Sunday, July 27, 2008

Fantastic Filipina:
MARISA DE LOS SANTOS, Best-selling Author

When her first novel "Love Walked In" was published, Marisa de los Santos hit the literary jackpot - it became a New York Times bestseller.

Since then, it has resided in many other bestseller lists and has been translated into more than 14 languages. The film rights was optioned by Paramount Pictures.

The author did a reading in Historic Filipinotown in Los Angeles to promote her latest book, "Belong To Me".

Incredibly poised and gracious about her success, she is what every young writer, Filipina or not, should dream of becoming.

Both her books have become bestsellers - a lovely phenomenon that surprised Marisa.

"It's been a great surprise…I wasn't a fiction writer at all so I wrote the novel for the pure challenge…Once it got rolling, my biggest hope was to be able to write for a living, which I've been able to do. It's a huge privilege," she says.

Before becoming a full-time writer, she was a college professor. She is also an award-winning poet.

"My dad is really happy for me to be finally making money from my writing," she adds with a laugh. Marisa grew up in Baltimore and Virginia.

Marisa's father, a general surgeon in the U.S., hails from Cebu. Her mother, who's Caucasian, was a nurse. The de los Santoses are now based in Cebu.

The author's next book is partly about the Philippines and will feature some Filipino characters.

But whatever ethnic backgrounds her characters have, in Marisa's mighty pen, they are always interesting. Her two books are filled with people who are both familiar and unique, with situations that are heartbreaking and heart-lifting.

"Love Walked In" and "Belong To Me" deal with the issue of what makes a family. Entertaining, intelligent and warm-hearted, both books are hard to put down once you get going.

As a bonus for us Pinoys, the books' main male character is a Filipino fleshed out in the best possible light: impossibly handsome, strong and kind, and cooks pansit really well!

For aspiring writers, Marisa has this advice:

"When you're writing, don't think about the fiction market. Don't think about getting an agent…Be true to your story, your characters. Write the book you want to write."

A busier schedule notwithstanding, Marisa's priorities remain the same. Her family comes first, she says. Marisa is married to a fellow writer and they have two kids.
She does her promo duties but tries to make out-of-town trips as short as possible.

"My children love it when they see their mom's pictures when we go to bookstores," she says with a laugh.

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