Beloved readers, I’m so delighted to introduce you to Tule Publishing debut author, Lisa Lin.
Lisa has been an avid romance reader and fan since she read her first Nora Roberts novel at the age of 13 after wandering the aisles of her local bookstore. Lisa loves that romance has the power to inspire, and believes that HEAs are for everyone.
Lisa writes light contemporary romantic comedies with a liberal dash of snark and banter. She enjoys delving into the complexity of Asian and immigrant family experiences, and celebrates female friendships in her trademark dry, witty style. As an Asian-American author writing own voices Asian American stories, Lisa hopes that her books will show the diversity of the Asian-American experience, and the importance of every reader being able to see themselves represented on the page.
Having grown up in Pennsylvania and helping out at her parents’ restaurant, Lisa has never bothered to learn to cook. She has two liberal arts undergraduate degrees and a J.D, and in her former life she was an intern, then Legislative Assistant for a PA State Representative. She also worked as a paralegal at a boutique law firm. Lisa is a politics junkie (don’t get her started on the wonder that is The West Wing!), indulges in naps whenever possible, and believes Netflixing in her pajamas and ordering take out qualifies as the perfect weekend.
Lisa and I got to sit down for a chat recently, and she charmed the socks off me:
N: Welcome to the blog, Lisa. I’m so delighted to have you with us today. So, opening question, what comes first—characters or plot?
A: Thank you so much for having me Nan! So glad to be here. Definitely characters for me. I am the worst with plots. Plot? What plot? Inevitably, when I get stuck, I end up texting my writing friends in a panic. “I don’t know what to do or what happens next in this damn book. TELL ME WHAT TO DO!!??”
N: You’ve brought your Asian roots to your new series, From Sunset Park with Love. What is the most surprising thing you discovered about yourself while writing The Year of Cecily?
A: What I discovered was that I had some writing habits to break. My patient editor had to help me whittle down the original manuscript down to under 80k. During the process of drafting the book, I let myself get carried away by writing scenes that I enjoyed and had fun with without thinking about if it was necessary. I had to step back and really evaluate and consider what each scene was doing. If it didn’t serve a purpose by moving the plot forward, setting something up, or having the characters learn something, for example, it had to go. That was a lesson I carried into Books 2 and 3 and it has definitely served me well!
N: The Year of Cecily released yesterday. Can you share with us something about this story that isn’t in the blurb?
A: Cecily originally started out as a novella that was going to be part of a non-Christmas holiday anthology (hence why it features Lunar New Year) but the anthology didn’t end up happening. So my agent suggested ripping it apart and turning into a full length book. And here we are!
N: Give me three words to describe your heroine Cecily Chang and three to describe your hero Jeffrey Lee.
A: Cecily: A bit Type A (hence the list), snarky, ambitious
Jeffrey: earnest, creative, needs to believe in himself more
N: What do you hope your readers will take away from this book?
A: I want Cecily to be a fun light escapist read that will make readers laugh. And, fingers crossed, nod along and relate to Cecily and Jeffrey navigating tricky family dynamics, meddling relatives, and holidays filled with food and love. Some things are just universal. But I also hope readers will appreciate the friendship Cecily has with her bestie Adrienne and her budding friendship with Rachel. It was important to me to highlight the importance of friendship, especially among women. My friends are essential in my life, I couldn’t do without them. We tend to focus on romantic love and relationships in our genre, but friendships are also incredibly important and just as worthy of being celebrated.
N: What is the most difficult part about writing for you?
A: Slogging through the middle. It can feel like you’re climbing Mt. Everest and you’re convinced you’ll never make it to the other side. The beginning is all fun and exciting since the allure of the bright new shinies is still fresh but then you hit that brick wall of the middle and blam! You start hating the book and yourself and wondering why the heck you ever thought you could do this. (Or is that just me?) That’s when you have to keep your head down and push through. It’s hard-so hard.
