Interview with Canadian Band: Neon Dreams

Interviews, Uncategorized
neon dreams logo
PHOTO CREDIT: NEON DREAMS

This post is dedicated to Lauren (IG: @neon_dreams_lover), who I met through Instagram because of our shared love of Neon Dreams.  I don’t know Lauren personally, but I could tell by her posts that her life is profoundly affected by Neon Dreams’ music and her interaction with them. Plus she reminds me of a younger version of myself.

Get in touch with Neon Dreams

www.neondreams.ca
Instagram: @neondreams
Facebook: Neon Dreams

Love at first concert

If you have been following my other posts, you would know that I only discovered Neon Dreams in October, 2019, after I saw their name listed as one of Tyler Shaw’s opening acts. When I searched for their music on YouTube the night before the concert, I started dancing the moment the smooth and catchy rhythm of About You played.

Long story short, Neon Dreams played at the Richmond Hill Centre for the Performing Arts. I enjoyed their performance so much that immediately following the concert, I bought their album, Sweet Dreams Till Sunbeams. I was really lucky to have a chance to meet Neon Dreams’ dynamic duo in person at the Meet and Greet following the show. I told Frank and Adrian that they have a new HUGE fan.  I just had to see them again as I was hooked. For the first time ever, I bought tickets to a concert for the opening/supporting act and not the main performer. Sadly, the Strumbellas concert was cancelled due to a health issue of one of their members. Neon Dreams and Frank Kadillac have already inspired a couple of my blog posts (Dreamin’ of Neon Dreams and Pure Happiness) which are posted on my site. If you are curious about the meaning behind their vibrant orange and white logo, you can read about it on Neon Dreams’ Instagram account and Facebook page.

neon dreams
PHOTO CREDIT: NEON DREAMS

About Neon Dreams

Canadian talent alert! Neon Dreams is made up of Frank Kadillac (Vocalist and Ukulele player) and Adrian Morris on drums and guitar. Frank and Adrian are from Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Neon Dreams released their album, Sweet Dreams Till Sunbeams in 2019 and was touring in Canada and the United States up to the time the Coronavirus (now known as COVID-19) began its spread across the world. Neon Dreams is currently working on a new album, which will include the three songs they released this year, Turn Back Now, Walk Away and most recently released – Sick of Feeling Useless. Did you know that Neon Dreams was also nominated for the 2020 Juno Awards?! Also, the super-creative guys created their own stop motion video for Sick of Feeling Useless (see YouTube video below the interview).

Interview

Me: Frank, you rock. Adrian, you rock.  I have nothing more to say. Just kidding! I always have more to say. 

Frank, you command the stage with your constant movement and jumping off speakers – and of course, your vocals are incredible. Adrian, I am totally mesmerized by your drumming. You are the most amazing drummer I have ever seen perform.

You guys make it look so easy performing on stage – a true indication of the hard work and dedication that goes into your music and performances. How much time would you estimate that you put into the preparation for your concerts? And how do you handle the stress of touring?

Frank/Adrian:  Since we were kids we’ve dreamed of being on stage, played in so many bands and watched so many YouTube videos of our favourite acts crush it live… I feel like we have been preparing for each show since grade 10 haha. To this day I’m watching Linkin Park at Rock am Ring on YouTube hoping that one day we can do that!

Me: Frank, I read on your Instagram post that you have to do a lot of cardio to maintain your energy on stage.  What else do you do to keep in shape both physically and mentally? 

Frank: Reading self help books to get different perspectives of life usually helps my mental health a lot. Before doing this I was a wreck… I don’t know why “reading books”  was an uncool thing to do when I was growing up. After reading the books I’ve read, I gained this knowledge I can never forget that just adds to my armour.

Me: Frank, I can totally appreciate your comments about reading books. I didn’t go out much as a kid and spent my time with my nose in a book. My love of reading lives on. You can visit a whole other world through a book.

Adrian, I ask you the same question – how do you keep in shape both physically and mentally? Also, I saw from your posts that you are a movie buff. What are your top 3 favourite movies of all time?

