Thursday, August 6, 2020

Roselle Lim Interview - Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop

Photo Credit: Shelley Smith

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."


When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
Stories whisper to me. I’ve always been a quiet person, but I found that writing gives me a voice I wouldn’t be able to express otherwise. My brain is like a busy train station where stories arrive constantly. I write to make room for the new—thus avoiding a crash!

What do you hope for people to be thinking after they read your novel?
To feel hopeful, believe in the existence of good in the world, and be hungry for more. The stories I love most provide the best forms of escapism. If I can grant a reader a few hours away from their troubles or allow them to travel without physically leaving, I’ve succeeded.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Seeing my book on the shelf at the bookstore or a library. It may seem old fashioned, but until I’m able to hold a physical copy in my hands, I don’t feel like my work is real. It’s only ever existed in my mind and as bits and bytes on my laptop. But when I’m able to turn the pages and smell the ink, I can no longer deny its reality. I reflect on all the work by myself and everyone who has touched the book from my agent, editor, copy editor, publicists, marketing, cover designer, etc. It does take a village to bring a book to life.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
Twitter! I’m trying to break my habit of doom scrolling, but it’s been difficult given the world today. I use social media to procrastinate. I’m not proud, but recognizing I have a problem is the first step, right?

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
Pitched as Matchmaker for Beginners meets The Farewell, a novice matchmaker returns to her hometown of Toronto and faces the nearly-impossible task of matching seven, 70-something Chinese bachelors. Sophie Go's Lonely Hearts Club will be out in Spring 2022.

Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from VANESSA YU’S MAGICAL PARIS TEA SHOP
"The problem with comforting someone who had a secret was resisting the urge to shake it out of them as you leaned in for an embrace."

"Each exquisite door represented a physical manifestation of possibilities."

"Sometimes, people keep things quiet for a reason, mostly to prevent collateral damage."

  • 1. Ingrid Ing is a reference to my favorite romance novelist Helen Hoang.
  • 2. The setting changed from Les Puces (Antique Market in North Paris) to Saint Germain. I fell in love with the area I stayed in while visiting Paris for research and decided to change the location.
  • 3. I visited every single tourist spot mentioned in the novel, with the exception of the Klimt Exhibit at Galerie Lumiere. That was only for Vanessa and Marc.
  • 4. The Aunties are inspired by my own aunties.
  • 5. Like Vanessa, I took pictures of the beautiful doors in Paris. I had to capture the magic and sense of possibilities those doors represented.
  • 6. The amount of food in the book matches the amount I ate while I was in Paris.
  • 7. Vanessa’s experience in Versailles was born of personal experience! I too suffered from sore feet and begged my husband to take the little train back to the main palace from Grand Trianon.
  • 8. After travelling by train to Monet's house and exploring the garden in Givenchy, I knew it would be a perfect date for artists like Vanessa and Marc.
  • 9. One of my aunties did smuggle fermented shrimp paste from Asia at one point and got away with it. The incident is mentioned/referred to in the book.
  • 10. Yes, one of my aunties loves Donna Summer.
Meet the Characters (Tell us about your main characters! 
Vanessa is a stubborn Chinese-American woman in her late twenties. Her appearance is inspired by Jamie Chung. She loves to eat and loves art.

Aunt Evelyn is Vanessa's relative who takes her to Paris and gives her clairvoyant lessons. I envisioned Michelle Yeoh when describing her. She is the glamorous auntie—the one who is elegant, flawless, and seems cold to people who don't know her well.

Marc is Vanessa's love interest who looks a bit like Sam Milby. He's sweet, kind-hearted, and is an artist at heart.

Your Journey to Publication
I started writing stories when I was in high school. Like many young women, I consumed romance novels, and given all my unrequited desires, I needed an outlet! I used to share my work in progress with my girlfriends. They would pass the pages amongst themselves during class, and at the end of the day, ask for more.

After I completed three novels I queried, what turned out to be, an unscrupulous agent in Toronto, where I paid a fee for him to read my manuscripts. I was so naive. I didn’t know paying for an agent was a red flag! (Years later, I found out that he had been indicted for fraud.) He told me I had potential, but wasn’t good enough. Crushed, I stopped writing.

A decade passed. I graduated from university, got married, and moved to a small town where it was difficult to get a job. I felt lost and directionless. I tried to pursue a career in visual art, as it was my oldest talent, but it never amounted to anything.

My old friends were starting their careers, moving on with their lives, and here I was with nothing to show. I considered myself a failure and had fallen into another bout of depression. I figured that if I was going to fail, I might as well fail spectacularly! I’d sink a year of my life into a manuscript, and when it inevitably went nowhere, I’d have the proof I so desperately craved of my ineptitude.

