If you’re looking for a good summer read, you’ll want to pick up a copy of Renee Macalino Rutledge’s debut novel, The Hour of Daydreams. This book is a reimagined Filipino folktale where myth and realism inhabit the same house. I enjoyed it so much I wanted to know more about the author. Maybe you will, too.
Renee was born in Manila, Philippines, and raised in California from the age of four. She received her bachelor of arts in English from UC Berkeley and master of fine arts in English and Creative Writing from Mills College. Her articles on arts and culture, parenting, and lifestyle have appeared in ColorLines, Haute Living Magazine, Oakland and Alameda Magazine, the San Francisco Bay Guardian, The East Bay Monthly, The Children’s Advocate, Parents’ Press, Red Tricycle, and others. Her reporting on minority issues facing Filipinos was nominated for a New American Media Award and New California Media Award by the editors of Filipinas Magazine. Her fiction and creative nonfiction can be found in Red Earth Review, 580 Split, Mutha Magazine, Women Writers, Women’s Books, The Ford City Anthology, and Literary Hub.
1) Why did you become a Writer? How did you get started?
Like many writers, I’ve enjoyed reading and writing since I was a child. “How will you use your writing?” was always a question I was asked. When I decided to become an English major in college, the assumption was that I’d be a teacher. The truth is, good writing is an asset in many fields, from business to journalism to nonprofit work. I’d written for all of those industries before (and while) buckling down to write The Hour of Daydreams, my first book.
2) What is your writing routine? How do you discipline yourself to keep at it?
Last week, I wrote for an average of 20 minutes a day. The week before that, I wrote once, for a single block of about 2 hours at a very late hour. My writing routine feels rather skimpy and pathetic at the moment. But I try to be forgiving to myself, because I’ve spent a lot of my designated writing time doing things like completing this interview. I’m still invested in my first book, and helping it to succeed and find readers. But those rather skimpy writing sessions are starting to pay off—I’m thinking about my new book more and more.
3) How many drafts before you feel the book is finished?
I wrote four drafts of The Hour of Daydreams.
4) What was the best thing that happened with regard to your writing career? The worst?
It’s more like an accumulation of best things, and of bad, rather than a single thing from either category standing out above the rest. Of course, signing with Forest Avenue Press was a high, but working closely with publisher Laura Stanfill has been too, as has feeling the support from my community, hearing from readers, seeing the book in the bookstore, overcoming my fear of public speaking to do readings and interviews. There are also many darker turns, from worrying about sales/exposure to wishing I had more time to write to getting radio silence after a personal pitch to insecurity about how good I am. But I try not to spend much time in the darker moments. There’s too much to be appreciative of. My trick to “detoxing mentally” is to spend a day in nature. If you don’t have time for that, take a walk around your neighborhood, feel the beat of your footsteps against the pavement, your heartbeat, your breath. If you are a parent, humor is your best friend. Kids are so darn funny and endearing—not to mention that they are creativity in motion.
5) What part of your job do you love the most? Hate or dislike the most?
I’m a nonfiction book editor and I love reading books for a living. I hate that I can’t write my own books for a living.
6) What do you like to read? Do you read while working on a novel? Favorite authors?
Love to read at all times. Many favorite authors, including Toni Morrison, Marguerite Duras, Italo Calvino, Haruki Murakami, Lysley Tenorio, Mario Vargas Llosa, Rene Denfeld, and Vanessa Hua.
7) What was the best advice you received as a writer? The worst?
“Write the story you believe,” from Yiyun Li and referring specifically to The Hour of Daydreams in its infancy stage. Any advice that claims there’s something specific you have to do religiously is the worst, and really it’s up to each of us to find our own rhythm, pace, and discipline.
8) Who has influenced you the most in terms of developing your personal writing style?
Time, reading, and practice have been my most faithful mentors.
9) Do you have a good luck charm or superstition?
I once invoked the ghost of Gabriel Garcia Marquez to help me stay motivated, keep the fire, write like a beast. I like to think he heard me.
10) If you weren’t a writer, what would you be?
A scientist or naturalist. Maybe an accountant or psychologist. Or an archaeologist or historian. Or perhaps a social worker or career counselor or zoologist. Or a realtor or librarian or ESL teacher. I’d still like to be all of these things plus many more.
11) What quote or personal saying do you live by?
“The creative adult is the child who has survived.” -Ursula LeGuin
12) What’s next up for you, writing-wise?
I’m working on a parenting essay on creativity, and a short story about a Filipino American child’s relationship with her grandmother and an older neighbor in the California suburbs, and novel research. The next novel is getting clearer in my mind the more I research. I’m learning so much about the world and the time. I’m really excited to start writing when the moment is right.
13) If you could do anything over again, would you and what would it be?
Go to college again—relearn everything. Get my MFA again—make the most of that writing time. Life is a never-ending learning process.
14) What advice would you give beginning writers?
Write like only you can.
15) Something we don’t know about you?
I’ve have strange pregnancy experiences while abroad. Got bitten by a monkey in the face in Costa Rica during my first pregnancy; was in the Gracia neighborhood of Spain when I was surprised by the knowledge of my second pregnancy. No more babies for me. But I’ve been dreaming of my grandchildren since I was in my twenties.
And, what would you like us to know about your latest release?
The Hour of Daydreams is now available online and in bookstores. Thanks for reading!