Adrian: I find it pretty hard to keep up with working out when we’re on the road (although moving all the gear counts right?!), but when I’m home I make sure to run and hit the gym as much as I can. I try to run 5 km every other day or so. Mentally I try to explore and enjoy everywhere we go as much as possible even if that’s just taking a walk in the town or city we’re in or checking out some locally fave spots. I’m usually the one on the road trying to find all the good food spots. 

Top 3 movies!

  1. Lord of The Rings Trilogy
  2. Entire Star Wars Collection
  3. Tarintino Films

I couldn’t just pick three so I went with collections.

Me: It’s great you work to stay in shape. About food – I totally get you – I love food too! Adrian, your drumming is crazy amazing. I mentioned to you before that I tried to do your drumming move where you effortlessly cross your arms over to hit the cymbals. I admit that I was struggling! Frank mentioned somewhere that when he was initially looking for a drummer you were able to play his songs immediately. When we were chatting at the Meet and Greet, you talked about your talent for playing many instruments.  It’s obvious to me that music is in your blood. How long have you been drumming and playing guitar? And what other instruments do you play?

Adrian:  I’ve been playing drums since I was about 13! I started off on piano before that. I didn’t have a lot of friends that took music as seriously as I did so I had learn as many instruments as I could, so I could record demos on my own without having to rely on anyone else. But then I met Frank! 

Me: Adrian, it’s really interesting that you learned how to play instruments so as not to rely on anyone. You have such a gift. Wish I had musical talent.

I know you guys must be disappointed that your tours are postponed for now because of the pandemic, but it’s amazing that you guys have been going live on Instagram during this time. It’s so kind of you to chat with the world and share your music.  What are your thoughts about how the pandemic has changed the world?

Adrian:  We try to find the positive or upsides to every situation no matter how hard or blindsiding it may be. We’re actually really excited to have this time to work on our new music and live show. It’s like a video game, you can’t make it to the next level without training your skills first.

Me: I am really excited about your new album. What are you thinking about for a theme for your album?

Frank/Adrian: All I can say is that its going to feel like the soundtrack to a coming of age movie from early 2000s!

Me: Can’t wait! I am curious how you guys co-ordinate to work on your album with Frank living in Arizona?

Frank: I don’t live there – just there from time to time between seasons! Me and Adrian are always together.

Me: Awww…you guys are the sweetest! Based on your fans’ posts on Instagram and your own posts, you guys really have a way of connecting with people. You mentioned that people tell you their own personal stories about their lives and how your music may have changed things for them. Frank, you have shared your deepest secrets about your life with the world. Your message is constantly one of staying positive and love. What is the message that you would like to share here?

Frank: I told this once in an interview because I can only express things that are deep with people that seem like they care but I feel like you do. I tried to harm myself and it didn’t really work thankfully, but before that I had an ex share with me a book – she said I was gonna need it someday (she was very spiritual) and of course the book was right there when my darkest night came around. It taught me how to meditate and find my purpose. Over thinkers like me that don’t have a purpose can get lost in a fog of thoughts that lead to one thing “why am I here?” but I found my purpose through meditation. I’m just here to help people find their true selves. I used to try and be person that helps people one on one and fix problems they bring to me but I was bad at that and realized I have the power of music, so I’m just building this sanctuary for all the misfit toys that were lost like me. 

Me:
 Frank, I really appreciate you sharing something so personal with me and your fans. I know you have been through a lot growing up, and I am happy that you have found your “path”. Your story is very inspirational.

Adrian, what is your vision for the music that Neon Dreams produces?

Adrian:  It has to feel good when played live! We have so many genre influences and we incorporate all of them into our music but the one thing about all the artists we love in all these different genres is their music ALWAYS feels massive in a live show and makes the crowd move. 

Me:
 Do you guys have any tips for people who want to pursue a career as a musician?

Frank: 
Listen to people that live the life and have the career you’re working towards.

Me: “I had a dream, you were a red lush maple leaf, losing its identity…I wish there was a little flood, a little flood just to carry you…” (Lyrics from About You).  Those are probably one of my favourite lyrics so far. I spent a long time learning the lyrics and belting out the song with my then five-year-old.  He is one of your big fans too. We had About You on auto-repeat for about two months straight. What I love about your music is the vibe and energy. Your songs are upbeat compared to other sad songs out there. I also like that some of your songs begin with a certain rhythm then changes in the middle to a different style at together – like your song, If Not Now, When?

