Roselle Lim is one of those authors on my auto-buy list. From Natalie Tan’s to Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop, I’ve loved these diverse and heartfelt stories. If you’re been looking for a book that will enthrall you and full of foodie references, look no further!
Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop
Vanessa Yu never wanted to see people’s fortunes—or misfortunes—in tea leaves.
Ever since she can remember, Vanessa Yu has been able to see people’s fortunes at the bottom of their teacups. To avoid blurting out their fortunes, she converts to coffee, but somehow fortunes escape and find a way to complicate her life and the ones of those around her. To add to this plight, her romance life is so nonexistent that her parents enlist the services of a matchmaking expert from Shanghai.
The day before her matchmaking appointment, Vanessa accidentally sees her own fate: death by traffic accident. She decides that she can’t truly live until she can find a way to get rid of her uncanny abilities. When her eccentric aunt, Evelyn, shows up with a tempting offer to whisk her away, Vanessa says au revoir to America and bonjour to Paris. While working at Evelyn’s tea stall at a Parisian antique market, Vanessa performs some matchmaking of her own, attempting to help reconnect her aunt with a lost love. As she learns more about herself and the root of her gifts, she realizes one thing to be true: knowing one’s destiny isn’t a curse, but being unable to change it is
I loved the family in Vanessa Yu, can you talk about how it was to create the different family characters, and why you wanted to include a strong robust family in the novel?
In Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune, I explored the idea of starting from an insular family with Miranda and Natalie, and expanding to found families. For Vanessa, I went the other direction: starting with a large boisterous family before narrowing it to the relationship between Vanessa and Evelyn.
My own extended family was the inspiration for the Yus! The gossip, the need to be in everyone’s business, but always with love and affection.
The trick to making an expansive ensemble is giving each member their own characteristics: in particular, how they speak and react. I believe the reader should recognize a character only through their dialogue. Our speech patterns are unique.
Natalie Tan’s, Vanessa Yu’s, and now Sophie Go’s are my exploration of what family means, in all its wonderful variations.
Gifts that can be a curse and a blessing are a huge theme in your book, did you know from the beginning how Vanessa Yu would end?
I did! This novel was a unicorn! Vanessa’s story was clear to me. My initial outline remained unchanged except for one change I made about half way through drafting the manuscript. I remove an element that would have taken the novel in a darker direction. It was an interesting idea, but ran counter to who Vanessa was and how I wanted her story to feel. Kill your darlings, right?
Where did you come up with the idea of Vanessa Yu’s gift? Would you ever want to have her fortune telling?
I had created Evelyn as a side character in Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune. She was an ethereal creature who helped guide people through her gift of prophecy. While Natatlie’s story did not focus on fortune telling, I’ve always had a fascination with the idea. What does it mean to know the future? Is destiny real? Can it be changed? Exploring these ideas formed the basis of Vanessa’s journey.
I’d love to see the future! I tend to only imagine potential catastrophes. Seeing both good and bad with certainty would lessen my anxiety. Of course, I’d need lessons from Aunt Evelyn!
How was writing Vanessa Yu different from Natalie Tan? Did you have trouble writing Vanessa? Which character was easier for you to write?
Vanessa is the happier, more well-adjusted person I wish I was. Natalie is more like me: full of turmoil, angst, yet with a flame of hope. Vanessa grew up with no major issues other than a talent she wants to be rid of. Her pressures are all external where Natalie’s are internal.
Natalie was easier to write. Vanessa is a character that’s more personal wish-fulfilment.
Food is a HUGE theme in your books, what are some of your favorite meals? What is the meal you want to eat as your go-to comfort food?
Every time I go into a Japanese restaurant, I order the chirashi bowl. At a Filipino restaurant, crispy pata or lechon are my go-tos. For Chinese, it’s salted duck egg congee and youtiao. Where possible, I complete my meal at a bubble tea shop enjoying a taro slush boba.
Nothing beats a bowl of Arroz Caldo (Filipino chicken and ginger congee) when it comes to comfort food. My Lola, and later my father, cooked it for us all the time. It’s a warm hug in a bowl.
Food brings me wonderful memories. I associate people and events with certain types of food. I strive to translate its importance in my life to my novels.
Can you describe both your books and Sophie Go as teas?
Tikyuanyin tea, with its floral and golden subtlety and depth that’s only visible once tasted pairs best with Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune.
Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop is a taro slush boba. Lavender, cold, and bubbly, the perfect choice for a hot summer day in Paris!
The warm, sweet, and comforting flavor of honeyed chrysanthemum tea is Sophie Go’s Lonely Hearts Club in tea form.
About the Author
Roselle Lim was born in the Philippines and immigrated to Canada as a child. She lived in north Scarborough in a diverse, Asian neighbourhood.
She found her love of writing by listening to her lola (paternal grandmother’s) stories about Filipino folktales. Growing up in a household where Chinese superstition mingled with Filipino Catholicism, she devoured books about mythology, which shaped the fantasies in her novels.
An artist by nature, she considers writing as “painting with words.”