Writing does not come naturally to me, and yet, secretly, there was a small voice in my head who hoped I would succeed as an author, who felt I wasn’t a failure, only that I had not yet reached my potential. The other loud, more negative voices often drown them out.

I worked on the manuscript for almost a year and then sent out three queries. I heard nothing. I had received the proof I thought I was looking for, but that small voice wouldn’t let me quit. I knew the manuscript hadn’t been my best work, and I already had an idea for another story. I decided to try again.

My new manuscript’s premise was good, but I was still an inexperienced writer. I had good ideas, but their execution left much to be desired. I queried and received an R&R, but it never panned out.

I joined contests and found a community—excellent critique partners and writer friends. It was this sense of belonging and encouragement that fueled me to keep going. My seventh manuscript landed me my first agent. While that book didn’t sell, and we ended up parting ways, I had a sense that I was making progress and working my way up the ladder.

Another year, another new manuscript that when queried, attracted interest from multiple agents. I signed with one, spent a few years revising under her guidance, before the manuscript sold, becoming my debut novel.

Throughout this whole decade-long journey, I’ve had the support of family and friends. They never doubted my potential no matter how much I doubted myself. I’m grateful for my many writer friends who helped me through the stressful debut year.

Hearing from readers who connected with the story made all the low moments worth it.

Writing is still difficult, but I cannot imagine doing anything else!
Writing: Behind the Scenes (Anything to do with your own personal art process: habits/quirks, research process, inspiration, choosing names & settings, etc.)

Food is a huge part of my books because it's a huge part of my life. When planning out a book, I always plan out a menu. I need to know what food I'll be featuring and its significance. While writing or revising, I need a snack on hand. I try to make sure I can eat what I'm writing about.

Lately, bullet journaling has become an integral part of my process. I use it to keep track of my word count, inspirational collages, world building, chapter outlines, and character profiles. Having everything written down on the page helps me feel productive. I can tell I’m making progress as my word count page fills up with soot sprites! I share layouts on social media to inspire anyone who wants to take up the habit.

What is the first job you have had?
Working the concessions stand at a movie theatre.

What event in your life would make a good movie?
My wedding because the night before, I wanted to run. I had those wild eyes of an animal cornered. Our deacon had to calm me down! And this was despite having dated my now husband for seven years! Still, those wedding night jitters are real.

Choose a unique item from your wallet and explain why you carry it around.
I carry a citrine stone in a pouch for luck and prosperity.

What is the first thing you think of when you wake up in the morning?
The weather. I’ve incorporated a thirty minute morning walk before sitting down to write. I’m out listening to my audiobooks, and I want to ensure I won’t melt, freeze, or be drenched!

What is your most memorable travel experience?
Going to Paris last August. It had been a lifetime dream that became a reality. I couldn't have written Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop without experiencing the city in person.

What are 4 things you never leave home without?
Cloth face mask, phone, car keys, wallet.

If you had to go back in time and change one thing, if you HAD to, even if you had “no regrets” what would it be?
I would have brought an extra, empty suitcase on my trip to Paris to bring home more food, souvenirs, etc.

Become enamored with the splendor of Paris in this heartwarming and delightful story about writing one’s own destiny and finding love along the way.

Vanessa Yu never wanted to see people’s fortunes—or misfortunes—in tea leaves.

Ever since she can remember, Vanessa Yu has been able to see people’s fortunes at the bottom of their teacups. To avoid blurting out their fortunes, she converts to coffee, but somehow fortunes escape and find a way to complicate her life and the ones of those around her. To add to this plight, her romance life is so nonexistent that her parents enlist the services of a matchmaking expert from Shanghai.

The day before her matchmaking appointment, Vanessa accidentally sees her own fate: death by traffic accident. She decides that she can’t truly live until she can find a way to get rid of her uncanny abilities. When her eccentric aunt, Evelyn, shows up with a tempting offer to whisk her away, Vanessa says au revoir to America and bonjour to Paris. While working at Evelyn’s tea stall at a Parisian antique market, Vanessa performs some matchmaking of her own, attempting to help reconnect her aunt with a lost love. As she learns more about herself and the root of her gifts, she realizes one thing to be true: knowing one’s destiny isn’t a curse, but being unable to change it is.


"...similar to the sweet fabulist-romcom style of Lim’s debut, this new book follows a young woman’s culinary and magical adventures." —BookRiot

“Lim follows Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune with another picturesque fabulist rom-com…. Lim flexes her descriptive powers…. The eccentric and lovably meddlesome Yu family are a constant delight…. the characters sparkle, the magic successfully enchants, and Lim skewers the anti-Asian racism the Yus face in France with pointed and timely commentary. This feast for the senses will especially appeal to hopeless romantics.” —Publishers Weekly

You can purchase Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you ROSELLE LIM for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Tea Shop by Roselle Lim.