Who doesn’t know the famous Wonder Woman from Guam? Tanya Taimanglo, one of the most talented writers from the Pacific region, very kindly answered a few questions about her novel, ‘Secret Shopper’. Hopefully we won’t have to wait long for her next book…
Pasifika Tales: ‘Secret Shopper’ – fiction or maybe not?
Tanya Taimanglo: I’ve been asked this a lot, especially from family and friends. Safe answer? Fiction, rooted in some personal experiences.
PT: You created a set of extremely believable characters. Who was your inspiration?
TT: Phoenix, the main goddess in training in my story was an alternate version of me. I used her to get through feelings of loss, especially about losing my father and leaving Guam. The family in this story mirrors mine to an extent, especially the comical but loving Korean mother. The ex from hell, well, no comment. And, Thomas, sigh…perhaps a culmination of all my dream guys’ traits.
PT: Quite honestly… How personal is this novel for you?
TT: I would say it’s extremely personal. I wrote it during many midnight sessions like I was possessed, and because my young children were asleep. I’d share the events with my mother who sat eagerly every morning to hear what happened to Phoenix next, like she was some friend I was gossiping about. Phoenix was the young girl who could, one who was more adventurous than me.
PT: The name of the main female character – Phoenix – is not entirely coincidental, is it?
TT: I love everything that a phoenix represents. I like the idea of rebirth and second chances, so no it was not coincidental; Phoenix was named so because she deserved it.
PT: ‘Secret Shopper’ is not just a romance. It’s a beautiful tale of self-discovery. Was it your intention from the beginning?
TT: I don’t think I started out the story knowing this. Themes arise like cream sometimes. I knew the events and the ending, but as I wrote her journey, I didn’t want it to be cliché. Girl meets boy and falls in love? So boring. I wanted it to be girl loses boy, meets her true self, and then falls in love with new boy only if he was worthy.
PT: You are from Guam, which is something you’re obviously very proud of. There are quite a few references to the island and Chamorro culture in your book…
TT: So, yes, I am proud. You are a great observer. Being Chamorro, especially one living in the states, we often times wear our culture on our sleeves. (Literally, so we could be identified by others). I made many references to Guam and some of my observations came through as one who left the island for some time and returns with a different ‘prescription’ of sorts in viewing their home. It is an identifiable phenomenon with the diaspora.
PT: For those who don’t know much about Guam… Could you ‘explain’ the ‘cultural tidbits’ that appear in ‘Secret Shopper’?
TT: Gosh. Food? The cuisine is mentioned quite a bit, from kelaguen to barbecue. There are references to songs and legends, as in our mermaid tale, Sirena. The weather on Guam is its own character too. There are also observations of the people and their behaviors. And, the way Phoenix exists in the world is a result of her Chamorro/Korean upbringing.
PT: I cannot refrain myself from asking… When can we expect a new book from Tanya Taimanglo?
TT: Please ask, I consider it a fire under my writer’s butt. I have several projects in both women’s lit and Young Adult genres in the works. I’m looking forward to releasing, indie style or via an agent and publisher, YA stories. My arsenal is building up, but I’ve found less time to write and edit lately. I do have ‘Attitude 13 Volume 2’ in the works, and that is firming up to be my next release. Let’s hope within the year. Some stories require more baking time than others.