BOOK’D| MAE RESPICIO
Mae Respicio’s debut novel, THE HOUSE THAT LOU BUILT (June 2018) is one of the most unique middle grade books I’ve read! With a heroine who is determined, at age twelve, to build her own little house, the book packs a punch. It also features strong themes of family, culture and what really makes a home. I found myself often jealous of Lou’s strongly supportive friend’s and family.
So, I’m very excited to be sharing this interview with Mae Respicio. Everyone knows that a good writer is first of all, a good reader. In this interview, Mae and I talk about the reading habit she’d like to change, her trick for getting more books in and her favorite middle grade authors. If you’re looking for books with Filipino characters and middle grade authors to check out, you’re in the right place!
1. What are you currently reading? Do you usually read more than one book at a time?
My current read is a gorgeous book of poetry called OCEANIC by Aimee Nezhukumatathil. I normally read poetry, short stories or flash fiction when I’m in early drafting stages of my own work; I find it gives me the kind of inspiration I need while immersed in trying to write a novel. When I’m not knee-deep in writing I’m usually reading a few books at a time: an audio book, a book on my nightstand (nonfiction or fiction), and a middle grade that I’m reading aloud with my kids.I normally read poetry, short stories or flash fiction when I’m in early drafting stages of my own work; I find it gives me the kind of inspiration I need while immersed in trying to write a novel. - @maerespicio Click To Tweet
2. Have you always been a reader? What is the first book you remember ever reading? What drew you into reading/why do you read?
I can’t remember not being a reader! I was definitely one of those kids who always had her nose in a book. Ramona Quimby was the first novel I remember reading that had chapters—I was so proud of reading a “long” book! My mother, who’s a retired teacher and a huge reader, is definitely the reason I’m a bookworm. I love the windows that books give and that’s a huge part of why I read.
3. What is your philosophy on reading? (for example, some people have to finish every book they start)
I used to try to finish every book I started but life has gotten so busy that I don’t do really that anymore. One thing I’ve realized about my reading habits is I tend to stick with what I like, so I’m trying to do a better job of reading outside of my comfort zone. So, if anyone has any good book recs… throw them my way!One thing I’ve realized about my reading habits is I tend to stick with what I like, so I’m trying to do a better job of reading outside of my comfort zone. Click To Tweet
4. How often do you read? And how do you fit it into your day?
I aim to read daily but that’s not always possible (though when I’m hooked on a book I can get obsessed, so in those times I’m reading pretty consistently). I’m a right-before-bedtime reader, which is engrained in my habits. I also listen to audio books while driving or taking care of other things, so that helps me to get more books in.
5. Where do you like to read? Where’s the weirdest place you’ve ever read a book?
We have a couch that the sun hits just right at certain times of the day—the light dapples in softly and it feels like the most magical reading spot (my kids and I fight over it after our trips to the library). When I’m reading I have to feel comfortable, which means feet up and yoga pants! And are there weird places to read a book? (Ha!) I hate waiting in lines but I love reading so my weird reading place is probably when I’m at the grocery store.When I’m reading I have to feel comfortable, which means feet up and yoga pants! - @maerespicio Click To Tweet
6. What makes a good book, in your opinion?
If I’m spending a lot of time outside of a novel thinking about a character and the choices she’s making, I know it’s a great one. Books that take me in deep and give me strong emotions, whatever that may be—joy, sadness, humor—always suck me right in.
7. Who are your favorite authors to read?
I have so many but as far as middle grade authors a few I love are Erin Entrada Kelly, Rita Williams-Garcia, Rebecca Stead, Grace Lin and Katherine Applegate.
8. What is a book or who is an author you wish more people knew about/read?
A book I read years ago that I recently re-read—and found that it still resonated with me—is AMERICAN SON by Brian Ascalon Roley. Another I’ve been reading is AMERICA IS NOT THE HEART by Elaine Castillo. Both of these are compelling and powerful looks into immigrant life through the lens of Filipino American families.
9. E-book, audiobook or paper? How do you feel about making notes/highlighting books?
Paper all the way, baby! I love audio books because I can get in more reading that way and I’ll e-read if I’m traveling. Still, for me there’s nothing that beats the experience of holding a book and flipping through the physical pages. I do mark up books that I own—with a physical pen!—all the time.
