Debut author Dominic Lim joins Jeff & Will to talk about his second chance romance All the Right Notes, which is one of Jeff’s favorite books of the year. Dominic talks about why he wanted to write Quito and Emmett’s story, and which parts of it are inspired from his own life. We also find out about the song he co-wrote for the book, and how Aaron J. Albano became the narrator for the audiobook.

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Show Notes

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Will: Coming up on this episode, author Dominic Lim talks to us about his debut novel, “All the Right Notes.”

Jeff: Welcome to episode 427 of the Big Gay Fiction Podcast, the show for avid readers and passionate fans of queer romance fiction. I’m Jeff, and with me as always, of course, is my co-host and husband, Will.

Will: Hello, Rainbow Romance Reader. We are so glad that you could join us for another Pride Month episode.

How has your summer been so far?

Jeff: I’ve been reading a lot and watching probably way too much TV, but I’ve enjoyed both of these things.

Will: Well, you’re definitely right. There is a lot to look forward to this summer season with queer programming like “Heartstopper” coming up. That’s just around the corner. Also Amazon’s adaptation of “Red, White and Royal Blue.” That’s coming up later in the summer as well.

Jeff: Those drop within days of each other. I could just imagine just being planted in front of the TV for probably about a week.

Will: And while we’re eagerly anticipating those, we’ve also been watching some other queer-centric programming.

One of which is the Netflix show, “Fake Profile.” And in this one, Camila is a Vegas dancer who begins a passionate, long distance relationship with a guy. And one day on a whim she decides to surprise him. So she flies down to Cartagena and discovers that he is not who he says he is. So what does she do? She moves in next door to exact her revenge. That’s what she does.

Jeff: As one does, you know.

Will: And that’s when things are really starting to get crazy. There is so much drama to be had in this Netflix sexual thriller, and some of those crazy plot twists involve a restaurateur named Adrián, who is falling in love with a flirtatious employee named Inti, while he is also engaged to a sort of nice guy named Cris.

Now I just called the show a sexual thriller, but I was wondering… I was thinking… is there an actual name for this specific type of Netflix show? And you all know what I’m talking about because we’ve all watched them. I mean in the strictest sense, they’re probably telenovelas, but with like the sex and violence cranked up to 11 with outrageous sexy plots that, to my mind, because of my age, they like call back several decades to the heyday of “Basic Instinict.”

Jeff: Mm-hmm.

And all those direct to video movies that followed, it’s like you couldn’t like throw a stick without hitting a sexual thriller. They were absolutely everywhere. And that’s what these shows remind me of. But that’s kind of a generational thing. I don’t know what we would call them now.

Jeff: I certainly agree. I think I said to you early on, when she first went down to Cartagena, I’m like, she’s gonna go boil his bunny rabbit in a direct reference to “Fatal Attraction.”

Will: Exactly.

Jeff: Which of course has just been revived as a series on Paramount+

Will: It’s got its own TV show.

But this show was just insane. It just kept ratcheting up the insanity that these people would go to, to extract the revenge and all the machinations that were going on while also living in one of the most gorgeous surroundings I’ve ever seen. I enjoyed a lot about this show and just, you know, you often say I try to overthink plots and what I think people should do. I just let it go with this one. I’m like, I can’t figure this out. I don’t know what’s gonna happen. I’m just gonna let it happen and love every minute of it.

Will: All three actors that are involved in the gay menage plot line are ridiculously hot, if you need a real reason to tune in. And, there is a really out of left field shocking reveal on the final episode, that means that three of them, I mean, probably aren’t going to have a happy ever after.

Although in my personal ahead canon, I think their HEA is totally a thing. It’s possible.

Jeff: I’m good with that.

Will: Anyway. You can binge all 10 episodes of “Fake Profile” right now on Netflix.

Jeff: Buckle up and get some popcorn. It is a crazy ride.

Now, I’m so excited for this episode’s interview. I first heard about Dominic Lim’s “All the Right Notes” because it was recommended by author Karelia Stetz-Waters when she was on “Smart Podcast, Trashy Books” back in April. I immediately got myself an advanced copy, devoured it in a matter of days, and then set about getting Dominic on the show.

