We're finally in the true summer months when the sun blazes hot and everyone is sweaty. Which, is great news if you have access to a pool (like I do) but not so much if you have a day job that requires you to work outside. Speaking of it being hot, today I have the pleasure of interviewing a special person from the Philippines: the illustrious Elisa Bonin.
For those of you who don't know, Elisa is the author of Dauntless, where the main theme is "...peace is worth fighting for." After you're finished here, check out the book review.
With that said, let's get to know Elisa!
Fun Facts Interview
Jaleesa: Elisa! Thanks so much for letting me interview you for my blog. How are things?
Elisa: Good! Things are really busy right now with Dauntless’ release date just around the corner, but it’s all very exciting! And I just got engaged, so I’ve started wedding planning—another big task.
Jaleesa: Oh wow! I know how that goes. Things must be super busy for you right now.
Elisa: [Laughs] I do kind of feel like I’m floating from calendar task to calendar task, but these are the kinds of things I’m glad to be busy with.
Jaleesa: That's good. There's nothing worse than being overwhelmed with the things you don't like to do. [Laughs] Okay, so let's jump right in with your fun facts. Since we’re on the topic of your wedding, let’s talk about you and your fiancé first.
Elisa: Okay. Let’s do it.
Jaleesa: Well, to start off, congrats on your upcoming nuptials! You mentioned in your email that you met your fiancé in high school.
Elisa: Yes, although I didn’t meet him in person until ten years after I graduated. We started out as online friends because we lived on different continents.
Jaleesa: Oh, so he was like your pen pal.
Elisa: Sort of. We used to chat on instant messengers, and then once we had smartphones, on WhatsApp.
Jaleesa: So, when did that change?
Elisa: After more than a decade of friendship we decided that we really wanted to be in a relationship. By then we were both adults, and since neither of us could seem to give up on each other, we decided to take the plunge and plan an international move. That took a couple of years, but we finally ended up in the same country in 2020, right before COVID hit. We ended up locked in together with a new puppy, which was an interesting time.
Jaleesa: I bet. I would ask how things are going, but your story sounds like a rom-com in the making.
Elisa: It definitely has felt like a rom-com at times!
Jaleesa: Well, who knows, that just might be your next book. I am glad everything worked out for ya’ll, though.
Elisa: It took a lot of effort on both our parts and it wasn’t easy, but we’re both really happy right now.
Jaleesa: We love to hear that! So, switching gears, I want to talk about that moment when you knew you wanted to be a writer. Tell us about it.
Elisa: I decided I wanted to be an author when I was eight, after writing a story about a fairy princess in class. I really should have been paying attention, but that awakened a lifelong dream.
Jaleesa: I think paying attention in class is overrated. But, I do wonder if your moment was like mine. Were you writing the story because it was an assignment in class, or was it just for fun?
Elisa: Oh, just because it was fun. I was that kid that basically tried to do everything in class—except actually pay attention to the lesson—and I figured that writing stories in my notebook looked a lot like taking notes.
Jaleesa: I get that. I was the same way when I was younger. Speaking of school, you also mentioned that you graduated high school at fourteen. Can you elaborate on that?
Elisa: Yeah, no problem. I graduated in 2007, and back then the normal age for graduation in the Philippines was sixteen. It’s changed now but at the time, we had a K-10 system instead of K-12 like in the States.
Jaleesa: Yeah, I remember you mentioning that.
Elisa: Yeah. So, when I was three years old, my teachers moved me from Pre-Nursery to Kindergarten which was normally for five-year-olds.
Jaleesa: Wow! That's a huge difference in age. You said in your email that it was because you learned to read early, right? Like, you were two?
Elisa: Exactly. At two, my parents found out I could already read because they caught me mouthing along to the newspaper headlines. I've always been a big reader, and I don't remember a time in my life when I wasn't able to read.
Jaleesa: That's impressive. My mom had the opportunity to let me skip a grade, but she decided not to because she thought I'd have a hard time making friends. So, my question is how was that experience for you? Skipping grades and graduating early, was that tough in terms of fitting in?
Elisa: At first it was, but it’s hard to say how much of that had to do with my age. In elementary school I had trouble fitting in. High school was easier because I transferred to a new school and was a bit of a novelty in class. I was in an all-girls school, and my classmates sort of treated me like their little sister.
Jaleesa: Aww. They sound supportive.
Elisa: They were. High school wasn’t perfect, and there were some bad days, but looking back I’d still say it was an overall positive experience for me.
