“Never doubt that you are valuable and powerful.”
Representation matters to me. I grew up and have lived in multicultural environments all my life. My family (and that includes my friends) is multicultural and multi-ethnic. My household is trilingual. My partner, most of our friends, and I are immigrants. These experiences inspire the stories I write and the characters I create. Like my author friend Sin Kist said, “Everyone in every part of the world deserves a love story they can identify with.” As a sociologist, I’m also a keen observer of human behavior and social interactions. The rebel child inside me not only wants to entertain people but also make them think—hopefully in a way that’s fun, and not preachy.
Around the time I was ten years old (1995), I resolved to always make an effort to highlight and amplify diverse voices. My presentation subjects in school and college, the artwork I created, the organizations I worked for, the places I lived, the books I read, and the people I surround myself with—this resolve has shaped my whole life. But “making an effort” is the important part here. Even someone like me who has been doing this for over two decades doesn’t get it right 100% of the time. Open-mindedness and prejudice aren’t mutually exclusive. I didn’t fully realize that until I was in my late twenties, but once I did, it became the premise of my novel, Beneath Your Beautiful.
Because I’ve suffered from epilepsy as a child, I’m supporting CURE (Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy). I’m always open to conversations that help eradicate the stigma against people with epilepsy, which is also why epilepsy makes a cameo in my first three books.
Epilepsy is one of the many difficult-to-talk-about reasons I became interested in helping orphans and foster children. Casa de Esperanza, the fictional former orphanage and charitable foundation that is one of the settings in my Rebels Like Us family saga, is actually the organization of my dreams, which I’m slowly bringing to life.
When my former client-turned-friend marketing expert Leah Hall suggested that I should become a book coach, I spluttered, “Me? Teaching other people?” — “Yes, you, author of four novels!” — “But I’m not a native English speaker, nor a New York Times bestselling author [yet].” Despite my many excuses, Leah managed to coax me into creating an online course based on my growing Facebook writers group. Write Your First Draft officially launched in December 2020. Turns out I really enjoy teaching. What better way to amplify diverse voices than to help authors from diverse backgrounds and marginalized groups finish their manuscripts so we get to hear their voices?
Even though I was an A- student, I hardly ever enjoyed school and usually tried to get out of it. When I graduated, I soon learned that I was utterly unprepared for adult life. I want to fill that gap and create a platform where people can learn the subjects I wish they had taught me in school. The project is currently in the development phase and will serve as a resource base until I can recruit the teachers to record the video lessons.