Roselle Lim is a Filipino Chinese writer who came to Canada from the Philippines as a young teen and learned English by watching wrestling shows on television. She has a degree in humanities and history from York University. Find her on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
In this post, Roselle discusses the joys of getting older in her new novel, Sophie Go’s Lonely Hearts Club, why it’s important to prevent burnout before it happens, and more!
Name: Roselle Lim
Literary agent: Jenny Bent
Book title: Sophie Go’s Lonely Hearts Club
Release date: August 16, 2022
Genre/category: Women’s Fiction
Previous titles: Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune; Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop
Elevator pitch for the book: Disgraced matchmaker Sophie Go must romantically match seven septuagenarians to save her reputation.
What prompted you to write this book?
My grandparents died decades ago yet my memories of them are still so vivid—their laughter, their quirks, and, of course, their sass. This book is a love letter to them and all the amazing seniors I’m fortunate to know.
Media in general has an obsession with youth and relegates anyone over 65 to the margins of society. I want readers to see seniors as dynamic and worthy of respect and admiration. Wrinkles are not a sign of weakness: They’re a badge of a life lived.
Once I had the concept and my cast of characters, I had to put them in the city I know best—Toronto! I emigrated there when I was young, and I spent my formative years exploring this sprawling megacity with its distinct neighborhoods.
While the novel includes a few famous landmarks (places I’ve been to many times), I focused more on the diversity and how magical it feels to go from, say, Chinatown on Spadina out to the Danforth with all the Greek flags flying. There’s nowhere else I’ve been that takes so much pride in its diversity and heritage. I love it (except for the traffic, but that’s a different story!)
How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?
I pitched this idea to my editor in 2019 while visiting her in NYC. She loved it! Nothing much changed from pitch to book. It took a year to draft, revise, and copy edit. This was one of those magical unicorn cases! (I hadn’t experienced it before or since!)
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
The pandemic! Thankfully, Sophie’s story flowed out of me, which helped to keep my anxiety at bay, but after I turned in the manuscript, my world crashed down. Multiple family members battled cancer and the stress burned me out–I was forced to ask for two extensions for the next book.
I’ve never experienced burnout like I did from August to December. I couldn’t create anything. My writing was stalled. I couldn’t draw or sew. Even reading took too much effort. I finally declared emotional and creative bankruptcy and rested. I filled my time with anything that was not writing. I refilled the well and back refreshed and renewed in January, I was ready to tackle Book 4. The time off worked.
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
Honestly, the biggest surprise was how much of a joy it was to write Sophie! Writing has always been difficult for me, yet Sophie came out almost fully formed from start to finish.
Now, revising was a whole other experience. Despite how free I felt drafting, revising to make my ideas clear was arduous. I’m super thankful to all the CPs and beta readers.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
I hope readers will laugh and cry along with Sophie. I hope they fall in love with the Old Ducks and their wonderful quirks.
The world feels smaller since the start of the pandemic and yet it’s natural to want to seek out connections during lockdowns. Sophie’s story is about found families and the importance of finding love: from platonic to romantic.
It’s easy to feel disconnected and alone. Sometimes, all we need is to be brave and adjust our perspective—people who care are there waiting to be discovered! They might even be standing in plain sight.
If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?
Burnout is easier to prevent than it is to recover from. If you feel writing has become difficult and you’ve been going full tilt, take breaks. A day off here and there won’t hurt, but it could save months of exhaustion.
If you are on deadline, ask for extensions early! There is no shame in asking for help. It isn’t a reflection of failure. Your editor and your agent are there to help you succeed.
Take care of your mental health. Take care of your physical health. Be present and allow yourself to breathe. Your stories will be better for it!