N: What is the toughest criticism you’ve received as a writer? The best compliment?
A: The toughest criticism: When I pitched at a writer’s conference and the agent I pitched to told me it wasn’t fresh or original enough and passed on the spot. That was a hard pill to swallow. And my first CPs and Beta Readers were extremely patient with me as I worked through my head hopping issues until they helped beat it out of me.
The best compliment: I write Sorkinese like dialogue and banter. As someone who LOVES The West Wing, for someone to say my writing resembles Aaron Sorkin at all was enormously flattering.
N: I know The Year of Cecily is book 1 in your From Sunset Park with Love series. Want to give us a sneak peek at whose book is next?
A: Next up is Cecily’s childhood nemesis turned new friend Rachel Bai, who you’ll meet in the book. I had so much fun writing her and the minute Rachel showed up on the page, I knew she’d need to get her own book. And you may or may not meet her hero in Cecily too. 😉 The Rachel Experiment comes out May 16, 2023 and is available for pre-order!
N: Writing can be an emotional, stressful pursuit. Any tips for aspiring writers?
A: You need to find your people. Find a group of fellow writers you click with (preferably who are roughly all around the same stage of the journey you are) who will cheer you on, pick you up and talk you off the ledge when you need it, give you a kick in the butt if need be, and be a safe place to vent to so you don’t embarrass yourself by becoming the main character of the day on social media. Oh honey no friends are ESSENTIAL.
And this is harder than it sounds but keep your eye on your own paper. Everyone’s journey is different, and publishing is a marathon, not a sprint. The comparison game can be insidious, and is the thief of joy.
Finally, it’s important for you to find your own writing routine and process. There are no hard and fast rules, the only right way to write is what works for you and gets words on the page. Anyone who tells you you HAVE to do x y or z is full of you know what.
N: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A: I don’t think I ever fixated on any one thing in particular. But I had been told numerous times growing up I should be a lawyer because I liked to talk and argue. That’s how I ended up going to law school.
N: Favorite book when you were a kid?
A: I devoured The Baby Sitters Club series by Ann M. Martin then graduated to the Sweet Valley High books. (side note: Those original SVH covers were ridiculous! Those models looked like thirty-year-olds posing as high schoolers).
N: And here is my signature question that everyone loves: If you could choose three people, living or dead, to invite to a dinner party, who would they be and why?
A: 1. Michelle Yeoh. She is such an amazing and compelling actor. I’d love to ask her what it was like working on Crazy Rich Asians, being a Bond girl, working with Ang Lee on Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and so much more.
2. Lin Manuel Miranda-Like everyone else circa 2015-2016, I got swept up in Hamilton-mania and still catch myself humming tunes from the show every so often. I’d love to pick his brain about his creative process, and try to worm some info on what his next new project is!
3. Jane Austen. I think Pride and Prejudice is such a great work of literature and I love the ’95 BBC adaptation-I watch it at least once or twice a year. I really admire how she was ahead of her time in so many ways with her social commentary delivered in such an understated sly way. I think she would be a witty and entertaining guest–perfect for a dinner party!
The Year of Cecily
San Francisco attorney Cecily Chang is ready to tackle the New Year head on, so she creates a list of resolutions guaranteed to reboot her life—right after her dutiful visit home to Sunset Park, Brooklyn, for the Lunar New Year. Cecily prepares to face her critical, meddling mother, nosy relatives, and the chaos and drama family togetherness brings. At least the food will be delicious. This holiday, Cecily vows to remain calm—as long as she doesn’t see him.
Jeffrey Lee deeply regrets how he ended things with Cecily ten years ago, but he felt it was best for her at the time. When he runs into her again during the New Year, he sees it as a sign. Now a successful screenwriter, Jeffrey is determined to win back Cecily’s heart.
But Cecily doesn’t believe in signs or second chances and embraces her new resolutions. This time, Jeffrey won’t give up—and he’s convinced he can write them a new Hollywood happy ending.