Author page: David Hontiveros

BIO

Thanks to the encouragement of many of his earliest English teachers, David Hontiveros has cultivated a lifelong love affair with language. Though he had already started writing in grade school, it was only after winning 2nd and 3rd places in a Halloween Horror Writing Contest and being asked to write a superhero comic book by a group of his friends (both incidents occurring during college) that he decided to make a serious attempt at some kind of career as a writer.

Since then he was written several comic books, pieces of short fiction, and numerous film and book reviews. He was a finalist for a National Book Award in 1997 for Best Comic Book [Dhampyr, art by Oliver Pulumbarit] and won the Palanca Award in 2002 for his short story “Kaming Mga Seroks”.

He has also edited comic books like One Night in Purgatory [Best Comic Book, 2001 Sanghaya Yearbook, National Commission for Culture and Arts; 2001 National Book Award Finalist, Best Comic Book] and Ang Kagila-gilalas na Pakikipagsapalaran ni ZsaZsa Zaturnnah (co-editor) [2002 National Book Award Winner, Best Comic Book], both written and drawn by Carl Vergara.

LINKS

Five-Legged Iguana
[Film reviews]

DavidHontiveros.com
[Currently houses a teaser for the Pelicula ebook, and online issues of the comic book Bathala, art by Ace Enriquez.]

OTHER WORKS CURRENTLY AVAILABLE

  • The Penumbra horror/dark fantasy novellas Takod, Craving, and Parman [published by Visprint]
  • Two stories in the horror comic anthology Underpass [published by Summit]; “Judas Kiss” [adapted from his short story, art by Oliver Pulumbarit]; “Katumbas” [art by Ian Sta. Maria]
  • Comic adaptations of Bret Harte’s “The Right Eye of the Commander” [art by Reno Maniquis] and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum” [art by Carl Vergara], contained in Western Classics: Graphic Classics Volume Twenty and Graphic Classics: Edgar Allan Poe (revised 4th edition), respectively [published by Eureka]

FAQ

What motivated you to write this book?
I’ve always been fascinated and intrigued by the idea of live superheroics, of the myriad possibilities of having superheroes in the real, physical world. Somehow, that fascination mashed-up against a very particular bit of Hollywood gossip that a friend mentioned in passing during a birthday dinner back in 2005. The curious and bizarre alchemy between those two elements produced the seed that eventually grew into Pelicula.

What is your research process?
On any given day, chances are, I’m in the middle of reading something, and sometimes, what I’m reading is a bit of non-fiction. Occasionally, whatever title I’m reading will spark an idea that will turn out to be some kind of story, and that particular title is the start of my research process.

I’ll then set about looking for other titles that will bolster that initial store of information, basically immersing myself into the research. Anything becomes research material at this point; encyclopedias, films, sometimes even music. It’s basically immersion into the architecture of the idea, to help me lay down my own schematics, to guide me in the building of my own little annex to that bigger idea I’m running about in.

What is your writing process?
A lot of the time, I literally write, with a Bic blue, medium point, on pages and pages of scratch paper (usually the back sides of Xeroxed notes from school; my nieces and nephews have contributed heavily to this paper bank), and this serves as my “first draft.”

I take those pages and start typing them up, and while I’m typing, I’m editing and tweaking, forming my “second draft.” From that point on, it’s a steady process of going over the material repeatedly, refining and discovering.

It’s during this period that I begin to see more clearly some of the themes and imagery that may have been obscured in the early stages of writing. It’s then a matter of either making the thematics more overt, of pulling them more into the text, or making them blend more into the background, of making them more a part of the subtext.

The tweaking and refining continues till I feel the story has told itself, and then it’s a matter of forcibly stepping on the brakes and getting the kid dressed and in clean underwear and shoving him out the door, hoping he finds his proper place in the world, and that the bullies won’t be too cruel to him…

To whom do you turn to when you want feedback on your writing?
Though this occurs most often in my comic writing, that would be Budjette Tan, who’s been my perennial editor when it comes to my comic book work. Once the scripts are done and before the artist gets to sit down and wrestle with panels and pages, Budjette will give me his two cents regarding the script; I’ll listen and consider, and if warranted, I’ll tweak wherever necessary.

How do you overcome writer’s block?
That takes stepping away from the piece for awhile, to just go off and read (maybe even some of the research material, to perhaps see the idea from new angles) or watch a DVD or listen to some music or wash some dishes or do the laundry. To divorce one’s self from the mechanics of writing the piece for awhile, and hopefully be able to come back to it revitalized.

In times when I’m multi-tasking, I’ll jump over to another piece and work on that, and perhaps, serendipitously, I’ll have a Eureka moment and know just how to vault over the block so I can return to it knowing exactly what I need to do to restart the narrative engine.

