Through the Wringer With VAMPIRES OF PORTLANDIA's Jason Tanamor
Lately, heritage and folklore-laced Fantasy is on the rise in the YA and NA spectrum. These largely include diverse works from #OwnVoices authors, one of them being Filipino-American author Jason Tanamor's darkly funny tale of Percival Leones—a young Aswang trying to manage life as a vampire and eldest grandchild. Following matriarch Marcella Leones' decision to move the family from the Philippines to Oregon to dodge the persecution of the local vampire hunters, a slew of mysterious deaths rocks the city, resulting in shocking discovery: they aren't the only preternatural beasts inhabiting Portland. There are other Aswang—werebeasts, witches, viscera, and ghouls—living in secrecy.
Can monsters and humans, all different breeds, coexist in THE weirdest city in the world? We'll find out in Vampires of Portlandia on September 29th!
Today, Jason shares his thoughts on writing Vampires of Portlandia, reading book reviews, and literary representation in Filipino lore.
Be sure to add VOP to your Goodreads TBR! This is an enticing Fall read you won't want to miss!
Hi Jason! Thanks so much for your time and letting us in on the world of Vampires of Portlandia. Your highly-anticipated Urban Fantasy releases in September with The Parliament House Press--Firstly, congratulations! As a Filipino American author, what was your experience writing a novel so close--in a way--to your heritage?
A. It was the first time I saw myself in the main characters, so it hit a little closer to home in the sense that I could see a lot of myself in the traits of the family members. My son, my niece, and other Filipinos that I’ve grown up with or have come across, somehow, or at some point, appear in the characters, whether it’s in their gestures or speech cadence.
If I’m not mistaken, Aswang are mythical beings in Filipino folklore; they’re our version of ghouls, right? Vampires, werebeasts, and the like. This novel follows the story of a family of vampires who migrate from the Philippines to Portland, Oregon. How intriguing! What vision of Aswang did you have while writing VOP? What kind of vampire is Percival Leones, your protagonist? How does his vampirism differ from other vampires in, say, Eurocentric folklore?
A. There are a lot of different traits and features in aswang lore, and many of the articles that I’d read contradicted each other, or were completely random, so it led me to believe that the lore was not concrete, or it was based on a foundation made of silly putty. You can massage this lore, or stretch this lore, etc. And some of the stuff involving aswangs sounded downright ridiculous. But, it’s lore after all, and a lot of lore is just, well, ridiculous. So, the best think I could do was combine some traits with ones that I’d invented myself. So, in reality, this is my interpretation of aswangs.
One of the main vampire stereotypes I’d avoided was vampires and sunlight. The aswang vampires have the ability to blend into society, which includes walking around in daylight. Having them susceptible to sunlight didn’t add value to the story. And they had to blend into the world as regular people in order to further the narrative along. The thing with aswang folklore is that there aren’t a lot of “standards” outside their physical traits. There are so many different interpretations, different ways to become an aswang, or kill them, unlike what we see in Hollywood renditions. My hope is to introduce the folklore to the mainstream and encourage other stories about Filip