What is/are your favourite song(s) on your album, Sweet Dreams Till Sunbeams?

Frank: Sweet Dreams till Sunbeams and Life Without Fantasies!

Adrian: If Not Now, When? We Were Kings and About You.

Me: Adrian, those are my favourites as well. Frank, I like Life Without Fantasies too. When I am out hiking, I think how amazing a place is and fantasize about all sorts of things. I think of your lyrics, “what is life without fantasies” and it’s true – life is nothing without some fantasies. Fantasies keep us going. You have no idea how many times I have sung, About You, in the forest – usually when I am alone lol. Thinking about your red lush maple leaf! I just did a whistle version video!

I believe that the type of music someone listens gives a lot of insight into that person. Most of my favourites are Canadian – you guys, Matthew Good, Moist/David Usher, Ria Mae and Craig Stickland. Who are your top 3 favourite musicians?

Frank: 
Funny you say that. That’s what I say all the time. When someone tells me their favourite song I know instantly who they could possibly be. If I was rating it off of which artist I can listen to every single song and love, it would be Linkin Park, Coldplay and The Fray.

Adrian: I feel through music instrumentally first then lyrically usually. I need to feel emotion through what’s going on through the instruments. Blink 182, Sum 41 are the only artists I probably know their entire discography and I return to the most. Bring Me The Horizon’s album AMO ignited a whole new sense of inspiration for me.

Me: On a topic unrelated to music (directly at least): I love tattoos. I currently have three of my own. One of them says, “This Thing Called Life”, which is the title of my personal blog site.  It represents my journey through life and its ups and downs, and my love of writing. I notice that you guys have a lot of interesting tattoos, so here’s a more personal question that I hope you don’t mind answering. What is the symbol of one of your tattoos and the meaning behind it/reason why you got it?

Frank: I have 3 hearts on my hand from the game Zelda. Only one half of one heart is filled in to remind me when I’m at my lowest I’m still alive I still have a heart beat and the game is not finished yet.

Adrian:  I’m Algonquin of Pikwakanagan and I have my tribes emblem tattooed on my arm. My grandmother was forced into residential schooling in the 1950’s and after that some of my family hid our indigenous blood. I can understand why that may be. But it’s important for me to show proudly who I am.

Me: Very cool Adrian. Great story behind your tattoo. Your arm tattoos are beautiful. Frank, after you returned this interview to me, I wrote back to you about how I got chills reading about the symbolism behind your hearts. I can relate to how you feel when you are down to just one ‘life’ in video games – same thing for real life.

It’s been great learning more about both of you. I have been wanting to chat with you guys for a while. When you agreed to do this interview, I had to sit and think long and hard about the questions that I wanted to ask you. There’s just something magical about you guys and trying to capture the essence is not an easy feat.  Thank you so much for taking the time for this interview.  It means so much to me and probably your fans out there.  I am really looking forward to hearing new music from you guys and seeing you in concert again.  Also, your friend, Alex Gayoso (IG: @alexgayoso_) has done some amazing videos for you guys! I enjoy all of your videos. Everyone out there – check out Neon Dreams’ music. They rock!

Is there anything else you would like to share with your fans?

Frank: Look out for each other this is your family you guys built this – we just provide the music.

Adrian: Take care of each other, meet each other, become friends with each other because like Frank said – you guys created this and we’re a community together. 

–End–

Check out the cool stop motion video for Sick of Feeling Useless:

A few of my favourite Neon Dreams tunes

In this thing called life, really “connecting” with others is a truly an amazing experience.

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Interview with Canadian Musician, Craig Stickland

Interviews, Uncategorized
Craig Stickland musician
Photo credit: Craig Stickland
https://www.instagram.com/craigstickland/

How Craig came into my life

To be honest, I never heard of Craig Stickland until October, 2019, when the Richmond Hill Centre for Performing Arts announced his name together with Neon Dreams (as opening acts for Tyler Shaw).  That evening, all of the artists put on an awesome show and later came out for an amazing meet and greet. I find that meet and greets are the ultimate part of a concert experience – as it’s a chance to make a connection between the music you listen to and the musician(s). Some artists are particularly interactive when it comes to social media as well. From my personal experience, Craig and Neon Dreams take the time to interact with their fans, which makes them really down-to-earth and personable.

