A Q & A with Roselle Lim

I was fortunate enough to read Roselle Lim’s début novel, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune a few months before its release date. In case you haven’t already done so, please check out my review of the book here.

Anyway, when I was asked by Penguin Random House Canada (the publisher) if I was interested in doing an author interview, I jumped at the opportunity to feature an Asian and local author on my blog! Keeping with the theme of luck, I decided to keep it to just eight questions since eight is a lucky number in Chinese astrology. So without further delay, here is a Q&A post with Roselle. Enjoy!

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1. Firstly, if you were to describe Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune using only 3-8 emojis, what would they be?

2. Natalie’s story begins with her return to her old Chinatown neighbourhood, have you ever been to San Francisco’s Chinatown? If so, what are your suggestions on what to see and do?

I visited San Francisco’s Chinatown once as a child, but I’ve been to many Chinatowns in Canada, US, and Asia. In fact, I grew up in Manila’s Chinatown! If possible, ask the locals where they get dumplings. Food is the best way to introduce yourself to the culture and area.

After you’ve eaten, go to the paifang and begin exploring the shops, walking everywhere. Go slow. Immerse yourself in the sights, sounds, and smells.

3. There is an obvious magical realism element in Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune. What was your favourite Chinese ghost story and/or superstition growing up, and has adulthood changed the way you see it now?

Don’t sleep with exposed feet facing a window; otherwise, a ghost or spirit will yank you by the toes and eat you! My mother also convinced me to jump up and down to grow taller. I look back on these superstitions with mirth and a sense of wonder. Still, I only sleep with my feet facing a wall.

4. Family especially the mother-daughter relationship in addition to the family that you choose is a major theme in your book, did you draw upon any of your own relationships in real life for inspiration when writing these characters?

As much as I’d like to say that these characters are family members in disguise, they aren’t. Family is complicated. Often times, I write about relationships I wish I had. The book’s characters embody people I have met and are bits and pieces of strangers I’ve spoken with. Celia and the others embody the community in north Scarborough I called home.

5. Food is of course central to Natalie Tan’s story, how did you decide which recipes to include in the book? And which ones are your favourites?

The recipes are my father’s and they are my childhood favourites. I love food and knew it had to be an invisible, yet palpable, secondary character in the novel. I remembered how I felt eating them. Those feelings dictated which recipe to use in each scene.

While, I love them all, I have a soft spot for the fresh spring rolls. It was such a comfort food growing up.

6. As a fellow foodie and as someone who used to live in Toronto, I’ve also got to ask what are your go to recommendations for must try food places in and around the City?

Oh my goodness, where do I even begin?

  • Fishman’s Clubhouse for their epic tower of king crab and lobster.
  • Saigon Star in Markham for curry crab.
  • Izakaya Guu downtown for delicious Japanese bar food.
  • Casa Manila for excellent Filipino food midtown.
  • Cafe Demetres for dessert and delicious crepes.
  • Destiny Tea House for bubble tea and tasty Taiwanese snacks.
7. Music also has a major role in the story, and I love that your book has its own playlist. Were these the songs that you listened to while working on the book or were they just the music that inspired Natalie’s story?

Most are songs I listened to while working. Classical music establishes mood, tempo, and atmosphere, while operas provide emotion. The overall feel of the playlist is to convey a soft sense of romance. It isn’t a jubilant declaration so much as a wish—a hope to experience love as Natalie sees it. Teresa Teng, however, is a relic from my childhood as she was my parent’s favourite singer.

8. And finally, can you tell us anything about what you’re currently working on at the moment or any upcoming projects?

Book Two is set in Paris and it involves Evelyn Yu, the fortuneteller in Natalie Tan. I’m working on revisions and hope to be done soon.