PGS 2024 Q&A: Marco Mañalac

With more than ten years of experience as a practitioner in the field of communications, Marco Mañalac is a PR professional by day and superhero by night. When he’s not glued to his phone trying to catch up on all his anime backlog, he’s usually running, boxing, jump roping, or eating. An avid fan of comic books, Marco writes regular reviews for and has published a few issues of his own indie title in the past. Please do check out the local comic book store nearest you and ask for copies of Mythopolis #1 to #3. 

As a reader, Marco has been a fantasy and science fiction fanboy since birth but has also recently taken a deep dive into the world of Dungeons & Dragons to play a more interactive role in the storytelling. But when his brain feels tired, video games often help. Always trying to push himself creatively, he’s taken a stab at writing short stories in the past year or so. Just like when he was doing professional theatre more than a decade ago, Marco still feels like an infant when it comes to creative writing, publishing his first story “THE HISTORY OF THE END OF THE WORLD BY THE LEAGUE OF RESEARCHERS” in Philippine Genre Stories 2023. But he’s always more than willing to give it a shot and here he is with “LEGACY OF THE BETRAYED: A BEDTIME STORY FOR DEMON CHILDREN”.

Hi, Marco! How does it feel to be published again?

It definitely feels good to be back. And can I just say, time really does fly when you’re having fun. I am so thankful to the entire team for giving me a chance to write and get published again. The constant support and encouragement mean so much to me, because honestly, I can get really insecure and shy sometimes about my creative writing. 

I also want to thank all the writers from the 2023 series. I have been following all of your works, and you may not know it, but you also serve as a huge inspiration to me. Seeing all these stories come out monthly really motivated me to take another leap of faith and take a crack at another one for 2024. Writing another story gave me another high, another rush, and it’s been really good for the soul. Even when life gets in the way, and the world gets kind of crazy, writing a short story always seems to bring me that much-needed peace of mind.

This time around, how did the idea for A BEDTIME STORY FOR DEMON CHILDREN come about?

Well, I’ve been reading a lot of Dungeons & Dragons books, playing a lot of D&D campaigns, and watching A LOT of anime lately. And I mean A LOT. So there is definitely a lot of inspiration that comes from that. Especially if we are talking about the formula of having a group of heroes come together to take down a big baddie, set in a high-fantasy setting. 

But if we are tracing back to the true inception of the story in my mind, I was waiting in my car for my girlfriend, Ber, to finish one of the shows she was performing for. And “Paint the Town Red” by Doja Cat was playing on the radio. There was a verse that really stuck out to me:

… Said I got drive, I don’t need a car

Money really all that we fiendin’ for (walk on by)

I’m doin’ things they ain’t seen before

Fans ain’t dumb, but extremists are (walk on by)

I’m a demon lord

Fall off what? I ain’t seen the horse (walk on by)

Called your bluff, better cite the source

Fame ain’t somethin’ that I need no more (walk on by)

And the rest is history. When I heard Doja Cat mention “Demon Lord” something just clicked in my head, and made me want to do a twist on the usual fantasy tropes that I see in books and in anime. In true Marco fashion, it had to be a story with a bad ending for the world, just like in my first entry last year. Maybe I’m a bit of a misanthrope? Probably.

Also, admittedly, it has been a tough year creatively for me, because of life and work and everything in between. So I had to think of a story that I would really enjoy writing, and something that would not be too taxing or draining for my already tired brain. That’s why I came up with a fairy-tale type story executed with a narration style. But I just knew it had to have a little darkness in it. So basically, it was a much easier process than I expected, because it felt like I was writing a bit of fan-fiction about all my favorite books and shows, with a bleak ending to wrap it all up. It was catharsis.

The story sounds like the beginning of many Demon Lord stories, are you planning to write more about it? If yes, what may be next?

