YOUNG ADULT (YA) fiction is dominated by women writers, but there are some men who have established their names in the genre, such as David Levithan and John Green, whose respective books, Every Day and The Fault in Our Stars, have been made into movies. Adi Alsaid is another young and male author who joins the gang. He likes the idea of his novels being turned into films just like the others’.
“I cannot speak for all authors, but for me, a tie-in novel would be amazing. I am a huge movie fan, and I would love to see any of my books turned into movies. But it’s out of my control. I have to wait for that phone call or e-mail saying that I have an offer. So far, nothing else,” he said, smiling, during a conversation with BusinessWorld at the Raffles Hotel Makati on Aug. 10.
The young Mexican author was in the Philippines for the National Bookstore Readers and Writers Festival which ran from Aug. 10 to 12 at the hotel.
Of his published books, Mr. Alsaid thinks that North of Happy would be the best choice for on-screen version. It is about a privileged Mexican-American boy, Carlos, who lives a comfortable life. He is in love with food and cooking, but his parents see this as a passing hobby. His older brother, who left home to pursue a life of travelling, is tragically killed, and Carlos soon starts to hear his brother’s voice encouraging him to pursue what he really wants.
But tie-ins are just the icing on the cake, and besides, there’s no need to hurry. Following the central theme in coming-of-age fiction, everything has a season. Mr. Alsaid, born in 1987, published his first novel, Let’s Get Lost, in his mid-20s (“I was 26 or 27”), and is thankful for it.
“I feel lucky to have been published in my 20s. So many people submit to agents and publishers. I did it for two to three years before I got a book deal. When I was in those years, it felt like a long time already. Some people get published quicker, others take 10 years, while some who are as talented never get published. I feel fortunate. Lucky,” the 31-year-old author said.
Published by Harper Collins Publishers in 2014, Let’s Get Lost was a Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) Teen’s Top 10 nominee in 2015. It is about five teen strangers who meet during an adventure of a lifetime. His other novel, Never Always Sometimes, was nominated for the Kirkus Reviews Best Books of 2015. It’s about two high school best friends who make a pact to never be typical, cliché kids. They even have a “Never List” — never hook up with a teacher, never dye your hair of any rainbow color, and never date your best friend. It’s about the two learning that, sometimes, it’s okay to break some rules.
Mr. Alsaid is happy to be thriving in an genre often monopolized by women.
“It is an industry that has a lot of women writing. Sometimes 10 out of 10 spots in the bestselling lists are taken by women. I am honored to be in an industry that isn’t male-led. I’m lucky to be one of the few. Even though there are few men writing, we also get attention. Just by being male grants us disproportionate attention,” he said.
“My writing will only be different because of my experience. But I think there’s a difference in perception: how readers perceive a man versus a woman writer. Even though there are few male writers in YA, the perception sometimes skews in our favor.”
He has always been interested in writing — he started when he was 11. “I’ve been in love with writing ever since. I didn’t know that I was going to be an author writing novels. In high school, I never had the idea of writing a novel, or, if I did, I was like ‘No my specialty is short stories.’ I could never finish a novel.” But he did. His books average 300 pages.
He did not study writing, though. He took up Marketing in University of Nevada in Las Vegas. “When it was time to study for college I thought of something that will get me a job because no one checks your degree when you’re writing… It was towards the end of college when I was applying for jobs that I had an idea. I was getting closer to graduation and the plans I had, for many reasons, did not happen. I had a book idea kept in the back of my mind and I thought ‘Okay maybe this is my backup plan,’” he said.
Still, nothing happened in his fledgling career after college. “But I was given encouragement by my parents and certain people along the way to keep me doing it. I was lucky to get a book deal.”
His stories are combinations of imagination and reality. “I like to [make] stuff up, but everything I write has a basis [in] reality. How will you know that your writing is good if [it is] not reflective of life or a commentary of life and how things are,” said Mr. Alsaid
When not writing, he travels around the world with his wife. Before coming to the Philippines, he was in Japan. Next month, he’ll go to Hong Kong. Travelling definitely helps him get ideas for his next stories. But when a writer’s block sets in, he said he steps away from the computer, goes out, watches a move, or takes a walk.
“But most of the time I just power through. Writer Jennifer Egan, in an interview, said ‘Writer’s block is just the fear of writing badly.’ You’re going to write badly anyway so might as well do it. We’re lucky because we can fix our writing. The first thing that we write is never the final draft. We have time to edit ourselves and we have our editors.”
Now in its final draft is his latest book, Brief Chronicle of Another Stupid Heartbreak, which will be released in April 2019. He said he also is thinking about writing for middle-school kids or for TV cartoons, “but there’s nothing solid yet,” he said.
Maybe what comes next is his first tie-in movie? — Nickky Faustine P. de Guzman