Sher Lee writes rom-coms and fantasy novels for teens. Fake Dates and Mooncakes is her debut. Like the main character, she has made mooncakes with her favorite aunt and has an abiding love for local street food (including an incredible weakness for Xiao Long Bao). She lives in Singapore with her husband and two adorable corgis, Spade and Clover.
I had the opportunity to interview Sher, which you can read below.
First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?
Hi! I’m Sher, and I write rom-coms and fantasy novels for teens. I live in Singapore and have an abiding love for local street food. Fake Dates and Mooncakes is my debut novel, and I also have two YA fantasy novels in the pipeline.
What can you tell us about your debut book, Fake Dates and Mooncakes? What was the inspiration for this book?
Dylan wants to win the Mid-Autumn mooncake-making contest in his mom’s memory—they had wanted to enter the contest together—as well as to bring much-needed publicity to his aunt’s struggling Singaporean Chinese takeout, Wok Warriors. Dylan hasn’t had much luck in love, nor has he had much time for it, as he’s busy with senior year and helping to deliver food—which is how he meets Theo.
Theo’s the boy with the wealthy, absent dad, and he has everything he could ask for. He and Dylan come from completely different backgrounds, but he’s attracted to Dylan’s down-to-earth personality and self-deprecating manner. He asks Dylan to be his fake date to a glitzy family wedding in the Hamptons, where Crazy Rich Asians-style hijinks ensue!
The Mid-Autumn Festival is celebrated on the fifteenth day of the eighth lunar month, and it’s a cherished part of my childhood. I have fond memories of walking around with lanterns under the full moon as a kid and, when I was older, making snow-skin mooncakes with my favorite aunt. The festival also celebrates love and families, and the full moon is a symbol of reunion. These are all major themes in the book, along with coping with loss and finding love in unexpected places and against the odds. Opposites attract, and even though the boys’ worlds are sun-and-moon apart, eclipses happen every now and then!
Food seems to be a particularly important element of this book. How would you describe your own connection to food and how that might affect your creativity?
One recurring comment from readers has been: don’t read this when you’re hungry! “Clearly the universal love language is food,” Theo’s aunt remarks in the novel, and food is a big part of this story. All the major events invariably take place around food—from the first time Theo and Dylan meet when Dylan delivers a wrong order to Theo’s friend’s apartment, to Dylan’s determination to re-create his grandma’s lost mooncake recipe that has been passed down for generations.
As my author bio confesses, I have an abiding love for local street food, including an incredible weakness for xiao long bao. Dylan’s aunt’s takeout, Wok Warriors, also sells all the local dishes I love: chye tow kway (fried radish and egg pancake), satay, fried Hokkien prawn mee, stir-fried egg fried rice, and more!
As a writer, what drew you to the art of storytelling, specifically young adult fiction and romance?
I was a mentee in Pitch Wars 2017, which was my first serious step toward traditionally publishing my stories. I love writing YA fiction because it’s about firsts and discoveries, be it first love, first heartbreak, or first attempt to save the world. And I gravitate toward stories with a strong romantic plot, so writing a rom-com was a natural choice! I am also a huge fan of YA fantasies, which is why my next two books are fantasy novels.
How would you describe your writing process?
I nearly always need to have the major beats and the end of the story plotted out before I can start drafting. But the journey—how the characters make their way through the challenges—is a discovery during the drafting process and often includes some unexpected detours. In short, Act 1 and Act 3 usually turn out according to plan but Act 2 is an adventure.
Growing up, were there any stories in which you felt touched by/ or reflected in? Are there any like that now?
As a teenager in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, there wasn’t a great deal of diverse children’s fiction. Gladly, the landscape of children’s literature has taken a positive turn in terms of inclusivity—diverse readers of different races can see themselves reflected in popular stories, and New York Times bestsellers include more diverse authors than before.
As a writer, who or what would you say are some of your greatest creative influences and/or sources of inspiration in general?
Although I love to read, my primary source of inspiration is TV shows! I just love being immersed in the serialized format of episodic TV, binge-watching season after season of each new show that I fall in love and become obsessed with. I also watch shows in different languages, and recent favorites include: The Umbrella Academy, Shadow and Bone, Heartstopper, Word of Honor (Chinese), Alchemy of Souls (Korean).
What are some of your favorite elements of writing? What do you consider some of the most frustrating and/or challenging?
As masochistic as this may sound, my favorite part of writing is revisions! There is something magical and thoroughly fulfilling about watching the draft take shape, deepen, and grow with each revision. The most challenging part of writing for me is drafting—a blank page is daunting, and I am a rather slow writer. Some authors can write 3,000 to 5,000 words a day, but a more modest goal for me is a thousand words—and sometimes I don’t even manage that!
Aside from writing, what are some things you would want others to know about you?
My husband and I have two adorable corgis, Spade and Clover (yes, I always wanted to name my pet corgi Clover, which is why Dylan’s trusted corgi confidant is also named Clover!)
What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet but that you wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?
No one has asked about my dream adaptation of Fake Dates and Mooncakes, and my answer is: a Netflix movie! I think that a streaming platform has more reach than a theater release, especially for rom-coms, and it would be an absolute dream come true if Netflix acquired rights and produced Fake Dates and Mooncakes!
What advice might you have to give for aspiring writers?
Don’t chase trends, because they rise and fade fast. Write what you love, what you want to read, and can’t find on shelves. The authenticity will naturally shine through.
Social media has become increasingly important for authors, published and unpublished, to get noticed—but don’t push yourself to engage or participate at the expense of your mental health.
Are there any other projects you are working on and at liberty to speak about?
I have two YA fantasy novels coming up! The first, Legend of the White Snake, is coming out in Summer 2024 from Quill Tree, an imprint of HarperCollins. It’s a gender-flipped reimagining of one of China’s four famous folktales, in which a teen boy must hide his true identity as a white snake spirit when he falls in love with a prince hunting for a white snake for the antidote to cure his dying mother. It has the xianxia vibes of A Magic Steeped in Poison by Judy I. Lin and the queer romance of Dark Rise by C.S. Pacat (who’s also published by Quill Tree!)
We’ve also sold UK and Commonwealth rights to Macmillan Children’s as well as Italian, Spanish, and Russian translation rights. I’m so thrilled to have the chance to continue bringing stories with authentic aspects of my heritage to readers.
Finally, what LGBTQ+ books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?
I love THE CHARM OFFENSIVE by Alison Cochrun, an amazing author I admire, who also gave a wonderful blurb for Fake Dates and Mooncakes!
WHAT IF IT’S US by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera is one of my favorite YA rom-coms, with an adorable accidental meet-cute. It’s also set in New York City. Don’t forget to check out Becky’s latest book, IMOGEN, OBVIOUSLY!
I also really enjoyed SPELL BOUND by FT Lukens, as well as her earlier novels, IN DEEPER WATERS and SO THIS IS EVER AFTER.
TEACH THE TORCHES TO BURN by Caleb Roehrig is the queer Romeo+Juliet remix I never knew I needed!
Find Sher on social media:
Preorder links: https://sherleeauthor.carrd.co/