, like the kindness of the crime fiction community. Was titled like Death Comes To Comic-Con and it starred a queer Filipino, American millennial characters, solving murder mysteries at a comic book convention. And this was back in maybe 2017, 2018 that I finished it and I was shopping it around with my then agent. And at the time. all my rejections, like I'll say like 70% of my rejections had the same general, um, feedback, which is we love the writing. We love the voice. We cannot sell this. There is no market for this, For a younger and Queer and Filipino American protagonist in a traditional mystery genre, which according to them again, in my rejection letters, they said skewed to older, white middle-class women. They didn't see there being a lot of overlap between what I was writing and to who they traditionally marketed to. So I mean, things yes are getting better? but within like, you know, this, that was what, three years ago I was being told that it wasn't,

Brad Shreve:

Oh, that breaks my heart.

Mia Manansala:

I didn't go out of my way to write a more marketable second book. Like again, like I think writing is so hard and I'm still so new to this, that if I'm not writing what I'm enjoying it it's, I don't really see the point, you know, later on, maybe when I get a little bit more seasoned and I'm like, well, you know, it's my job. There's nothing wrong with writing to market because it is a job. but where I'm currently at in my career, I'm pursuing the things that I want just because I, at the moment I can.

Brad Shreve:

Arsenic And Adobo. I love the title by the way.

Mia Manansala:

Thank you.

Brad Shreve:

It's great. It's a cozy mystery. I have, I don't think I've had very many cozies on this show for listeners that aren't aware. I talked to people in there, like what's a cozy, so our listeners that aren't aware. What is a cozy.

Mia Manansala:

Sure. So I like to call them, you know, like Hallmark movies with dead bodies. Basically it is like a traditional mystery with an amateur sleuth, uh, that. doesn't have on the page graphic violence, sex or bad language, shall we say? There are, you know, if you want to get, like, there are probably other parameters or should I say, like genre expectations, but those are the main three. If you hit those three, you're pretty good. Um, like they're meant to be lighter a little bit more humorous, you know, again, like they're called cozy because it's just to give you that feeling when you read that, like, uh, almost like, you know, like, ah, a nice light, you know, beach read or, you know, curl up with a blanket and a cup of tea kind of thing. But. Those are the three main stays the watching for the sex violence and language.

Brad Shreve:

Mentioning beachy. some of the reviews I saw said that yours is a good beach read. How does that make you feel? And what does, what do you think that means?

Mia Manansala:

I know some people would almost use that as an insult and I'm just, but I am perfectly happy to entertain. That's why, that's why I love genre so much. So I know. That more literary fiction, no matter what genre is, it's very important. It is beautiful prose. you can get lost in those words, but that's not my style. And that is not currently what I'm going for. I believe that there's great importance in books that, help you escape that can make you laugh. Making people laugh is so important to me because I feel like especially for the past year or so, you know, there haven't been a ton of reasons to laugh with Tony, you know? So, so escapist media shall we say, is hugely important to me. It's how, you know, In my bio, it mentions diverse romance, diverse romance. I say, I say, I tell everyone like has saved my mental health the past year or so just because the idea of women of color. Thriving and going after joy and love and knowing that they deserve it and are worth it, has meant so much to me. And I want to give people that same feeling with my own writing, even though there happens to be dead bodies, which are usually the, you know, the feel-good stories you think they are. Yeah.

Brad Shreve:

This is about you, not about me, but I've also been told quite often that my book is a good beach read. And what I like about that is during the depression, the MGM big grand musicals were hugely popular then because people needed that and they always need an entertainment. Do you feel like you are trying to teach anything at the same time?

Mia Manansala:

