Our Friend is Here! is a guest feature at The Quiet Pond, where authors, creatives, and fellow readers, are invited to ‘visit’ the Pond! In Our Friend is Here! guest posts, our visitors (as their very own unique character!) have a friendly conversation about anything related to books or being a reader — and become friends with Xiaolong and friends.
One of the reasons why 2019 was such an exceptional reading year was because I had the privilege of reading Remy’s debut book, Pie in the Sky – a book that has my entire heart for its heartfelt portrayal of baking, family, and grief, its charming illustrations, and super fun story. Pie in the Sky was a book that made my year; it’s a book that has come to mean so much to me. Therefore, you can imagine how excited I am that Fly on the Wall, Remy’s second book, is releasing next week!
Even better though, I have the privilege of having Remy herself visiting us at the Pond today! She wanted me to draw Henry, the protagonist of Fly on the Wall, as what I’d think his ‘pond-sona’ would be, and I took her up on her challenge. For readers who pick up Fly on the Wall, you’ll probably recognise Henry’s pond-sona immediately – and I couldn’t resist giving Henry a little fly costume!
But before we dive right in, I want to take a moment to tell you about Remy’s upcoming book, Fly on the Wall!
Fly on the Wall by Remy Lai
In Fly on the Wall, a moving and hilarious illustrated novel from the critically-acclaimed author of Pie in the Sky , a twelve-year-old boy goes on a (forbidden) solo journey halfway around the world to prove his independence to his overprotective family.
Henry Khoo’s family treats him like a baby. He’s not allowed to go anywhere without his sister/chaperone/bodyguard. His (former) best friend knows to expect his family’s mafia-style interrogation when Henry’s actually allowed to hang out at her house. And he definitely CAN’T take a journey halfway around the world all by himself!
But that’s exactly his plan. After his family’s annual trip to visit his father in Singapore is cancelled, Henry decides he doesn’t want to be cooped up at home with his overprotective family and BFF turned NRFF (Not Really Friend Forever). Plus, he’s hiding a your-life-is-over-if-you’re-caught secret: he’s the creator of an anonymous gossip cartoon, and he’s on the verge of getting caught. Determined to prove his independence and avoid punishment for his crimes, Henry embarks on the greatest adventure everrr. . . hoping it won’t turn into the greatest disaster ever.
Friends, I’ve read Fly on the Wall and it is amazing! I don’t know how Remy does it – considering that my love for Pie in the Sky is astronomical – but Fly on the Wall is just as funny, just as charming, and just as soft and tender. This book is so much fun, perfect if you enjoy a fun and laugh-out-loud funny book or are looking to buy a younger reader in your life a new book!
Author Interview: Remy Lai
CW: Hi Remy! It’s such an honour to have you visiting us at the Pond today – we’re such huge fans of your work, and I’m so happy you are here! For our friends who may only be meeting you for the very first time, can you tell us three fun facts about yourself?
Remy: Hi CW! Thank you so much for having me at the Pond.
Three fun facts:
- I was born in Indonesia, grew up in Singapore and currently live in Australia.
- I have two dogs, but only one has appeared in my books. Clearly I have a favorite haha.
- Bubble tea is my weakness.
CW: I am such a huge fan of your work – your stories have this way of making people laugh and cry – sometimes within a span of five minutes! – and I love how your character’s voices feel so genuine and effortlessly connect with younger readers. What is your secret to writing these fleshed out characters that have a lot of relatable emotions and are young?
Remy: I wish I knew the secret! If there was a formula, I could easily apply it to all the stories I’m writing, but I have found that every book is different and writing each one feels like learning to write all over again.
But maybe it’s something about being as honest with myself as I can about my own emotions, even when they’re feelings I don’t like to think about. For example, Henry sometimes feels like he’s not enough, and that’s very relatable to me, though I try not to dwell on that.
CW: Something that I really love about both Pie in the Sky and Fly on the Wall is that the story ideas are so unique and so much fun, but underneath it all have so much heart and do so well at capturing the perspectives of younger children. What inspires your story ideas?
Remy: Pie in the Sky came to me as an image of two boys secretly baking.
Fly on the Wall came to me after I read a newspaper article about an Australian who snuck off on a flight to Bali by himself.
CW: I want to take a moment to talk about Pie in the Sky – it was one of my favourite middle grade books that I read last year and I am so grateful that you wrote such a heartfelt book about language barriers and immigration. What did it mean to you to write Jingwen’s story, and what do you hope readers (young and of all ages) take away from Pie in the Sky?
Remy: Writing Jingwen’s story was bittersweet. His story is mine when I was nine and I immigrated and learned English. His story is also mine when I was older, when my dad passed away.
I hope readers who are in a similar position to Jingwen, who have moved to a new country and learning a new language and having to make new friends, know that they will be okay. I hope readers who have lost a loved one know that they will always miss their loved ones, but they will be okay. I hope readers who have siblings know that I’m sorry, but siblings will annoy you forever.
CW: A huge congratulations on your upcoming sophomore book, Fly on the Wall! I loved that Fly on the Wall explores these ideas that, I think, a lot of children will relate to, especially in terms of Henry’s relationships with his family and, what I felt, how families may express love in different ways. What was the ‘place’ that you were writing from when you wrote Henry’s story?
Remy: My family does not express their love so explicitly. When I was a kid, I thought maybe there was something wrong with us, because the families on TV are saying “I love you” and having heart-to-heart conversations every night. I craved to hear my parents say, “I love you” to me. And I wish that I had read about families like Henry, so I’d know earlier that there’s nothing wrong with family. They express their love for me in so many other ways.
CW: You do all the illustrations in all your books – and I love how goofy, charming, and expressive your art is! Do you have any advice for any budding artists and illustrators out there?
Remy: Draw, draw and draw! And have fun!
CW: Last question – and this is something I love to ask all our visitors to the Pond! What is a food that reminds you of ‘home’ – wherever or whoever that may be?
Remy: This is the hardest question! So many foods remind me of home (my mom is a terrific cook!). But if I had to think of one, it’s grilled fish with sambal (chilli paste?). Since my mom cooks, my family didn’t eat out very often, but on many weekends, we’d go to this favorite restaurant that did excellent grilled seafood. As a kid, I wasn’t a big fan of fish, but I always enjoyed the food here. Maybe it was because the whole family was together.
About the Author
Remy Lai writes and draws stories for kids.
She lives in Brisbane, Australia, where she can often be found exploring the woods near her home with her two dogs, Poop-Roller and Bossy Boots