Charita Gil edits web articles during the day and writes fiction (and sometimes poetry) at night—if not just being an introvert and watching historical and Korean TV series. She is a journalism graduate from the Samar island in the Philippines, and she loves languages, bread, music, books, dogs, and cats. She is a serious French and Spanish bathroom singer, thanks to the influence of her idols, Céline Dion and Thalia. Her work of varying genres has appeared in 101 Words, The /tƐmz/ Review, ARTPOST magazine, The Brown Orient, Flash Fiction Magazine, Exoplanet Magazine, and Marias at Sampaguitas. Visit her at her website: charitagil.com. You can also find her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Her story “Whenever The Spell Is Cast” appeared in Issue Two.
What inspired your story?
I wrote Whenever the Spell Is Cast based on the mirror spell, which was a popular superstition in the Philippines growing up—I don’t hear anything about it now. I myself believed at some point that I could see my future man in the mirror. But I never really tried doing it, not even once, because it terrified me. It still does when I think about it. It’s as scary as doing the spirit of the glass. I first thought that this superstition exists only in my country, but when I was researching it, I found out that it’s also a thing in a few other countries. The spell ends with the girl seeing her future lover in the mirror. I just wanted to take it to the next level and add even more darkness to the story. Why show you your future lover? It’s a hoax, I tell you. What’s true is that you, a pathetic soul looking for the impossible, should get trapped for another soul to get away.
That is definitely great story material. And the darkness you’ve added to make it your own is great. You are definitely a talented writer. When did you start writing?
If those corny pieces of writing in script form could be counted, then I’d say I started writing when I was in fifth grade. Those were the times of Rosalinda (a very popular Mexican TV series in the Philippines), school plays, and theme writing in English class, which all influenced how I wrote then. But I couldn’t write a decent story even when I cried a river upon reading O. Henry’s The Last Leaf in reading class in sixth grade, when I felt deceived upon reading Guy de Maupassant’s The Necklace in my third year in high school, and when I was terrified reading Edgar Allan Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado in my last year in high school. My first publication was a Filipino romance pocketbook in 2011. The National Library of the Philippines surprisingly has copies of my work; I don’t. I am a journalism graduate, and I also published a few news articles during my internship at The Manila Times, the oldest and longest-running newspaper in the Philippines. I love writing fiction and poetry more than news articles, though.
And why do you write speculative fiction, specifically?
I didn’t mean to. I originally was a romance writer. I thought I could write only general and slice-of-life fiction. But when I finally started writing short fiction, I was introduced to speculative fiction by my Twitter friends and fellow fiction writers. They all write speculative fiction. There are so many magazines and journals for the genre, too. Reading the works of my friends made me realize that I could also write something like those stories. In the Philippines, a country of Catholicism and superstitions, there are a lot of things I can ponder over to write pieces of speculative fiction.
Definitely. You mentioned some works that inspired you earlier. Who are your favourite writers?
I have always been a romance reader, although the first English novel I read was Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits (which is originally a Spanish novel and which I didn’t understand completely, by the way) when I was in sixth grade. Then I started loving books by Judith McNaught, Nora Roberts, and Elizabeth Lowell. When it comes to short fiction, my favorite authors are those whose stories we discussed and reviewed in class when I was in elementary school and high school—the classics—the O. Henrys, Guy de Maupassants, and Edgar Allan Poes of the world.
What was the last book that made you laugh and/or cry?
I cried really hard when I read Elizabeth Lowell’s To the Ends of the Earth. Helpless heroines who would rather help other people in times of trouble melt my heart. They lose something precious for saving other people’s lives. I almost couldn’t take it. Read the book; you’ll know what I mean.
If you could offer one piece of advice to your past self, what would it be?
Write when you can, when you feel like doing it, and when you have to. Write even when you can’t. Write without inspiration. Be lazy with other things, but don’t be with writing. Get published early. Get published as soon as you think it’s possible. You must know that it’s very hard to get published. Count your rejections early so that it will be much easier later on. Read more books. Try other genres. Read works of other people, whether they need help with their writing or they just want to share with you how excellent they are as emerging or established writers.
What do you want to share most with your readers?
If you read my stories, you’ll know that I love sharing anything Filipino in them. I’ve been talking in my stories about being queer (Rosé), the jeepney culture (Nosy Parker), ghosts and karma (Karma Is a Douche with the Third Eye), the mirror spell (Whenever the Spell Is Cast), asthmatic people who believe that sea air can cure asthma (A Daughter’s Regrets), town fiestas and marching bands (Nanay Hears the Band Again), the “tabò” culture (forthcoming A Budding Tale at Torrilo Block), and the “pamumundok” or mountain climbing and hiking culture (Hasty Johnston). I am funny, I am weird, I am introverted, I am the 11th and last child of the family—these are only some of the things that I have yet to share with my readers.
You’re full of great ideas. What writing projects are you working on now?
I’m working on my entries for the Palanca Awards for Literature 2019, prestigious literary awards given to excellent literary folks in the Philippines. I’m translating a published slice-of-life story into Filipino and printing out a Pushcart-nominated story for the literary contest. I’m also working on a few fantasy and speculative stories. I will also soon be working on a novel based on an unpublished short story, The Replacement Muse, which I wrote last year. My friends don’t like it as a short story. It doesn’t read like a short story, they say. Well, I can only agree with them.