“All the Right Notes” is an incredibly excellent second chance, friends to almost lovers to enemies to lovers romance that absolutely blew me away. Dominic’s gonna tell us all about how he came to write this story and why it’s so important to him. There’s also a fair amount of musical theater fanboying that goes on in here, which includes how the narrator for this audiobook was found. And of course, since it’s Pride month, Dominic’s gonna share what pride means to him this year.

Dominic Lim Interview

Jeff: Dominic, welcome to the podcast. It is awesome to have you here.

Dominic: It’s great to be here.

Jeff: Congratulations on “All the Right Notes.”

Dominic: Yeah.

Jeff: This is one of the few books that, as soon as I finished reading it, I actually hopped on your website and, like, “Dominic, can you come on the show and talk about this?” I loved it so much.

Dominic: Thank you.

Jeff: This is your debut. So, kind of, before we get into the book itself, I’d love for our listeners to know a little more about you. You’re an actor, a singer, a writer, a composer. What led you to a full-length romance?

Dominic: Yeah, it’s, kind of, a long route. I am a writer last actually. I am, by education, a musician. I went to Oberlin College, and I was a double degree in psychology, which I’ve never used except for my personal relationships. And I was a voice major in the Conservatory of Music. And I didn’t do anything with that. It was a classical degree. So, I actually moved to New York, and I did musical theater. So, I was doing acting and stuff like that and I was also singing in churches. And then I went back to grad school to get my graduate degree in music.

And I, kind of, hit, like, a period where I had no idea what I was doing with my life. And music was not really working out for me, and the acting was not really working out for me. So, I just, kind of, picked up writing. I’ve always enjoyed writing as a hobby, and I started taking classes, and I started getting more serious. And I started getting more good feedback and support. And one thing led to another, and here I am with a finished published book. It’s kind of crazy.

Jeff: Had you read a lot of romance before you decided to take off and write one?

Dominic: So, I hadn’t because I’d read, as much as possible when I was growing up, as much gay fiction as I could possibly get my hands on. But you know as well as I do that a lot of that gay fiction does not have happy endings, or there’s a lot of stuff that’s based on the heavy, heavier stuff, but I’ve also been a fan of rom-com movies. So, I’ve watched, like, a million of those.

So, when I was writing this book, it actually started out very serious. It was a short story that was pretty sad. And when I started, sort of, filling it out for the class that I was taking with Rachael Herron, it ended up being way more funny and light. And I think it’s because I wanted to really infuse who I was in that story, and I hadn’t before. And who I am is just, kind of, a weird, dorky musical person, so that’s what I put in the book. I mean, that book is me honestly. If you’ve read the book, you kind of know me.

Jeff: I wondered if that was true. Like, I was, kind of, wondering how much Quito was actually you, especially given your background and some of the overlaps in the background.

Dominic: Yeah. I mean, I think just like any other author, the main protagonist is a lot of me but it’s also a lot of my brother because he’s a music teacher and a choir director. And it’s a lot of… I’ve had the great honor of knowing a lot of pianists/composers in my life. I dated a couple. So, it’s a lot of them in this character—their struggles, and their creative struggles, and stuff like that. So, yeah, but all of it’s me. I mean, you know, let’s face it.

Jeff: So, with the basis of Quito in you, where did Emmett come from?

Dominic: Totally made up. Yeah. That was my fantasy life. I mean, I am married, and I’d rather be with my husband, Peter, than Emmett Aoki any day, but he’s totally made up.

Jeff: It’s kind of weird because, for me, Emmett, I kept, for whatever reason, imagining Henry Golding.

Dominic: Oh, yeah, totally.

Jeff: I mean…

Dominic: Yep, he is exactly that sort of type, Henry Golding, you know, all these super hot, like, Asian actors that are just starting to become popular. That’s really a recent thing. When I was growing up, we didn’t have that kind of sex symbol at all. I mean, they weren’t even really there. I mean, I think probably the most famous Asian actor that I can remember growing up was really Jackie Chan and certainly not romantic leads. So, yeah, I think this character’s, kind of, hitting at the right time because that’s in the zeitgeist now.

