The Writing Life of: Lisa Wee
This week I am thrilled to be interviewing author Lisa Wee, who will be sharing with us details of her writing life, telling us all about her new book ‘Li Na is my Name‘, which was released today, 31st March 2022 and answering a few fun questions. This post contains affiliate links.
Lisa Wee debuts as author/illustrator, “Li Na is my name, Dixi Books Publishing, UK.
Lisa has illustrated several picture books for prominent organisations and self-published authors. Her quaint, quirky and vibrant illustrations are inclusive, embracing diversity in celebrating the lives of children from all walks of life.
Her clients include:
1) Celebrity Top Chef Kristen Kish in collaboration with Upwork.
2) Babybug magazine
3) Ladybug magazine
4) World Vision International, International Day of the Girls campaign 2021
She is the winner of the CYA All Stars Illustration Award 2021, judged by editors and designers from Scholastic Australia. Furthermore, she was awarded the Bronze for the JIA (Japan Illustrators’ Association) Illustration Award 2020.
1) Did you enjoy writing when you were a child?
I was not much of a word person when I was kid. I spend a lot of time drawing and painting. I had trouble reading when I was young. Somehow the words never seem to stay with me. But through a lot of encouragement from my grandparents, I found myself in love with reading. That fueled my love for children’s books. I never stopped loving art. That is why I choose to work primarily with children’s books. It was not until I started working with fabulous authors that I started to have the urge to write.
2) Which author shaped your childhood?
Rudyard Kipling was one author that always held my imagination. Jungle book was the go to book that I would read over and over again. The fear of snakes never left me.
3) What motivated you to begin your first novel?
It was a small incident when a friend’s daughter came back from school upset because there was no football team for her to play. She said something that hit me.
“Why do we classify activities as boys’ and girls’?” I was called a tomboy when I was a kid for climbing trees and playing sports. It prompted me to write “Li Na is my name”
4) Do you plot your book, or are you a pantser?
Yes, that is the fun part of writing where I plot the most visual of the worst scenarios of people teasing Li Na and contrasting it with the actual reason of her activity. This contrast allows the audience to see clearly the character of Li Na as opposed to her neighbour and friends seeing the thing or clothing she wears.
5) What is your average writing day?
That depends. Writing picture books allows me to visualize the scene and feel the story. So I spend a lot of time daydreaming about the world my character inhabits and the kind of person they are. So it can be as little as nothing to write a full story in a day and edit and some more editing until I am happy with it.
6) What is the best thing about being an author?
My characters are always better than me. They are sharp witted and daring. Many of them have a mind of their own and are not afraid to speak up. They are friends or sisters I wish I had to advice me when I was young.
Publisher – Dixi Books (UK)
Pages – 32
Release Date – 31st March 2022
ISBN 13 – 978-1913680374
Format – Paperback
Do you get teased by others for being a weirdo, a geek, a nerd or a bookworm? Friends, families and neighbours around Li-Na felt it was affectionate to tease her for her not-so-girly hobbies and clothing.
Li-Na is about a little girl who refused to be stereotyped. It is a story that encourages kids to be kids until they are ready to be who they want to be.
Li Na Is My Name is a book that is as relevant then as it is now. Wishing Li Na’s spirit, grit and resilience to all children. Love the way she stays true to herself. Let’s spread this so all children love themselves for just who they are.
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7) How did you go about researching the content for your book?
I spent countless hours researching gender stereotypes. But I knew it had to have some professionals to view the picture book. So I asked Dr Daksha Hirani to read and review the picture book for me when I finished the manuscript. To have her writing the foreword for Li Na is my name was a tremendous privilege.
8) How long did it take to go from the ideas stage to writing the last word?
Two years and a lot of self doubting. Most of my writing has been in the works for more than a year before I even think of finalising it.
9) What made you choose the genre you write in?
I am a Peranakan which is a blended culture of Chinese and Malay. I have worked in Kenya as an art teacher for 12 years. I felt strongly that representation matters. I choose to write children’s books with a minority main character in mind. The best thing about a minority main character is that we can have similar experiences and passion yet have a unique cultural perspective.
10) How did you come up with the name(s) for your lead character(s)?
Li Na meant elegant but there is nothing elegant about Li Na.
11) Can you give us an insight into your characters?
Li Na is someone who you love to have as a friend because she is unafraid to use her talent to stand up for you and she will bring you along to stand up for yourself.
12) How did you feel when you had completed your book?
A sense of fear. I felt I had to share Li Na with the world who may not judge her kindly.
1) Do you have a favourite quote?
Don’t worry about what others are doing. Do you!
2) Do you have any pets?
No, but I want to. I lived in a small apartment and felt it is not right to have a dog.
3) What are you currently reading?
The wonderful things you will be by Emily Winfield Martin,
The Day you begin by Jacqueline Woodson
Katie Woo series (just started)
A hug for me holding me by Lisa Wheeler,
Tomatoes for Angela by Padma Lakshmi
And a few more
4) Your book has been made into a movie, you’ve been offered a cameo role, what will you be doing?
I will be the next door neighbour whose cat is hanging on the tree. Li Na and family are helping me when a teasing happens.
5) If you could travel to a fictional world from any book for the day, which would you choose?
Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear. I love the story of how a sister can be the sunshine when you are feeling like the rain or the wolf.
6) There’s a penguin sitting in your chair, what’s the first thing he says to you?
‘Gee, it is hot in Singapore. I must be in a wrong story. Want to join me to find that story.’
A big thank you to Lisa Wee for sharing her writing life with us and a wonderful interview.