Saturday, September 18, 2021

Fiction Friends: A literary podcast for book enthusiasts

Even if you’re a self-confessed book lover, you can’t read all the books in the world—so to know about a podcast dedicated to books, fiction, and literature got us all brewing with excitement.

“Fiction Friends” is a book review and explainer podcast featuring two friends, Jet Luga and Mariana Varela, who have very different tastes in literary fiction. Whether you’re a self-confessed book lover or a curious onlooker, there’s always something you can learn from the podcast.

We talked to Jet and Mariana to dive deeper into “Fiction Friends” on the what’s and why’s, as well as their podcast journey.

Why did you decide to do “Fiction Friends?”

Jet: Do you know those times wherein you watch a really good movie or you read a very impactful book to the point wherein you just feel like you want to unpack it with someone? I’ve always had that feeling with books and I felt like I couldn’t really turn to anyone for immediate conversations about it. I could hop on YouTube or browse through different podcasts for reviews, but none of them really scratched that itch for me. That’s when I decided, “what if I just come up with my own podcast?”

I envisioned “Fiction Friends” to be a platform that people could turn to for added perspective when reading books. I want listeners to feel like they are a part of the conversation while listening to me and Mariana talk about the books that we review.

Mariana: I’ve been reading books since the moment I knew how to read. They’ve always been a source of entertainment, a hobby I picked up at five years old. Growing up, I’ve always been a bookworm, so I wanted to build a community with a shared passion or hobby. Back when we first started, we were islands apart. Jet was in Cebu and I was in Dumaguete. So the most feasible thing was a podcast. They’re convenient, easy to access, multi-task friendly; you can listen to it while you’re doing something, may it be driving or cooking. We want our listeners to know they have a friend to talk to, someone to gush with after finishing a novel.

How did you start “Fiction Friends?”

Jet: I work as a writer and part of being a successful writer is also reading as much as you possibly can. I am obsessed with reading and literature and I wanted to manifest my passion for reading into something that I could share with other people. That’s when I thought of the idea to do a podcast, but I knew that I didn’t want to do it alone. That’s why I reached out to Mariana. I knew she was a bookworm and I was hoping that she would embark on this journey with me. She said yes, and we just took it from there.

Mariana: Having a book review and explainer podcast was originally Jet’s idea. This was his passion project and he wanted someone he could rant to about books he’s been reading. I always wanted to have my own podcast, too. When Jet approached me with this idea, I jumped straight right into it.

What were your favorite episode/s and why?

Jet: Even before I approached Mariana about the possibility of starting a podcast, I already knew that there was one book that I really wanted to talk about—“The Catcher in the Rye.”

If you’re familiar with classic literature, then you would know that this book has a very polarizing effect on readers. I, for one, think it’s one of the best books to come out of the 20th century and I was interested to see if I would be able to persuade Mariana to think the same. I tend to be a sucker for classic literature and historical fiction. Next to “Catcher in the Rye,” I would have to say that I had a lot of fun doing our “The Great Gatsby” episode as well.

Mariana: I personally love our episode, “Where the Crawdads Sing,” to preface this, my favorite genres are thriller, horror, contemporary fiction. I like it when a book is plot-driven more than character driven so when I jumped into this novel, I was not expecting to fall in love with the book, so reading it was such a pleasing journey as well as writing the review.

What can we expect in the next season?

Jet: Expect more Fiction Friends and by Fiction Friends, we mean actual friends! We’ll be bringing along more guests to hop into episodes and review books along with us. We’re also looking to explore different show formats like listing and ranking episodes for books. We’ll see. There are so many possibilities that we’re excited to experiment with.

Mariana: Expect more popular titles, more genres!

Is this your first venture in creating content for the podcast format? How has it been so far for you? Any surprise learnings along the way?

Jet: Yes, this is my first foray into podcasting and content creation outside the written form.

Honestly, it’s been quite an experience. There was a definite learning curve at the start, especially when I was tasked with learning about audio production, podcast hosting, cover art design, podcast marketing, and acquiring all the necessary equipment. While that was exhaustive work at the start, I also found it incredibly fulfilling. Even as we started, I knew that I didn’t want to produce anything that was half-baked. I wanted a podcast that felt professionally engineered and produced right off the bat and I feel like we were able to accomplish that to a certain extent.

The response so far has been so amazing. We’ve had listeners messaging us about their favorite episodes and asking us for recommendations about books and it’s so amazing to generate that kind of feedback from fans, considering that we’re such newbies at this.

Mariana: Yes, this is my first podcast. I personally find this format more convenient because you don’t have to put on makeup for the camera, or dress up, like when we record an episode, we’ve already done our skincare, wearing sleeping clothes since we just met up through Zoom. All we need to prepare for is a microphone and a laptop. And as mentioned, this was the most feasible way to produce content for me and Jet, considering that we started out being in two different islands. Of course, there were many learning experiences along the way, especially in our choice of books and effectively promoting newly launched episodes. I made new friends because of fiction friends who read the same books we do and talk about it.

Join them in their conversations and share in our passion for storytelling. New episodes drop every Thursday and Sunday! You can stream their episodes on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and wherever else you can listen to podcasts.


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