Listening In is a series of author interviews, featuring authors whose works have been transformed into audiobooks! Dominic Lim’s debut romance novel, All the Right Notes, is a “hilarious and joyous rom com” about a piano player and composer and a Hollywood star involved in working on a charity musical together. Narrated by Broadway performer Aaron J Albano, this audiobook is not to be missed!

Listening In #18

Dominic Lim

Dominic Lim has enjoyed a lifelong love affair with music. Dominic holds a master’s from Indiana University Jacobs School of Music, is an alum of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and has sung with numerous professional choral ensembles. As a proud member of the Actors’ Equity Association, he has performed Off-Broadway and in regional productions throughout the US. Although he probably shouldn’t admit to having favorites, the thrill of singing “This is the Hour” in the chorus of Miss Saigon still pops up in his dreams.

Dom supports his local writing community as a member of the Writers Grotto and as a co-host of San Francisco’s Babylon Salon. He lives in Oakland with his loving and supportive partner, Peter, and their whiny cat, Phoebe.

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Please tell us more about All the Rights Notes! Why should we listen to it?

All the Right Notes is a queer Asian romcom about Quito Cruz, a Filipino pianist/composer and his second-chance romance with his old high school choir buddy, Emmett Aoki, now one of Hollywood’s hottest celebrities. When Quito’s dad announces his retirement as choir director of a high school back in California, he asks Quito to get Emmett to return for the farewell concert, except they haven’t spoken in years. The audiobook is a unique experience because the narrator, Aaron J. Albano, is a Broadway veteran and he sings an original song, “A Part I Play,” which I co-wrote with composer Martin McGinn exclusively for the book!

Could you please tell us about your career as an author? What first drew you to writing?

My background is in music and theater. I worked as a musical theater actor in New York in the early 2000s and then went to grad school to get my masters in music. After school, I floundered creatively. I wasn’t really sure of what I wanted to do with my life, to be honest. On a whim, I started to write, which I’d always loved to do recreationally, but never pursued seriously. I took classes and joined a few writing groups. After publishing a few short stories, I started working on a novel that combined all my great artistic loves, which ended up being All the Right Notes.

We’d love to hear about your writing process. Please elaborate!

I usually start with some sort of theme that I want to explore and then pair that with an interesting situation. If it’s a short story I can generally just write and see what comes out. For novels, though, I can’t proceed without outlining. I’ll map out the basic plot and characters and then get more detailed by about each chapter arc. Then I’ll start my draft, which I try to just churn out without editing or even re-reading what I’ve done before. I usually give myself a word goal per day for the first draft—say 1000 to 2000 words. Once I get to revisions, I’ll give myself a time goal for the day. Because I have a full-time job, it’s usually a max of 2 hours a day, though I’ve definitely done more than that when I was up against a deadline!

What drew you to Contemporary LGBTQ+ Romance? When did you know these were the genres you wanted to write?

I actually wasn’t even fully aware that I’d written a romance until the first draft was complete! When I sat down to write my novel I didn’t have a particular genre in mind, which worked out for me because I wasn’t really aware of any conventions or tropes that I needed to stick to. I was free to just write the book that I wanted to see in the world, which was a novel for and about queer people of color that wasn’t centered on trauma or oppression. It just so ended up being a contemporary LGBTQ+ romance, and I couldn’t be happier.

Where is your favourite place to write?

When I’m able, I try to give myself a self-created writing retreat by getting an Airbnb somewhere remote where I can focus on my writing and not be distracted by things that need to get done around the house. On a day-to-day basis, though, I usually write in my office or on the couch in the living room where we have a wonderful view of Oakland and the San Francisco skyline.

Describe your writing style in five words or less.

Intentional. Improvisational. Musical. Emotional. Snarky.

Any advice for emerging writers?

Find your writing community and be involved. Join writing groups. Go to readings. Attend conferences. Talk to other authors in real life, not just online.  It’s important not only in terms of the support you get for your writing process, but it’s also in terms of getting your work out there and remembered. Coming from the music and theater world, I know how important it is to create connections. The art we create can’t really flourish in isolation, and neither can we.

What do you do when you experience writer’s block or reader’s block?

I turn to other forms of art—music, dance, movies, even television. Something that inspires me and makes my mind turn in a different direction.

What has been the most exciting part of having your novels transformed into audiobooks?

It’s definitely been the journey that Aaron and I have taken together. He and I know each other from way back, when we did a production of Miss Saigon together twenty years ago. This is my debut novel as well as his first audiobook, so we’ve been supporting each other through this whole process. During the recording sessions he’d sometimes send me a video or audio clip to give me a sneak peek of how it was going. When he sent me the audio clip of him recording the choral “finale”—with him singing all the choral and solo parts—I just broke down crying. It was so beautiful and beyond anything I’d ever envisioned for the audiobook.

Aaron J Albano does a fantastic job narrating. Did you have any say in his intitial casting? What made Albano the right fit?

When Elece Green emailed me about the two finalists for the job, even though the other candidate was an award-winning narrator with over a hundred audiobooks under his belt, we both agreed that Aaron was the right choice. Yes, Aaron and I had already worked together, he was also gay and Filipino and was a Broadway performer who could sing the song I’d co-written for the book. But he also had the special something in his audition, a star quality that Elece felt in her gut. I couldn’t have agreed more. It was one of the easiest decisions I’ve ever had to make. 

Please recommend an audiobook you absolutely adored!

Red, White and Royal Blue. People are loving the movie, but they shouldn’t sleep on the audiobook! Ramón De Ocampo is brilliant on it. 

What are you reading (or listening to) right now?

Forgiving Imelda Marcos by Nathan Go (with an audiobook also narrated by Ramón De Ocampo), about a Filipino chauffeur’s last attempt to connect with his estranged son. It’s absolutely gorgeous. I can’t recommend it enough. 

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