Jeff: Yeah, absolutely. I’d say probably “Crazy Rich Asians” of course was, like, the pivot point in cinema for that.

Dominic: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. And I don’t know if you saw “Fire Island” on Hulu last year but…

Jeff: Oh, yeah, adore that movie so hard.

Dominic: Yeah, me too. Yeah.

Jeff: Yeah, and I would just love to see more of that because that movie is so perfect. I think I’ve watched it, like, half a dozen times since it came out.

Dominic: Yeah, it’s so good. And the thing is it’s like… That’s, kind of, one of the reasons why I wrote this book is because, first of all, I wanted to write a book where queer Asian men find joy, but I also wanted to write a book where queer Asian men are sexy and they are the object of someone’s, like, adoration and hot. That’s Emmett in a nutshell, so that’s a big reason why I wrote this book actually and created that character.

Jeff: Yeah, I love every time you write Emmett coming into a room, whether it’s the piano bar or the choir room or wherever Emmett’s coming in, it’s like, zoop, everybody’s, kind of, right over there looking at him.

Dominic: Right. Yeah, I mean, that’s, kind of, how I would imagine myself if Henry Golding ever walked into a room. That’s what would happen.

Jeff: What inspired this specific story you’re telling in “All the Right Notes,” what happens to these characters? And I don’t want to give away any spoilers in the book, but there’s a lot of stuff that goes on around them that’s very important and informs, you know, what’s happening for them. Where did all this come from for you?

Dominic: I knew that I wanted to write… Well, the genesis, as I mentioned, was a short story that was a lot more serious, and it was about a couple who get separated by a tragedy. And I wanted to keep that element where this couple gets together early on in life but then are separated but not by a tragedy. So, there is that incident, and I won’t give it away, where they, sort of, split up and there’s a misunderstanding. And then I wanted them to get back together again, but in my head, I was… I don’t know.

Some people may envision when they write a book, they want it to be a movie, or they envision… In fact, when Rachael was teaching the class, a lot of it was based on screenwriting and, sort of, the beats of a movie, right? And so I did not do that per se but the way that I envisioned my book was as a musical actually. So, there are diegetic scenes where they’re singing and it’s all part of the story. And I knew that the finale had to be, like, a big musical finale something. So, I came up with a choir concert, and I think it just, kind of, went backward from there so yeah.

Jeff: Yeah, there’s definitely musical beats that happened within this book. As a huge fan of musicals, I could, kind of, see where you were going. It was like, “Mm-hmm, that would be a song. This would be a book moment.”

Dominic: Here’s the duet. Here’s the 11 o’clock. Right.

Jeff: Well, yeah, let’s talk about the 11 o’clock for a little second, because there is an 11 o’clock song in this book that you wrote. You actually wrote “A Part I Play,” which isn’t just lyrics printed in the book. We can all go watch a video of it on YouTube which we’ll link in our show notes.

Dominic: Yeah. Yeah, you can.

Jeff: Where did that come from? I mean, I’ve seen these, like, authors write lyrics before because it’s hard to put a lyric in a book, but now you’ve written your own.

Dominic: Yeah, and I do want to be clear. I co-wrote the song. So, I did write the lyrics and a little bit of the music, but I think the biggest music writing was from a very close friend of mine who’s a pianist/composer. So, we collaborated on it. We co-wrote it together.

But the genesis of that song really was, as I was writing, like a musical, there’s this theme that keeps coming back like you keep hearing it like “Phantom of the Opera” or whatever. So, I knew I had to have that kind of song, and it is “A Part I Play.” And the lyrics were very important, but they became so important to me that I needed to know what it sounded like. It’s just as you said, a lot of books have these lyrics, these original lyrics in them, but when you read them… I don’t know. To me, I don’t get that much out of just written lyrics, right? It’s missing that component. So, I needed to add that component.

And I approached a friend of mine, who I’d known for a while, and we wrote this. And I said, “I want it to sound like this. I have some basic music ideas. Here are the lyrics.” He pounded something out. I changed a couple things. He changed a couple lyrics. And it came into being. And this was during the pandemic, so we recorded it completely separately. I was in a closet, and he was in his apartment. And he mixed the two things together and put it on YouTube. And now it’s there.