Typical me, when my writing bug comes out, I write about everything new that I experience. However, it took me some time to write an Instagram post about Craig’s performance after I first saw him in concert, because I needed time to digest it. During his performance he played mostly rock songs that I couldn’t really relate to, but I was blown away by his last song, Break Every Rule. That song really showcased his powerful and soulful voice.

Craig has this intangible quality to him – a certain vulnerability and old soul wrapped into a rugged yet sexy “stereotypical” rocker (wink, long hair, goatee, t-shirt, black jeans and black leather jacket). Craig left me wanting more. I was so happy when he announced that he had an album in the works.

Release of Starlit Afternoon

Photo credit: Craig Stickland

Craig just recently launched his album titled, Starlit Afternoon, on February 28, 2020

I listened to his album the morning it was released.  My favourites so far are: Starlit Afternoon, Break Every Rule, Good Love and Stop at Nothing. If I were to take a stab at Craig’s album music style, I would say it’s a mix of alternative rock, with a touch of country, jazz, blues and soul.

About Craig

Photo credit: Craig Stickland

Canadian talent!

Craig was born in Vancouver then moved to Toronto when he was 3 years old. He is currently living in Los Angeles where he continues his modelling and singing career. Craig discovered his passion for music when he was about 16 years old. He picked up his first guitar when he was 16 years old and was the singer in his high school band. Finally, after finding his true passion in life, he released his first EP titled, Leave me to the Wild, which includes songs such as Break Every Rule and Tears in the Rain.

Craig has toured with some amazing Canadian talent. To name a few: Tyler Shaw, Alessia Cara and Matthew Good.

Interview

Me: Craig – I am so excited and honoured that you agreed to an interview with me. Thank you for taking the time for me and your fans.

Congratulations! You just released your new album titled, Starlit Afternoon on February 28, 2020.  I read that the last song, Good Love, on your album took about five years to write. What part of the process took the longest? And how did you finally “let go” and decide that it is complete?

Craig: The part of the process that took the longest was finding the right production to match each song. When a song is written it can be produced any number of ways, and the experimentation until I was satisfied is what took so long. There’s a gut feeling when you know something is done. You also need to trust your friends and collaborators. 

Me:  I only recently discovered that you are multi-talented.  You are a songwriter, singer, guitar player, piano player, actor and model! Do you have any other interests/talents? Being a musician is quite different from modelling – what would you say was the “turning point” in your life, where you decided to become a musician?

Craig: I decided I wanted to be a musician in high school when there was a band that needed a singer. I auditioned, got the role and was hooked. Recently I’ve been very into designing and making furniture as well. I started a studio furniture company with a close friend called @callusandco

Me: I love that you are so real. In one your Instagram post’s you mentioned renting out your apartment as an Airbnb, so that you could afford to keep touring/working on your music career.  I messaged you if that was the life of a musician, and you replied, for some.  With this in mind, do you have any tips or words of advice for people who are considering becoming a musician?

Craig: Everybody’s path is different, but I’d say there’s no substitute for hard work and dedication to your craft. Unless you get incredibly lucky very early on, you’ll have to make sacrifices in order to continue pursuing your dreams. My journey is coming up on a decade and a half, and I just put out my first album. 

Me: Your white van seems to be a huge part of your life. You coined some of your songs as part of the “The Van Sessions” (Very creative by the way!). For some reason your van reminds me of the one in Scooby Doo!  I enjoyed watching your YouTube video (see video below) where you were building the interior of your van to make it liveable and Canadian winter-proof. I am sorry to say that I was chuckling when you were cursing in your video 😊 What is it like to live out of a van? Do you ever feel claustrophobic?

Craig: I really like living out of the van and I do feel claustrophobic at times, but only when my van isn’t clean. It’s taught me a lot about living simply, focusing on minimalism and being organized. 