What do you do when you are not writing?
Reading, watching films, soaking up information and experiences, no matter how seemingly small or mundane, because all that simply filters back into the work. There’s also the daily domestic bits that we all need to attend to, so there’s that, as well.

How does your [milieu/community] impact on your writing?
It influences the work greatly. Much of what goes on in my life at any given time informs the piece I’m working on at that moment.

My writing also manages to keep me sane, so a lot of my aggravation regarding any real life issues I may have are worked out in my writing; it really is therapy for me.

What made you decide to go into ebook publishing?
Budjette Tan (yes, him again) kind of campaigned for it, really. He pointed me towards Bronze Age Media, then began emailing links to articles about ebooks and writers of ebooks.

Knowing next to nothing about the platform, I thought to myself, Why not? I figured it would be interesting to step into that world and see how it felt.

What do you get out of writing?
I get to communicate, ideas, thoughts, stories. I remember how stories used to affect me as a child, how they still do as an adult, how they could surround me and immerse me in a completely different world from the one I lived in. How they could make me see the world in a different light, how they could shape and change my mindset, my worldview. How they could inspire and enlighten.

I always tell myself, if I can affect even one person in that way by something I write, that’s a victory all in itself.

And as I mentioned in a previous answer, writing’s also therapy for me, so it also keeps me on a (mostly) even keel.

I also get to play around with language, with words and how they interact with each other. That’s always such a rush for me.

What has been your best moment as a writer?
That’s actually a tricky question. The obvious answers, of course, would be the moments when my work was recognized by one literary body or another: when Dhampyr was nominated for Best Comic Book by the Manila Critics’ Circle, the first comic book to be afforded that honor by the Circle; or being at the Palancas.

Or the moment I first held a particular work in my hand, whether it was the first issue of the first comic book I ever worked on, or the three Penumbra novellas.

But there are also those moments when someone comes up to you at a con or a signing, and tells you what your work’s meant to them, how it’s inspired them to write their own stories. Those moments are important and meaningful and humbling and inspiring to me as well.

And then there are the very private moments, during the writing process, when the story just flows, when the words fall into place just so, when it comes as easily as breathing. Or even that instant when the story first clicks into place in your head; when you realize what the story’s about and how you’re going to tell it, when you can see quite clearly how it starts, and sometimes how it ends, and all you have to figure out is how to get from one point to the other.

Those moments are fleeting, at best, but again, they’re important and meaningful and inspiring.

What do you hope your readers get out of your work?
I may have inadvertently answered this in one of my previous responses, but I honestly hope they can find in my work, a little something of what I find in novels and comics and films and music I love; those moments where you respond to the work in the same way you would to a friend who’s told you something you’re always suspected and are only now having confirmed. That instant of recognition, of seeing something of themselves or their lives or the world they inhabit, in the story they’re reading. Of having the work shed a light on a dimly-lit corner of their life, of the story holding a mirror up to their existence. Or of seeing something of the writer in the work, of finding the writer amidst the words and punctuation marks and acknowledging a kindred spirit, of realizing, Yeah, I think like that too.

That’s the most I can hope for.

At the very least though, I hope they come away with the feeling of having read a good story.

What is one lesson about writing that you wish someone had told you earlier?
Hurm. Honestly, I don’t think I have an answer to that. By my way of thinking, writing has been one long, fascinating journey for me, and the lessons, some admittedly easier to learn than others, arrive at precisely the time they’re meant to.

I’m not sure that any foreknowledge on my part regarding any aspect of writing would have helped or deterred me in any significant way.

What is your advice for those who are looking to get their book published?
Learn to proofread your work, repeatedly, before you even consider showing it to a potential publisher. Luckily, I’m an avid and relentless proofreader, so I’ve never really had this problem, but I’ve been asked (or tasked, in some cases) to read a fair share of manuscripts riddled with typos and grammatical errors.

Be vigilant for the typo gremlin! Stamp it out!!

What do your readers have to look forward to? (Future works)
Well, I’ve got the comic book I’m collaborating with Ace Enriquez on, Bathala, on its third issue (almost at the midpoint!), which can be found online at davidhontiveros.com.

There are also a number of pieces, some comic books, others not, some connected to past works, others entirely new, that are in varying degrees of happening, all a little too premature to mention at the moment. (Any good karma sent my way to help with the fruition of those pieces would be most welcome.)

I was asked to contribute a short story (entitled “Balat, Buwan, Ngalan”) to an Alternative Alamat anthology that, as far as I know, is scheduled for release sometime this year.

I also adapted a second Edgar Allan Poe short story (“MS. Found in a Bottle”) for Graphic Classics, though I’m uncertain when that’s scheduled for release.

As far as ebooks go, there’s the original edition of Pelicula (with the lines of Taglish dialogue left intact), as well as some other works under consideration.

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