And the great thing is it’s going to be in the audiobook because the narrator is a singer, and he’s going to be… I’m not exactly sure, but he’s going to be singing it, and I think they’re going to put the thing that I recorded at the end like as an appendix or something like that.

Jeff: Oh, bonus track.

Dominic: Yeah, as a bonus track. Yeah.

Jeff: I was wondering if you were going to get it sung in the audiobook because your narrator is Aaron Albano who recently has been in “Hamilton” on Broadway. So, you’ve got huge talent coming for the audiobook here, so it’s really awesome that he’s going to be singing the song, too.

Dominic: I am so psyched. I am so stoked. And he would send me little snippets of what he was doing, and I was just like, “Oh, God.” The funny thing is this is his first audiobook. It’s a funny story because the producer emailed me and said, “Oh, here are your two auditionees.” One is this guy…his resume is, like, 10 pages long. He’s won, like, a million Audies. People are going to know, but he was the narrator for, like, one of the most famous queer romances of all time, and then there’s Aaron who had never done anything but they, sort of, found him and they asked him to audition. And he did this audition, and they said, “And also he knows you.” And he did. We had done “Miss Saigon” together, like, 20 years ago. And we were still Facebook friends, and I, sort of, followed his career on Broadway, and he’s done a… He was in the original cast of “Newsies.” He was one of those dancing boys. And, yeah, he understudies King George on Broadway. And the producer said there’s something about this kid. He’s not a kid. He’s like, kind of, my age, and it’s just he’s got this natural thing and he sings. And I was like, “I know. He’s a really good singer.” So, he can end up singing the lines in the book as they come across. So, yeah, it was kind of a hard decision but it really wasn’t a hard decision. I mean, we definitely won with Aaron. Yeah.

Jeff: Yeah, it’s already pre-ordered for me because even though I’ve read it, I want to hear it performed. And the fact that you’ve got somebody of this caliber and this background doing it, I think it’s just going to make it, you know, that much more.

Dominic: Oh, trust me. I’ve heard some of it. You’re not going to be disappointed.

Jeff: Oh, amazing. Can’t wait. Because we’re recording here, like, two or three weeks before the book comes out, so, you know, it’s still waiting mode for the audiobook. I’ve been loving Aaron’s, like, Instagram snippets from the studio sometimes though because you’ll get little pieces of him in the studio working on it.

Dominic: Yeah, it’s so cool, isn’t it? I was there actually. I was in New York. I live in Oakland, California, and I was there in December, and I went to go visit my editor Alex Logan and my publicist, Estelle Hallick, at Forever, and they gave me a tour of the building. And no one was there, because it was Friday and no one’s there on Fridays. But they showed me the studio, and it’s this really cool… At the Hachette studios, and they said, “This is where your audiobook’s going to happen.”

And in the beginning, I actually had thought to myself, “I want to audition for this book.” I was like, “I have some acting skills and I’ve got, kind of, a voice,” but when I found out about, like, how long it actually takes to record these things, “Oh, no, mm-mm. Girl, leave it to the pros.”

Jeff: Yeah, it’s not for the faint of heart to spend that kind of time on it.

Dominic: And in fact, they weren’t really sure about Aaron because he’s in “Hamilton” so that’s a big gig, but they made it work.

Jeff: That’s awesome. This is a second-chance romance, and sometimes in second chance you don’t always get a full understanding of what happened the first time. It might just be something in passing that somebody quips about or maybe there’s a little bit more discussion between the characters about what happened. You give us really everything. So, there’s like twin stories running here of what was in the past that led to the break and what’s happening now. And I thought you handled that so well because sometimes when you’re going to the past, it could feel like, “Okay, well, why did you pause the story that I’m reading to go back here?” And somehow you made it work, but I didn’t feel like, “Let’s go back to where we’re supposed to be.” What kind of steps did you take to, kind of, make that back-and-forth transition work like it does?

Dominic: Yeah, first of all, I have to make a confession. When you’re taking writing classes or whatever when you’re studying writing, they always say, when you do flashbacks, I mean, just enough, right? And it’s always like, I’ve always had that in my head, “Just enough, just enough.” And I started writing the story. I was like, “But I can’t! Like, there’s so much good stuff.” So, I mean, I basically took the coward’s way out, and I basically wrote the entire backstory and I included it just like you said.

