So, as many of you may know, the KEEP FAITH publication date is near! (1st September). To celebrate, how about a little interview with one of the authors, Kess Costales? And, of course, I have an eARC of this book so a review will be up soon as well! The authors, alongside Kess, are Bogi Takacs, Megan Manzano, Vanshika Prusty, Kate Brunning. Kayara Barros, Gabriela Martins, Elly Ha, C.T. Callahan, Shenwei Chang, Sofia Soter, Julia Rios, Abida Jaigirdar and Mary Fan!
In this anthology, which compromises of short stories about queer religious people, Kess Costales writes “Whatever She Wants”, the last short story in this collection.
1. Tell us a little about your background as a writer, and what pushed you to start writing.
My name is Kess Costales, a Filipino-Canadian author from Toronto. I haven’t always been a writer, as I’m definitely not one of those people who started writing stories or poems from the moment I could pick up a pen or pencil. It came to me a little later on when I was a pre-teen and I started discovering the kind of stories I like, the kind of fairy-tale vibes and magic and romance and mystery. I’d only ever had access to my mom or my older sister’s books and they never seemed to be for me. I thought I just didn’t like books, but then I discovered, I like specific kinds of books.
After discovering that, I realized I couldn’t get enough. I started coming up with my own stories ideas. Small ones, really, so nothing that can be turned into a full story—let alone a book. Later, I began writing on the Neopets forums in roleplaying threads, which led to roleplaying websites, and then slowly to my own personal writings. I tried my hand at a few stories in my early teens, but it felt too big and so I stopped pursuing that and focused on poetry. I did that for maybe a couple of years, posting things on a now-closed Tumblr, and then my mental health took a turn and I basically stopped writing for a couple years. I didn’t know if I would be able to write again.
Fast forward to 2016, I completed my first book/manuscript. Fast forward again to today, I have a literary agent, 3 polished manuscripts that have been or will be sent to editors at publishing houses, a short story published in a literary magazine, a short story in the Keep Faith anthology edited by my friend and amazing writer, Gabriela Martins, and a poetry collection that I’ll be self-publishing later this year.
2. What can you tell us about the process of the anthology, and having such a short timeline to get everything ready?
Long story short: the process for KEEP FAITH is utterly amazing. Gabhi has done something incredible by pulling together this team for a meaningful collaboration. When she told me about it, there was no way I could say no. Sure, we aren’t getting paid to participate, but we are getting to share our stories and do so while contributing to a cause: helping someone.
I’m queer and Catholic and a WOC. I wanted the chance to share those intersections and how they affect my experience and the anthology is a spectacular way to do so.
It did come together very, very quickly and you have to applaud Gabhi for all that. She’s the one who had the idea, gathered the authors, put together a timeline, and sought out support from bloggers. I’ve done everything I can to make this happen for her, including designing the cover, writing a short story, and doing guest posts like this. Sometimes, I offered verbal support, and I hope that made it easier for her to accomplish this incredible feat.
I’m the kind of writer that’s always worked on deadlines because, without them, I don’t get anything done. I can also be a pretty quick writer if I’m motivated enough and all the conditions are perfect to get the writing done. I think I have the longest, or one of the longest stories in the anthology, but it was a tough ride getting there and discovering the characters and the story along the way. The longest part of the process was given to the writing, and then Gabhi did all the editing, and it was just… unbelievably amazing to witness. I think it was a little more than a month and it truly flew by and makes you think about how slow publishing is lol. Anyway, when you keep your head down and focus on your own work (as I discovered), and if everything around you is in sync to allow you to do the work, then it’s possible.
I don’t know if it’s something I’d recommend, but with such an incredible team with and an extraordinary leader, it can happen.
3. Can you tell us more about your short story and what it means to you?
WHATEVER SHE WANTS is a queer, fake dating story about a Filipino teen named Theodora who is asexual and biromantic with a Catholic upbringing. She believes in God as a creator who loves and accepts all people, including those who are queer. The story shows her journey of discovering her sexuality along with her classmates. The story shows her journey toward self-acceptance as she discovers romantic love for her best friend, Magnolia, and for a boy named Alastor. After she and her best friend break up with their boyfriends, they agree to pretend to date each other to make their exes jealous. But the entire, Theodora hides that she’s in love with her. Spoiler: there’s a happy ending to it as they come out to each other and realize that they stopped pretending somewhere along the way.
When Gabhi approached me with this opportunity, I quickly realized the only thing I could write was something personal and similar to my own journey (except being in love with my best friend). I grew up Catholic like Theodora, attending Catholic schools and going to Mass on Sundays. And like Theodora, as I started understanding myself and my sexuality, I realized I couldn’t believe in a God who wouldn’t love all people, especially if He supposedly created us in His image. So I wrote about my doubts and emotions through Theodora and hoped to share a story that resonates with someone else. Plus, it’s always nice to have a chance to write something sweet and fluffy when life is dark and difficult.
4. Have you read the other stories yet? Do you have a favorite?
Because of some.. ahem, life upheavals that I’m going through, plus work and other deadlines happening, I haven’t yet been able to read the other stories but I had the privilege of getting to do promo graphics for the stories. And that means getting to see quotes from them! The group of writers involved in this anthology truly are amazing and talented and I am so, so, so blown away by all the hard work that’s gone into making this book happen.
It’s hard to choose a favourite when each story is so different. We write in different ways, with a variety of perspectives and experiences, let alone different voices. You can see the diversity in the writing and to say that one is better than another, especially when I am involved in it, feels wrong and does injustice to who we are and the kind of stories we have to offer. I am so, so grateful to be part of this project and I want to uplift all the voices involved. You can check out #KeepFaithAntho for sneak peeks into the stories. You might see the graphics I’ve made, little snippets shared by the authors themselves, and more! Then, when it comes out, I highly recommend taking a look and finding your own favourite among them.
5. How can readers help KEEP FAITH be successful?
Preorder! Purchase at the set price or a higher one!
Buy the anthology when it’s released (Sunday, September 1st)
Follow the authors on Twitter, Instagram, etc.:
Adiba Jaigirdar, Bogi Takács, C.T. Callahan, Elly Ha, Gabriela Martins, Julia Rios, Kate Brauning, Kess Costales, Mary Fan, Mayara Barros, Megan Manzano, Shenwei Chang, Sofia Soter, and Vanshika Prusty.
And, of course, boost these voices and our stories! Spreading the word can make a huge difference. I know some people will be unable to purchase the book for financial or other personal reasons, and I don’t want anyone to feel bad about that. Word of mouth can do so much though, and if that’s all you can do, please do.
Even when the release date has passed, keep talking. Keep sharing. Keep the stories alive.
6. Anything to watch out from you in the future?
In the near future, I’ll have a poetry anthology out this upcoming December! An official release date and pre-order links will be announced shortly.
Other than that, you’ll have to wait and see. I love participating in projects that boost marginalized voices so I hope to be part of more in the future. As for traditional publishing, that’s where all the waiting will be. ❤
Personally, I really enjoyed hearing Kass’s answers to these questions and I look forward to the book being published! Even though I have already read it, I fully intend to purchase this, just so I can read it again and advertise it as well. This is really worth reading, even if you’re not queer or religious. It offers such a diverse selection of perspectives, and ones that I don’t think we frequently hear very much from.
Again, if you’re able, preorder! The release date is Sunday, 1st September. Mark your calender!!
Until next time,