I really liked this interview where I was asked questions about my book, my experiences with gangs and so forth.
I hope you enjoy it too!
The Philippine Fiesta edition of The Philippine Times provides the best timing for launching the column Pinoy B&B, Pinoy Best and Brightest, which aims to feature the Pinoy talent in Australia. This column is dedicated to our writers, performers, bloggers, artists—anyone who contributes to Philippine artistry by expressing their talents. We invite you to contribute to this space either with your own article or as a news lead, which we can investigate further and write about. We also encourage you to send us your reactions, feedback and expressions of support for the talents featured here.
Let’s show our appreciation for our very own talents. Pinoy B&B salutes you: Ayos ka Pinoy!
Sydneysider Michael Estepa has joined the list of Philippine-born authors with the launch of his book “Purged by Darkness”. Launched in July 2009, “Purged by Darkness” is a coming-of-age story that revolves around the lives of six friends in the criminal underworld of Melbourne. The book can be purchased through http://michaelestepa.com.
With the success of his book, Michael has been commissioned to write a sequel, currently in the works while Michael balances his writing and nursing careers. Below, Michael shares with PT details on the book and his thoughts on his writing journey.
Michael Estepa on “Purged by Darkness”
The Philippine Times: The book presents a well-informed insight into the life of gangsters. How far did you have to go in researching the subject matter?
Michael Estepa: That’s an excellent question. However, I honestly didn’t have to go very far in obtaining the research because for quite some time I had firsthand experience about the life of a gangster due to the friends who were involved in that lifestyle. With the friends I had involved in that lifestyle, I can honestly only recall positive memories with regards to their treatment of me. They accepted me, supported me and helped me constantly, and would be there for me for whatever reason at a moment’s notice. Besides personal experiences, I immersed myself in reading countless books, newspaper articles and watched endless hours of documentaries on all forms of organised crime in Australia and around the world.
PT: While the novel is a fiction material, is there a part of it that's based on reality? How close is it to home—or to your personal experience?
ME: I will say that the story written in my book, “Purged by Darkness”, did hit home pretty hard because during the process of writing this book, I took myself back to a time when my friends were still around. My time with them was a roller coaster ride with never ending twists, but what made it difficult was the fact that everything we endured because of that life turned us into a family. Despite all the tragedies and hardship that came our way it was our love and loyalty for each other that kept us together. Over the years that life killed our family and in the end I made a promise to myself to turn my life around without them. It was incredibly difficult and I chose to put my past behind me. Now that they’re no longer around I grew to accept the decision they made to stay on that path in life, and despite my initial regrets of turning my back on them I am proud of the person I am today. I miss them a great deal but everyone has to face their past eventually. Writing “Purged by Darkness” became my way of confronting mine.
PT: Do you identify yourself with your main protagonist in the story? How so?
ME: I can’t help but laugh and smile because everyone that has read my book has told me that my face is the image that comes to mind whenever Kai—the protagonist of the story—has something to say. To answer your question, I would say that I do identify myself with the character of Kai because when you look past his tough confident exterior, deep down inside he really is a softy. When my book, “Purged by Darkness”, explores the emotional side of Kai, a lot of his insecurities is a duplicate of mine. The story also explores Kai’s longing to leave behind the gangster but due to his undying loyalty to his friends he stayed—[this] is what I went through when I was still with my friends. I knew what we did was wrong, but I wouldn’t leave because of my love and loyalty towards them. Nevertheless, when your friends start disappearing literally in front of you it really does make you question the direction your life is headed. In the end, I had to turn my back on them and start over. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be too long until I was in jail or worse.
PT: Were there any particular objectives in writing the novel?
ME: There were a couple. One of those objectives included fulfilling a lifelong dream of writing a novel. When that dream was fulfilled, my next objective turned into conveying the fundamental message in the story of “choice and consequence” to a young adolescent/adult audience about what happens when you choose to go down a certain path, which is shown clearly through this group of friends inside the Triad criminal underworld. Most importantly, I wrote this book because I wanted to make young people aware of their actions and to stay clear of the path I almost ventured onto by allowing them to relate something they are exposed to on a regular basis.
Next issue: PT interviews Michael on writing and getting published
This Pinoy B&B column, November edition, was prepared by Asther Bascuna Creo. Asther writes weekly in her blog www.keepstirfrying.com on her childhood memories in Manila, and her daily experiences in Australia.