And to me, the way that I organized it was I knew both of them had to have arcs. They had to both have the story arc, and they both had to reach the climax sort of the same time, and then I wanted to alternate basically “Then,” “Now,” “Then,” “Now,” and I wanted to join them… At the end of a chapter, I wanted to, sort of, hand off either back in time or to the present time so that it didn’t feel like it was just so interruptive. So, there are these, kind of, joins like… At the end of a chapter, if it says that Quito’s not looking at his father on the phone, in the next chapter, he is looking at his father. Stuff like that. So, most people aren’t even aware of it. I’ve only had one person point that out to me, but I think that did help because it is jarring to have this whole other story. And, yeah, like you said, you want to just stay in the present. So, it was incumbent on me to make sure that both stories were equally engaging. And I think most people have told me that I accomplished that.

Jeff: Yeah, and even as I was, kind of, reading this, I was, kind of, wondering too if, like, shows like “This Is Us” don’t get us a little more adjusted to present-past time jumps. And even the movie “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” which I probably just butchered the title on, also with all the, like, jumping about and connecting it all together.

Dominic: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I did try to pay attention to that because I knew there would be complaints about it. And I did. I did get, when I was querying agents, I definitely had some people who were interested, but they said, “We can’t… I just can’t wrap my head around this dual timeline thing.” So, it’s not for everyone. It’s not but I think most people enjoyed it.

Jeff: Yeah. I mean, because again it’s done right. It’s done the right way to do it at least as far as I’m concerned.

Dominic: Thank you.

Jeff: We got to talk a little bit about a couple of your side characters here. Ujima is the best. Such an incredible friend to Quito but also gives him a good kick in the pants sometimes, too.

Dominic: Yes. Yes.

Jeff: What’s your influence there? I mean, I can only imagine… Especially living in New York, that you could have met many Ujimas over time.

Dominic: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, so here’s the real tea. I will tell you. So, Ujima is based on two people actually. One of them, her name is Breanna Sinclairé. She’s a soprano opera singer, and she’s trans. And I had the honor of working with her at a church in San Francisco, and she’s amazing. But most of it is based on someone that I knew in New York who was on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” and they no longer do drag, which is why I’ve been hesitant to talk about them because I know that he, sort of, wants to put that in the past and focus on his acting. And he has a very, very successful acting career in New York and elsewhere.

But I did meet him doing a show in Brooklyn just like Quito does, and I was also very taken by the first time that I saw him in drag in a club. And it was this, kind of, confusing moment for me where I was just so enamored with this person, and I wasn’t quite sure was it because of him or was it because of the drag persona. In the end, I realized it was a combination of both, that there is just this power and he is so funny. He’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. So, Ujima is really based on him because of that humor and that love and that ability to perform. So, I wanted to, sort of, pay homage to him.

Jeff: It’s a beautiful homage.

Dominic: Thank you.

Jeff: The other character that really stole my heart was Milton who is one of the kids who’s in the choir room. Milton’s story is so tiny but so powerful, and especially how Milton and Ujima connect. What was your process to, like, weave that kind of in there alongside what was going on with the bigger story with Quito and Emmett because there’s a lot of these little things that pop up in the threads that just all really coalesce so well by the end of the book?

Dominic: Thank you. I appreciate that. As most minor characters tend to do, he was in the beginning really just a plot. I needed some sort of present-day representation for Mr. Cruz to, sort of, make him remember Quito or, I mean, not that he’s forgotten his own son but, you know, sort of like, “Oh, there’s this kid in my class. He’s special.” That’s what Mr. Cruz calls him, special. And that makes him think of his own son because he was, kind of, the same in choir when his son was growing up. And to me, it’s not obvious in the book, but to me, that is the trigger for him to reach back out to Quito to get him involved with this choir concert. And it is because of Milton.

