True Noir in the Philippines: An Interview with Author Trish Kaye Lleone

Trish Kaye Lleone

Trish Kaye Lleone, Author

Trish Kaye Lleone knows true-crime stories. Born and raised in the Philippines, Trish has a finger on the pulse of publishing in Asia and beyond. Today, Trish stops by Noir Nation to share insight into her new memoir, a gripping story about her own tragic struggle with child abuse. Told with stark realism, Finding Anna will take you on an intimate tour through the shadows of the Philippines in the ’70s, ’80s, and beyond.

NN: Your new story Finding Anna is based on your own personal and often tragic experiences growing up in the Philippines. Was it hard to write as you looked back in time?

TKL: It was. I have kept all of the harrowing details to myself for so long because I felt it was the only way to be “normal.” I didn’t realize that although deeply and safely bottled up inside, the effects of what I had gone through manifest in my decision-making, values, principles, and in my own perspectives about life, particularly in my own relationships with others. I was already 36 years old when I realized that. When my partner first suggested writing everything down, I looked at him and thought for a moment he had gone crazy. Was he trying to torture me? But then, I started reading abuse-survivor blogs and many of them attest to the therapeutic value of writing down your own story.

It was difficult not to have moments of disruptive behavior, recalling everything including how each abuse felt, the pain of realizing that all of what I had gone through had a major contribution to the person I have become and the agony of living through the eyes of that little girl again even just for a few hours each day – horrifying and heartbreaking. findingannaweb

NN: Street crime in Asia has always had a noir flavor. Is it because of the densely populated cities such as Bangkok, Hong Kong, and Manila? Or does it have something to do with the roots of personal preservation and family honor embodied in the people inside many Asian countries? Since growing up and working in the Philippines, what are your thoughts?

TKL: I would have to say it is mostly poverty-based. As a result of poverty, people cannot afford to get proper education, and later on are not qualified for job positions. This drives them to resort to criminal acts in order to survive. People in rural areas relocate to the metropolis in hopes of escaping poverty; they’re tired of planting sweet potatoes, rice, and bananas from sun up to sun down so they try their luck in the city, only to arrive there without a place to live, without enough money to spend, and without a job that they would be qualified to apply for. They cannot go back to their provinces because they had sold their land or their livestock or are too proud to give up. There will always be reasons to stay in the city, even if it means stealing for food.

Recently, the world knows that a great part of the Visayan region was hard hit by a strong typhoon (Haiyan). People there lost homes, lives, and property. Many of them took the risk of going to Manila; they were captured on the news explaining that there is nothing left for them to remain in their beloved city. I asked myself, what are they going to do in Manila? When they get there, they will find an overpopulated metro that boasts of a higher cost of living and very few to nil job vacancies. It is sad to think this way, but there is a great possibility for most of them to end up as criminals or prostitutes.

NN: Do many Western depictions of Asian crime in stories and film capture the streets and the motivations of their characters accurately, or does an author or filmmaker have to live and breathe the air in this climate to truly capture it?

TKL: I would say authors and filmmakers who attempt at capturing Asian crime stories in film or print must first experience living in Asia to deliver a more accurate depiction. They have to stay not just for a few months, but for a long time to really understand what drives people to do what they do here. Asian culture is vastly different from Western culture. As an example, CNN’s Anderson Cooper covered the recent Haiyan devastation in central Philippines and he thanked the Filipino people for teaching the world “how to live.” That’s because Cooper witnessed how Filipinos can sleep without beds cushioning their backs, can survive on meager meals and sometimes even miss meals, can hold on to the corpses of their dead loved ones and still display happy demeanors despite the turmoil and the anarchy in their midst. For most of us who grew up and live here, those are ordinary, everyday occurrences. Many poor families don’t care much for a bed to sleep in at night; they can sleep on mats or even pieces of cardboard lined on the floor. I believe that people in Western cultures don’t get to experience this. Even the poorest of the poor receive social welfare assistance in the West, which makes a bed and a decent home to live in affordable, if not free.

NN: You are working toward an English degree and have worked in a variety of publishing and journalist positions in the Philippines. Where do you see the traditional publishing industry going? Have Asian consumers embraced e-books as the consumers have in America? Where do independent and small presses fit in?

TKL: I am a college undergraduate but yes I have worked as a journalist for many years before branching out to online PR and Marketing. To answer your question, traditional publishing will always be there. Readers will always crave for actual books and many authors would still prefer getting traditionally published, although they may self-publish at the same time.

As for me personally, I am a voracious e-book consumer. I prefer e-books than actual books because I can simply buy online and the book will arrive within seconds. Some of my Asian friends read e-books, but I cannot say for sure if Asian consumers have embraced e-books the way American consumers have.

Independent and small presses will not lose their market share if they adapt to the industry’s trends and changes. For example, many of my former colleagues who own news publications are slowly realizing that the way to remain visible in the market is to branch out to the digital world. A few of them have and they tell me that while it is a learning curve for them, it has helped them remain in business. One colleague completely repackaged his product. From merely a business news magazine, he changed it into a lifestyle and business news magazine both online and offline, and it is surprisingly doing very well. Over dinner one time, he expressed how grateful he is for his wife’s ability to foresee the future and how lucky his wife is for having a husband who knows what sound judgment is. He changed his business model a lot earlier than most.

NN: What are some of your favorite films and books?

TKL: Ahh, films! I love timeless classics like Casablanca, Gone with the Wind, Love Story, The Godfather trilogy, An Affair to Remember, Ratpack, The King and I, and The Sound of Music. I know, that selection gives me away as a hopeless romantic, doesn’t it? What woman isn’t anyway? Lol. Oh, but if it would help, I could watch The Godfather trilogy over and over and over again and won’t get tired of it. I’ve seen it a total of seven times already and I watched all three films after the other in one sitting. Aside from these classics, I also love Legends of the Fall, Star Wars, all Superman films, Iron Man and X-Men. I have HUGE crushes on Robert Downey, Jr. and Hugh Jackman.

As for books, I am an extensive reader; I have read books by Sidney Sheldon and all the books by Johanna Lindsey, Tom Clancy, and Robert Ludlum. I love The Little Prince, Don Quixote, and The Diary of Anne Frank. I am interested in the biographies of Steve Jobs, John F. Kennedy, Elizabeth Taylor, to name a few. Lately, I am reading books from new and rising authors such as Jonathan Sturak, Amy Cancryn, Joyce DeBacco, John Jack Wigley, and the ever famous E.L. James. I have no particular favorite, I guess. I just love to read books.

NN: What creative projects are you working on?

TKL: Well, now that I’ve wrapped up work on Finding Anna, my first memoir-based novelette with Firebrand Publishing, I am just about ready to pull out my supposedly first novel, “Dear Tommy,” from the drawer and pick up where I left off. “Dear Tommy” is a story about disrupted adoption, infertility, and a failed marriage. It is one woman’s story of pain, loss, love, and redemption. I am also in the process of creating an outline for another book project; this one is about politicians behind closed doors – you know, the dirty and the despicable.

To Jonathan and the rest of Noir Nation, a huge thank you for this opportunity! It has been a lovely experience for me to be interviewed here and I really had a great time.
All the best!
-Trish

You can get her new memoir, Saving Anna, on Amazon.

Connect with Trish on Twitter and Facebook.

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