Author Interview With Belinda Lei

We are officially on our last author interview of the weekend! I am actually kind of sad to say this. I had so much fun interviewing these authors and I really hope to find some more authors to interview here soon! Comment your favorite author down below and maybe, just maybe, they can be my next interview!

I met Belinda on bookstagram at the beginning of 2021 and we had an instant connection! She is so sweet and caring and extremely passionate about her book and so many other important topics.

This is the last author interview for my giveaway coming up on October 8th! I want to thank everyone who has read these interviews but most importantly I want to thank the authors for creating these amazing books for us to read and participating in my giveaway.

About The Author

Belinda is a managing director of an anti bullying campaign called Act to Change and she also takes a stand for AAPI Hate.

She is a lover of all genres from thriller to fantasy. However her book is a Young Adult novel filled with drama, tears and laughter. This book will take you back to your high school years and spark some memories!

She has a lot of accomplishments under her belt including being a Yale MBA candidate, proud Georgetown Hoya, software engineer, and a former strategy consultant.

Find this information and more on her website and check out her anti bullying campaign as well.

“Not That Rich” Quick Synopsis

Enter a world of a handful of Private High School students born into rich families with extreme expectations. Will they get into their desired colleges? Will they find love in their relationships? ? Who is “The Stranger”? But most importantly does being rich really make you happy? 

This dramatic and mysterious novel will leave you speechless as it takes you through every twist and turn but will also have you feeling sympathy for their misfortunes. Maybe being rich isn’t all that it is cracked up to be.

Interview

Q: Please introduce yourself and your book.

A: Hi everyone! My name is Belinda and I’m the author of a YA novel called Not THAT Rich where Gossip Girl meets Crazy Rich Asians. By writing Not THAT Rich, I wanted to present a set of fun (and dramatic!) experiences that also exposed young adult readers to a cast of characters that reflected my world growing up – one that reflected the ethnic suburban enclaves that were part of my world. My hope for the book is that it emphasizes the diversity of Asian American culture, but also offers up the common challenges that teenagers all experience today – educational and familial pressures, identity struggles, and peer pressure. Outside of wearing an author hat, I also work as a product manager and Managing Director of Act To Change, a non-profit that supports bullying prevention and AAPI youth.

Thoughts: You really do wear a lot of hats! I think you are definitely making a difference with your book and your non-profit Act to Change. I took the pledge to help stop bullying and to create awareness, will you? Go to Act to Change to take the pledge today.

Q:  How old were you when you first started writing?

A: As early as I can remember! I used to scribble in anything that I could get my hands on. I was a terrible speller and my writing looked like chicken scratches though up until middle school (actually who am I kidding this probably still applies today).

Thoughts: This is way too relatable, yikes! My handwriting is illegible and you can ask any of my family members how my spelling is and they would just laugh.

Q: How did you come up with the title of your book?

A:  Not THAT Rich actually went through so many title iterations before landing on its current name. Originally, it was going to be called SGV as a nod to the area that Winchester High is located in, but I felt like it would be too confusing. Then, I thought about something sarcastic since it’s a fun little novel after all and came up with Not THAT Rich because it’s like, yes, everyone is rich in the book, but what does being “rich” really mean?

Thoughts: I personally love “Not That Rich” it really is the perfect title to the book. However, it is very cool to read that it went through a change.

Q: What is your writing process like? How do you get in the Zone?

A: I’m definitely a night time writer because that’s what I get into the true “zone.” That being said, I get writing inspiration all throughout the day so I like to use my phone’s notes app to jot down random scenes that may come up. I also don’t necessarily write chronologically. I first wrote scenes out of order and it wasn’t until I was halfway through that I began stringing a timeline of events together.

Thoughts: I have heard a lot of people having success with writing random notes down as they get them. I also really like how you are able to piece these scenes together later on, your brain has power!

Q: Do you have any friends that are authors? If so, do you guys bounce ideas off each other?

A: Yes! Maulik Pancholy who is the author of THE BEST AT IT is a good friend and absolutely incredible writer. He had so much belief in me from the beginning and his words of encouragement meant the world. We also manage Act To Change together along with the other incredible co-founders and managing directors, Jill Yu and Rebecca Lee.

Thoughts: So I am so bad at remembering names but when I did a google search for Maulik I couldn’t believe what came up! He is Baljeet in Phineas and Ferb! I might just be a tad bit jealous of you. Also I had no clue he wrote a book, I will need to look into this one for sure.

Q: Did you base any of your characters off of people in your life?

A: Yes and no! As a fictional story, Not THAT Rich is clearly dramatized, but all the character struggles, interests, backgrounds were based on real-life people, experiences and settings from my childhood growing up in the suburbs of Los Angeles.

Thoughts: I love that you based it off of some of your experiences from your childhood. I feel that it puts more meaning behind the book.

Q: What was the hardest part about writing your book?

A:  The most challenging part was making sure that I was capturing all the perspectives from my character identities. I have a gay biracial character and as someone who doesn’t identify that way, I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t stereotyping him and truly representing his story. I wanted a very diverse cast, but the last thing I want is to tokenize anyone’s identity. Luckily I have a lot of friends and people who do identify in those ways who would give me advice. Ultimately I can’t fully capture everyone’s experiences, but hopefully I’ve been able to capture at least slivers that will help different types of people feel a little less alone.

Thoughts: I love that you have a support system of people who are so willing to help you. I feel that you did an amazing job in representing all of your characters and that you did really good research when it came to characters you didn’t identify as.

Q: Do you read book reviews? How do you handle the bad vs good reviews?

