A Wicked Welcome to S.G. Wong

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.

35 Thoughts

  1. Sandra, a huge welcome to the Wickeds! And a zillion congratulations on your new “had to write it” standalone. That is just splendid. I also love this: “What would be the worst possible result? A terrible book? I already wrote one of those and I’d survived.”

    Half a year ago I wrote a new book without a contract and from two points of view, a new-to-me experiment. It’s out on submission now. That was scary – and I had to write it. I’ve been thinking for a while I would like to try a darker domestic suspense, but I’m waiting for that “have to write it” idea to rise up!

    1. Edith, thanks so much for the warm welcome and the felicitations! I’m glad you stuck with that ‘gotta write it’ idea, and I’m cheering you on with your submission process. It can be so hard to be patient, but I mean, it’s a good problem to have, right?

  2. I am going fiber optic today! But I have to clear a path to the only unencumbered electrical outlets before the installer gets here. I hope they are willing to put it where I want it as every other outlet is already daisy-chained and I feel certain that the fiberoptic rig will require at least two dedicated outlets. Since my current satellite internet provider is coming to deinstall their stuff tomorrow, the fiber optic HAS to work!

    1. Whew! Sounds like an all-day / multi-day task. Fingers crossed it works out just as you need!

      1. Fiber optic working fine. Waiting for the satellite people to send the box to return their equipment. I’ll be stuck with the satellite dish, but there is a volunteer pine tree that should hide it nicely in about five years.

  3. Sandra, your first “Great Canadian Novel” sounds a lot like my first mystery. And both in the same places.

    Good luck with the new book – and Lola sounds like a great character!

    1. Thanks, Liz! I have to admit, I am rather fond of Lola myself. And, first novels are so hard, so cheers to us both for slogging our way through.

  4. It always amazes me and fills my heart with admiration to have an author reveal the trials of the first book. And, when those first books don’t end up published, I am in awe of the author who persevere and continues to write. There are too many half started unfinished children’s books on old hard drives in my past. You inspire me! Maybe I can give it another try. And, congrats on your series and your new stand-alone. I have not read your books and am delighted to meet you and hear about them. Thank you Julie and all you “Wickeds” for introducing us to new books and their authors.

    1. Judy, I hope you’ll keep trying. If the stories keep coming to you, then why not? You never know which one will be your breakthrough, the one you finish. That one might not be the one you love, but it does get easier to finish the more often you do it… Just saying. And thanks for the warm wishes!

  5. For me, I’d have to say flying. In my 60’s, I’d never been in a plane other than to tour them during my childhood as a military brat on Armed Forces Day. Really didn’t see the need or the opportunity to do so. I might add here that I have this respect (ok fear) of heights which might add to why I’ve always been ok with driving any where I needed to go.

    Now imagine me on a wonderful bucket list trip with hubby a couple years back that took us to all of the New England states to see all the gorgeous sights of fall which has us visiting Niagara Falls. We walk past a helicopter ride location and before I know what I was saying the words “We ought to do that” came right out of my mouth. Hubby stopped dead in his tracks and stared at me thinking I must have done way too much that day. Even then, it sounded good to me and we got in line to buy tickets. The problem was you had to wait for your turn which gave my mind way too much time to think. By the time the helicopter took off, to say I was nervous is an understatement. The noise was so loud that there was no way to communicate so I knew I was on my own. With camera in hand and determined to document this event, I probably took a zillion pictures which I felt would give us memories to look back on but more to keep my mind off the fact that I was up in the air looking down at those ant looking people.

    Before I knew it, we were landing. That’s when the shaking started and I realized I had flown – in the air – on a helicopter – and I lived. Honestly I remember nothing about the actual flight. I have the photos to prove I was in the helicopter but no memory of being up there. Hubby laughed at me when I told him that if it wasn’t so expensive I’d do it again. Since I had survived with no ill affects, I would have loved to do it again just to enjoy the flight and forget the photo taking.

    Maybe some day we will find ourselves in a similar situation and yes, I would do it again – to the shock of hubby. In fact, last year we were to have gone to the national parks in Utah for another bucket list trip which had to be cancelled due to Covid. On my list of things to do was to see if there were helicopter rides over one or some of the parks. I’m still scared of heights and I’m sure my knees would shake, but as long as hubby was by my side, I would try it again!
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

    1. (Looks like my original reply got lost so trying again) Kay, I hope you get a chance to try (safely) again, too, though I have to admit to some uncomfortable fluttery feelings as I read your story here!

  6. Thanks so much for visiting with the Wickeds today, Sandra! I love the twisty question that led to the creation of your sleuth Lola! Announcing out loud to another for the first time that I was writing a novel was both terrifying and exciting. I was so nervous I almost couldn’t bring myself to say it. Now, I am so glad that I did!

