Kate Osias is the proud recipient of four Don Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature, has placed second in the 2016 Nick Joaquin Literary Awards, is the winner of the Gig Book Contest, Canvas Story Writing Contest, and the 10th Romeo Forbes Children’s Storywriting Competition. Her story, “The Riverstone Heart of Maria dela Rosa” also earned a citation in the international Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror.
Her writing and works have appeared in LONTAR: The Journal of Southeast Asian Speculative Fiction, as well as various volumes of Philippine Speculative Fiction, Horror: Filipino Fiction for Young Adults, Maximum Volume, and the WFC Unconventional Fantasy (2014). She has co-edited the sixth and seventh volumes of Philippine Speculative Fiction.
Kate is also a proud founding member of the LitCritters, a writing and literary discussion group. Occasionally, she ventures out into the real world to hoard chocolate and shop for shoes.
Q: Everyone has an origin story. Could you share with us the exact moment (or moments) wherein you realized that you wanted to become a storyteller?
My origin story as a writer can be traced to my origins as a reader. The first half of which involves my father, who told me that I was named after two women he admired: Kathleen Turner (actress) and Kate Blackwell (fictional character from Master of the Game).
From a very young age, Master of the Game was a book I aspired to – aspired to reach (it was quite high on the bookshelf), read (it was thick for an 8-year old) and understand (it was rather complicated). Eventually, I did all three and went on to explore the other books in my father’s library, which included other Sydney Sheldons (If Tomorrow Comes is still a favorite!), Judith Krantz (Princess Daisy and Mistral’s Daughter - both of which were inappropriate for someone my age to read then – and probably why they were placed so high on the bookshelf!), and Robert Ludlum (I knew Alex was the one when he talked about the Matarese Circle with me).
The second half of my origin story involves my mother. If my father “gave” me his library, my mother enabled me to create my own. She gifted me my first book (a Nancy Drew title) and gave me a weekly budget to splurge on a book or two. This got me into the Sweet Valley Series, teen romance novels and horror stories.
The two combined gave me an interesting childhood in terms of literature. And it also made me wonder if I could make my own stories, mixing mystery and the absurd and humor and romance and the eeriness which I had loved in the literature that I had read.
Q: From that moment on, and all throughout your journey as a storyteller, what has been your biggest struggle?
On a meta-level, I believe it’s confidence. I don’t know why people would want to read me. Yet I want people to read me. And I want people to like it. The contrast between feeling I have something worth showing and my tremendous insecurity is most evident in the way my stories are published. I’m perfectly fine submitting my stories for anthologies, but I am absolutely terrified to collect these published stories and submit it as a collection.
Q: How have you been able to cope with (or overcome) this struggle?
It is still a struggle and I’m not sure I’m actually ‘coping’. I have, however, acknowledged it, and I believe that’s always a good first step. I may not be teeming with confidence yet, but at least I know that many of my fears are self-imposed.
Q: What would you consider is the ONE thing that REALLY helped you level up your craft?
Having good beta readers. I belong to a group called the LitCritters, and their advice – not just specific ones to my stories, but to other stories we critique as well – has helped me tremendously. As a writer, we don’t see the things that independent readers do. We’re too close to the material, too engaged with the trees to see the forest. To be able to have access to established, multi-awarded writers and have them see your work and give advice, is quite incredible, and I consider myself very fortunate to have that.
Q: What is one thing you’d wish you’d known before you started your creative career? Why?
Sometimes, you write crap. That’s okay. The next one won’t necessarily be crap.
As an auditor, I tend to believe that input equals output. But in writing – as is true for many if not all creative endeavors – just because you worked hard, doesn’t mean your story would be the best. Many of my best work had relatively easy births. The ones I kept working and working and working on, often end up being mediocre. It used to frustrate me a lot early in my career. Now, it just frustrates me a little less than a lot, haha. But seriously, knowing for certain that one crappy, 500-hour story I wrote won’t be the end-all and be-all of my writing career, would have made the act of growing up better.
Q: What drives or inspires you to continue telling stories?
I am insatiably curious about people. I love learning about their stories, and I love hearing about the trivial things and the significant things.
When someone tells me they don’t like watching sad movies, I wonder if this had something to do with their childhood. When the barista tells me she made her hair pink with the use of crepe paper, I wonder, what drives her to be different and crafty? When the guard who always greets me in the morning doesn’t do so, I wonder if he had a bad day.
It is unlikely that all my wonderings will find answers, so my imagination takes over. I imagine all sorts of answers and stories and they, in turn, compel me to write.
Q: What does your average day look like? (And when do you fit in the time to write or create stories?)
