Today’s author spotlight features debut author, Roselle Lim. Her novel, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is available now!
Introducing Roselle Lim
Roselle Lim was born in the Philippines and immigrated to Canada as a child. She lived in north Scarborough in a diverse, Asian neighbourhood.
She found her love of writing by listening to her lola (paternal grandmother’s) stories about Filipino folktales. Growing up in a household where Chinese superstition mingled with Filipino Catholicism, she devoured books about mythology, which shaped the fantasies in her novels.
An artist by nature, she considers writing as “painting with words.”
Hi, Roselle! Thank you so much for joining us on All The Kissing. We are so excited to have you! Congratulations on your debut, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune. Can you tell all of our readers what it is about?
Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is about food, family, magic, and cultural expectations. It’s about discovering your path, while honoring your past, and those who came before. It’s a love-letter to the foodie fictions I loved reading, such as Laura Esquivel’s Like Water for Chocolate and Sarah Addison Allen’s books. And it’s an exploration into the complicated, dynamic relationships mothers and daughters have across generations.
Has being a debut lived up to all of your expectations? Did anything take you by surprise?
I thought that after the book deal, everything would be easier, but I was wrong. As I suffer from anxiety, the periods of waiting allowed my mind to concoct unhealthy narratives. It’s easy to imagine the worst scenarios with so little tangible information—when everything is new and, therefore, unknown. We need a manual for the care and feeding of debut writers.
I relied on friends—those in the industry and those outside—to help manage expectations. Writer friends understand the fears because they are struggling too. It’s comforting to know you’re not alone. The friends outside of writing ground me. They remind me of the larger world, and my life, outside writing—that I’m not defined by my book.
The most surprising news was the TV deal! How Hollywood works is a mystery to me, but I want to see more Asian American representation in all media, so it’s a dream come true.
As writers, I think we tend to insert little pieces of ourselves in the stories we write. What inspired you to write this book?
My initial inspiration came from listening to an erhu soloist live in concert. The haunting sound remained with me and morphed into a plot bunny that became this novel. From that initial seed, I knew the story would explore my Chinese heritage and my history growing up in Chinatown.
Because I love food, I knew it would be integral to the story! You can’t truly know a culture until you’ve eaten their cuisine.
The mental illnesses Natalie’s mother has—anxiety and depression—are my own. I feel it’s important to write about mental health to eliminate the associated stigma. I want readers to come away from the book seeing a person who has these issues and is still a good parent to their child.
Your culture is obviously important to you. How rewarding has it been to be an #OwnVoices author?
It has been amazing. Being traditionally published as a person-of-color is difficult, but good, authentic representation is always needed. I’m happy to have an example of my culture in print. This book was a slice of my life as a Chinese-Filipina. I am convinced the world is richer when authors write about their own experience and create their own mirrors for readers to see themselves in.
We must feel free to write all the stories! We are not, and should not feel, constrained to only write about our pain. Some will be sad, and some, painful, but the stories of joy, the fluffy stories, by POCs are as relevant as those that involve trauma.
Food. I will admit to one-clicking Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune as soon as I saw all of the promos with dumplings. Why do you think food has such an importance when it comes to building worlds?
We all eat. To know another’s food is to know a part of them. What a person eats, and how they eat, reveals hidden characteristics because eating is so ingrained in us. Details like the ingredients, or preparation methods, can tell you so much about the culture, the physical environment, and its setting (such as the time period or location.)
I’ve read a quote where you describe your books as seeing “magic in the ordinary.” I find that so lovely. Would you please expand on that?
The world is magical. It is standing on a dock as a gorgeous painted sunrise slowly burns off the morning mist clinging to the calm lake. Or the way a strong breeze rushes through a field of wildflowers, causing them to dance. Life can be stressful. Seeing the beauty, the magic, in the ordinary keeps one inspired and living a good life.
This month at All The Kissing, we are discussing craft for new writers. What has been the best writing advice that you were given as a new author?
Do not read reviews. An early, bad review can knock the confidence of any debut writer compromising your ability to write, to edit, and to create. It happened to me.
I wrote my followup manuscript trying to please a person who didn’t connect with my debut. All the things readers loved, I avoided. I changed my style. I tried to be a different person, and the story suffered. It took me months of rewrites to turn the manuscript into something I was proud of again. All because the voice of that one negative review became lodged in my head.
I’m a firm believer, now, in protecting my mental health and my creative process. I take more social media breaks. My husband filters comments for me. I know I’m prone to obsess over the one comment from someone for whom the book missed, rather than the hundred comments from readers who fell in love with the story. My creative space is sacred; otherwise, I can’t write.
Plotter or plantser? What is your process?
I was a pantser, but it created too many problems in the draft: plot holes, logic issues, pacing, etc. My agent converted me into a plotter. I write the pitch and then a synopsis before starting the draft. I’m experimenting with editing each finished chapter with my critique partners to help avoid later inconsistencies.
I have too many plot bunnies screaming to be books. My drafts need to be clean to avoid wasting time rewriting sections because I didn’t, for example, create a spreadsheet of character’s ages and when events occurred. The details are too important to leave to chance.
You mentioned above that Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune is a television deal, congratulations! I won’t do something evil like asking your dream cast, but, since we are on the topic, any shows you’ve found binge worthy to hold us over until we can see your story come to life on screen?
I finished binging “Kim’s Convenience” and I’m in the middle of watching “Murdoch Mysteries.” Both are great Canadian series. On Netflix,“The OA” surprised me throughout. Highly recommended. I also adore “Queer Eye” for the wonderful, heartwarming, pure content.
Curious minds want to know — after such a wonderful debut, what do you have planned next?
My next book takes the fortuneteller, Evelyn, from my debut and expands on her family. Set in her Paris teashop, it explores destiny and how our choices affect our future. Of course, there is plenty of magic, food, and family.
Once my revisions are done, I’m planning my next project: about three ambitious women and a magical circus-like company. Stay tuned!
Those sound wonderful! I know I’m not the only one who will be impatiently waiting to get my hands on them. Thank you so much for joining us today!
Feature image from author’s Twitter profile.