Arts and Culture

Pinoy romance novelist Mina Esguerra on 5 secrets to writing a bestseller

Romance novelist Mina Esguerra. Photo courtesy of Mina Esguerra.

Romance novelist Mina Esguerra. Photo courtesy of Mina Esguerra.

Upon first meeting, Filipino romance author Mina V. Esguerra is in a way, just like her novels. She is feminine and charming, and laughs and smiles a lot. The author is also as smart and witty as the heroines in her books, especially when she is teaching and giving pointers, as well as insight (this writer was lucky enough to take her romance novel-writing class).

Set mostly in the Philippines, her books have elements like characters you tend to empathize with, as well as story lines that grip the reader so much, they cannot put it down. One of the most renowned chick lit authors in the country, Esguerra is the author of contemporary romance, young adult, and new adult novellas such as My Imaginary Ex, Fairy Tale Fail, No Strings Attached, Love Your Frenemies, and Interim Goddess of Love.

She also teaches romance novel-writing classes. Her contemporary romance novellas won the Filipino Readers’ Choice awards for Chick Lit in 2012 (Fairy Tale Fail) and 2013 (That Kind of Guy).

Esguerra has said that she loves her job as is, which includes teaching and writing romance. “You have at some point, do what you have to do, and what you want to do,” said Esguerra on doing what you want in life.

On becoming an author
Like many authors, Esguerra initially didn’t plan to be one. “I even took steps to ensure that I’d have a ‘communications’ career, where writing would be a plus, but I wouldn’t have to be a writer exclusively,” she narrated.

Esguerra said that the decision to call herself an “author,” and “write novels regularly and publish regularly,” only came two years ago.

“Before that, I wrote when I felt like it, and published if I felt like it,” she explained. “Then I resolved to set a schedule, and stick to it. It’s worked so far.”

On feedback: the lovers and the haters
“I have readers, and that’s awesome,” said Esguerra, of how grateful she is for her fans.

“Hater” to her, is a strange concept. “I think readers have every right to not like what you wrote, and you can’t force them to like it,” she explained. She herself, as a reader, doesn’t feel compelled to like everything she reads.

“But I tend not to ‘hate’ the author who wrote it,” she said. “I try to take criticism and put it in the same pot as praise, and filter out what’s useful to me. Some criticism and some praise just aren’t useful, so the trick really is figuring out when someone is telling you what you need to know.”

Mina Esguerra's latest novels. Photo courtesy of Mina Esguerra.

Mina Esguerra’s latest novels. Photo courtesy of Mina Esguerra.

On her favorite books, as well as her influences
When asked which of her books are her favorites, she responded by saying that it kept changing, and it depended on when it was asked. “I happen to be writing an installment of my ‘Young and Scambitious’ series, so I’m in that zone, and I love being in it,” Esguerra explained.

“It’s an odd short story series that features con artists, and I write it because it’s something I’d love to read, but don’t really see enough of. Every character there is a criminal of sorts, so the dialogue is snarky and sharper than I usually write. It’s fun.”

Her book tastes, as well as influences, are those that her fans love as well including Rainbow Rowell, Stephanie Perkins, and Tessa Bailey. “I auto-buy books they write as soon as I find out they’re out,” said Esguerra. “And I read them on release day.”

Esguerra said that in a way, she will always be a romance author. She does integrate other elements into her romances, though. I’ve been incorporating a little bit of mystery, fantasy, and crime in my stories, but the main plot will still be romantic in some way,” she said. She has no plans of fully exploring another genre (though she did edit a cookbook recently, “but editing is something else entirely.”).

Esguerra shares some tips for aspiring romance novel writers:

1. Remember that romance is about fantasy.
“I’ve seen so many writers get stuck with trying to portray romance that’s ‘real’ or ‘authentic,’” said Esguerra. “Touches of reality do make it interesting, but don’t forget that what we want is for our fantasies to come to life, with the help of your words.”

2. Figure out why you’re writing this, especially even before you start writing.
Esguerra asked readers to check their motivations before starting. “Do you simply want to finish a book?” she asked. “Be published? Become famous? Setting goals will help with the writing process, and hopefully prevent moments of doubt and panic.”

3. Write often.
Talking about writing doesn’t count!

4. Writer’s block is unlikely.
“There are authors who believe this doesn’t exist, and they tend to be the people who have a disciplined approach to writing,” explained Esguerra. “Is it possible to go to work one day and find yourself unable to do the thing you do every day? Unlikely.

“Write even on days when everything seems like crap. It’s the kind of warm-up you need to see good things come out again.”

5. If you’ve decided that you want to write, and be a writer, surround yourself with people who can help you.

For more insights from Esguerra, follow her on Twitter or her Facebook page. Visit her blog, Publishing in Pajamas at