‘books that connect us’ sit down with lauren ho about her new book.
Lauren Ho is the author of current trending novel, Last Tang Standing. The Rom-Com has been described as Crazy Rich Asians meets Bridget Jone’s Diary where a thirty something leading lady tries to find the pursuit of happiness by opening herself up to the concept of ‘love’. Lauren Ho expresses the message that everyone should be the decision-makers in their own lives in a lovable, light-hearted style. Books That Connect Us, Penguin Random House Podcast, sits down to Lauren Ho to discuss her new book. Book Pub Review wants to fill you in with all the details!
Meet Andrea Tang. She’s 33 and living the dream. She has a successful career as a lawyer, a posh condo, and a clutch of fun-loving friends who are always in the know about Singapore’s hottest clubs and restaurants. Everything in her life is fabulous! But, her family have struck marital expectations on her following the traditions of a dutiful Chinese-Malaysian daughter figure. Her career have just opened up an opportunity to be able to make partner. Career driven, she is hungry for this opportunity so convinces herself she doesn’t need a man to fulfill her life.
Andrea battles the tension of her working environment against an annoyling attractive rival like Suersh Aditparan. Eric Deng, a wealthy entrepreneur, visions for their future to be more lavish than she could have imagined. Not mentioning her dramatic friends who bring their problems and dramas to her home for a shoulder to cry on. Andrea finds herself stretched to the breaking point.
Q: What inspired you to write it?
A: I’ve always wanted to be a novelist and have been writing some short stories for quite some time now. I have been trying to find a story that would resonate with me, enough for me to sit down and finish the entire novel. In 2017, I was moonlighting as an open mic comedian. The thought process about Andrea (a character in Last Tang Standing) just popped out at me. She’s facing a lot of the issues that people my age would be facing or as a woman. After scribbling some notes, I had the idea for a novel and just ran with it.
Q: You were a lawyer in a previous life, a comedian and now a novelist. It’s fascinating how people tend to take non-traditional career paths, especially for someone with so many expectations from their family. What provoked you to take these paths?
A: When I was writing the novel, I was working with some writers in Singapore in the humanitarian sector. During this time, I was writing more in general. It was helpful not being in the normal nine to five job so I was able to be in the right headspace. When working as a lawyer, I didn’t feel menatally able to start writing a novel in the evenings. [I think it’s safe to admit we all get this and being in lockdown has helped people’s creativity].
Q: Your main character is someone who is in their early thirties and has pressure to tick all the boxes a woman would want at that age. Do you feel some similarities to this?
A: I think we write what we know. There are definitely similarities or parallels that Andrea has going on in the book and I find some of these are things that are going on in my life. Andrea was inspired through my own experience, working in the corporate world and to transition out of it.
Q: Do you consider this a romance novel?
A: I think my book is considered a Rom-Com. In my mind, I thought it was more of a humorous novel overall. There are romantic plots but for me it’s not the main purpose of the novel as it tracks Andras inner happiness as a woman. It is a rom-com but it is for me as an author as more of a way a coming of age novel. There are some elements to the typical coming of age novel but she is trying to tell what it is like to follow a path. As the plot goes on, it makes her realise she is not on the path she want’s to take.
Q: I think we have a bunch of friends than can relate to these realisations in life. You think your on the right path then wake up and change it completely. Before the podcast started, we discussed your uniqueness as a writer. We normally hear about British or American authors who specialise in Rom-Coms. You offer such a different perspective than most. Can you tell us how that informed the book and everything around that?
A: I was asked this the other night but they asked how would I class my novel? Would it fall under a Singaporean novel? Or a Malaysian? The protagonist is Chinese-Malaysian. She is working in Singapore. Her awareness is that she is working as a migrant in Singapore. It’s not a classic Singaporean novel in that sense because most of the characters aren’t from that ethnical background. It is just people coming to a country working there and finding something about themselves. My background has been off of relocation. I’ve lived in three different countries. I think someone who just lived in different countries has shaped the way the novel is. I think anyone who has moved to another place to find a new professional and economic opportunities would appreciate the book and find parallels in their life with Andrea and her friends. Even if they aren’t familiar with the local culture. It would be easy to find something from the book to identify yourself with even if you have never been to the country or are familiar with the culture.
Q: I think Crazy Rich Asians has offered the vision to people about a way of life within Singapore. [We agree. It’s a fab movie!] I love your novel because it is a different experience to read a book from that culture. The insight that you give is so unique. I felt like it gives you a better idea on what it is like there or what the culture is like.
A: That’s an interesting observation. My book is not trying to be the everything of Singaporean culture. It’s really diverse. It depends on your background and your ethnical beliefs. I’m really proud to have bought in my perspective of a Malaysian-Chinese who lived in Singapore. A lot of people have said “it reminds me of Crazy Rich Asians” but that reminds me of a different social bubble compared to my characters. Of course my characters are wealthy but they are professionals and are not classed as uber rich compared to some characters in Kwan’s books. Some of them may have some family money but they’re trying to find their own life of the Singaporean dream. They’re trying to build identities apart from the family wealth so there are some differences. It is amazing that I have placed this before an international audience.
Q: How do you think novels like Last Tang Standing, Crazy Rich Asians and other titles will contribute to the global identity of cultures it represents?
A: The representation in rom-coms and contemporary literature is so important. I never would have dreamed that I would have been able to publish my novel with a huge publisher. I never really hear from successful authors writing a novel who have come from my background. Tash Aw, author of Five Star Billionaire, writes amazing books in literary fiction. I might never have thought to myself that I can do the same.
Q: So your a romance reader?
A: I watch a lot of movies and series in Romance. I am starting to read Romance. I know it’s such a huge genre but I am more of a Rom-Com reader side of the spectrum rather than hot and heavy reader (laughs).
Q: What are you reading right now?
A: We are currently in the pandemic so it’s a bit strange because I find myself reading a lot of thrillers. I have read psychological thrillers and anything heavy so I’ve started reading A Little Life. Paula Hawkins too. I don’t know what it says about me but I feel as though it makes the situation we are in a little lighter. I need to escape by reading by living in another world so it helps to take you mind off of things.
Q: What Rom-Coms have you been reading?
A: I read one of my fellow 2020 debuts called The White Coat Diaries by Madi Sinha. She wrote this amazing Grey’s Anatomy style Rom-Com. That’s the most recent one I’ve read.
Q: There are few women who have become novelists after being a Lawyer. What is it that attracts women to write a novel who have previously worked in the profession?
A: Maybe because sometimes the work can be quite tedious. You start to fantasise about other things. From there it might trigger some inspiration. I’m not really sure. I’m glad to be an inspiration for other people who are trying to make it from my side of the world or even someone who was in a profession and do change their mind. I’m glad I took the risk because now I am published.
You can buy Last Tang Standing in any bookstore or online now! We will post a review when we have read it but from what we know, it sounds like a good Summer Read so may feature on our August list.