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‘Arsenic And Adobo’ Author And Hermosa Native Mia Manansala Releasing Book 2 As Her Mystery Series Takes Off

Mia Manansala's living her childhood dream of being a published author. Her next book comes out Tuesday — and she's got more on the way.

Hermosa native Mia Manansala has found success as a mystery writer.
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CHICAGO — Mia Manansala’s first book got rave reviews when it debuted last year — and now the Chicago native is releasing a second story.

Manansala’s debut mystery, “Arsenic and Adobo,” was reviewed well by The New York Times and nominated for several awards, including an Agatha Award for Best First Mystery. “Homicide and Halo Halo,” Manansala’s second book in the Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mystery series, comes out Tuesday, and a third story will also be released in 2022.

The books center around Lila Macapagal. In the first book, Macapagal’s just returned home to Shady Palms from Chicago after a failed love affair, looking to help in her family’s Filipino restaurant. When her ex-boyfriend falls dead into a dish at the restaurant, Macapagal becomes a detective to clear her name and protect the family business.

Beyond being a mystery, Manansala’s stories feature a recipe at the end.

Credit: Provided
“Arsenic and Adobo” has been nominated for several awards and got rave reviews.

Manansala, who grew up in Hermosa, wanted to be an author ever since she was in elementary school. Now she’s living her dream, releasing multiple books this year and having just agreed with her publisher to write an additional three stories.

It’s “still a little hard to absorb” all the good press, awards and nominations, Manansala said.

“You expect when you make this momentous thing happen that your life is just gonna be magically changed, right?” she said. “Then you go about it, [and] your world is essentially the same.”

When Manansala was growing up in Hermosa, her family was one of the area’s few Filipino families. Her multi-generational household was a bit of a “waystation” for other folks coming over from the Philippines, she said.

Manansala didn’t expect to become a mystery writer. She thought she’d write kid literature or fantasy since she loves creating worlds.

But mysteries were Manansala’s and her mom’s favorite genre. She decided on a whim to take a one-day mystery writing workshop. Her instructor, writer Lori Rader-Day, took a look at Manansala’s piece for the class and said, “I think you’re a mystery writer.”

Manansala decided to embrace it.

“I wanted to write something fun that I’ve always wanted to read and couldn’t find on the shelf. I’m doing this for me,” she said.

Manansala didn’t see instant success — no publisher picked up the first book she finished. And at the start of the pandemic, she was laid off from her job as an English language instructor at a Downtown school.

But that was the same day she got her contract for “Arsenic and Abodo.”

Now, Manansala’s working part time as the Youth Services desk assistant at the Forest Park Public Library, but she’s considering becoming a full-time writer.

The author is working on balancing writing and touring — mostly virtual — with her job. She said the tone of “Homicide and Halo Halo” is a bit darker than her first book since it was written during the pandemic and talks about mental health.

Manansala said she’s gotten help with writing and balancing the day-to-day with her new career from writing communities. Rader-Day encouraged her to get involved with local mystery writing societies that gave Manansala the support she needed.  

Manansala is also serving her second year as vice president of Sisters in Crime Chicago, a regional professional organization for female crime writers.

“I believe in really giving back,” she said. “People along the way have helped me out so much in my writing career that I think it’s important for me to volunteer for these organizations that have helped me.”

After Manansala’s debut, she said that she learned the importance of protecting boundaries and energy. She said “yes” to everything last year — any podcast, interview, guest blog, event. While she doesn’t think it was necessarily wrong to do so, it was overwhelming.

“If you say yes to this, what are you saying no to?” someone recently told Manansala, she said. So she’s going to be thoughtful about what she says “yes” to in the future.

“I truly believe that as an author, the best thing I can do for myself is write a book,” she said.

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