10. Fiction vs Non-fiction?
Both. Different worlds. It’s good to have a little of each, in my opinion.
11. What happens to you when you read a good book? (at the beginning, during and after the experience?)
When I read a great book I find myself thinking about it when I’m not reading it. Giving mind space to a book outside of the reading experience tells me I’m emotionally involved. If I feel emotionally drained after reading the book, that’s a marker that it resonated with me.When I read a great book I find myself thinking about it when I’m NOT reading it. Giving mind space to a book outside of the reading experience tells me I’m emotionally involved. Click To Tweet
12. Do you reread books? Why?
I do! Normally my first read if for enjoyment then the re-read is to study some craft aspect I can use in my own writing.
13. What book do you wish you could experience again for the first time?
AMERICA IS IN THE HEART by Carlos Bulosan. I was introduced to it in my twenties and it was the first book I felt like I ever recognized part of my family in. That was a thrilling moment in my reading life. I think when I eventually re-read that book with my kids I’ll get to experience the feeling again but in a new way, so I’m excited for that.
14. What was the last great book you read?
A debut middle grade novel by Marie Miranda Cruz called EVERLASTING NORA, about a girl who lives in a Manila cemetery.
15. If you had to choose three books that everyone should read, what would they be?
AMERICA IS IN THE HEART by Carlos Bulosan, GROWING UP FILIPINO, STORIES FOR YOUNG ADULTS by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard and (full disclosure: plug!) THE HOUSE THAT LOU BUILT by Mae Respicio.
16. What book(s) are you embarrassed to have read? What books are you embarrassed to still not have read?
I have no shame in any book I’ve read—including all of the SWEET VALLEY HIGH books I devoured as a kid! Speaking of which, I’d love to write fun, campy book series one day, similar to Sweet Valley, but with Asian American girls on the cover. Some of my kidlit writer friends used to make fun of me for never having read past the first HARRY POTTER but I’ve started reading the rest of the series.I have no shame in any book I’ve read—including all of the SWEET VALLEY HIGH books I devoured as a kid! Speaking of which, I’d love to write fun, campy book series one day, similar to Sweet Valley, but with Asian American girls on the… Click To Tweet
17. How do you feel about ‘classic’ literature?
I think that classic works have a place for all readers—at least the ones with universal themes. However I don’t advocate classics as the only thing to read. There’s a whole world of amazing perspectives out there, especially by diverse voices.
18. How do you feel about book clubs?
If I had more time for a book club I’d do one. I used to belong to a neighborhood book club and I think it’s an awesome way to connect with people and readers, especially if you’re able to do the club in real life.
19. WHAT BOOK(S) HAVE REMARKABLY CHANGED YOUR PERSPECTIVE ON A GIVEN SUBJECT OR LIFE IN GENERAL AND HOW?
BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott is the first book I ever read that talked about the writer’s world. It’s honest and practical, and I love Lamott’s humor and personal anecdotes. The writing life has it’s challenges and this book is one I always to go back to whenever I need some encouragement and inspiration.
20. How do you choose books to read?
I don’t pay a ton of attention to reviews since they’re so subjective, though if a book’s getting a lot of positive buzz I’ll take the time to find out more about it. Largely though, I’m a first-page browser. If the opening draws me in and I want to keep reading on—even if I know nothing else about the book or author—I’ll give it a chance!I don’t pay a ton of attention to reviews since they’re so subjective, though if a book’s getting a lot of positive buzz I’ll take the time to find out more about it. Click To Tweet
21. What books are currently on your to-be-read list?
Mae Respicio is author of the middle grade novels THE HOUSE THAT LOU BUILT (out now) and BEACH SEASON (2020), both from Random House Children’s Books. She lives in the suburban wild of Northern California, not far from the ocean and the redwoods. Visit her online at www.maerespicio.com.
Book’d is a weekly bookish interview seeking to foster conversation on books and reading. If you enjoyed this, please share with someone you think would too. Read our last interview with Abena aka Bookwormingh here.