I first met Ines Bautista-Yao when she submitted a book to be featured on Clean Indie Reads and I flipped out over the gorgeous cover. It was so pretty that I had to read the book even though contemporary romance is not usually a favorite. Well, she blew my brain with a darling story (Only a Kiss) that made me think of a Filipino Beezus and Henry all grown up. The beauty of the indie author world is that it’s way easier to be an excited fan girl, so I connected with her on social media and found out she’s totally cool!
“Though Ines would rather be riding a unicorn on a fluffy pink cloud, she writes love stories instead. She also makes the most of this ordinary world by spending all her time with her daughters (sometimes her husband) and writing whatever she can. Oh, and she used to be the editor-in-chief of Candy and K-Zone magazines and taught high school and college English.” (Thus says her bio blurb.) She forgets to mention that she’s famous in The Philippines for her writing and even garnered a CNN interview spot! Yep, she’s legit!
So, let’s get to the interview so you can see what I mean!
LIA: Tell us about your hometown growing up and maybe share a favorite childhood memory.
INES: I grew up in a province called Silay. I guess you could say it’s in the middle of the Philippines among a cluster of islands called the Visayas. It was a wonderful place to grow up in because on weekends. My parents would toss me and my sister in the back of a jeep and drive to the beach. We’d get on a fishing boat (which my dad named after me but would like to tease me and say it was the other way around), catch some fish, grill them on the boat, and eat them with our fingers, dipping them in vinegar and soy sauce. We’d visit the farm, get on the back of a carabao and ride through the sugarcane fields. When I got a little older, my dad got a horse and I learned how to ride her too.
But what I loved most of all were all the visitors from Manila and the rest of the world who would stay with us. I don’t even know if Silay had a hotel back then, but our house seemed to be the go-to place for people from out of town who wanted to visit. We had visitors all the time, and I got to meet so many different people. It was fascinating for me as a child to learn how different and how interesting people were.
LIA: You’ve reached quite a bit of notoriety in the Philippines for your writing. Can you tell us how that developed?
INES: Notoriety! Haha! I don’t know about notoriety, but I’ve been writing for quite some time. In grade school, I used to write stories and my classmates would pass them around (even unfinished!), then in college, I started writing feature articles, thinking that was the only kind of writing I could do well. In fact, I made a career out of it and became the editor-in-chief of a children’s magazine, then later a teen magazine. I only started seriously writing fiction when my eldest daughter turned three. I was then editing chick lit and I realized I didn’t want to edit, I wanted to write! When my daughter started napping for three hours straight, I took advantage of the time and wrote. I wrote every single day. I pitched my completed manuscript to my publisher, and she agreed to publish it. I wanted to die, I was so thrilled. They published my first two books. Then I went on to self-publish my other books. Early this year, I released another one with a different Philippine publisher.
It’s my indie writing experience, though, that has been nothing short of awesome because of two communities. One is Clean Indie Reads. After joining, I realized there were so many things I could do as an indie author, so many people I could learn from, and so much love out there—from across the globe too! The second is my author group in the Philippines called #romanceclass. The support for local books by the #romanceclass community is unparalleled. When I was traditionally published, I had the support of my publisher (which was great too!) but because I’m now doing this alone, I’ve realized how hard it is. So when we had a #romanceclass event, I hugged each person who bought my books—whether they wanted me to hug them or not! Because that’s how grateful each sale makes me.
LIA: Your sweet romance leading ladies feel so real. Do you ever base them off of people you know (or yourself)?
INES: Thank you! I don’t base them on real people, but I do base their emotions on mine and on those of the real people around me. I’ve found that people like to talk to me, to tell me things, and when I can give them my undivided attention because my kids aren’t screaming for me, I listen with my heart (which can hurt sometimes because I take in their pain — which is also why I tell myself I can never be a guidance counselor). And when I write, these feelings, these emotions come back to me, and I use them. I allow myself to feel them again and try my best to put them into words.
LIA: What, besides vocabulary, do you feel are some of the biggest differences between the Filipino flavor of your books and that of most American sweet romances?
INES: The food! Hahaha! But seriously, the biggest difference is the culture. Since my characters are Filipino, they are immersed in their setting, which is the Philippines. There’s also all the things endemic to my country like traffic, growing up with yayas (nannies), attending all-girls’ and all-boys’ schools the way Pesty and Paco do in Plain Vanilla. Katie and Chris do that as well in Only A Kiss. There’s also how intertwined our lives are with our families because we see them almost all the time (like the Juans) and because the country is so small, everyone knows everything about everyone else. Or at least it feels that way. It’s as if you can’t really hide in the Philippines. It isn’t big enough for that. When you enter a room, you’re bound to know someone who knows an uncle or cousin of yours.
LIA: Do you have a day job besides being a writer? If so, tell us what you love most about it.
INES: My day job is being a mama. And I do freelance writing and editing on the side. But let’s talk about being a mama. I love the morning snuggles, the impromptu hugs after school, the hand-drawn cards for any and every occasion, the squeals of delight when they play harmoniously together, and the list goes on. But you (and every mom) know this.
LIA: In Plain Vanilla, the main character completes a series of dares. What’s the craziest dare you have ever done?
INES: It was an unspoken dare. It was a year into my first job and our department was taken over by a different company. We weren’t happy with our new boss for several reasons. Then one day, our company was gifted a laptop by a client and she said it was to stay in her office because she was afraid we were going to break it if we used it on our desks. This was a laptop—a computer meant to be taken around. (Insert rolling eyes emoji). We were only allowed to use it inside her office. So we wanted to play a prank on her — to let out our frustration I guess. So I decided to do it. I snuck into her office and borrowed the laptop and changed the language setting. The next day, she started freaking out and she called our client saying there was something terribly wrong with her computer. We got a good laugh out of that one.
Be sure to check out these lovely books by Ines by clicking the collage pic below. You’ll quickly find they are as unique and beautiful as she is!