Michael self published and financed his book releasing it locally in 2004. For two years he went around talking to libraries, youth groups, his old high school and book clubs about his book, gangs, drugs, believing in yourself, the writing process etc. He even appeared in several local newspapers and on the local radio. “I enjoyed my talks with these kids and meeting new people because it allowed me to do my part in giving back to the community by helping and inspiring kids. I wrote Purged by Darkness as a vehicle to do just that and if my book is able to steer even just one youth away from the path I almost ventured into then I know everything I have been through is worth it!” said Michael.
While his book did find success locally with his old high school and a number of libraries purchasing his book, he felt there was so much more his book had to offer. So he sent his work to America and was fortunate in obtaining an American literary agency in 2006. “While they loved my work, my agent felt that my work needed to be worked on. At first, I was hesitant to change anything but then I realised, I can’t be stubborn as I only have one shot at the American reader to make an impression,” he said. After much time was spent rewriting, editing and searching for a publisher, Michael would be knocked back a total of 22 times over the course of two years by American publishers. “I definitely felt disheartened, I was even at a point where I wanted to give up and work on something else. The problem was, I believed in my manuscript too much to just give up. I honestly believed that my book would make a difference in the lives of young people or anyone for that matter,” said Michael. His patience and belief paid off as Michael finally got his break when his agent announced that they had a possible publisher interested in him. After liaising with the publisher, they offered him a contract. As of November, 2008 Michael’s manuscript Purged by Darkness will be officially published by Eloquent Books. His book won't be released until later this year.
For more information on the book and author, visit: www.MichaelEstepa.com
What is the latest book or movie that made you cry?
I don’t like to admit that I have a soft side, but to answer your question there have been a few movies, but the latest would have to be this Chinese film called (don’t quote me on spelling) A Hwentong Day that I watched on the plane flying from Bangkok to Sydney. To me it seemed like the Chinese version of the film Pursuit of Happyness and there were moments in the film where I had to pretend there was something in my eye so I wouldn’t show I was crying. It was very heartfelt and films like that often make me a bubbling mess.
What is your favorite movie of all time?
Well, I’ve never been a huge fan of Star Trek, but the latest film to come out has turned my interest around. I’ve never watched or read any of the Harry Potter films/books because it just never caught my attention. I am a huge fan of the Star Wars films especially the Jedi and the Ewoks. However, I am also a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings especially the character Gimli and the Dwarf civilisation because I like seeing the little guys kicking butt (hahaha). So I am a fan of Star Wars and Lord of the Rings, but I am disappointed there wasn’t a storyline showing the dwarf army during the film.
What's your ideal brain food?
Too many to choose from! I would say there are several: Vietnamese pho noodle soup (which is practically a meal), a burrito or taco, a kebab snack pack (doner meat with chips), a Filipino breakfast (tocino, longinisa, egg and rice) or a good old barbeque. The main ingredient here is that I am no longer hungry because when I’m hungry I cannot concentrate (hahaha)!
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
There are a couple, but the one accomplishment that stands out the most was having the courage to turn my back on a life I was heading towards. It wasn’t easy because that life and those people were all I knew. I accepted them and they accepted me. However, when you see your friend being shot in front of you it really does change your perspective in life.
It made me ask myself ‘is this the life I really want for me and my future family?’ Turning my life around wasn’t easy and there were a lot of dangerous obstacles thrown my way. I won’t lie and say it has become easier because it hasn’t, but the fruits of that labour have shown in my girlfriend, my family, my friends, my job, and now the release of my book, Purged by Darkness.
You want to be remembered for ...?
All the sacrifices I have made has all been worth it! I want to be remembered for someone who made a difference even if that difference was quite small.
What I would also like to be remembered for is someone who went out there, took a chance and just loved life and the people in it to the best of my ability. On top of someone trying to make a difference, I would also like to be remembered for someone who lived their life to the fullest!
Growing up in Australia I was taught in school about the countless sacrifice young men made in World War I to defend the country and what it stood for. The ANZAC’s or Diggers as they are known took part in the disastrous campaign of Gallipoli and were forever immortalised for their actions during that campaign. Not to mention what the Diggers did in the Kokoda Track in World War II to repel the Japanese advance to Australia. For what the Anzacs did in both World Wars is something I am truly grateful for.
The creative masterpiece that you wish bore your signature?
The iconic image of The hand of God painted in the ceiling of The Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo’s. I am not much of an artist nor do I know much about art, but you only have to look at his artwork to be in awe by what his hand created. Wouldn’t you wish it was you that created such a master piece?
