Vincent Ternida has been a finalist for Writer’s Guild Canada’s Diverse Screenwriters Program West in 2012-2013 and a second rounder for Austin Film Festival’s television spec script contest in 2013. When he’s not writing for his web comic Over The Counter, he’s working on short stories or a new screenplay. Vincent lives in Vancouver.
INTERVIEW WITH VINCENT TERNIDA
Q: Your debut novel The Seven Muses of Harry Salcedo is semi-autobiographical in nature and draws on many people and events from your own life. Does this present any moral dilemmas for you, and if so, how do you navigate them?
A: It’s true that I draw from my personal experience as a springboard for my art, especially in this piece as I clearly follow my own life timeline and amalgamations of people in my life.
My mentor from the Writers Guild of Canada, Chuck Lazer, taught me to serve the story first and foremost. He taught me to know what “the story is all about.” His second advice was to “always tell the truth.” I comply within those parameters of my story and if it calls for it, I serve the story and I justify the use of my life events towards the truth of the feelings I felt during that time.
With regard to moral dilemmas on lifting a sensitive event, such as using my father’s heart surgery to build drama—I don’t go into full detail, but I convey the truth to serve the story. I felt sad about the possibility of losing my father and I used those feelings to establish humanity with the Harry Salcedo character.
I also deal with themes surrounding infidelity, and while Harry is more liberated than my real self, my other characters are amalgamations of people from my life. They are completely fictional and they’ve developed an identity of their own through editing. That’s where the fiction comes in: the characters and the situations are merely inspired by their real life counterparts.
My editor William Tham says “I don’t know where Vince ends and Harry begins.” I feel that the more the reader knows me personally, their interpretation of the character will take a new persona and I would love a discussion of that with my close friends and confidants who have read this novel.
Q: Your novel resembles Terry Woo’s Banana Boys and Haruki Murakami in terms of style and tone, but you bring in your own background as a Filipino-Canadian constantly on the move to create something unique. How would you best describe your writing style?
A: I’ve always been in love with the stream of consciousness narrative. I’ve focused a lot of my narrative voice throughout 2017 and Haruki Murakami’s works are definitely full of them. I admire Murakami’s discipline in not going overboard with style, and he ultimately serves the story.
Due to the fact that I’m an anxious overthinker as a person, I’ve gravitated towards the stream of consciousness style and I relate a lot to neurotic characters. I felt that if I can combine that with a Filipino-Canadian third culture kid perspective, I can stand out and tell interesting stories from that perspective.
I tend to go overboard with my asides and I’ve worked with my editor with regard to that quirk. If I can find balance and reduce my overall narrative friction while continuing that flavor blended from my narrative, I would consider that a personal win as a writer.
Q: Do you prefer hardcover or paperback? And why?
A: As much as I love the feel and the look of a hardcover, from a logistics and marketing standpoint, a paperback cover would work out the best. My personal goal is to build a readership and establish myself as an author. A paperback version would reduce costs to manufacture and bring it to a price point that would be friendly for readers.
I find that as artists we are constantly competing for the prime mental real estate of our audience. I’m open to go completely digital if I can increase my readership and reach a wider audience.
In the future if I become a more established author, I would opt for a hardcover.