Craving a new love story? We talk to Jane Lo about her debut novel, All I Ever Wanted, where a couple must face a battle between their own beliefs and parental and cultural expectations. We also hear how Jane channels her passion for writing Hong Kong stories, romance novels and more.
Where are you from and what do you miss about it?
I was born in Hong Kong, but my family moved to Vancouver shortly after my first birthday. What I miss most about Canada is the people! Both of my brothers and their families live in Canada, and it’s hard to not be able to see them very often.
How long have you lived in Hong Kong?
Over 20 years. It’s very much my home now, and has felt that way more than ever since getting married and starting a family here.
Give us a quick insight into your writing career up to now.
I’ve always loved writing but used to write more sporadically. It wasn’t until the pandemic in 2019 that I began writing more seriously, and started taking writing courses and working with a writing mentor. My debut romance novel, All I Ever Wanted, was published in April this year with Earnshaw Books.
Congratulations! Tell us why you wrote this love story and what you hope readers take away from it.
All I Ever Wanted features a young married couple in Hong Kong who are doing all they can to make things work, but not quite managing. Norah is a young Chinese ESL teacher with a Western perspective, who, despite her parents’ disapproval, marries Ben. He’s a budget photographer who still lives with his mother.
As a daughter-in-law in a traditional Chinese household, Norah struggles between being her true self and meeting her mother-in-law’s expectations. It isn’t until their baby’s safety is at risk that Norah and Ben must make a choice: sacrifice their own beliefs, or risk their family’s future?
All I Ever Wanted is my first romance novel. Xu Xi called it “a heartfelt Hong Kong love story” – and that is how I think of it, too. I love and am fascinated by Hong Kong, a city that is so vibrant and culturally diverse, and I wanted to write a story that couldn’t have happened anywhere else. That tension between meeting parental and cultural expectations and being our true selves, especially after becoming wives and mothers, is so common among women here.
What’s the most enjoyable thing about the writing experience for you? What about the biggest challenge?
I love writing realistic dialogue! Sometimes it takes lots of edits to get even one line exactly right, but I love being able to capture the tension, or the tenderness, of a conversation on a page. The biggest challenge is probably seeing a story all the way to the end! It’s hard to keep believing in a story over the course of a year – there are so many doubts along the way about, whether it’s a story that’s worth writing, and that people will connect with.
Do you have a set writing routine?
On busy days, I try to make sure I put in at least 25 minutes a day – and when I am able to, two to three rounds of 25 minutes. Using a focus timer really helps me stay on track. I always write at night, after the children are asleep.
What book or author have you enjoyed reading recently?
Heather Diamond’s Rabbit in the Moon is a memoir that I read recently and could not put down. I loved her descriptions and observations of Hong Kong and its people – it was like seeing and experiencing this city from an entirely new perspective.
Favourite book of all time?
Joyland by Stephen King. That’s one book I could read over and over. But if I were allowed to choose two, I would add my favourite memoir, The Year of Living Biblically by AJ Jacobs, to the list. It’s marvellous.
If you don’t write full-time, what’s your day job?
I’m a secondary school English teacher.
What do you like to do in Hong Kong when you’re not writing or working?
I love going to hotel buffets with my family! They’re such fun and so delicious. We also love exploring parts of the city we don’t know well; we live in Kowloon, so going to Gold Coast or Discovery Bay already feels a bit like travelling!
Got any new writing projects on the boil for 2023 and beyond?
Yes! I’m actually just finishing up my second novel right now, another love story. This one is partly set in Xiamen, Fujian. I think it’s very romantic. After this, I plan to write a sequel for All I Ever Wanted!
Where can people buy your debut book?
If you’re in Hong Kong, you can buy it at Bookazine! I love Bookazine – such beautiful bookshops and such lovely, friendly staff.
Interested in reading Jane’s romance novel? Along with Bookazine, All I Ever Wanted is available online at Amazon (Kindle only) and Barnes and Noble.
This article first appeared in the Summer 2023 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.