    1. If I remember correctly, I didn’t tell anyone other than my husband that I was writing that first novel. Guess that was a good thing!

  7. I’m so happy to see you here, Sandra! You are an amazing SinC president and I’m so thrilled about your new book. I have two and a half books written in a series set in Seattle that I wrote in the late 90s and early to mid 2000. Unlike you I pull it out occasionally. It taught me a lot writing and who knows maybe some day I’ll pull one out and rewrite it.

    1. Sherry, I’m so grateful to meet the Wickeds community as an author! Thanks for your kind words; it was great ‘cutting my teeth’ as VP with you as Immediate Past President. Wow, I’m jealous those first books of yours are worthy of revisiting! I’m not exaggerating when I say my first book is unreadable. *shudder*

    1. Hi Ellen, and thanks! I can’t wait for the new book to be out, too. Meanwhile, though, it’s my privilege to ‘lead our mystery troops.’ Onward, ho!

  8. Sherry, I’m so grateful to meet the Wickeds community as an author! Thanks for your kind words; it was great ‘cutting my teeth’ as VP with you as Immediate Past President. Wow, I’m jealous those first books of yours are worthy of revisiting! I’m not exaggerating when I say my first book is unreadable. *shudder*

  9. Welcome to the Wickeds, Sandra! It is so great to have you here. Congratulations on the new book. I wonder how many stories were born while people sat with infants in the middle of the night. I’m guessing millions down through the millennia. Weirdly every short story, novella and novel I have ever written has been published. I think that means, no, I know that means, I don’t write enough.

    1. Thanks, Barb, it’s a delight to meet the Wickeds community! And I think you must be absolutely right about those middle-of-the-night stories. Just think of how many might also have been about dastardly doings, too. Hey, congrats on having a ‘perfect’ record of writings to publishing! That’s amazing. I think, though, it means you must write exactly how much you need to write. 😉

  10. Thanks. Another really interesting set of books for me to try. I love it!
    My 1st would be to travel out of the country. There are so very many places I would love to visit. I, however, am a total coward with some anxiety disorder thrown in. I’ve wanted to go to Hong Kong forever, I definitely waited too long for that to happen. Japan is another place I have wanted to visit since childhood. The language barrier worries me though. All the country’s in Britain are on the list. If I can just muster the courage, money and the pandemic subsidies, I might get there. Meanwhile, I can read!

    1. Catherine, as an introvert with some anxieties of my own, I can relate to how overwhelming it can seem to travel abroad. But I hope you get the chance to do it, once things like international travel are safe once again and once you feel ready. I lived in Japan for a year, long ago, and I can tell you, with new language learning apps, it’s much easier now to gain a minimum level of proficiency. Plus, learning a new language for travel helps build and maintain that excitement! In the meantime, happy reading!

  11. Your series sounds wonderful, I’m glad you overcame your fears and started writing it! Most of my fears involve amusement park rides & heights, something that’s been getting worse with age. Once in a while I try to overcome them, but results haven’t been good. A diagnosis of vertigo might explain why, but I still hope to be able to go on a ride with friends some day!

    1. Wow Judith, I can relate. Painfully so. I tried very hard as a teenager to ride everything my friends did, and I mean, that included rollercoasters, “death drop” rides, pendulum rides, and anything else you can think of that involves plummeting toward the ground from very high up. It was torture and I hated every moment of it. So I wouldn’t fault you for never trying again, but if you do, then know I’ll be there in spirit, applauding and cheering you on!

  12. Hi, Sandra! Thanks for sharing your inspirational publishing journey.

    I’ve always wanted to try hang gliding, but I’m still not sure about being so high up in the air!

    1. Oh my gosh, Jen, that’s one I would never be able to try. I applaud your bravery! I think, too, there are outfits that allow you to do it with a guide right there with you. It doesn’t change how high you’d be, but the expert company might make that first time easier. You’ll have to let me know if/when you go for it!

  13. Congratulations on your book contract. A first for me was moderating a panel, both nerve wracking and exciting.

    1. Hey Dru! I hope you had fun doing it. Of course, it does depend partly on the panelists involved, too, doesn’t it? Next time we see one another in person, we can trade ‘war stories’ about panel experiences!

  14. I’ve decided to write a screenplay, which I suspect will prove an unprofitable use of my time, but the idea’s in my head and I want to put it to use.

  15. Mine would be rollercoasters or any type of amusement park rides. As a teen I realized how sick and dizzy the rides made me feel afterwards. I’m in my 40’s now and I doubt I could ride one without feeling sick, however, I’m willing to try again!

    Thanks for the chance! You are a new author to me!

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