Today’s author spotlight is on Ines Bautista-Yao and her novel, Only A Kiss.
About Only A Kiss
When she was nine-years-old, Katie knew she wanted Chris to give her her first kiss. It wasn’t because she was in love with him (no way, he was her best friend! Besides, she was in love with his fourteen-year-old big brother), it was because she could make him do anything she wanted.
Besides, it didn’t really mean anything. After all, it was only a kiss.
But things started to change. They grew up. They parted ways and went to different high schools. Then other girls and other boys—well, just one particular boy—came into the picture, throwing their lives upside down.
Told from the alternating points of view of Katie and Chris, this love story between two best friends will tug at your heartstrings and leave you thinking about how the simplest things mean so much.
Read my review of Only A Kiss on Britbear’s Book Reviews.
Welcome to Britbear’s Book Reviews, Ines. Tell us a bit about the story behind the story. How did you come up with the idea for Only A Kiss?
I had just gotten confirmation from my publisher that my second book was going to be published and I wanted to work on my next book. I had no idea what to write but I was dying to have a work-in-progress. So one day, after a meeting with a client, I found myself having a snack alone and I had my computer with me. I opened a new word file and typed in the words: Only A Kiss. Then I let those words inspire the lines I typed next: Katie appeared wanting a kiss from Chris, her best friend. I told myself, what if I make this a short story? So I did, but I wanted to continue the story. So in a way, the book is divided into 5 chapters that are also short stories.
There are a number of words in the book I didn’t recognize. Where does the story take place? What is the cultural backdrop for Only A Kiss?
Yes, I feel this is something I should have worked harder on! Or at least mentioned at the beginning of the book. It is set in the Philippines. I had originally written the book for a Philippine audience so I didn’t feel the need to explain where they were. But because I self-published this on Amazon, I realize that I will have readers other than Filipinos! Haha!
Here are a few differences in our culture:
- In the Philippines, most high schools are all-girls’ and all-boys’ schools. This is why when they reach high school, Katie and Chris are no longer classmates.
- There is a scene where they are packing relief goods in the park. This is because every year, we are hit by massive typhoons and when this happens, we all rally together to help out those who lost their homes and everything in it. It is so sad that it has become so regular, but several teenagers get together and learn to help others during these times and I think this is something good that comes out of it.
- The Filipino words I used are mostly terms we use for older family members. Ate means older sister, Kuya means older brother, Tito is uncle and Tita is aunt. I can’t remember what the other words are but I think I should include the definitions now at the end of the book!
That does help to clear some things up.
Your stories alternate points of view between Katie and Chris. Which of the two was the easiest to write for?
It was much easier to write Katie’s! But I loved the challenge of writing from a boy’s point of view. I didn’t think I could do it, so when I had to write his story, I tried (really hard!) to think like a boy. I would imagine what my male friends would think if they were in those situations and of course, I had lengthy discussions with my husband about it. As for dialogue, I listen to how boys talk and imagine what they would be telling themselves in their heads as well. It was a lot of fun that I wrote two short stories from male points of view afterwards! But it was definitely a lot easier to write Katie’s.
Do you have a favourite story in the collection? A favourite character?
I love Making My Way, the fourth story. I loved it because it’s where all the feelings come out—and most of them come from Chris. My favourite part is the senior ball scene where he sees her in a different light for the first time. I read it over and over again, picturing it in my mind and wanting to share it with the world after I’d written it haha! And yes, I love Chris. Poor Chris, who went through so much and hurt so many girls along the way, but always knew in his heart that there was really only one girl for him.
Chris is an artist. Does he remind you of anyone you know?
I know several artists, being in the creative field. But I didn’t really pattern him after any one particular guy. I like to take the best aspects of the guys I know and meet and put them together to form a character you’ll care about and fall in love with.
Your writing CV is quite impressive. What made you switch to young adult fiction?
Thank you! I’ve been writing fiction all my life, but when I was growing up, there never really was a venue for me to do it for school or professionally. I always found myself writing feature articles or essays. And because that was what was available, I took it. Anything to write.
When I joined a teen magazine as managing editor, the people in the cubicle a few feet from mine were busy launching chick lit books. I was dying to sign up and tell them I wanted to write a book too, but they weren’t writing young adult. They were writing chick lit for the Cosmopolitan crowd, with a required sex scene. Definitely not my scene. So I didn’t even try. But when they began publishing young adult, I told myself it was time. So I wrote my first book and they published it—and the one after that.
If you could claim any book as your own, what would it be and why?
That’s easy. I would claim The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen. I fell in love with that book. So much so that I gave it away as a birthday gift to almost everyone the year I read it. I love the magical way she writes, the way she makes you fall in love with her characters, how they are flawed but redeem themselves in the end, and of course the fantasy woven into the story. She focuses on the relationships between the characters, which is what I like to do too, but everything in the book happens to be magical: the people, the places, the food, the houses, even the wallpaper. I love that and I want to be able to write something like that too someday.
What are you reading right now?
Right now (literally a few minutes before answering this question), I just finished Thea Stilton and the Cherry Blossom Adventure. I took a break from reading indie authors and read my six-year-old’s book because she asked me to. She’s been devouring these Thea Stilton books and when she told me she wanted me to read them so we could talk about them, my heart soared. This is the best way for me to bond with my daughter, over something I love doing too. And I can’t help but be grateful that she loves to read, just like her mama!
That’s so amazing to hear. I’m trying to do the same with my daughter by maintaining this blog.
What’s next on your writing agenda?
I just finished two short stories and a children’s book. The first short story was for a young adult writing workshop I joined (and I learned so much – about the genre and about myself as a writer!), the next is a submission for something else (I don’t think I can talk about it yet), and the children’s book is a submission to an ASEAN contest my cousin and I joined.
What I had to put on the shelf when all these started happening was my prequel of sorts to Only A Kiss. I have begun writing about the love story between Regina and Ben, the couple that gets married in the beginning of the book. I wanted it to be a short story at first, but now it looks like it can become a novella. I don’t know yet what’s going on but I think it’s time to start plotting out the story and not just letting my characters run away with me. Haha!
Thank you for doing this interview, Ines. Before we sign off, do you have anything else you’d like to tell your readers that hasn’t been covered by this interview?
I’d like to ask them to give other Filipino authors a try as well! There are so many of us now and the stories are very good. J I am trying to read as many as I can and I am enjoying myself so much.
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Ines Bautista-Yao is the author of One Crazy Summer, What’s in your Heart, and Only a Kiss. She has also written two short stories, “Flashbacks and Echoes,” which is part of a compilation called All This Wanting and “A Captured Dream,” one of the four short stories in Sola Musica: Love Notes from a Festival.
She is the former editor-in-chief of Candy and K-Zone magazines and a former high school and college English and Literature teacher. She is also a wife and mom and blogs about the many challenges and joys of motherhood at theeverydayprojectblog.com. She has recently launched The Author Project, a section in her current blog devoted to the stories in her head.