Blog Post
Interview with Finalist Emmily Magtalas Rhodes

Emmily Magtalas Rhodes, one of our contest finalistis, is a freelance writer of Filipino heritage currently living in an English spa town. She’s fascinated by folk horror, witchcraft and magic. Her debut YA novel, What It Means to Be Malaya, was published in the Philippines in 2020.


Where are you from, and where do you reside now?

I was born and grew up in Manila (the Philippines), worked as a staff writer for a Filipino-American magazine in the San Francisco Bay Area in my early 20s, and moved to Edinburgh, Scotland shortly after I got married. I’m currently living in an English spa town.


How long have you been writing/what inspired you to begin?

I kept a journal from a very young age—from about seven. As a shy child, I took refuge in books. Reading took me on adventures and gave me insight on worlds beyond my experiences. This is what inspired me to write.


Tell us more about your book. Why did you write it?

My story is inspired by the dwende, a creature in Philippine mythology. Myth and folk horror fascinate me. Growing up, I heard various stories about these mythical beings, as well as people’s differing reactions to them. Some believed in them implicitly, while others were dismissive of their literal existence. I wanted to explore the reasons for this belief or non-belief.


What advice would you give to a writer working on their first story?

Read a lot and write a lot. It’s when you’re doing the work that the magic happens.


What are the easiest/most difficult parts of the writing process for you?

For me, the most difficult part of the writing process is starting. Sitting in front of a fresh, blank page is always daunting. But once I start and keep going, it usually becomes easier, and I find my flow. This is when the ideas come to me, pretty much fully formed.


Are there authors that you turn to for inspiration and mentoring?

I have author and editor friends who have inspired me a lot and who I turn to for writing advice. I’m also married to an author whose work I’m a big fan of.


What prompted you to write for Storyshares?

I was looking for a place to submit my writing and found Storyshares, whose mission to spread the love of reading resonated with me. I also like writing about the experiences of young people.


Do you have a standard routine when it comes to approaching writing?

I don’t have a set routine. I just try to write when I can. I used to wait for inspiration to strike, but these days, I try to write a little each day, otherwise I’d rarely write. I’ve found that practice is the best solution in getting the job done.


What tips do you have for overcoming and dealing with writer’s block?

Read, play, watch a film, go for a walk, do something you love! If you’re busy doing something else, you won’t be focusing on writer’s block, and this usually helps the unblocking.


Where do your ideas come from?

From anywhere and everywhere! I’ve had ideas from my own experiences, but also from situations I’ve imagined. I think it’s good to be curious.


What question do you wish you’d been asked about your work? What is the


Question: Do you always write about Filipinos/the Philippines?

Answer: Most of the stories I’ve written always include an aspect of the Philippines because it’s the culture I grew up with. And it’s important to me to see people like myself represented in literature. When I was young, most of the characters in books I’ve read were white and from Western cultures. I’m glad that’s now improving—more and more diverse and inclusive stories are now being published.