VIDEO OF CRAIG BUILDING HIS VAN

Me: I know that life inspires your music. What was your inspiration for Starlit Afternoon?

Craig: I’m always inspired by my personal experiences, feelings and emotions. The daily things I go through in life, that we all experience in some form or another. I try to find the best expression of that and create it into a song. 

Me: Other than meditation, how do you manage all the stress that you are going through?  It couldn’t have been easy touring and trying to finish your album at the same time.

Craig: If I don’t center my day with a workout, I feel stressed. I’ve been really into daily journaling as well and making furniture keeps me in a very present mindset. 

Me: Please also finish this sentence (lyric from Phil Collins’ song, Groovy Kinda Love):

Craig:  “When I’m feeling blue…all I have to do is sing a tune.” 

Me: Very cool. I wish I could sing. Is there anything else that inspires your music? 

Craig: Other music, or often times a powerful film or documentary. 

Me: So many of my favourite musicians are Canadian: Matthew Good, Moist, Neon Dreams and Ria Mae. I love my music like crazy! But I recently discovered that I had no idea what type of music my family and friends listened to.  I find that knowing what type of music people listen to is enlightening and tells a lot about that person. Who/which bands are your top 3?

Craig: I’ve recently been incredibly into Frank Ocean. Coldplay is one of my favorites especially after touring with them and seeing them live every night, and John Mayer was a huge influence when I was coming up. 

Me: I am really enjoying your new album. I think you would be happy to hear this:  My daughter always shuts down my music the moment I start the music in the car.  When I was playing your album for the first time, I told her I could sing Break Every Rule. Suddenly she turned off the music. I was like What the hell?! -thinking she was shutting me down again. Turns out she was waiting for me to continue singing your song. Then she actually turned the music back on.  But of course, that now that she’s heard your album once – it’s turned off again.

When will you be touring again?

Craig: I’m pretty much always on the road at some point or another, although I don’t have a tour booked at the moment, I’m sure something will come through with the release of my album! 

Me: Is there anything else you would like your fans to know about you and/or your music?

Craig:  I think you covered it all, thank you! 

Me: On that note: Craig, you can sing to me any time.  I hope to catch one of your Toronto shows soon.  Thank you again for being so open to this interview and your time.  You are super-talented and not to mention – gorgeous! I hope everyone discovers your music soon. Best of luck with your new album.

***** END *****

A few of my favourite tunes

In this thing called life, you never know what could happen when you just ask. Like this interview!

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Interview with childrens’ book author, Kelly Charleson

book reviews, Interviews, Uncategorized

This post is dedicated to my new friend, Kelly Ann Charleson, who took the time to DM me on Instagram — pointing out that we are both children book authors, plus HUGE fans of Matthew Good!  On top of that she has the same name as my daughter and has two sisters as well!

photo of childrens author kelly charleson
Photo credit: Kelly Charleson

Kelly Ann Charleson is the author of “If I were a Dinosaur”, and The Woodland Series: “The Deer”, “The Den” and “The Socks”. She is a passionate writer and illustrator. Kelly is originally from Australia, but now lives in Ottawa.

You can follow her on Facebook: Kelly Ann Charleson and Instagram @kellyanncharleson

Below are the links to her current four books:
https://www.blurb.ca/b/9334245-the-socks
https://www.blurb.com/b/9337555-the-den
https://www.blurb.ca/b/9311692-the-deer
https://www.blurb.ca/b/9337490-if-i-were-a-dinosaur

Kelly’s story

I am very lucky to have the opportunity to interview Kelly, as she is one busy lady! 

I wanted to share Kelly’s story, because she is so genuine and has such a lovely message behind her books.  As well, her stories are not ‘typical’ – three of her books deal with difficult life issues written in a way that children can understand and relate to: such as miscarriage in pregnancy/loss of a sibling (The Deer), living with an auto immune disease (The Socks) and loss of a parent/adoption (The Den).

Me: Recently, you posted a copy of an ‘old treasure’ – a book titled: “Kelly’s Holiday Story Book” on Instagram.  You wrote: “Looks like I’ve been an author/illustrator from the start.”  It’s amazing what children are capable of creating on their own, if left to their own vices.  I find that these days, kids don’t have a lot of down time -just a chance to sit down and be creative.  I remember spending my childhood engaged in creative play and drawing, but my own kids don’t really like to read (think electronics!).