Well, ideally, like I aspired for last year, the goal is to make a sci-fi horror story next. Something in space, maybe, like the Alien franchise. I also want to do a psychological horror/thriller one of these days for a more grounded kind of story. I just haven’t gotten that EUREKA moment yet, for any of those, so maybe I need to listen to more music on the radio to get that inspiration. I might have to return to my Doja Cat playlist.

But admittedly, fantasy has always been my comfort zone, and there are so many stories I can conjure up about the Demon Lord, as well as for his next generations. The possibilities are endless. I might even bring back the party of heroes from the dead if I am feeling wild about it. It would be cool to see the resurrected heroes team up with the Demon Army to fight off an even larger threat. Then maybe I can finally get my happy ending where the world is actually saved.

And what are you currently reading? It’s for what kind of readers? Please tell us more about it. 

This is actually a perfect question, since I just finished the Poppy War Trilogy by R.F. Kuang. 

It is the exact kind of fantasy that I needed in my life- a breath of fresh air, something different from all the other kinds of fantasy stories that generally have a very Western or British vibe and aesthetic. It’s an Asian (or Chinese, more specifically) inspired fantasy epic that basically starts as Mulan mixed with Harry Potter, with a bit of Ender’s Game thrown in, followed by a lot of Game of Thrones and Avatar: The Last Airbender. You can even say that there is a bit of X-Men thrown into the mix, as well, as the series progresses. 

While it is clearly based on Chinese lore and history, you also get a taste of the rest of Asia, and even the West, and all the politics and conflict involved. I personally love the series because I was expecting typical young adult stuff. “Light.” And, oh, how that is so far from the truth in the Poppy War. It gets dark and depressing really fast. But more than that, it’s just pretty epic. I could visualize every scene in the books like I was sitting in a cinema, watching it on the big screen.

And in Philippine Genre Stories, which among the published stories did you like the most so far? Why?

“WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ME” stayed with me for a long time after reading it. It really made me think about the essence of being a human being, pun intended, and if life’s really just all about a collective of our memories, or if we are more than that. I also had a lot of similar personal experiences with loved ones in the past, in terms of them losing their memories, sometimes changing ostensibly, causing me to think if we still stay the same person even without the memories. Are the heart and soul more than just the mind?

Got any new tips for the aspiring storytellers out there?

Well, I pretty much have the same tips as before, but coming from this past year, I can definitely say that aspiring storytellers should keep their minds, hearts and souls open to inspiration because it can really come from anywhere. 

Read as  much as you want, listen to all the music that you can listen to, watch all the shows that you can watch on Netflix, Disney Plus or HBO GO. 

Be a sponge and absorb the world. Touch grass, run outside, talk to random people and immerse yourselves in the open, real world. Take in all the encounters you have with people you know and more importantly, people you don’t. There is a story everywhere and anywhere you look. 

Being a natural introvert means that I really had to actively try to open up to the world. It doesn’t come as easy to me as with others. So I think I have been making progress, stepping into the real world.

Also, specifically for writing, learn from others and accept feedback, edits, comments, and yes, even PRAISE. They’re all there to guide you and make sure you come up with the best possible work. I am always so thankful to the big bosses of PGS, and to everybody who made an effort to edit or give their comments on my stories. I am always learning and absorbing, and it gives me great pride to learn from the best of the best in the business. (It’s also quite intimidating and humbling at times!)

Thank you again so much, Marco, and we are really happy to have your story in 2024!

The pleasure is all mine, really. I mean it from the bottom of my heart. Thank you again to everybody who has been supporting and reading what I create. Thank you to Ber, as well, for being my forever muse and inspiration! Yihee! I can only hope to keep up this kind of momentum for years to come. I am constantly learning from you, all, and it is an honor to once again be part of this year’s collection. Cheers to all and have a great year ahead! 🙂

One thought on “PGS 2024 Q&A: Marco Mañalac

  1. Marco, Congratulations! I really enjoyed your story. Can’t wait to read more.

    (And btw, that was super-nice of you to share your response to mine! Thank you so much!)

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