Your hidden talent's are?
My hidden talent for a long time was my writing. My colleagues at work only found out about my book, Purged by Darkness being published about a week before I was to leave for Europe to attend the Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany (October 15, 2009).
Some people heard about my ‘book’ but no one believed me. Well, I don’t exactly look like the writing type. As for any other hidden talents? I don’t think I have any but I do enjoy dancing and singing but you won’t see me auditioning for Australian Idol or So you think you can dance anytime soon.
If you could trade places with anyone (alive/dead/real/fictional) for one day, who would it be? Any particular day? Why?
That’s a tough one. There are several people I would trade places with for one day. I wish I was there at the Battle of Mactan when the first National Hero of the Philippines – Lapu Lapu fighting alongside his army where they succeeded in repelling the Spaniards (for the next 50 years but they came back) resulting in the death of their commander Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.
Another one would be at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 when the newly crowned Scottish King Robert de Bruce defeated the English in their First War of Scottish Independence. I would also have liked to have lived among the Sioux Tribe in a time where the Buffalo were still running in great numbers before European settlers started inhabiting onto their lands.
What is your favorite move right now?
That’s a difficult question, but I would have to say that my favourite movie right now is the Academy Award Winning Film Milk starring Sean Penn. Watching that movie was inspirational to see just how much of a difference one man can make to change the lives of countless others for generations to come. What is even more remarkable is that Harvey Milk was only in office for a year before he was assassinated and just look at what he accomplished in just that one year alone. Remarkable!
What fictional character is most like you?
There isn’t one particular character that is most like me, however, there are three characters portrayed in films that are a composite of me.
The first character being Ben Mercado played by Dante Basco in the Filipino – American Independent film The Debut. I can relate to trying to figure out your roots and appreciating your culture in a country that you weren’t born in. Even though, I was born in Philippines, I’ve been living in Australia since I was two years old, which at times made it hard for me to relate to other Filipino’s my age since I couldn’t even speak my own language. However, just like Ben Mercado in the film there came a time when I grew to appreciate and love my culture even more.
The second character would be Cameron James played by Joseph Gordon – Levitt in the film 10 Things I Hate About You. The reason why I say I can relate to this character is because back in high school (believe it or not) I was actually incredibly shy towards the opposite sex and often carried my heart on my sleeve. I was a hopeless romantic then and I still am now. When the character of James Cameron falls for the beautiful Bianca Stratford (played by Larisa Oleynik) he knows she would never notice him but perseveres hoping that his quiet - gentleman charms would win her over in the end, which it did! After watching this movie back in high school it gave me hope that despite all the times I was cheated on, used and such that my Bianca Stratford would one day come into my life. In the end she did but her name isn’t Bianca Stratford.
The final character would be Will Hunting played by Matt Damon in the film Good Will Hunting. I saw elements of myself in this character. Will Hunting’s traumatic experience of child abuse discussed in the movie led to him pushing people away due to the fear of reliving emotional pain he encountered when he was a child. This is evident in his blossoming relationship with Skylar played by Minnie Driver. While for me, I was fortunate in that I had a very loving family growing up; though, I am able to relate to this character because my traumatic experience growing up was watching my friends literally disappear right in front of me because of the gangster life they lived. I too was affected by their lives and I was headed in that direction. Somehow, I turned my life around and found a more peaceful path. However, what happened to my friends and what happened to me has never left my thoughts and for a long time I pushed people away for fear of getting hurt again. I still do to some extent. I am just thankful my girlfriend persisted and stood by me to discover the real me.
Before this interview ends, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Broowaha for taking the time out to interview me and I would also like to tell all the readers that if you want a book that excites as well as thrills, has non – stop action, heartfelt moments, a clear message at the end of the story, enough romance to warm your heart and is reader friendly, then Purged by Darkness is the book for you! Regardless of your age or reading skill, you will not be disappointed!
Where can reader's learn more about you and your book?
They can check out my website: http://www.MichaelEstepa.com. Basically Purged by Darkness revolves around six friends in Melbourne, Australia, and their journey inside the organised crime syndicate known as The Triads. In the gang lifestyle, honor and absolute loyalty is demanded of all member, while fear, death and betrayal often follow.
The group's friendship endures as the six try to define their lives interwoven with their life of crime. In their world, no one ever wins and everyone involved finds it too difficult to get out. To them, the city represents violence and the countryside, peace. In this strange existence, love and loyalty among the friends flourish because they can only depend on each other. But friendship is pushed beyond all normal limits, as danger waits at every turn.