Welcome to the third interview in the 2023 run of my Taiwanese American Heritage Week series dedicated to featuring Taiwanese authors and their work. Taiwanese American Heritage Week occurs every year during the week that begins with Mother’s Day in May, which is also Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. You can find the past interviews and posts in this series via the Taiwanese American Heritage Week tag or through my Post Index.
About the Book
- Title: The Rachel Experiment (From Sunset Park, With Love #2)
- Author: Lisa Lin
- Cover Artist: Ashley Santoro
- Publisher: Tule Publishing
- Release Date: May 16th, 2023
- Genre/Format: Adult Romance
Who knew that one night out would change everything?
As a financial analyst, Rachel Bai is more comfortable with numbers than people. When her boss promotes her to head a team in San Francisco, his message is clear—she has one year to build a successful team and become an effective leader. Rachel sets out to discover how to be more comfortable interacting with people, but a drunken night meant for research results in a mechanical bull ride and a one-night stand with a sexy stranger—definitely not part of her plan.
Attorney Luke Trudeau is intrigued by the mysterious woman who’s determined to put their night together firmly in her rearview mirror. So when Luke sees Rachel again, he proposes a deal: he’ll smooth out her rough social edges and teach her to charm clients if she’ll help him devise a financial plan to open his own practice.
It seems like a win-win, but Luke breaks the rules by falling in love. Can he convince Rachel that what they have is real and, when it comes to love, there are no set rules?
Interview with Lisa Lin
Q: What is your favorite Taiwanese food? (You may pick more than one.)
A: I miss the fresh tropical fruits! I love eating my weight in lychees and mangoes in the summer. But honestly it’s impossible for me to pick my favorite Taiwanese food. If I had to pick a top five it would be shu mai, tem pu ra (note from Shenwei: a.k.a. tian bu la, or Taiwanese fried fishcakes; not to be confused with Japanese tempura), Taiwanese sausages, savory rice balls (fan tuan), and fresh bamboo shoots.
Q: Based on your bio, it looks like you had a robust career in the legal field prior to becoming an author. At what point did you get the “aha” moment that you wanted to write romance for publication, and how did it happen?
A: I’ve loved reading and books since I could remember. And been a rabid romance reader ever since I was thirteen. But if there was an “Aha” moment it would be when I met Tessa Dare at the RWA Literacy Signing in 2011 in NYC. I made a beeline to her table and managed to not make a total idiot of myself. I ran into Tessa again as the signing was winding down and she was incredibly kind and supportive. She asked if I was attending the conference and if I was around the rest of the week. I told her no but that I’d always wanted to try writing and have story ideas in my head, and Tessa encouraged me to go for it. I went home and started drafting my first romance! So I have Tessa Dare to thank for all of this.
Q: A lot of authors talk about second book syndrome, where they struggle with having their second book (overall or in a series) live up to the first. Did you experience this at all while writing The Rachel Experiment? What were some challenges you faced with creating this novel, if any?
A: Authors fear and dread the Sophomore Slump for good reason. Their debut book is one they have spent months years drafting, editing, querying and polishing to perfection. The second book is the first one they’re writing under contract and serious deadline, and it can be a challenging transition. In my case, I was lucky enough to avoid that to some extent. I started writing Rachel’s book while Cecily was out on submission so in a way, I didn’t have the pressure of a compressed deadline breathing down my neck. In addition, my publisher gave me a pretty decent lead time so I felt like I could take my time and hand in a good book, one that I could be proud of. Whether it’s better, worse, or as good as Cecily? That’s for readers to decide!
The biggest challenge I had writing The Rachel Experiment was that I had to chuck my first draft, the one I handed in to my editor, and basically start from scratch. Essentially, she told me I had gotten off track and we needed to pause, reflect, and correct course. Cue me spending a frantic two months drafting a new version while cannibalizing as much as I could from the original draft. It wasn’t fun, but my editor was right. The new version was a better, stronger book and I liked it a whole lot more.
Another challenge I faced was as a relatively newbie author—I was and am still on a learning curve. While I was drafting Rachel’s book, I was juggling copyedits and proofreads for The Year of Cecily, and copyedits and proofreads for Rachel while drafting book 3 and promo for Cecily’s release. Handling multiple books in various stages of the production process has been an education, to say the least.
Q: The Rachel Experiment alternates between Rachel’s and Luke’s respective points of view. How did you balance the two in terms of deciding whose POV to use in which scene across the book, and did you have to rewrite any parts from the other person’s POV?
A: To the best of my memory, I didn’t have to rework any scenes to switch POVs. My books tend to be heroine focused so there was probably more in Rachel’s POV than Luke’s. As for how to balance, sometimes it came down to what the scene was about, what I wanted it to accomplish and that helped dictate which POV to use and sometimes it was as simple as “We’ve been in Rachel’s POV for a while, probably time to switch it up.” For example, the scene where Rachel got the flu, it started with her POV because I wanted her reaction to having him come over to take care of her, and then I switched to Luke’s POV so the reader can see what he was thinking as that was happening.
Q: I know some authors keep entire documents dedicated to notes about their characters, and some make playlists for their characters, and so on. How do you approach the character brainstorming and development process? Are there any “fun facts” about your characters that you came up with that didn’t actually show up in the book? If so, please share.
