There is nothing we enjoy more than discovering hidden gems to read that cover important topics. Given that our tutors and families at Teachers on Call come from diverse backgrounds, it’s no surprise that we believe deeply in representation in literature. There is something special when readers of all ages can relate to their favourite books on a personal level. Through our Hooked on Books series, we spotlight and celebrate Canadian authors who create stories with a variety of characters and themes. We especially love when the plot unfolds in our very own country. While this is becoming more prevalent in children’s picture and chapter books, on the adult fiction front it’s still a bit of a book hunt. This is why our president, Joanne Sallay, was thrilled to discover Toronto novelist, Lily Chu, thanks to a Teachers on Call parent who gifted her the debut title, The Stand-In. After reading her latest rom-com, Joanne was thrilled to interview Lily Chu about The Comeback, with famous Toronto landmarks, new hotspots, and an introduction to Korean popular music (K-pop), all experienced through the eyes of strong Asian Canadian characters. Read on to learn more!
It’s no secret that we love recommending interesting books to read and starting family book clubs. After all, our in-person and online tutoring team is comprised of certified teachers whose professional mission is to help students advance in reading. On a personal level, we also deeply believe in the importance of cultivating a love and curiosity of books beyond the classroom. We understand that it’s not always easy to motivate students to pick up a book on their own, which is why we’re also big believers in grown-ups setting positive examples by being reading role models. What better way to do this than having parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles curling up with a good book. In our latest Hooked on Books interview, our chief bookworm, Joanne Sallay, connects with Toronto’s very own, Lily Chu, about her second rom-com for adult readers. Read on to discover behind-the-scenes inspiration, sneaks peeks, and the location of a very cool independent bookstore in the Bloor and Dufferin neighbourhood that we can’t wait to visit!
An Interview with Lily Chu
Tell us about your newest title The Comeback.
The Comeback is about what happens when ambitious lawyer Ari Hui falls for the incredibly attractive man who is crashing at her apartment and then finds out he’s not there to recover from a break-up, but is taking a break from being a mega world-famous K-pop idol. It’s a fun hidden relationship celebrity rom-com that also addresses issues of parental expectations, sisterhood, friendship, and discovering your own path.
In a previous interview with CBC Books, you discussed your desire to see more representation in the rom-com genre which inspired your strong Asian protagonists and secondary characters. Which books and authors have influenced your journey along the way?
There’s still a lot to be done, but over the years, it’s been incredible to see the changes in the books available for people to read. Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan was a big influence because, first, I loved the book, and second, seeing there was space for these kinds of stories was inspiring. Jackie Lau, who is also from Toronto, is one of the first rom-com authors I remember reading with Asian and biracial characters, which I thought was fantastic.
Your novels read as both a guide and love letter to Toronto referencing known locations such as Queen Street West, Bloor Street and Yorkville, Bay Street and the Financial District, as well as hidden gems like Graffiti Alley. Intriguing locations are also described, the used bookstore with an eclectic collection and the cool bar with the vinyl records décor. Are the nameless hotspots based on real life destinations?
Some are! I like to mix up locations between places that exist, and those that I wish existed. The used bookstore is the Monkey’s Paw, on Bloor Street (1067 Bloor St W, Toronto, ON M6H 1M5). I like to browse the books there, and they really do have a Biblio-mat machine in the back. The record bar isn’t based on a place in the city but an article I read about vinyl bars in Seoul. I recently saw a blog post that said Toronto was getting one, which is cool. I did a series called Ari’s Toronto on my Instagram to point out some of the places in Toronto that are in the book, and I’m working on a fun general travel guide to the city for readers.
Living in Toronto, do you have a favourite reading and writing nook?
Bars and cafes. I love almost any bar or café. There’s a place called 915 Dupont (915 Dupont St, Toronto, ON M6H 1Z1) that I like for the ambiance and great drinks. I don’t have a particular go-to, but I like patios with shade and good people-watching for when I need distraction, and bars that are dark and cozy so I can eavesdrop.
Congratulations on your numerous awards including Audible’s Best, Amazon and Target Book of the Month and more. As a relatively newer author hitting the scene in 2021, what does this recognition mean to you personally?
It’s incredible. Writing can be very isolating, so seeing that people enjoy your work is a wonderful feeling.
Both The Stand-In and the The Comeback feel like great contenders for page-to-screen adaptations. Are there any plans in the works?
I would love to see them both on the screen! Filmmakers should give me a call.
Given that we have many young readers in the Teachers on Call community, if you were to pair a YA book with your work, what would it be?
For the K-pop lovers, I’d pair The Comeback with XOXO by Axie Oh, and Idol Gossip by Alexandra Leigh Young.
Your website hints at new books coming out. Are you able to share any sneak peeks for us?
My next book, The Takedown, is a rom-com about a diversity consultant who takes on a gig in luxury fashion and finds herself embroiled in some corporate drama. It will be out in audio through Audible on November 2, and then in print in spring 2024. The cover reveal is soon, so follow my newsletter to get a sneak peek! I’m working on some other books as well, and you can read about them on my website.
If you love this recommendation, check out our previous blog, hold onto summer a little longer with family book club. Our feature book showcases another Toronto author we admire, Carley Fortune, whose latest novel, Meet Me at the Lake, is being adapted by Netflix along with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. We would love nothing more than to see the same for Lily Chu with a page to screen adaptation!
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