What a dreary week it’s been for me. I caught the flu last Thursday (the worst possible kind, with body aches and zero energy), which kept me holed up bed for three days straight. It also rained nonstop during that time, a downpour of almost Biblical proportions that ended up flooding my favorite trails in the wetlands park nearby. And on Monday, just when I thought I was getting over the flu, I lost my voice completely. That’s right, I can’t talk a single word! That led to a trip to the hospital with a rather unpleasant experience of having a doctor shove a rod with a camera on it into my throat (everything is fine – just need to take some medicine and finish a round of vapor therapy). Oh, and did I mention that the blissful summery temperatures we were enjoying last week have dipped back into wintery territory once again?
Yep, that kind of week.
It’s times like this when I turn to a good story for a little escape – the chance to slip into another world and forget about my troubles for a while. Especially if it’s an easy, breezy love story like The Reluctant Brides of Lily Court Lane, which reads like one of my favorite romantic comedies on the screen.
Susan Chan, along with her co-author Carol Polakoff, have woven together a delightfully relaxing romance novel with many different interwoven love stories set in San Diego, California (almost like the movie “Love, Actually”). Even better, one of those love stories is about a young AMWF couple (I think it’s the best in the novel!). Given that Susan’s husband is Chinese, I’m not surprised she’d want to share a story reflecting her own experiences. The book also draws upon her Jewish heritage with a story about a Holocaust survivor and the mystery of a missing family painting.
This is a perfect book for the beach, travel, or (if you’re like me) a little escape from the ordinary.
I’m honored to introduce you to Susan Chan and The Reluctant Brides of Lily Court Lane through this interview.
Susan was born to immigrant parents, grew up in New York City, and attended local public schools. After graduating from the High School of Music and Art as an art major, she earned her Bachelor’s degree from the City College of New York and a Master’s from New York University. She taught high school Social Studies for a number of years and then changed career paths. She obtained her Masters and Professional Diploma in Guidance and Counseling from Fordham University and became a high school guidance counselor.
She has been married to her husband Jay for 44 years and blessed with two children and one grandson (as of now). As an interracial couple they faced many challenges but their marriage has lasted because they have been guided by two principles – don’t sweat the small stuff and don’t go to sleep mad.
Susan has also shared a story on this blog titled My daughter said, “I’m American, I’m Jewish and I’m Chinese.”
I asked Susan about how she came up with the AMWF couple in the story, her motivation for writing about a Jewish Holocaust survivor, and what it was like dating her husband in the 1960s.
What inspired you and your partner to come up with this idea of a community at Lily Court Lane with all of these interwoven romance stories?
I’m a collector of stories. I seem to have a personality that encourages others to confide in me or at the very least share their stories. My mother had the same quality and she’d laugh when she said I seem to wear a sign across my chest saying tell me your problems. I guess that’s also what caused me to enter my chosen profession as a high school guidance counselor. The reason I mention this is because the stories in the book are based on events which happened to people I know. That’s why they have the ring of truth about them.
As you can imagine, my favorite couple in the story is Ming, a Chinese-American guy who works at the coffee shop in the community, and Cindy, a “wild child” kind of woman with purple-dyed hair and a nose ring who helps at the local bakery. Could you talk about how you came up with these characters and their storyline?
Ming and Cindy are the interracial couple I wish my husband and I could have been. While true that his mother opposes Cindy at first because she’s not Chinese, she comes to accept her and eventually love her like a daughter. I never had that opportunity as my husband’s mother died when he was very young and his family never really reconciled themselves to our marriage. Cindy’s neighbors view her relationship with Ming as “normal” and never interfere. Everyone, including strangers, felt they had the right to express their opposition to my marriage. I was even asked at work if I really wanted to change my last name to my married name. Most people tend to focus on the outward differences in a person such as the shape of an eye, the texture of hair.
There’s also a very fascinating story woven throughout the book about a Jewish woman whose family lost a rather valuable painting during World War II. Could you talk about what motivated you to put this into the story?
My father never really wanted to talk about his family. I guess he experienced survivor’s guilt. He was the only one in his family to survive the Holocaust because he’d immigrated to America. I grew up knowing about the Holocaust, which not everyone today learns about, but millions of deaths cannot be easily grasped. When as a youngster I read “The Diary of Anne Frank,” it became clear how the story of one person can affect a multitude. Usually the Holocaust is reduced to numbers; I wanted to put a human face on it.
What do you hope people come away with from reading this novel?
First and foremost, that they spent a pleasant few hours reading about people they’d like to be friends with. Corny though it sounds, I believe human beings, whatever their differences, have one thing in common – the need for love. I wanted to give my readers an opportunity to escape to a world filled with love and happy endings – as can be found on Lily Court Lane, a fictional street in sunny San Diego CA.
What are you working on next?
I’m working on Book 2 in the series-The Women of Lily Court Lane. The working title of the book is “Lies of Omission.” The reader will learn how Cindy is unexpectedly united with her birth family, Dallas resolves her problems with Simon and Carolee seems to find love with a handsome man she meets on the beach. There’s been such a positive and encouraging response to Cindy’s romance with Ming that I plan to delve more deeply into his cultural background.
Interracial and cross cultural couples were pretty rare when you and your husband were dating or first married. Did you happen to meet any others back then?
No, never. Back in the day (the 1960’s-70’s), interracial couples were usually Asian women with white men who were most often military men bringing home a bride from their deployment. Although it wasn’t favored by the general population, it was more or less accepted. But it was not at all accepted for white women.