Bruce Symaka from Prairie Books NOW interviewed me on some frequently asked questions about Belinda's Rings. If you're curious about the theme of crop circles or the novel's open ending, you might find this interesting!
Bruce Symaka: A mother-daughter relationship is at the heart of your novel. What interested you about that kind of relationship?
Corinna Chong: I’m fascinated by the complex role of the mother. Mothers are often viewed by their children as everything and nothing at the same time – primary caregivers, protectors, and beacons of strength, but also subservient to their domestic duties – which puts them in a position to be both admired and loathed by their daughters, who see their mothers as future versions of themselves. But my interest in mother-daughter relationships also stems from my personal experience. I feel that who I am today has been shaped largely by my relationship with my mother, which continues to evolve in unpredictable, mystifying ways. As I grow older, it seems that the image of my mother in my memories is shifting. Just before I wrote the novel, I saw a long-lost home video from my childhood. The video is aimed to capture us – the kids – but my mother appears very briefly, looking into the lens of the camera and through to my father’s eyes. I saw a profound sadness there that I had never recognized as a child. The hidden piece of my mother that I had glimpsed in those few seconds was part of the inspiration for exploring Belinda’s perspective.
Interested in hearing more about the process of writing Belinda's Rings? You can listen to my podcast interview with NeWest Press's GM, Paul Matwychuk, on iTunes. (Click on Episode #25.)
I've been asked by my wonderfully talented friends and colleagues, Francie Greenslade, Sean Johnston, and Alix Hawley, to participate in this writer-propelled blog tour that involves answering questions about my "next big thing." For me, that would be my novel, Belinda's Rings. Here goes.
Where did the idea come from for the book?
The novel began with a single sentence: "Squid's got three mothers who can't spank him." I built the characters and conflict off of this sentence, and, remarkably, it remained the first line of the novel all the way through to the final draft.
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
It would be important to me that the characters of Grace and Jess be authentically half-Chinese (not Filipino or Hawaiian, as people often mistake us for), but I don't know of any teenaged half-Chinese actors! In a perfect world, Belinda could be played by Meryl Streep. I'd give Wiley to Jim Carrey, as long as he'd promise not to overdo it. As for Dazhong ... can Jackie Chan be a bit less goofy? (But seriously, there aren't many well-known Chinese actors to choose from.)
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Belinda's Rings is about a smart-alecky teenaged girl named Grace whose family must struggle to keep it together when her mother, Belinda, abruptly flies off to study crop circles in the English countryside.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Neither. It will be published by NeWest Press.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
About a year. I was lucky enough to have a full year to devote almost entirely to writing the novel.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Miriam Toews's A Complicated Kindness comes to mind first.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I wanted to find a way to talk in the space of a one story about many of my disparate interests: multhiethnic identity, adolescent girls, motherhood, food and eating, fanatics of paranormal activity, and deep sea creatures. Call me economical. Of course, I was also inspired by my own wacky family, which I had the pleasure of making a whole lot wackier in the novel.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
If crop circles and giant squid aren't enough, perhaps I can tempt you with the promise of a UFO sighting and the murder of a newt?
I'm passing the torch to my other writer-friends. Please check out their blogs/pages for details on their upcoming books: