by Julie, settled in Somerville
I have had the great good fortune to work with S.G. (Sandra) Wong for several months in her role as president of Sisters in Crime. Her passion for the organization, and the writing community, is a force. She’s also a multi-published author, with a fabulous series and exciting news about a stand alone. But I’ll let her tell you her story. I’m so glad that she agreed to visit the Wickeds today. Welcome, Sandra!
The first novel I ever wrote was, in my humble and subjective opinion, a hot mess. It was my first (also last) attempt at the Great Canadian Novel—which bears close resemblance to the Great American Novel, except that ours usually involve a lot of bleak winters and feelings of isolation under endless prairie skies sort of thing.
Actually, I’m not precisely sure I finished it. I recall a shaky beginning, a poor end, and some murky bits in the middle. I could hunt it down to take a peek, but it’s buried in an ancient hard drive, and really, I’d only ever print it out to burn the tortured thing, so let’s just leave it buried.
I was so scared every day writing that first novel, not to mention bewildered, and it turned out to be a terrible disappointment. But not a surprise. Though I’d studied many of those kinds of books during my English Lit degree, my heart was never invested in them.
What did surprise me, after all that fear and unrewarding toil, was the urge to keep writing.
As a first-time mum in 2003, I worked through a stack of Philip Marlowe novels amid feedings, diapers, naps (baby’s, not mine), laundry, and myriad previously unknown anxieties. Apparently, my sneaky brain was shooting its creative synapses in secret while I dragged my exhausted body through the daily routines of new motherhood, because I found myself with an idea in the middle of an overnight feeding: What if the femme fatale were the hard-boiled PI?
I ended up creating an entire fictional world, Crescent City, for my tough-talking glam gal of a PI, Lola Starke, to inhabit. I finished writing my first crime novel in 2006. Un-agented, I signed with a modest imprint in 2012. Between 2013-16, I published 3 books in that series. I currently have numerous short stories published in anthologies. I have a few awards nominations.
But I also feared I didn’t have it in me to write novels about anyone other than Lola or anything other than Crescent City. (Oh Impostor Syndrome, you devil, you.)
In 2018, my brain zigged when I thought I was zagging. This time, a dark idea while on a romantic getaway. (Lemme just say: my husband really understands me and my macabre, sneaky brain.) I was equal parts intrigued and terrified by this story idea. I’d never tried anything remotely like it.
But the urge to write this story was so overwhelming, it obliterated my fears of failure. (Also, what would be the worst possible result? A terrible book? I already wrote one of those and I’d survived.)
So in 2019, I finished writing my first contemporary domestic suspense novel. I signed with an agent. I secured a new book contract. (Whew. Those three sentences skip over a lot of hard work and minor dramas.) Soon, I’ll get to work with a veteran editor at HarperCollins Canada. Summer 2022, I get to see my first “mainstream” book released into the wild.
First times can be challenging, frightening, thrilling—all at the same time. We won’t always feel lucky or even grateful for them in the moment, and they often require some combination of blood, sweat, and tears, but if we stay curious and open, one new thing can lead to the next and the next and the next after that, creating a wonderful daisy chain of possibilities and experiences. I like to think that’s how we design a full life for ourselves: one step at a time, toward the next new challenge.
What’s a first for you, something you’ve not tried before, that feels equal parts scary and exhilarating? (Bonus points: Are you willing to try it anyway?) Comment to enter a draw to win one signed print copy of DIE ON YOUR FEET, the first Lola Starke novel. (Open to Canada and the U.S.)
Thank you so much, Julie and the rest of the fabulous Wicked Authors, for hosting me today!
Sandra S.G. Wong writes fiction across genres, speaks on writing and publishing topics, and volunteers for important community causes. She has been a finalist in the Arthur Ellis Awards for Excellence in Canadian Crime Writing (Best First Novel and Best Short Story) and longlisted for the Whistler Independent Book Awards (Best Crime Fiction). sgwong.com
About the Lola Starke novels:
The Lola Starke series is set in 1930s-era Crescent City, a fictionalized “Chinese Los Angeles” in an alternate history in which China established a city-state colony at the start of the Gold Rush. This alternate history also contains ghosts and magic, historically-accurate fashion, and plenty of attitude.