Brigitte Bautista is an author from the Philippines who’s debut novel, Don’t Tell my Mother, was a delight for me. She has a great writing that is funny and heartbreaking at all the right times with interesting and complex characters. I’m sure many people will love to get to know her better in this interview and hope everyone picks up her book!
Q1: For readers who don’t know you or your work, how would you summarize Don’t Tell My Mother?
Don’t Tell My Mother is about growing up queer in a very conservatively Christian neighborhood. 19-year-old Sam has always followed in her mother’s footsteps all her life. But, the story picks up at that point of adolescence, where she tries to negotiate the conflict between the woman she had been taught to be and the woman she was becoming.
The story is inspired by my Catholic school upbringing. I’ve always wanted to write about the funny and colorful and ridiculous experience that is high school. But, I didn’t want to poke fun at it for the sake of poking fun. I pushed it back until I was granted a slot in Anvil Publishing’s #SparkNA writing workshop, mentored by the amazing Mina V. Esguerra.
Q2: Your writing is so witty and engaging and at the same time heartbreaking and powerful. How was your journey into creating this story? Have you been writing for a long time now?
Thank you for the kind words!
I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I started writing by copying quotes off posters, putting captions on photos and keeping a diary.
The #SparkNA workshop had a tight deadline; I think we only had 6-8 weeks to turn in the first draft. So, there was little time for intensive research. I had to write from what I know. And, well, I’ve had a decade of Catholic school experience. So, Don’t Tell My Mother started there.
There was a moment where I considered writing something else for the workshop. A publishing deal was up for grabs, and I got to thinking that maybe it was a bit too much. Too out there. Too different. But, then, I realized that if I didn’t write this, what was I telling myself? How would that validate/invalidate my experiences? So, I just decided to finish it, publishing deal or no. I’d be happy whatever happens.
Q3: Clara and Samantha have a considerable age gap. Was that something you had to think a lot about when writing? Especially when creating their happy ending since they are in such different moments in their lives?
I tried building Clara as this trophy wife/gold digger trope you see in movies and telenovelas. She married young and inherited a fortune when she became a widow. Her husband died under ‘suspicious’ circumstances. People saw her at face value and treated her based on what they saw. Only Sam dared to punch through the stereotype and took the time to flesh out the real Clara.
Sam, on the other hand, looks the part of an obedient child content with following her doting mother’s footsteps. True, they were at different stages in life, with Clara being much older. But, they both shared this feeling of being left out by a neighborhood that prides itself in its strong sense of belonging and community. With Sam, that out-of-place feeling is internal; she’s knee-deep into this community because of her mother, but she feels more and more disconnected as she grows into her own person. With Clara, it’s more obvious and external; people are literally avoiding her because of all the gossip that surrounds her.
So, that’s basically where they come from when they try to navigate towards their happy ending. That, I think, is what bound them together.
Q4: How do you feel having your book read by people from so many different places?
It makes me hopeful that the space for queer narratives, particularly f/f stories, would continue to grow. Twitter has helped expand my book universe; I love being on Twitter and just learning from the daily conversations and threads in there. Every time I see someone reading Don’t Tell My Mother or publishing their own stories or making fan art of f/f novels (like you, Maria!), I am inspired to help expand that space.
Q5: Any books or movies inspired you to write Don’t Tell My Mother?
Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson.
Q6: When can we expect more books from you? Anything in the works?
I had the opportunity to work on an f/f, m/m, nonbinary/f anthology for #romanceclass. It was super fun working on the project as contributor and co-editor! I’m also currently working with beta readers and an editor (also awesome folks from #romanceclass) to get my second manuscript ready to be queried! This one’s a little bit more adult with the characters in their late 20s. Still f/f. Friends to lovers, with themes of sex work, online dating and family expectations.
About the Author:
Brigitte Bautista has been writing stories since she was eight years old.
After countless first drafts—and a ridiculous, what-was-I-thinking Palanca submission—Brigitte chanced upon Anvil Publishing’s #SparkNA workshop online. She penned her first novel, Don’t Tell My Mother during the 6-week course.
Brigitte is a huge sports freak. Moreover, when she is not chained to a desk writing software code, she writes lesbian fiction and poetry.
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