Thursday, September 15, 2011

An Interview with Samantha Sotto



Samantha Sotto is the internationally published Filipina author of the recently released book, Before Ever After. It's the story of Shelley who lost her husband Max three years ago to a terrorist bomb. She is still in the throes of grief when Paolo, a man who looks like Max knocks on her door. Paolo claims to be Max's grandson and he goes on to show the disbelieving Shelley pictures of a man who may be Max living on Boracay island. Can Max live forever? Shelley and Paolo fly to the Philippines to find out and along the way Shelley relates the story of how she met Max in an alternative tour group in Europe. She recalls Max's stories of Parisian barricades, medieval Austrian kitchens, Swiss hideaways and Roman boathouses. But were these just stories or was Max recounting his own life?

I read this book in just two days. I was quite impressed with the scope of Samantha Sotto's imagination and all the little historical anecdotes she dropped here and there. Before Ever After is also filled with many nuggets of wisdom about grief, loneliness, love, life and death. But ultimately it is about love in all its myriad forms - the love of a widow for her dead husband, the love of an elderly couple, the love of a grandson for his grandfather, the love of a young husband for his dying wife and the love of a father for his children. Before Ever After is not just one story, it's several stories in one book.

I was lucky enough to get a chance to interview the author though she's been quite busy zipping in and out of the Philippines to promote her book. She's also agreed to be a guest at my book club meeting in December. Based on our email exchanges, Samantha Sotto appears to be just as charming as her book.


How did the story come about? Was there anything in particular that inspired you to write Before Ever After?
Before Ever After was a product of necessity. I had three hours to kill at Starbucks while my son was in school. Compared to shelling out P100 an hour for Wifi or making the one and a half hour trip back home, writing the book was the most wallet-friendly way to spend my time.  

Did you always want to be a writer?
Not really. I dabbled in writing when I was features editor of my college paper but I never thought of pursuing it as a career. I didn't enjoy the part where I needed to churn out columns and articles to meet a deadline.

Being a mom myself, I know how many daily distractions there can be even when the kids are busy at school or doing other activities. How were you able to concentrate and write in such a public place such as Starbucks?
Writing the book was like taking a three hour European vacation everyday. The minute I opened my laptop, I was transported into Max's van. I was barely aware of the people around me in the cafe - except when they asked me to watch their things when they went to the restroom.

Your descriptions of the supporting characters in the tour group were so realistic. Did you draw from a tour group you've known in real life?
I wish I did! It would be wonderful to travel with a group like that. They are my ideal traveling companions. 

Your novel seems perfect for adaptation. Is there a movie in the works? Who would you like to see play the parts of Max and Shelley?
To be honest, I really don't think it would translate well as a movie. There are so many "mini" stories in the book that I can't imagine how it could work as a film. An HBO miniseries, however, is another story
(Paging the universe...). As much as I'd  love to share who I imagined as the characters in the book, I can't. I prefer readers to cast the story on their own. It's more fun that way.

Your book has been compared to The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger (a book I actually didn't like). I enjoyed your novel more and I think the flashback scenes flow much better than the confusing ones in Niffenegger's book. I also think your book is definitely funnier! Did that book inspire you?
I'm glad you enjoyed the book! Thank you. I'm a sucker for unusual and high concept books like The Time Traveler's Wife. I liked that book a lot. The ending resonated with me. In terms of inspiration though, I would say that Doctor Who was a much bigger influence. I love how the show balances humor and darkness.

There are indeed funny parts in your novel. Is it difficult to write comedic situations? 
I like writing humor more than I like writing dramatic scenes. I actually started writing Before Ever After with the intention of writing a straight out comedy. The story, however, had other plans. I just slipped in funny scenes when it wasn't looking.

What are your favorite novels?
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman is my all time favorite. I also love Memoirs of a Geisha, the Harry Potter series, the Belgariad series (by David Eddings), Anne Rice's vampire series, Flowers for Algernon, Wuthering Heights, Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot books -- the list goes on.  The book that has provided me with my guiding principle in life is Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss. It's become a rule in my family - you can't say no to something you haven't tried before. That rule applies to everything from broccoli to surfing.

Do you think book blogging is relevant to the publishing industry? Do you ever read what people thought of your book or is it something you avoid?
Book blogging is extremely important. I cant' think of a better way to get the pulse of readers or to interact with them. All that's missing are the cappuccinos.As for book reviews - I used to read everything, but now I'm more selective. I read the constructive ones and try to learn from them. I think of it as free advice.

A little bird told me that you are already working on your next novel. Can you give us a hint of what's to come? 
Let's just say that I've been eating a lot of poffertjes lately - all in the name of research. It's a tough job but somebody has to do it.

Just wondering - in the book Max loves to cook baked eggs and cheese. Is this one of your favorite dishes?  
It is! My hubby is great in the kitchen and indulges my cravings. It's a calorie grenade but soooo worth it.

Thanks so much for your time Samantha. Now I'd like to give away a signed copy of Before Ever After to one lucky reader of my blog anywhere in the world. Please leave a comment below with a link to your blog or email address and I'll be picking a winner in a week's time. Good luck!

11 comments:

  1. Sounds intruiging, I would love this book.

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  2. i loved time traveller's wife, and have been trying to get hold of before ever after!!! thanks for this interview/review... i'm glad i stumbled into this site, as i love reading (even if i don't have too much time to read nowadays!). thanks!

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  3. Thanks for posting your interview with the author. I'm still reading the book, though I wasn't as engrossed in it as you. :) It's nice to know these little tidbits.

    dolldalera@gmail.com

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  4. Sounds worth reading...please put my name in the hat.

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  5. Samantha is such a great woman! She had a talk during one of our meet-ups (Goodreads The Filipino Group) before the release of her book. She serve an inspiration to women who love to read, write and Doctor Who :) of our meet-ups (Goodreads The Filipino Group) before the release of her book. She serve an inspiration to women who love to read, write and Doctor Who :)

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  6. I saw the book trailer some weeks ago and my heart just stopped, and my breath taken away. The way you described it pretty much confirms my suspicion of what it's about and I know I'd fall in love with it. I've been wanting to get it but I haven't passed by any NBS lately. She seems like a great woman with lots of stories to tell. I'd love to have an autographed copy :)

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  7. Ooh possible time travel, mystery, romance and history - definitely an intriguing read. Hope I get to win a signed copy and good luck to all of us :)

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  8. This books sounds absolutely fascinating! I'd love to give it a read. I've not read a lot of Filipino lit. This sounds like a great place to start!

    My blog is http://indiereaderhouston.com

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  9. i like to have a copy! yey! my blog is

    cmm08.tumblr.com
    http://soulsister-08.blogspot.com/

    <3

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  10. Wow! I wish I can also write a full book in just one sitting.. :D

    ohhthatbytin(at)yahoo.com
    http://ohhthat.blogspot.com/

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  11. YAAAAY! How i wish i can have this book! I'm pretty sure this is great..read a lot of reviews..and i seriously think, i'll LOVE this one!:)

    Jeemah Villaverde
    jeemah_vill@yahoo.com
    http://immacoffeeholic.tumblr.com

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