Bookshelf PH talks to the 20-year-old author and current Polytechnic University of the Philippines sophomore about writing love and other personal experiences for her first book.
Love is a strange thing. It can feel like a mix of beautiful experiences and not-so-pleasant ones, too.
In her first book, now available on Bookshelf PH, twenty-year-old author Janella Ventura chronicles the highs and lows of love. Warm Blankets in Cold Midnights is a collection of twenty-three happy stories (Warm Blankets) and eighteen sad ones (Cold Midnights) that draws from the experience of the author’s first relationship, as well as from the experiences of those around her. Among her stories, the book also includes collaborative works that Ventura co-wrote with her best friend, Aira Silvestre, and one of her favorite writers, Clarrise Inao.
The variety of stories in this book offers something for everyone—for those who have fallen in or out of love, and even those who have never been in love before. Whether you’re curious to know what it’s like, or you want to relish (or forget about) your experiences of love, Warm Blankets in Cold Midnights explores love at every stage.
In this interview, Bookshelf PH talked to Janella Ventura about her inspirations, her journey to becoming a writer, her favorite stories and quotes from the book, her thoughts on love, and what she would like her readers to learn about it.
What got you into writing in the first place?
Before anything, I was a reader. There’s this line that Mitch Albom wrote in one of his books: “Words can take you to different places.'' I started wondering if my words could take people somewhere. That’s what got me interested in writing. I wanted to write something that I knew I’d enjoy reading.
Are you a fan of reading romance stories?
[laughs] Not really. I only read romance books if they're written by John Green or Jennifer Niven. I’m a fan of Mitch Albom too... He’s one of my favorite authors. I’m mostly a fan of books about life and experiences.
What was your inspiration for the stories in this book?
I’ve been in a relationship for almost two years. It’s my first relationship. He’s my first boyfriend and I’m his first girlfriend. I couldn’t contain my feelings, so I started writing this book. I wanted to turn my feelings into words and share it with people. Some of the other stories in this book were inspired by my family and friends, and their experiences. I have some friends who went through breakups, and others who fell in love and got ghosted after a few weeks.
Could you share some of the short stories that were directly inspired by your personal experiences?
Out of the twenty-three happy love stories in Warm Blankets, nine of them were inspired by my own experiences. And from Cold Midnights, just one—it was “Movie Remakes.” The rest were inspired by my friends’ experiences.
How long did it take you to write this book? What was your process in writing this book?
Well, it’s my first self-published book. It took me five months to publish it because I’m also a student and there are a lot of other things that I’m also working on. When I was writing this book, I was also working as a call center agent. It was a very long process.
Oh wow! So you were a student and a call center agent while writing this book? And you’re just in your second year? I can’t imagine how you managed all that.
[laughs] Yes, so it took me a long period of time to finish it. Super stressful yung mga panahon na ‘yun.
Do you have a favorite story from your book?
I have favorites. From those nine stories inspired by my own experiences, my number one favorite is “A Perfect Round Rainbow” because it’s about something that happened on my boyfriend’s birthday. We were talking about prisms. We were talking a lot about science because he likes science. I don’t. [laughs] I make fun of the things he likes that I don’t.
Apart from “A Perfect Round Rainbow”, any other stories? Since you said ‘favorites.’
Yeah! The stories that I co-wrote with others. I co-wrote “They” with my best friend Aira Silvestre, while “Camera Settings” was co-written with my favorite writer, Clarrise Inao. So those two stories are special to me because I worked on them with people who are special to me. I also like the first one-shot, “The Night You Walked Me Home.” It was inspired by a personal experience and after I wrote that story, I felt like I could publish my own book. “The First Time I Heard Someone Pray For Me” is another favorite because it’s about God. I’m not religious but my boyfriend is. He reminds me to talk to God, which I found really weird at first because I don’t pray a lot. The title’s very direct because that story’s about the first time I heard someone pray for me.
Why do you consider Clarrise Inao to be one of your favorite writers? How did you discover her and what led to your collaboration?
I discovered her work on Facebook in 2015. I love her writing because you can feel the sadness in every word she writes. Not all writers can do that, and I’ve been following her work for more than eight years. I wanted her to co-write with me because... I don't know, to be honest. I just feel like we have this connection even if I don't know her personally. Maybe it was because in 2015, her work made me feel like I wasn't alone. I wasn't the only one who's hurting. She rarely writes happy stories. That's why the story we wrote together is a happy one.
You mentioned how "The Night You Walked Me Home" made you feel like you can publish your own book. Could you talk a little more about that?
There was a point when I stopped writing because I struggled with my mental health and I was diagnosed with psychosomatic disorder. I was so sad and instead of keeping that one thing I'd become so passionate about—writing—I let it go. Several months later, I started to heal with the help of friends, family, and my boyfriend. So I tried writing again. After I wrote “The Night You Walked Me Home,” I felt something inside me shouting that there’s still something I can write. There’s still something I should write. And from there, I just kept going until I finally had what I wanted to publish. That’s also why the whole concept of Warm Blankets in Cold Midnights is the combination of joy and pain. Because I was still in the process of healing at that time and that’s also how life is in general—it’s not always happy but it’s also not always sad for the rest of your life.
Do you have any favorite quotes from the book?
The only line I can remember right now is, “Just like the perfect round rainbow, you don’t know how I see you,” from “A Perfect Round Rainbow.” I also love “I am blessed that you gave me someone who may be completely different from me and yet still sees me.” That’s from “The First Time I Heard Someone Pray For Me.”
What do you want readers to learn about love in this book?
It’s not always happy and it’s not always sad. I want them to know that love is a funny thing. You don’t always know what kind of experience you’ll have. But regardless of your experience of love, whether it be sad or happy, it’s worth sharing with somebody. Because love works that way.
I think that’s a beautiful way to think about love. So, would you say that Warm Blankets and Cold Midnights is a book about romantic love only? Or is it about love in general?
Most of the stories are romantic but I did write some things there that aren’t romantic. Like, “My Favorite Author,” which is about a mother and a son. And then in Cold Midnights, I wrote “The Old Man at the Cafeteria.” The characters there are complete strangers—an old man and a teenager. It’s not a romantic story.
Any tips you’d like to give your readers about love in general?
It’s cliche, but keep God at the center of your relationship. That’s the most beautiful advice I could give to everyone who loves and wants to be loved back. I mentioned before that I’m not religious. I don't believe in religion, but I love talking to God. Keep God at the center of your relationship because you can only give a good kind of love if that love comes from the Lord.
Warm Blankets in Cold Midnights’ book cover artwork was made by Micah Emmanuelle Morillo, book cover layout by Nabbe Francisco, and edited by RedLoville De Castro.
Grab a copy of Janella Ventura’s Warm Blankets in Cold Midnights here today!