ABOUT THE BOOKS
Q. How many books will there be in the ‘Company of Angels’ series?
It’s a trilogy. The third book will be released in 2013.
Q. Do I need to read the first book to understand the second book?
A. No, you don’t need to read Where Demons Fear to Tread to understand the rest of the second book. Each book in the trilogy stands alone, although some of the characters make recurring appearances. The story develops over the trilogy, but I’ve included the relevant bits of backstory in each book so that they can each be read separately.
Q. Where are you from?
A. I was born in Saskatchewan. I’m Chinese-Canadian. My mom’s family immigrated to Canada in the late 1800s, and my dad moved to this country in the 1950s.
Q. You have five university degrees and worked as a lawyer?
A. Yeah. I really liked school!
My first degree was a B.A. in Comparative Literature at McMaster University. Then I did the practical thing and went to law school at the University of Toronto. Still very young – too young – I took a year off and did an M.A. in Comp Lit. After that, I went back to law school.
After graduating, I worked as a medical malpractice and commercial litigator at a top-tier firm on Bay Street in Toronto, Canada’s answer to Wall Street.
Realizing I was not a lawyer at heart, I returned to U of T to pursue my Ph.D. in Comp Lit. During that time, I taught as a TA and instructor. But I knew I wanted to write. So for the last year of my doctoral studies, I also overlapped a Master’s in Creative Writing at Oxford University.
After finishing my studies in September 2009, I met my editor at a writers’ conference in October. Four months later I sold Where Demons Fear to Tread in a 3-book deal with Harlequin MIRA.
I’m grateful for every minute of my education, and would do it all over again in a heartbeat! Still, I am a writer at heart, and there’s nothing I would rather be doing at this point in my life.
Q. Why do you write romance?
A. I write romance because I love this genre. I love literary fiction, too, and I don’t think there’s anything precluding anyone from writing both, given enough time and a bit of luck.
I stopped writing romance for a couple of years during my Master’s in Creative Writing at Oxford. I was working on a very serious literary piece that I hope to finish one day. It’s a novel inspired by a friend of mine who died from breast cancer. In order to balance off the emotional heaviness of that piece, I started writing romance again, to lighten things up.
For me, life gets unbearably serious if I’m not writing romance. At its best, romance can be wonderfully uplifting – full of joy and hope – in a way that touches people very deeply.
Q. Is the Dexter the pug named after the TV show?
A. Yes! I don’t watch much TV, but my husband and I love the show (the books are fantastic, too)! Our pug is only one year old, and so far has not exhibited any serial killer tendencies. Except he likes to rip the eyes off his stuffed animals. Hmm.
Q. I’ve been thinking of writing a novel. How should I start?
A. Chances are, if you want to be a writer, you’re already a voracious reader. Read everything and anything. And write. Don’t just think about it. Don’t wonder what might come out if you did write. Sit down and do it! What comes out might be awful. That’s when the real work of the writer begins…
Q. Can you really learn to write in a creative writing program?
However, not everyone needs to have a university degree to become a successful writer. There are some extremely successful people out there without college degrees, who are just naturally talented writers.
Writing fiction doesn’t come naturally to all of us. When I started writing fiction, I thought, “I’m a smart girl. I’m a good writer. It will be easy.” What I didn’t realize is that there are many different types of writing. I had a decent handle on legal writing and academic writing (which are also very different from each other – I had to relearn academic writing when I went back to grad school). But fiction is totally different.
Fortunately, I’ve learned a lot since then. I happen to be one of those people who thrives in the classroom setting, and I love learning. Years before I started my master’s, I took beginner’s writing classes at a community college. My instructors gave me exactly what I needed at the time – creative nurturing and solid advice that still rings true.
Q. What are your favorite books on writing?
A. Too many to list! Here are the ones that helped me the most in the beginning, and keep me coming back:
Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way, etc.
Debra Dixon, Goal, Motivation, Conflict
Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones
Stephen King, On Writing
Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird
Robert McKee, Story
Q. How can I get published?
A. My advice is to stop worrying so much about the publishing end of things. Focus on your writing! Keep working on the craft of storytelling. Read poetry. Get your heart broken and then put it back together. Take jobs you hate. Quit and find something you love. Backpack through a foreign country on your own. Feel the grit of life beneath your feet. Take risks and fail. Try again and see what went wrong the first time.
Then gather it up and pour it all out onto the page. All the joy, the rage, the heartbreak, the beauty, the desolation and the fragility that comes with being human. Be brave on the page. That is the only thing that will make you an interesting writer.
If you want practical advice on how to get published, there are a ton of books out there that can help you achieve that goal. Other writers have compiled masses of helpful information on this topic. It’s out there for the taking.