I work from 9 – 6. Somewhere between that, I hope I could get in a few minutes of writing – perhaps a page or two if I’m lucky. I go home and spend time with my son then sleep. Which is probably the reason why I’m not quite prolific – I just don’t have the time or the sheer will to carve out time for writing as others do. Usually, deadlines help me focus. Which is why many of my stories are either created for contests, or for specific anthologies which had a hard deadline.
Q: How do you deal with distractions or challenges that you encounter while you’re working on your craft?
Some distractions and many challenges are good. If it were too easy, I think I wouldn’t have kept up with writing for so long. That said, I believe in the carrot and stick method for myself. If I really have to finish something, I give myself a target – usually, it’s one scene – that I have to do before I could get a brownie (I love brownies, haha). If I don’t finish it, I usually punish myself by not allowing myself dessert (did I mention I love brownies?).
Q: What do you do when you feel just completely uninspired or burnt out? How do you motivate yourself to start working again?
I think finding new experiences helps. It doesn’t have to be drastic. But for me, trying out a new restaurant, or playing a new game, or talking to a stranger, helps inspire me.
Q: What would you say has been your most EPIC win so far?
For me, it’s winning second place at the Nick Joaquin Literary Awards in 2016. I was lucky enough to have been awarded before – but for my short stories for children. My more mature fiction was, at best, cited or short listed. It never actually won anything. Winning the award – and being judged as worthy by the local literary Pantheon – was good validation for me.
Q: What would you say has been your biggest failure?
Writing is an exercise of almost always failing. For every story that gets published, there were several half-baked or fully-formed ones that were rejected. Which is why I can’t think of a specific ‘failure’. The point of writing, is to keep at it. If I stop after a story gets rejected, it would be easy to think that that would be my biggest failure. But if I keep going, keep writing, keep imagining, then, as corny as it sounds, it is merely a pause, a line break in the on-going narrative. I’m quite certain there will be bigger failures in my future, but I’m also hopeful, that there will be bigger wins, if I keep working on my craft and not giving up.
Q: What, for you, has been the best way to promote yourself and your work to potential fans, clients, or publishers?
I think Facebook has been a big help. I’m amazingly almost TMI-sh transparent on Facebook, which I feel helps connect me to potential fans and publishers and editors. So when I post a book that I’m promoting because I’m in it, I’m not really doing it as a stranger would, but I’m doing it as a friend, asking other friends, to give my story a chance.
Q: What has been your game plan throughout your journey? What’s the BIG picture here? The ultimate dream? The end game?
I’m quite simple: just keep writing. Someday, I hope I can gather enough courage to have my own collection.
Oh, and win the lottery. That’s the ultimate dream. Then I can write as I wish when I wish and read and travel and explore and write again. Also, to lose an additional 5 pounds. And, to be able to eat all the brownies I want without getting fat.
Q: What, for you personally, has been the source of your ideas, creativity and talent?
Anything and everything. Most of the time, it’s people. Sometimes, it’s a particular taste or texture or sensation.
Q: What is your big “WHY”?
I do it because it makes me feel complete.
Q: What 3 stories (novels, short stories, comics, movies, documentaries, etc.) would you say influenced and inspired your work the most?
1) Catherynne Valente’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Space/Time”
2) Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s “100 Years of Solitude”
3) Jeffrey Ford’s “At Reparata”
Q: What are the top books, writing books, blogs, podcasts, or workshops you’d recommend that helped you level up your skills? (Feel free to plug in as many as you’d like)
I think workshops are very useful. As I mentioned earlier, the best thing to have is someone – preferably someone who is also an author – look at your work and give their opinion / suggestions. There are many workshops available here, but top of mind, the Siliman Writer’s Workshop has a long history of producing excellent award-winning authors, poets and playwrights.
Q: If you could work remotely, from anywhere in the world, where would your office be? Why?
In New York. Because Broadway.
Q: Name ONE artist/writer that, if you could, you would pick their brain and find out all the hidden secrets behind their amazing work?
That’s tough! Okay, I will have to say…. Jeffrey Ford.
Wait! I changed my mind. It will be…. Gabriel Garcia Marquez (we can do it post mortem right? Right?!?)
Or – Stephen King. Or – Catherynne Valente. Or - (falls down the rabbit hole of speculation…)
Q: Who do you consider your biggest mentor that helped you improve your skills?
(Doesn’t have to be someone you’ve met personally. Can be someone you look up to, or someone whose art or words really inspires you to get better.)
It would have to be Dean Alfar. He was the one who taught me the basics of writing and who, in a perfect balance of cruelty and faith and love, kept me writing even when I wanted to give up.