I believe like most anything, particularly with crime fiction has to have a point of view to really go anywhere. Right. So yes, it's lighting humorous, but it would be a disservice, I guess I would say to me, and to the readers and to the people who go through, like the issues that I touch on in the book to not. bring in larger issues surrounding as communities. so, you know, even though it's a cozy mystery, I have an author's note in the beginning with some content warnings. Um, just because. when you look at my cover, when you read it again, it's, it's bright, it's colorful. I truly believe it's a beach read, but there are some issues that I touch on in there, which if you go in there looking only for laughs and you are kind of suddenly confronted with these tougher issues, it affects your enjoyment of it and it, it almost feels like a betrayal, right? Because sometimes it's not the book itself, it's where you currently are in your life when you're reading it. And so, you know, I touch on like the opioid crisis. It's not on the page, but there's hints at maybe like domestic violence with one of the characters and you know, and other things like that. And you're just like, I came here to laugh at this book that has an adorable puppy on the cover. And suddenly there's these deep dark like, well, you know, this is the real world, you know, like I can't like there are dead bodies and even though it's fictional, any jokes I make are not at the expense. Of the life loss necessarily, you know, it it's, uh, the, the jokes are not about the tougher issues. It's the things surrounding it to help you deal with those tougher issues. so Yeah. I would say, I always include some point of view sometimes it's cultural, um, right. Like again, just because it's. My character is Filipino. It's not about Filipino culture. I'm not here to teach you Filipino culture necessarily, but if you learn something about it along the way, that's awesome. And I'm glad that people find that interesting. Same thing about certain social issues that I care about. Um, but you know, again, when it comes to fiction, just become something is in my book doesn't necessarily mean I condone it, you know, so again, that's another thing I have to be careful about because people tend to, mix those boundaries sometimes. but yeah, I hope at least things that, that people can learn when they read my books.

Brad Shreve:

There's so much that we can talk about in limited amount of time. So before we go any further, we need to talk about the novel itself. it's usually brought up the front. I asked people to tell us about the protagonist with this book. It's kind of hard to do. Because we not only have Lila we have her aunt and the Calendar Crew and, Adena. So let's talk about her, but the others too.

Mia Manansala:

Okay. So, This book in the very beginning, it was, it was me playing with like typical romcom tropes. Cause like, I feel like a lot of romcoms and a lot of cozy mysteries, at least in their initial inception, there tends to be a lot of crossover. Right. It's like, as I said before, like amateur sleuth, it's almost always a woman who is from a small town. Leaves to a big city and then has to come back for some reason. Sometimes it's a failed relationship, poor business decisions, um, family, you, something like that. And. It is their job to kind of like pick up the pieces, refix, those bridges they've burned, fall in love with the community, with Christmas, without, you know, with all those kinds of things. And so that's what I was doing with my character of Lila she is a big fish in a small pond because she grew up in a fictional Midwestern town or just a couple hours outside of Chicago. She has a disastrous, relationship has to return home. and she also has to save her aunt's failing business. so the, series itself is called Tita Rosie's kitchen Tita means aunt in Tagalog And Tita Rosie's Kitchen is the restaurant around which this whole entire first novel kind of revolves around. So her, her family business is in danger because her ex-boyfriend is the town's vindictive food critic and has been trying to get the restaurant shut down for a while. The story starts because one day he's there at the restaurant and mid meal, mid review passes out. dies and it turns out that it's murder. And obviously she becomes the main suspect. But with cozies and in particular with, uh, the Filipino culture community is really, really important. So. Even though she's kind of lost when she comes back home, she's not alone. So she, lives and grew up with her aunt and her grandmother. Both. We will have very strong personalities, but in very different ways. So Tita Rosie is a very kind loving woman, very open, very generous, but resilient, right? She's many people might look at her as a pushover, but she has a strength that is maybe not as a parent. When you, when you first see her, Lola Flor. Lola means grandmother in Tagalog is she takes no mess. She lets you know what she's thinking. and she is that voice in Lila's head pushing her to always do better for better or worse. And you mentioned the Calendar Crew that is her group of godmothers, um, plural. She has three different godmothers and they're all the April, May and June, which is why she calls them the Calendar Crew in her head. They are also just very typical aunties, opinionated in your life loving, but also infuriating. And because they are the gossip hounds in the town, they're the ones that she goes to when she needs, you know, some like, Information that's maybe not as readily known. And Adeena is her best friend. Her she's very right or die. She stayed behind in the town when, when Lila went off to college and now that Lila's back and they're, trying to, Fix their relationship because they, they stayed friends the whole time, but there was definitely a divide in a shift happening as lot of pulled further and further away because she thought she was too good for this town. And so her spending the time with the investigation with Lila with her family, has been showing her what she's missed all this time.

Brad Shreve:

Beyond that it's always touchy in mystery to talk about this story, because you don't want to give away too much, but when Derek the food critic, I believe it's Derek, correct.

Mia Manansala:

Yes

Brad Shreve:

Okay. Her, ex boyfriend from many years ago and the food critic, he dies in the restaurant, but beyond that, what is her motivation to solve this crime? Most people let the cops handle it.

