14 Questions with Author Melissa Leong
As a young girl, Melissa Leong dreamt of her “big day”. The perfectly planned outfit, the excited guests, and the moment when she’d stand in front of everyone and declare her love – for her newly launched book.
This month, she lived out that dream with the release of her money management guide, Happy Go Money.
“Writing is all I’ve ever wanted to do,” says Melissa. “I got to tell stories as a journalist. Then I wrote and sold 70,000 copies of a teen vampire series. And now I get to inform and empower readers with my feel-good finance guide.”
But that’s not all she’s accomplished. Melissa is also a mom, journalist, and resident money expert on CTV’s The Social. Here are a few other things Melissa shared with us:
1. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given?
Life advice: My dad has always encouraged me to take the high road. “Treat people the way that you would like to be treated.”
Writing advice: “Keep working on your novel/article/book. Stopping would be like turning the heat off just before the water bowls.”
2. What’s your dream brunch date?
Oprah Winfrey at the Blue Box Cafe in NYC.
3. What’s on your bookshelf?
A lot of non-fiction titles that explain why we behave the way we behave: The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, every book that Malcolm Gladwell has published, etc.
4. What does a typical day in your life look like?
It starts with my toddler jumping on me to wake me up and then it’s a sprint to the end of the day where I beg him to go the eff to sleep. (He’s a night owl like his dad.) In between, there’s a crap-ton of work — but it’s work of my choosing and work that I love — so I feel fortunate.
5. What would people be surprised to know about you?
I own a ridiculous amount of sequin undies because I taught, performed, and choreographed Latin dance for a decade while working as a newspaper reporter.
6. What’s your go-to meal or recipe?
I love having cheese for dinner. Because I’m an adult and I can do whatever I want.
7. What helps you get in your flow or zone?
Coffee shop noises.
8. When do you feel most alive?
When I’m laughing.
9. How close is your offline life to your online life?
My online life is just a sliver of my real life. During my maternity leave, I mostly put up photos of me appearing on TV once a month. Friends would say, “You’re so busy with all of your work,” but I spent every other day of the month in a robe being a milk dispenser. My husband would take a day off from his work (he runs his own company) to look after the kid and I would go downtown for hair and makeup and live television. One day I was on TV talking about credit scores and, based on my appearance and the photos, you’d never know that that morning I had been at the hospital until 5 a.m. with a sick baby. (The only blip was me making up the word “imaginatary” on live television.)
10. In real life, face-to-face interactions are on the decline as the world becomes more and more virtual every day. What are some ways you connect with your tribe? What do you do to ensure you’re having authentic face-to-face interactions regularly?
I make weekly dates with my closest friends. And I hang out with people who don’t have social media profiles (I know, where do you find these unicorns?!) so I’ll leave my phone in the car or in my purse. We set monthly gatherings to look forward to (right now, we’re plowing through all of the missions at Escape Games). I also make sure that I interact with the people I meet on an everyday basis; I talk to the Uber driver, I get updates on the lives of the servers at my local coffee shop. Connections (ones that boost your daily happiness) are made when you look at people in the eyes — not through a screen.
11. When you’re writing, what is your ideal setting?
It looks like anywhere that serves tea and food. Oooh, bonus points for having cheese.
12. What are your biggest self-care tips?
Saying “no.” The biggest “no” came for me when I quit my full-time job to be with my first born. I’ve been struggling to say “no” to projects ever since because I’ve always derived value and worth from my work. I also hated saying “no” to friends and family because I wanted to be generous and care for others. But it’s like when they tell you on airplanes to put your oxygen mask on first before helping others — you’re no good to anyone if you’re not caring for yourself.
13. Tell us about a time of failure or rejection and how you handled it.
After I wrote my first teen vampire novel in 2010, I pitched about 20 literary agents but no one bit. In a post-Twilight world, vampire queries made agents recoil in horror. One agent tweeted that she’d die if she got any more vampire pitches. So, I mustered the courage to publish it myself under the pen name Wynne Channing (it’s my stripper name: my middle name and the street I grew up on). It would go on to hit number one on a number of Amazon’s bestseller lists and at one point ranked 221 out of more than a million books in the Kindle store. It was a great adventure and I learned so much.
14. What does happiness look like?
Happiness is not a destination. That’s not how life works. For me, happiness is having the space to appreciate the good and the understanding, patience, and kindness towards oneself to live through the bad. Perhaps all in a single day.
Ready to shake things up in 2019? We have some great events planned for this year, including events focused on getting out of the rat race, being a working parent, and career planning for teenagers. Check them out here!
Shannon Hodgen is a lifelong writer, DIY enthusiast, and homebody. She satisfies her need to put pen to paper–or, more accurately, fingertips to keyboard–as an agency copywriter, blog contributor, and freelance editor in Toronto.
Favourite Book: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
Favourite Brunch Spot: Dirty Food Eatery in The Junction