Food, Fantasy, and Romance: How Roselle Lim Cooks Up Delicious Stories
The Heart of the Story Is the Wisdom and Magic
Roselle Lim is a multifaceted person. She is an artist at heart, as evident in her Instagram feed, where she shares her beautiful embroidery projects (“Every word is like a stitch,” she says), colorful sketches inspired by her favorite Studio Ghibli films, as well as her bullet journaling habit. She even has a rainbow keyboard for her writing. Her stories infuse elements of food, family, and magical realism along with sprinkles of romance and touch on important topics like loneliness, familial relationships, and more.
Like Lyn Liao Butler, Roselle’s track to publication is quite impressive. She came on the literary scene in 2019 with the publication of her debut Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune, followed by Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop shortly after in 2020. Later this summer, she’ll welcome her third book Sophie Go’s Lonely Hearts Club; a beautiful (and magical!) exploration of loneliness, love, and connection. As she takes her readers on a journey with her heroine Sophie the matchmaker, she introduces us to the wisdom of the Old Ducks, a group of septuagenarians who somehow have never found love but are full of wisdom from the years they’ve lived. It’s a novel that’s sure to win the hearts and minds of many readers. After all, one of the central components of her books is finding love in unexpected ways.
Roselle’s love for stories began in childhood when she used to listen to her paternal grandmother tell Filipino folktales. This is because she was born in the Philippines and later immigrated to Canada as a child. To learn English in her new country, she watched wrestling shows on television, which is very similar to what I did, myself, when I immigrated to America at the age of ten. To me, what really sets Roselle apart is her openness and transparency about the tough act of being a writer. She doesn’t sugarcoat that writing is hard and getting a book published is even harder, but that’s exactly what makes her such an authentic author, and one to follow for a long time.
These days, Roselle has been busy working on a fourth novel along with a YA fantasy. As someone who loves elements of food and family in novels, I love the fact that Roselle’s stories center on these topics, but also allow her readers to have some fun with romance and magic. Her book’s beautiful covers will draw you in, but it’s her character’s journey that will keep you turning the pages toward the end. She gathers all the emotions and puts them on the page, transporting readers to another world so they can see things from another person’s perspective—a fun and wild escape. I also love the fact that her first novel centers on a complicated mother-daughter relationship, which I can personally attest to.
During a recent conversation over Zoom, Roselle shared with me her journey towards publication, what it’s like to be a BIPOC author, and why it’s important to take care of your mental health as a writer and a career professional. I can’t wait to see what she has going on next!
How Roselle Lim Crafts Her Magical Romances
Tell us a bit about your journey to becoming an author. Was this the career you always knew you wanted?
I always thought I was going to be an artist. You can see on my Instagram a lot of the art projects I’ve done. So my journey to becoming an author is very similar to the Family Circus, which is a comic strip that began in the ‘60s and is in a lot of newspapers. Like the kids in the comic strip, I feel like my path has been a meandering path instead of a straight one. I started writing, then I gave up, got married, and had a kid. Then I started writing again, finished my first book, and got an agent right away. But that agent did not sell the book, so we parted ways. Then I participated in #dvpit, which is a contest for aspiring authors on Twitter, got another agent who sold my first book, Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune, and now here we are.
I feel very fortunate to be able to do this because I live in a semi-rural town, about two hours from Toronto, and job-wise there’s not a whole lot. Plus my husband works from home (he’s in a different office) and takes care of some finances, so I’m able to write full-time.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given, with regards to careers and success?
As an author, I’ve learned two things—avoid burnout and have a life outside of writing. Personally, I’ve experienced burnout and it’s not fun. Make sure that you have a healthy work-life balance, which will translate into a healthy outlook on life. For me I have a husband, a child, and my cat. I also have my art that I do when I feel burnt out from writing.
The publishing industry is mentally draining on writers, so it’s common for many of us to feel burnt out. You hear about those authors who churn out multiple books a year because it’s their job, but you don’t often hear about how they feel on the inside having to do that. As a BIPOC writer, I feel like there’s a higher standard of quality that’s required within the publishing industry. Assuming that you’re going the traditional route, you have to make sure that your work is pretty perfect before you query. That by itself can be mentally tough, and there’s way more rejections than there are acceptances. But as long as you have a healthy balance between writing and other things in your life, then you’ll be fine.
What books are on your reading list right now?
Honestly, I’ve been in a kind of reading slump, but I’ll tell you some books I read lately that I loved. One is called So We Meet Again by Suzanne Park. Another is Kamila Knows Best by Farah Heron, and also Like A Sister by Kellye Garrett.
When you’re writing – where do you write? What is the setting?
On Instagram, I have a picture of my office, which I share with my cat. It’s separate from my husband’s office on the other side of the house. It’s a great space!
How have you been staying connected to your friends/family/community during COVID-19?
Well, a lot of my friends are Americans, so they’re just a text or a DM away. The ones I have in the area I haven’t seen since the pandemic started or have only seen them once since we’ve all been vaccinated. I do post regular updates on Instagram though.
Do you have exciting projects coming up? If so, please tell us.
Yes, Sophie Go’s Lonely Hearts Club is coming out in August 2022! It’s a book filled with family, romance, and intergenerational friendships. I’ll have a virtual book launch and then I’ll have a local one and maybe one in Toronto. Keeping my fingers crossed.
What is your dream brunch date? Where and with whom?
I just want to be able to see family that I haven’t seen during the pandemic. Most of my family is in Toronto which is about 2 ½ hours away from my hometown. I have a new niece that I can’t wait to see again. So it would be really nice to get together with them.
What is your ideal comfort food?
It really depends on my mood. Right now, I’m craving some Hong Kong style street food or a bowl of congee with pickled vegetables and fried donuts, etc. That kind of stuff. But my go-to comfort food is always Vietnamese food. Things like salad rolls, lemongrass pork chops, sugarcane shrimp, avocado shakes, etc. In fact, my first book has some recipes from my dad! There’s a recipe for 7-Up Shrimp, which you should definitely check out. Sounds a bit strange with 7-Up but trust me, it’s delicious.
Which authors inspire your work the most?
Growing up it was Amy Tan. These days Helen Hoang inspires me a lot because of the way she conveys emotion in her novels. I also love Min Jin Lee’s work. Pachinko was a great book, and how she writes intergenerational stories is really inspiring to me.