Mia Manansala:

There is a couple of things. One of them is that she doesn't trust the police for various reasons. her family has a, past, shall we say, with the Shady Palms police department? And her family has been the victims of some of maybe they're more corrupt or we'll say like low key shady practices before, which I kind of, I lightly touch on in this book. We don't get the full story, but it does come out when an, in one of the later books, like what really happened. Um, so that's part of it, just her general distrust of the police. And also part of it. is that, She actually is arrested and has to spend the night in jail because they're, they find evidence, that is pretty damning. And her aunt puts the restaurant and their home up for, for collateral, for bail to kind of bail her out of jail. So it's one of those, like not only do I not trust the police to actually do the right thing and figure this out. If they don't, my family loses everything. Right. Not only do I go to jail, my, my aunt, my grandmother, they're out their business, they're out their home. Um, so I, I, you know, the stakes are pretty high for her.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah, I liked the addition of the, possible loss of the restaurant. I liked that additional tension in it. Uh, it really added to the story. There's a lot of humor in this book calender crew had me laugh quite a bit and going back to the death of Derek, the food critic, I don't wanna give too much away, but it caught me off guard because it was just all of a sudden he's just dead. And his death alone was funny itself. How difficult is it? Right? Humor.

Mia Manansala:

It it's strange in that When it comes to writing humor, the difficult part is knowing when to hold back. because I'm sure like for many people, humor is a defense mechanism and it's very easy. For for me, because I'm the kind of person who avoids conflict in real life. So writing conflict on the page is hugely difficult for me. So whenever anything is too tense or starts to feel too real to me, my first instinct is to drop in a joke. My first instinct is to lighten it up and sometimes it's the, it's the way they go. And sometimes it's not, sometimes you. As a human being, but also as, as a writer and a reader needs to be able to sit with a moment and really feel the, the complicated, nuance of, of, of what's going on. Right. You, you can't laugh it away. You have to deal with it. And learning that is something that I still struggle with. Um, especially because you're like right now I'm editing book two, which, I didn't put enough. Like I kept pulling back too much knowing like, so in book one, when I was editing, I had to pull a lot of stuff out. So I was like, okay, you know, I'm going to, I'm going to be a little bit more serious and, you know, haggling and then book two, I'm like, okay, Oh, I don't know if it's because I wrote this in the middle of a endemic, but this is just kind of dreary and let me put some stuff back. So, so finding that balance right now is the hardest thing, because, luckily some of the good, a lot of the good reviews, you know, say like, oh totally, it's perfect. And I'm like, thank you. That's great. I finding the balance of like, There are lives lost. This is a murder mystery. Don't forget that. But also like, oh man, this is really hard. And people need humor to get through tough things. So maybe lighten it up in some areas that, that, that balancing act is still something I'm struggling with. Like to this day. Yeah.

Brad Shreve:

When you have those, sections of the novel that you have to rip out and you think they're well-written and you actually like that part of the story, and you have to, you have to take it out. Cause it's just, you know, sometimes it just doesn't fit. You just wrote it. Cause it's good. That really hurts.

Mia Manansala:

It does. I'm like, it made me laugh and you're like, okay, made you laugh, but is it right for the story? Is it right for the moment? I'm like, oh no, no. It's like, I know they're right. But I don't, you know, you're right. It hurts.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah. Yeah. cozies is not uncommon to have a lot of food involved, and there is a hell, a lot food in this novel, out a lot. Despite, I don't speak Tagalog I know the universal come here wave gesture. I used to work in Las Vegas and we worked for the same company, but they were a different division of the company where we had quite a few Filipino women and the break room happened to be right across from my office. And. When. I would step in, I got this all the time and I really learned to love adobo and, lumpia, What was really interesting to me is unlike me, that would take a sandwich and something for lunch. It was a potluck. Each one brought their own. I mean, it was planned each one brought their own thing and, it was a great potluck. It was a lot of fun. what I was really caught by the novel is it reminded me almost a lot of the Latin culture, the closeness in the family, how important food is, um, Were you concerned about, well, I'm going to talk about my novel real quick. I wrote a Latino character in my first novel, and I knew this person, no, or a accum conglomeration of several people that I knew and some readers said. they didn't like that. I stereotyped. And then there were some individuals that said this was my family. I really, mean, I, this was my family really wrote to me. Was there any concern at all about the possibility that people may think it's a stereotype that you were writing? Hmm.