So, what exactly motivated or inspired you to begin writing and illustrating for publication?

Kelly: I’ve known for years that someday, I would like to be a foster mom, so until I’m in a position to do so I’ve joined a few groups so that I can learn more about the reality of it all. One thing that stood out to me was the amount of parents asking for recommendations of books that deal with issues relating to foster care and adoption, and how few fictional resources there were to meet those needs. Initially, I was making books for the little ones in my life just for fun, but once I realized that there is need for these very niche, touchy topics to be addressed, I decided to create The Woodland Family series, and started making my books available to a wider audience.

Me: It’s hard enough to be a self-published author and your book content is very unique.  I asked you why you included a full free preview of your books on blurb.ca, and you replied that you wanted to “make sure that any child who could benefit from reading one of my books is able to access it, whether or not an adult can buy it for them.”  That is ABSOLUTELY amazing! So, with this in mind, what are your plans to reach your target market?

Kelly: Once I start taking my books to markets, libraries, schools, etc., I’m hoping that the exposure and word of mouth will help the books to find the children who might need them. In addition to that, I hope to continue teaming up with local organizations that are relevant to the topics covered in my books. I really enjoy supporting worthwhile causes, so if an opportunity for working together to bring attention to an important issue arises, I’m more than happy to go for it. My latest book was loosely based on a local project, and we’ve both been able to see some of the impact that partnership has had already, which has been really exciting.

Me: I learned about your books because of your DM through Instagram.  Do you think that social media is a helpful venue for you to market yourself and your books?

Kelly: At the very least, it’s great for networking. I created an Instagram account to promote my work, but have found it to be more a place of community and support than a marketing tool. It’s great seeing all of the other authors on there, and sharing/receiving tips and encouragement.

Having said that, hash tags do seem to attract people to the themes of my books when it’s something the individual has a personal connection with, and I’ve found Facebook helpful for advertising and promotion. I am rather oblivious when it comes to any social media platforms outside of those two!

Me: I saw online that the first book you wrote “The Garden Thieves” is no longer available.  Can you explain why?

Kelly: The Garden Thieves was originally written a year prior to publication under the title Princess Akeeba and the Night Thieves. The first edition was created as a gift for a little girl who I loved very much, and I re-designed the illustrations of the book as a part of my grieving process when I lost her. Removing the book from circulation was a tough decision, because I really liked the book, but ultimately I realized that it was an important step in that process for me.

Me:  I am very sorry for your loss and hope that your book has helped you heal.  I love that you allow people to contact you with special requests for book topics (a note at the end of each of your books).  For “The Deer” – you mentioned that you were asked by a mom to write a book about miscarriage, after she suffered the loss of her baby and didn’t know how to explain to her son why his sister would not come home. 

There are so many sensitive issues that we might experience early in life, so I am thrilled that you have found a way to address them in your books using very simple language and illustration. Reading, “The Den” brought tears to my eyes – children not feeling ‘loved’ because of a new addition to the family.   I believe that life is uncomplicated from the view of children, so parents paying more attention to the ‘baby’ is equal to them no longer being loved.  But in real life, this is not true at all, yet it takes growing up to learn this.

I have two suggestions for book topics: 1) death of a parent/sibling 2) divorce of parents.  I have seen the impact on friends/family who experienced these traumatic events as children.

That being said, are you working on your next book?

Kelly: Thank you for your feedback – those are definitely important topics, and I’ll see what I can do with them.

I’m taking a bit of a break over the summer (I can’t believe I ever took sunshine and warmth for granted! Living in Canada makes me want to LIVE outside between April and November…), but I’ve started putting some notes together for the next stand-alone book. I’ll be diving back into my counselling study notes for this one, but it’ll be an easier read than The Woodland Family books, in more ways than one!

Me: Kelly, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions.  It’s been great learning about your creative process and hopes of helping children deal with real life issues.  I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavours!

Kelly: Thank you so much, Monica! It has been an absolute pleasure interviewing with you.

In this thing called life, you never know who you might touch with your words.

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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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