Interview with Thea Guanzon (THE HURRICANE WARS)
Thea was born and raised amidst the sprawling sugarcane fields of the Visayas, in the Philippines. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies, with a specialisation in International Politics and Peace Studies. Aside from being a writer, she is an avid traveller, a Dungeon Master, an iced coffee junkie, and a villain fangirl. She currently resides in Metro Manila with two turtles named Dumpling and Potato Chip and an evil cat named Darth Pancakes. THE HURRICANE WARS is her first novel.
Welcome to the Hive, Thea. Congratulations on your debut, The Hurricane Wars. To begin with, can you tell us a little about your book? What can readers expect?
THE HURRICANE WARS is a romantic fantasy set in a world spun from the myths and cultures of my home region of Southeast Asia, particularly the Philippines, my motherland. Two bitter enemies on opposite sides of a deadly conflict forge a volatile alliance in order to save their respective nations from a greater threat on the horizon; in the process they must confront the strange and unexpected facets of their magic, as well as a tangled web of political intrigue, the secrets of the past, and a burning attraction as dangerous as it is irresistible.
Can you give us further insight into your main characters, Talasyn and Prince Alaric? What kind of personalities do they both possess?
They’re a study in opposites. Alaric is haughty and reserved, while Talasyn is fiery and crude. However, they both carry a similar ruthlessness, because they are children of war and they’ll do anything to win. Deep down, the two of them are also very lonely individuals who are torn between duty and what they truly want, and it is in recognizing that loneliness in each other that they reluctantly grow closer.
And who else can we expect to meet along the way?
Two of my favourite supporting characters to write have been Sevraim, Alaric’s irreverent subordinate and sometimes confidante, and Urduja, a cunning matriarch who always seems to be two steps ahead of everyone else. Sevraim provides much-needed moments of narrative levity, while Urduja is an intriguing (I hope) character who keeps us guessing until the end.
The Hurricane Wars is set in a Southeast Asian inspired world, can you tell us more about what aspects of Southeast Asian culture and mythology you drew from?
Basically everything is Southeast Asian in tone, so to list all the influences would take forever. As examples, the clothes are modelled off of traditional Filipino fashion and made from native materials, and the airship designs are based on the various types of indigenous seafaring vessels that were my ancestors’ mode of transportation from one island to the next within our archipelago. I also go on at length about various types of food, because I believe that the soul of a culture can be found in its cuisine—what ingredients are prized, what rituals are associated with eating certain dishes, etcetera. Then there’s the myth of a moon-eating serpent that was an ancient explanation for lunar eclipses and features heavily in the plot. The way the characters think, how they relate to their families and communities—it’s all rooted in Southeast Asian values. One very Filipino aspect that I really enjoyed incorporating was the running gag of Alaric being discomfited by how gossipy Talasyn’s people are. We love our gossip here, it’s a bonding activity of sorts, and I couldn’t resist working that in because it wouldn’t have been the Philippines—albeit a fantastical version—without it.
And your magic system, can you tell us more about light magic and shadow magic?
In this world, the various forms of elemental magic are summoned from a realm called aetherspace, which only aethermancers can access at will. Sometimes, however, the veil between dimensions grows thin and raw magic bleeds into the material world and is harvested for use in technology. I was really drawn to the idea of magic as a finite and unpredictable resource, because quite a lot of the Philippines’ economy is agricultural, especially in my home province, and our fortunes are intertwined with that of the land’s, and it’s always something that has to be respected.
If you had to choose, which of the magical abilities would you like to wield and why?
I would like to be a Firedancer. Fire is associated with passion and renewal, concepts that speak to me on a personal level, and it would also look really cool.
There has been a rise in popularity for romantasy and the enemies to lovers narrative arc. Why do you think many readers are particularly enjoying this genre right now? And as an author what drew you to writing in this genre?
In my opinion, romantasy is one of the most immersive forms of escapism. It plunges us into a whole new world where the laws of our reality don’t apply and where we can swoon over a love story at the same time. I enjoy writing it because it’s a marriage of my two favourite genres, serving as an outlet for my overactive imagination while letting me capture all the messiness of the human heart. As for why the enemies-to-lovers trope is so compelling for many of us, I believe that it’s something that enables us to safely explore the thrill of the forbidden and the darker aspects of our nature. Enemies-to-lovers requires the characters to go against their better judgement and to overcome the norms instilled in them by their upbringing, so to read about that and to write about that is a conquering of the self—a shout into the void, almost, that we’re not defined by rules, that we are greater than what cages us, that we are chaotic and imperfect creatures and it is all right.
We always appreciate a beautiful book cover and both your US and UK covers are stunning. How involved in the process were you? Was there a particular aesthetic you hoped the artist would portray?
The cover artist for both the US and UK editions is Kelly Chong, who did the absolute best job I could have asked for. I’ve known her and been in love with her dreamy style since our fandom days and she was the artist I immediately suggested to my publisher. I think I must have sent five different e-mails to my editor with samples of her artwork. Kelly is Southeast Asian like me and she immediately understood the type of aesthetic I wanted. It’s not that Malaysia and the Philippines are identical cultures, but there are commonalities and robust cultural interaction, so all that swirling lushness, the fine gold detailing, the atmosphere of our typhoons, the riots of colour—I was very happy to sit back and let her do her thing, because we’re sisters and we vibe.
One of our favourite questions here on the Fantasy Hive: which fantastical creature would you ride into battle and why?
In Philippine mythology there is a dragon-like bird known as the Minokawa, said to live in a cave above the sky and be of such immense size that it can cover the sun. It’s another one of the moon devourers in our folklore, and I would definitely love to fly around on its back. I’d be unstoppable.
Ok Thea, can you give us any teasers for the sequel? Or any other projects you are currently working on?
Right now I’m focusing only on finishing the HURRICANE WARS trilogy, and I think I’m allowed to promise that the second book will be spicier. My editor has been telling me to just go for it, so I hope she doesn’t regret that once the draft is in her hands.
Are you planning anything fun to celebrate your new release? Do you have any upcoming virtual or in person events our readers may be interested in?
In all honesty, I celebrated my October 3rd US release with a happy hour on sake sangrias, and I doubt my October 12th UK release will stray from form. This November, though, I’m going on tour in the UK! On November 8th, I will be at Waterstones Sauchiehall Street in Glasgow with Hannah Kaner (GODKILLER), then on November 9th I will be at Waterstones Liverpool with Jennifer Hayashi Danns (THE MU CHRONICLES), and on November 13th I will be at Waterstones Cardiff with Saara El-Arifi (THE FINAL STRIFE). On November 11th, I will be participating in an enemies-to-lovers panel at the Young Adult Literature Convention in London. More information on these events can be found on my website (http://www.theaguanzon.com).
Finally, what is the one thing you hope readers take away from your writing?
I hope that readers will be encouraged to learn about Southeast Asia and seek out more of our stories. My book doesn’t even scratch the surface. It’s such a beautiful and diverse and colourful region and I’m so proud to be from here. And it is also my dearest wish that at least one reader of Southeast Asian heritage will be inspired to write a book of their own, in whatever genre, because there is a place for us in publishing and we need your unique voice out there in the world.
Thank you so much for joining us today!
Thanks for having me! It’s a huge honour. ❤️
The Hurricane Wars is released in the UK today! You can order your copy on Bookshop.org