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Last Modified: February 6, 2023
Illustration of a crow sitting on a book, with the following text to the left, "Crow Reads Podcast"
CROW READS with Rayanne Haines

Crow Reads is a podcast series by Rayanne Haines, in which she interviews intersectional women, LGBTQ+, and non-binary authors, publishers, editors, agents, and booksellers from Alberta. In this episode, Rayanne speaks with author Sandra S.G. Wong about writing the lived experience outside the white lens, the layers of research and character development that come with crime writing, ambiguity and suspense, and how women characters are perceived and approached in novel writing.

Sandra SG Wong headshot

In her latest novel, In the Dark We Forget, Wong approaches family dynamics through what Kristopher Zgorski describes as “an unusual blend of mystery, domestic suspense, and thriller with a powerful dose of social commentary.” The publisher’s blurb offers a succinct summary that bears out Wong’s own observation: “When a woman wakes up with amnesia beside a mountain highway, confused and alone, she fights to regain her identity, only to learn that her parents have disappeared—not long after her mother bought a winning $47 million lottery ticket. As her memories painfully resurface and the police uncover details of her parents’ mysterious disappearance, Cleo Li finds herself under increasing suspicion.” Wong begins the book with a question and pulls readers along with her lead character as she struggles to make sense of what happened to her and her parents. In the Dark We Forget is an impressive novel that propels the reader from point A to point C, always questioning and challenging, and one that leaves us with a few untold answers.

What Wong does well is write from a place of confusion that’s embodied in the character and her behaviours. Her instinct around how much research is enough to serve the story sits in direct response to the character’s needs. We read about a woman learning about amnesia and police procedures, and we see her own experience of those things as an Asian-American woman with no memory. For Wong, the beauty is in the details. She states that her research is there in the “metaphysical space of the book. And if it has to do with a character’s background, that informs how I write that character, what I think of that character, what I’m thinking of and about them while I’m writing them into the text.” Further to that, since the novel is a crime amnesia text, for Wong there had to be a strong grounding in certain details to shape character motivation and the movement of that character through the stages of amnesia and the plot in a respectful way.

That research and detail in Wong’s writing also speaks to the fully embodied lived experience, which for the author sits outside the white, patriarchal lens. As Wong says, “as a child of colour we learn to survive, we learn how to interpret the world through that dominant lens. Yeah. And then we’re also trying to navigate our own identities and how to be true to ourselves.” When writing the novel, she says she wanted to challenge preconceived notions of identity and to challenge what the figure of an East Asian or Chinese Canadian woman means.

You can listen to the full conversation here:

Rayanne Haines (she/her) is an educator and hybrid author. She is the 2022 Writer in Residence for the Metro Edmonton Federation of Libraries, the V.P. of the League of Poets and a best-selling author of three poetry collections—The Stories in My Skin (2013), Stained with the Colours of Sunday Morning (Inanna, 2017), and Tell the Birds Your Body Is Not a Gun (Frontenac, 2021). Her poetry and prose have been shortlisted for the John Whyte Memorial Essay Alberta Literary Award, The Robert Kroetsch Award for Poetry, and the National ReLit Award for Poetry. Tell the Birds Your Body Is Not a Gun won the 2022 Stephan G. Stephansson Award for Poetry.

Tell the Birds Your Body is Not a Gun

Rayanne Haines (CA)

Published: Apr 15, 2021 by Frontenac House Ltd.
ISBN: 9781989466216

Sandra S.G. Wong (she/her) writes fiction across genres, including the cross-genre Lola Starke novels, Crescent City short stories, and the bestselling standalone suspense novel, In the Dark We Forget. A hybrid author, she has been a Crime Writers of Canada Awards of Excellence finalist and a Whistler Independent Book Awards nominee.

Wong has been involved with genre and literary organizations, conferences, festivals, and workshops across Canada and the United States. She served on the Sisters in Crime national board as its first president of Asian heritage, and currently chairs its DEIJB Advisory Committee. She is also an active member of Crime Writers of Color.

Sandra S.G. Wong is represented by Lauren Abramo, with Dystel Goderich & Bourret.

Author photo courtesy of the author. 

In the Dark We Forget: A Novel

Sandra SG Wong (CA)

Published: Jun 21, 2022 by HarperCollins
ISBN: 9781443465564