A: As a new author, I make an effort to read all my reviews – both the good and the bad. I think reviews are helpful for improving my writing skills and also the book publishing process in general. While some reviews can be pretty cruel at times, I try to think of it all as constructive feedback with a grain of salt versus letting it bring me down.

Thoughts. I think this is the best way anyone can view reviews. Take them as they come and turn them into positive reinforcement.

Q:  Do you believe in writer’s block? If so, how do you overcome it?

A: 100%. My go to strategy is to go to a new location – it could be a coffee shop nearby or even a new room. A change of scenery helps my brain get jogging with new ideas!

Q: What advice would you give to your younger self now that you have written and published a book?

A: Anything is Possible!

Q: Do you have any pets?

A:  OMG. Meet Tyrion (the beagle named after Tyrion Lannister) and Pishi (means “Cat” in Farsi). They’re both my wonderful adopted fur babies! Follow me on TikTok @blei_writes if you want some videos of them.

I will post a link to her tiktok at the end as well.

Q: Did you always want to be an Author? What was your dream job as a child?

A: I honestly never thought I’d ever be an author one day as a kid. I’ve always loved reading and writing, but I never imagined that I could create a whole book beyond lengthy college essays. As a kid, all I wanted to be was a vet or zoologist because I loved animals. Ironically, I’m not even close to that now that I’m all grown up!

Thoughts: It is pretty funny how when we grow up we change so drastically compared to what we thought we would be as a child.

Q: Who is your favorite character that you have written so far and why?

A:  I hate to pick a favorite, but I really enjoyed writing about Pamela. She initially was going to be more of a secondary character, like “Trisha’s bff”, but as I wrote about her more and more I realized that not giving her a full storyline wouldn’t do her justice. Her rebellious personality and unapologetic attitude about who she is represents the part of me that I wish I was more like in high school.

Q: Do you have any inside jokes or hidden secrets in your books that only a select few people might catch onto?

A: Yes! Since I started my book as an Indiegogo campaign, I actually snuck in a few Easter Eggs tailored to some of my biggest supporters. For instance, one of the side characters is named after my cousin, Olivia.

Thoughts: When I followed that link it showed me that you were able to raise over $10,000 towards being able to publish your book back in December 2020! That is an incredible feat to accomplish and you have some amazing supporters!

Q: Which scene or chapter is your favorite in your book?

A: The Chinese New Year chapters hands down. It actually was not part of the storyline at all initially but then I had this moment of inspiration while on the phone with family and the chapters wrote themselves. 

Q: What is your favorite book of all time?

A: Totally cheating here but I love so many different books. I will say though the whole A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas had me pulling multiple all nighters during work weeks *sweat face*. 

Thoughts: I haven’t read this series yet but it is definitely on my TBR List!

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is writing their own book?

A: Not to sound like Nike, but… Just Do It! Build a supportive community around yourself and write. It doesn’t have to be linear nor does it have to have some epic story line at first. Take it one step at a time and before you know it, you’ll have written more than you could have imagined. 

Thoughts: This is really great advice! This is how I write my blogs for the most part. I just let words come out on the screen and then I rearrange when I’m done.

Q: Are you currently working on any new projects?

A: I’m the type of person to be working on multiple projects at a time and coming up with crazy ideas. That being said, one thing I’ve been hatching since completing Not THAT Rich is the sequel to it. The drama at Winchester High isn’t over 🙂

Thoughts: You heard it right here! There is going to be a sequel and I personally can not wait to get my hands on a copy when it is released!

Q: If you could meet your characters, what would you say to them?

A:

  • Hunter – life is more than what college you go to!
  • Trisha – be yourself!
  • Jack – sorry dude but you dug your own hole…
  • Sierra – you’re so much more than a wallflower
  • Matt – be proud of who you are!
  • Paul – stop being an a**hole and I’m pretty sure you might be a sociopath
  • The Stranger – I’m so jealous of your hacking skills
  • Pamela – there are people who love you and care about you!
  • Ray – have more confidence and chase after what you want!

Q: Which would you rather? To never be able to write again or to never be able to read another book?

A: I would never write again. Books are just way too precious for me! And I can always get Siri to type for me 🙂

Thoughts: What a modern day loop hole!

Q: Do you have a favorite children’s book?

A: The Giving Tree – so incredibly sad but a lesson that needs to be remembered.

Q: What was the first book that you can remember reading? One that made an impact on you?

A: Pat the Bunnyso fluffy!

Conclusion

Belinda has really outdone these questions! She has done so much for her community already with her non-profit Act to Change and I can only imagine what things she is going to accomplish a year or more from now!

Her book is the perfect young adult read especially for people who are facing any Issues in life with bullying or especially stereotypes. I find it very touching at times but it also had me laughing during other moments. This book I know will not disappoint you! Something else that is really cool about her book is that it has been released in both English and Chinese!

I am very thankful to have a friend on bookstagram like Belinda who is very supportive of anyone and everyone. I think everyone deserves a friend like her in their lives.

I want to thank you all for reading these reviews and I hope it got you all excited for my giveaway coming up on the 8th of October. Each author; Lily Kathleen, Bree Moore and Belinda Lei will be signing a copy of their books for this giveaway and three people will each receive a book! How can you say no to a signed book? Stay tuned for updates on the giveaway. Thank you authors for being so willing to participate in this giveaway and being such good sports with this interview, I appreciate you all!

Quick Review of “Not That Rich”

Belinda’s writing is so captivating, she is able to tell her story in such a powerful way that you can envision every detail as it plays out. This is the day and age for diverse books, and with it coming out in December of 2020, it really shows some of the social and cultural struggles Asian-Americans are facing in this country.

I know you will fall madly in love with this book as you learn about each of these teens backgrounds and struggles. Maybe along the way you will even learn a thing or two yourself.

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