Jaleesa: [Smiles] Positive experiences in high schools are few and far between, so I get excited when I hear about good ones. But, as much as I would love to keep talking about it, we do have a bit of a limit on our time, and it looks like we're down to your last fact. I saved this one for last since it has to do with your book and being an author.
Elisa: Okay, go ahead.
Jaleesa: So, it looks like most of your author's journey took place during school. Which, I assume, means that you did a lot of writing in between classes and after school.
Elisa: In-between classes and in classes, and basically whenever I could find the time. I took every opportunity to write throughout school, and often developed characters and plotlines with my best friend. The main characters of my second book Stolen City are all characters that we worked on together in high school, along with many of the side characters.
Jaleesa: I like that you've kept the ideas that you worked on with your friends alive all these years. Does that mean they helped collaborate on the current version of Stolen City?
Elisa: I reached out to her and asked her if she would be okay with me using the characters in an original story, and I let her read my drafts, but I did all the writing and plotting for Stolen City. At the time, I wasn’t sure if it would get published, and it felt more like writing a story for her, an alternate universe version of our old characters where she wouldn’t know the ending.
Jaleesa: Writing feels best when you have an idea of who you’re writing it for. I’m glad your friend decided to let you use her characters. Some people would feel very differently about it.
Elisa: I agree, and this is definitely something I would not have done without getting her permission. What helps is that this isn’t the first time we’ve done collaborative writing this way. We’ve written stories together before, often about the same characters as the ones in Stolen City, and I’d written stories with these characters on my own in the past. And she was always very hopeful that the story would get published. When I had to shelve Stolen City for a while to work on other things, she would ask me about the manuscript and whether I thought anyone would ever be interested in it. I think if it wasn’t for her persistence and her interest, the novel as it is now wouldn’t exist.
Jaleesa: Man, you have to love supportive friends who like to collab. I actually have a couple of friends who are like that myself and, I have to say, it does make a difference. That said, we've spent a lot of time talkig about Stolen City. But, what about your debut novel Dauntless? Which, for those who don't know comes out on August 2, 2022. What’s it about and why did you write it?
Elisa: Dauntless is a sapphic YA fantasy set in a Filipino-inspired world, about a girl who has to stop a war from breaking out so that she can be with the girl she loves. I wrote Dauntless in the middle of finishing up my Ph.D. thesis when I was studying oceanography. I used writing it as a break from all the technical details I was working through. Although the world of Dauntless doesn’t have an ocean, it’s very much inspired by what drove me to study oceanography in the first place—exploration and curiosity about the unknown.
Jaleesa: Well, you definitely got the curiosity bit down in the book. The world is well constructed and while reading it, I was fascinated by all the detailed scenery.
Elisa: I’m very glad to hear that! Worldbuilding is important to me, and I’m glad that you think the world works well.
Jaleesa: It does. I even go into it a bit more in the book review for Dauntless.
Elisa: Make sure you guy read that as well!
Jaleesa: [Laughs] I'm sure they will. Well, it looks like that's all the time that we have. Is there anything else that you'd like the readers to know?
Elisa: Actually, yes. We talked about Stolen City earlier. I want you all to know that it will be released this year on September 20, 2022.
Jaleesa: So close to Dauntless!
Elisa: Yes, my publisher picked up both books at the same time, and since they were already drafted, they decided to go ahead and publish them both in 2022.
Jaleesa: I’ve heard of publishing companies picking up multiple books by the same author at once, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard of them publishing two books so close together. That’s impressive.
Elisa: It’s definitely not something I’d heard of before either, but I think they’re trying new things. Fingers crossed that it works!
Jaleesa: I'm sure it will. Can you tell us what Stolen City is about again?
Elisa: It's a YA fantasy heist novel about twin thieves who steal magical artifacts from their city's colonizers.
Jaleesa: That sounds like a great read. I'm so happy for you!
Elisa: Thank you so much!
Jaleesa: Of course! Thank you for doing this interview. I'm glad we were able to finish it up in time.
Elisa: Yes, thank you! This was a lot of fun.
Jaleesa: I thought so too. Bye now and thanks again!
Elisa: You're welcome and bye!
Elisa Bonin is the author of Dauntless which comes out on August 2, 2022 and Stolen City which comes out on September 20, 2022. You can pre-order both books on her website.
If you want the latest news and updates, you can sign up for her newsletter by clicking here.
And don't forget to check out the review of her book Dauntless by clicking here.