A: I am very much a “Pantser” and figure out my characters as I go. That is how I learned that Rachel was a killer poker player and a true crime/murder podcast fan. Both Rachel and Luke appeared in The Year of Cecily, so I already had a sense of who they were and I just went with it in The Rachel Experiment. Rachel was honest, blunt, direct, and a bit awkward with people while Luke is a charming people person with a Texas drawl. It’s an opposites attract book so that also helped me with character development. The differences between Luke and Rachel are where the sparks began to fly and the chemistry, and I had so much fun playing with that dynamic.
Fun facts about Luke and Rachel that didn’t make it into the book?
Luke is a big fan of Sinatra, Dean Martin, the Rat Pack.
Rachel celebrates the Ghost Festival!
Q: There’s a bit of writing advice that goes “write what you know,” which feels a bit silly to me because there’s no way to write without drawing on your own knowledge and experiences, and also sometimes the story you want to tell takes you outside of what you know, so it’s more like “write what you know and research what you don’t.” Was there anything you had to research for this book? (Research in this case doesn’t have to be reading a book in a library or searching the Internet, it can also be asking family or visiting a coffee shop to use the décor as reference, etc.)
A: Write what you know is certainly true in my case. Why do you think I have lawyers as protagonists in my first two books? For The Rachel Experiment, I had to reach out to friends and do some research to get a handle on Rachel’s job and learn what exactly a financial analyst does. I also had a lawyer friend read Rachel to make sure the legal stuff was reasonably accurate and aspects of big law/firm culture. I am not a poker player, but I learned from watching a show that was on Bravo ages ago, Celebrity Poker Showdown and borrowed from it heavily. That’s the only reason why I know a flush beats a straight and why the characters played Texas Hold ‘Em—that was the form of poker the show used.
Q: For me as a writer, I found that the earliest protagonists I wrote were much more similar to me in terms of interests and personality, and then as I kept going I started branching out since I can’t write protagonists that are super similar to me forever since that would get a little repetitive. Do you feel like each book you write is taking you further out of your comfort zone? What do you see as growth for yourself as a writer, and what career goals do you have?
A: Every author’s goal is definitely to grow and improve with each book. With The Rachel Experiment, my editor had me dive deeper into the characters and who they were. I was afraid to lean in, but thanks to her, I took the plunge and I thank her for it because I definitely think my writing improved in this book. Or at least I hope it did! One thing that is obvious when you read my book is that I am a dialogue heavy writer. Writing growth for me is to focus on aspects of craft that don’t come as easily to me—grounding the characters more in the reader’s mind with descriptions: for example, making sure I describe the surroundings, etc. as much as I focus on the dialogue and banter. If I had my way, my characters would do nothing but talk, but that’s not the way things work. One thing my editor always reminds me is to make my characters’ goals and motivations clear so their actions match and make sense to the reader. I know what they are, so it makes sense to me, but it may not to the reader.
In terms of career goals, it’s important to keep in mind that publishing is a marathon, not a sprint so you always have to take the long view. One of the keys to longevity is building a backlist and those things take time. My goal is to build that backlist and grow my readership with each book. All of that takes time—like I said, marathon, not sprint! Eventually I would love to be able to write full time as a sustainable career.
Q: The third book in the From Sunset Park, With Love series, Bethany Meets Her Match, is coming out in October this year. Can you tease us a little about the story beyond what’s in the official synopsis? How is it connected to either of the previous two books?
A: The Bethany in Bethany Meets Her Match is the one and only Bethany Lee, the sister of Jeffrey Lee, the hero of The Year of Cecily. I loved Bethany the minute she appeared on the stage and knew at some point I’d have to write a book for her. It’s connected to Cecily in that she appeared in Cecily and Cecily and Jeffrey make cameos in Bethany. As for a teaser—there are dumpling contests, Bethany’s best friend is her next-door neighbor who has an adorable little guy who falls in love with Ethan, and a birthday party for Bethany’s Amah’s 75th birthday.
Purchase The Rachel Experiment:
About the Author
Lisa has been an avid romance reader and fan since she read her first Nora Roberts novel at the age of 13 after wandering the aisles of her local bookstore. Lisa loves that romance has the power to inspire, and believes that HEAs are for everyone.
Lisa writes light contemporary romantic comedies with a liberal dash of snark and banter. She enjoys delving into the complexity of Asian and immigrant family experiences, and celebrates female friendships in her trademark dry, witty style. As an Asian-American author writing own voices Asian American stories, Lisa hopes that her books will show the diversity of the Asian-American experience, and the importance of every reader being able to see themselves represented on the page.
Having grown up in Pennsylvania and helping out at her parents’ restaurant, Lisa has never bothered to learn to cook. She has two liberal arts undergraduate degrees and a J.D, and in her former life she was an intern, then Legislative Assistant for a PA State Representative. She also worked as a paralegal at a boutique law firm. Lisa is a politics junkie (don’t get her started on the wonder that is The West Wing!), indulges in naps whenever possible, and believes Netflixing in her pajamas and ordering take out qualifies as the perfect weekend. As a self-described Twitter addict, you can tweet her @laforesta1!
Thanks for reading this interview! If you’re enjoying my Taiwanese American Heritage Week posts and would like to show your appreciation by tossing a coin to your blogger, please consider donating that coin to Ren Kanoelani, a Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiian), Taiwanese, and Japanese friend who needs help with rent payments during this Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. Thanks!