Mia Manansala:

Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, to be honest and it's sad and I get it, but like a lot of times the toughest critics are the people within your own community. Right. And, and, and just be me as feel like all their other marginalized writers I've known. Um, they notice that whenever it's someone from their own community that are that's giving negative reviews, they're usually the harshest ones. And in many ways, um, I can understand it. Uh, it doesn't make it less hurtful. Because it's one of those, like there's no written, no group is a monolith, no matter what you are. right. So like I wrote the people that I knew, I wrote the experiences that I have. And just because it's not your experience, doesn't make it in authentic. Doesn't make it not real. Um, and they're like, maybe you see as a stereotype, But again, like these people exist. I can understand if every single character seemed to follow a particular thing, but I I believe, you know, in my books, I ha I show very different types of characters, a different ways of being and that, I don't know, like some of the things that, you know, it's, You know, someone's like, you know, it's not a stare, you know, stereotypes. It's not necessarily that they're not true. It's that they're only one side. Right? So it's not that these characters aren't real. I think the issue is when, when you're not balancing it and making them more 3-D and things like that. it's strange, but people, there are people out there who want you to write the novel they have in their head. They bring into a novel, their own expectations. And when it doesn't meet them in some way, um, they get upset about it. And. Again, you know, I understand particularly what those, we, there, there's not a ton of mainstream Filipino American books with the with the Filipino-American protagonist, but I can understand getting excited because you think you're finally gonna see yourself on the page and then you pick it up and it's nothing like your life and you're disappointed. Right. But I think you have to understand that. The problem is not you. The problem is not the author. The problem is the industry and the lack of wide representation that we have. If you were able to choose, you know, like a plethora of Filipino-American books with a plethora of Filipino American experiences, having one disappointing novel is not that bad. It's like, well, I only get five and none of these five represent the way I, you know, that kind of thing. You know, I was talking to someone yesterday and no one's ever like. I, you know, who picks up a book and they're like, this does not represent, you know, the white middle-class suburban, you know, white women that I am, I'm never reading this, you know, like, they're like, oh, I'll just pick up another white middle-class suburban mom book, you know? Cause there's like a million of them. Um, You know, same thing with, you know, with Queer readers. So many times that they have such a limited selection that they, put certain expectations on it, which is unfair for, for them as readers and for whoever the writer is because you don't get to objectively enjoy the book. and again, I think that's just more of an industry thing. and I also think particularly for a lot of like diaspora writers, there's that question of, am I enough? Am I Filipino enough to tell this story, am I queer enough to tell the story? Am I X uh, you know, enough to tell whatever identity this is? And so there's also that going in, you know, cause I was born and raised in Chicago. I can't speak Tagalog I can only understand it. What I know of my culture is through my own family. So as writing this, you know, I was careful to get a lot of outside readers, beta readers, because, you know, there's a difference, like, is this genuinely a Filipino cultural thing? Or is this a, my family thing? And, you know, sometimes it was both. And sometimes, you know, just having that outside perspective, let me see when I was, when characters were being too stereotypical or too flat because I wasn't giving them the nuance of the lived in fields that they needed, to be real. So. I don't know that there's really like an answer to that. It's just like, but yes, I feel that pressure and yes, I think it's unfair, but yes, I understand where it comes from at the same time.

Brad Shreve:

We've talked about quite a few characters, but I did leave one out and that is the town of Shady Palms. Which, is very much a character in this book. And I love it. I love it right down to the tacky plastic Palm trees for Shady Palms, Shady Palms, in Illinois, uh, kind of ridiculous in itself. And I know this tacky little town because, uh, I grew up in the Midwest and in the south. And, uh, but since moving out west, a lot of the desert towns. are tacky little towns, for whatever reason You grew up in Chicago and that's where you lived, but is it based on any experience that you've had?

Mia Manansala:

Yes. and no. So I started very generally with, might've been kind of similar to a Chicago suburb that a friend of mine, the friends of my living called like Skokie. like very generally when I was thinking of the demographic. Right. Because one of the things I wanted to do is that. Yes, this is a small town, but Hey, brown people exist. Um, which we don't necessarily get a lot of in, in a lot of cozies, particularly small town based ones. And so I was like, Okay. what is the demographic that would make sense that I'm used to, And so I kind of started there and, you know, I'm so, so pleased that, you said that the setting actually feels like a character because in all honesty descriptions are my nemesis. I hate writing them. I'm so terrible. Like draft after draft we'll can say will contain things that just say bracket, insert description. Um, and the reason I spent so much time focusing on that is because an early beta reader, one of my critique partners, um, when she was reading it, she was just like, Where is this taking place? You know, she's like these characters are great. Your dialogue is excellent but it feels like it's happening in a void. She's like they're moving in an empty space and she wasn't wrong. You know, like again, she was completely, completely right. What, I didn't know. How to bring that to life necessarily. and you know, and again, I grew up in this city, so like my idea of what constitutes a small town is probably different from people who actually grew up in small towns. So like talking to people who grew up in small towns, give me idea of like population, how things, you know, like I talked to friends like Mia, my town was so small, there were no stoplights, you know what I mean? I was like, oh, you know, like that blew mine. So like getting these different perspectives and trying To meld them into their own thing and then look in, and, um, that same friend was just like, oh, you know this, like you said, it's, it's this far away from Chicago, it has X amount, you know, population that you're picturing. It sounds a lot like, uh, Ottawa, Illinois, you should check it out. And I was like, oh, okay. I can take a trip and write it off as research. Perfect. So actually I went on like a writing retreat there with friends and Yeah. I was like, oh, okay. I see, you know, like, I did, like, I feel like Midwestern, small towns are not that different from like a Chicago suburbs, you know, maybe population size, maybe certain things. But in general, I was able to kind of. Cobble these experiences together, but I also wanted it to feel like a little ridiculous, just because like I wanted it to be its own world. Um, so like Shady Palms kind of actually started off as like a placeholder name. I was like, I don't know, because every, because I, I start with something really basic as the first, I think it was like Shady Oaks. I don't, you know, I was trying to think mood molest and I kept Googling and finding that these places actually existed like Shady Oaks, Illinois exists. Shady Grove, Illinois exists, Shady Pines, Illinois. I was like, damn it. You know, I don't want a real place. I wanted to create my own one. So I'm like, okay, I bet you, there's not a Shady Palms. It'll be a placeholder name until I can think of something better. but then I was able to come up with a ridiculous backstory that had the name makes sense. And I was like, this is exactly what I need to give my world the feel that it deserves. So I'm kind of happy. I stuck with it.

Brad Shreve:

Well, I know some experienced writers that in just a few words, can give you a description of a person or can give you a description of a town. I mean, just, a few sentences. That's a real struggle for me, even. You did a good job.

Mia Manansala:

Thank you.

Brad Shreve:

Yeah, it worked well. Now is the time on the show where. we have, what's called awkward questions. Authors get, and what I do is I, I surveyed dozens of authors and said, tell me some questions that you get that are uncomfortable or some that you've had. They're just downright weird. And so I have those collected and what I do is I spin the wheel and you get one.

Mia Manansala:

All right.

Brad Shreve:

All right. So hold on and let see here. Okay. I've got your question. Are you ready?

Mia Manansala:

Yeah, I guess so,

Brad Shreve:

Are you ever going to write a real book or just stick with mystery?

Mia Manansala:

uh, yes. is so funny because I originally wanted. I kind of stumbled into ministry, even though it's, it's kind of always been one of my favorite genres ever since I was a kid. I always thought I would write kid lit or fantasy. And like all my kid lit writer, friends who, you know, the middle grade and the Y they get that all the time. Even the ones who are like New York times best-selling are like, oh, well, that's cute. But like you write for children, you know, you know, try something more, challenging something more adult. And I'm just like, And it's always my it's, it's almost always by people who don't write themselves and don't get how hard it is. And you know, I have gotten not so over it is that, but, but yes, like when are you going to start writing more serious? Cause again, like, as I said before, usually when you're a marginalized author, particularly a person of color, people expect. poetry or literary fiction from you, they expect you selling your trauma. They expect you writing the struggle book. And when you're just like, no, I wrote, you know, a murder mystery? set at like a Filipino restaurant. They're like, oh, uh that's, that's cute, I guess. But like, don't, you have more to say, you know, kind of, um, If I had something to say, I would say it. And I would say, you know, there are so many different ways to deliver that message as I, as I mentioned earlier, and, I'm very happy being a genre writer and I don't think there's anything less real. There's nothing, you know, that the, the, craft is still there. The heart is still there. Um, the struggle is still there. these books will always be real to me.

Brad Shreve:

Okay, well, my guest today. was Mia P Manansala And her debut novel is Arsenic and Adobo, which is hot off the press and it is going off the shelves very well. And a lot of good feedback As usual. there will be a link to purchase a novel in the show notes, as well as how to reach out to Mia Thank you very much for being on the show.

Mia Manansala:

And thanks for having me, Brad. These are some really good questions.

Brad Shreve:

It's been a pleasure.