Interview with author, C Fong Hsiung

Interviews
photo of author Fong Hsiung
Photo credit: C Fong Hsiung

C Fong Hsiung is the author of Picture Bride and recently launched her new book titled, New Land Same Sky (Publisher: Mawenzi House).  You can check her out online at www.FongHsiung.com.  

I purchased both of Fong’s books at her recent book launch. I just finished reading Picture Bride and have lots of wonderful things to say about it.  Check out my upcoming post for a review of Picture Bride.

Old friends

I met Fong for the first time through a mutual friend. We connected instantly – just like an old friend. The three of us enjoyed a conversation-filled lunch, chatting about my upcoming book launch and Fong’s as well. Considering I never met Fong before, I thought it was really nice that she was interested in going to my book launch.  Recently, the three of us met up for dinner and discovered that the three of us are both in September AND we each have three kids! How interesting is that?

I am so lucky to have an opportunity to interview her on this blog.

ME: Fong, as many people ask me, “Where do you find the time to write?”. I ask you the same thing.  You are an accounting and systems consultant, and you lead spinning, and yoga and meditation classes.

FONG: There’s a saying, and I’m paraphrasing as I don’t know who said this. If you want something done, give it to a busy person. I wrote my first novel while I was working full-time as VP of Business Processes and Systems. I wrote at every opportunity—on vacation, on my commutes to and from the office, every evening, and just about anywhere I could open and balance my laptop. Driving was how I used to commute to work, and then in 2010 I switched to public transit so I could write more. By March 2017, I’d quit my full-time job and finished my second novel. I started my third. But then a year later, I started consulting. As a result, my third novel has taken a backseat lately. What I’m finding out now is that when I had a steady routine I knew exactly when I would write. But now that I have flexibility, the writing is suffering because my work time is leaking into my writing time. I’m procrastinating more. So now I’m waking up at 5 AM to write for three hours before anything gets in the way. After that, I go to the gym and then later, I start working on my consulting projects.

ME: How did you begin your writing journey?  Writing is quite different from the accounting field!

FONG: Left brain versus right brain stuff. I’ve always liked to write, but I fell into accounting when I was floundering and looking for my first job in my early twenties. Once I started down the accounting path I couldn’t stop, and I built a career out of it. Still, the urge to write never left. I actually started a website during the nineties. I wanted a place to showcase my stories about the Indian Hakka community. The site is now probably in a cyberspace blackhole! Then I tried to write a novel, an earlier version of Picture Bride. It was awkward and didn’t read like any novel I have read. I borrowed a book from the library to learn how to write, but the book was dense and I gave up. The year I turned fifty was when a sense of urgency took over. I had to write and I needed help. I was browsing the net one Sunday and happened upon an online writing school. Before the day ended I had signed up, and that’s how it all started.

ME: Was it difficult to find a publisher to take on your book?

FONG: Once I started my writing journey, I devoured books, magazines, online articles, online courses, and anything connected with writing and publishing. I was prepared for lots of rejections. Still, after being rejected a few times I decided to explore the assisted self-publishing model. Halfway down that path, I received an email from TSAR Publications, now rebranded Mawenzi House. They were interested in my book. I had sent my manuscript to them several months before and had assumed that silence meant rejection. Now, not only did Mawenzi House publish my first book but they’ve also published my second book.

ME: Where do you get your inspiration?

FONG: I wish I could be more dramatic and say that inspiration hits like a bolt of lightning. But no, it’s really quite mundane. I sit in front of my computer and I start typing. I’ve learned that if I write enough, something will come out of it. When I follow a train of thoughts as I often do when I’m typing random stuff, it is inevitable that ideas will formulate. With my first book, the idea had been percolating in my head for a long time. With my second book, it was just my random typing and the resulting ideas. I’m struggling with my third one right now. Every time I travel, I bring my laptop with me and keep my story outline handy. The change of scenery often brings new ideas. When that happens, I update the outline, and then edit, re-write scenes or add new ones.

ME:  When I interviewed Toronto Star’s, Tony Wong, I asked what happens when you get writer’s block?  He eats junk food.  How do you tackle writer’s block?

FONG: If I eat junk food every time I encounter writer’s block, you’d need a crane to lift me off my chair. Thankfully I’ve developed a less weight-enhancing way to lift the block. As I mentioned earlier, I tend to type anything on my computer without regard for the content. I consider it a warmup to exercise my writing muscles. If I get my fingers moving, my brain will catch up eventually…hopefully sooner rather than later.

ME: What are your upcoming projects?

FONG: I’m writing my third novel. The working title is Learning Dangerously. It’s a somewhat cynical view of the corporate world following a young man’s experience at his first job. I have another novel in my back pocket. It’s going to be loosely based on my parents’ lives.

ME: Thank you so much for your inspiration and time! And best of luck on your third novel. For me, inspiration actually hits me like lightning! Ideas are always floating in my head, but I need that bolt of electricity to hit (i.e. creating of that first sentence in the book) to get the ball rolling. The “hook” came to me while I was driving on my way to pick up my son last week. I am now on page 7 of my book, and ideas are following freely.

In this thing called life, one needs to go with the flow and ride it.

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