And the second reason why I created Milton is because he’s actually a little bit of me in a weird way, because I studied early music in grad school and I was a countertenor. And for those of you who don’t know, a countertenor is a male who sings in the female register. And so I did that for a few years, and it’s not easy. And it’s not easy for young men when they’re starting to sing to realize that their actual natural voice is this other higher female voice. And so that also intersects. And 99% of all countertenors are gay. So, this also intersects with their senses of identity and gender. And to me, Milton sort of represented those things. So, I was interested in exploring them. And he’s also this cute little kid, right, that kind of needs saving, which Ujima sort of does towards the end. Yeah.

Jeff: Yeah, their conversation in particular just, like, really pulled on my heartstrings, and people will know it when they get to it.

We talked a little bit about the fact that you’ve got this 11 o’clock song in the book. But much like that this is also kind of a musical in its own little way, music is so infused here with seeing how it’s being taught both in the past and how it’s represented. You know, when Quito and Emmett are still in high school to how Quito’s working on an off-Broadway show for a while, the choir stuff that Quito gets involved in when he goes home, and you’ve created whole programs that are in the book. We get the program to this… I don’t even know how to describe what “One-derland” is, but I really want to see it.

Dominic: Well, there’s a funny story about “One-derland” actually. Can I tell you?

Jeff: Oh, do tell.

Dominic: Yeah. So, as I was writing the book, I wanted there to be sort of a comedic scene where they go to a show and Ujima’s in it. And I was like, “Okay, I need to make up this off-Broadway thing,” and I want it to be interactive because some people really hate interactive theater.

Jeff: My husband is one of those people.

Dominic: Yes. Yeah, it’s like, “Nope. That is your job. I’m not getting involved in that.” So, I wanted to do this interactive show, and I was in interactive off-Broadway show, and so I have some background on it. So, the first thing I did was I made a show based on Britney Spears’ songs.

Jeff: And now there is one.

Dominic: And now there is one, and then six months later, as I was revising, I looked online and it was like, “Oh, someone’s made it already.” So, I was trying to find someone’s catalog that, like, no one would ever touch, but they’re touching it. So, I was like, “How can I make sure that no one is going to touch this person’s catalog?” And I was like, “Well, why don’t I just make one-hit wonders, because I don’t think anyone’s going to touch any of those. So, so far so good. I mean, they haven’t come out with that. It only exists in my book. But anyway, sorry, back to your question.

Jeff: I love that about “One-derland.” I kept thinking about the show “Disaster” and how it relied on so many, like, songs that you knew but then put into this very bizarre way.

Dominic: Right. Yeah, I tried to have fun with that.

Jeff: And you put the whole program for it. Like, now we know all the songs that are in “One-derland,” which I absolutely love. And then you’ve also built the program for the choir…

Dominic: I did, yeah.

Jeff: …concert at the end. So, we know that entire program as well. We could make our own Spotify playlist of some these songs.

Dominic: Yes. Yes, if you want. I think I did. I tried to. I don’t know if it’s on there publicly, but just for me. It’s there because same thing with when I was writing the song, right? I couldn’t just have this thing that was so important, and I know no one’s going to see it. I knew no one was going to see… I knew I wasn’t going to walk through the whole entire concert, the whole entire show, but I wanted those things to exist for me so they did. And so why not share them with everyone else at the end?

Jeff: Mm-hmm. Looking back on this journey you’ve had with this book, how would you characterize like writing your first romance?

Dominic: It’s been amazing. The funny thing is I didn’t even know I had written a romance until I started querying it, to be honest. I just wrote a story that I wanted to tell, and as I started putting together my query materials, I was like, “Well, I need to have comps, and I need to sort of explain what it is.” And then I was like, “This is a romance. This is a rom-com. It has a happy ending.”

So, it’s been amazing because the romance… I’m sure you’re aware, but the romance community is incredibly supportive and supportive and loving and energetic. And also romance writers write a lot is what I’m learning. I have another book coming out next year that I have to churn away, but it’s been fantastic really mainly because of the people at Forever, which is the imprint that’s mostly romance and women’s fiction. And the fans and the early reviewers who are focused on romance have just been fantastic. Yeah, I’m lucky I lucked into this genre.

Jeff: It’s hard to find a better community to be in.

Dominic: Oh, my God. Yeah, really. Really. I mean, it makes sense, right, because it’s based on love. It’s based on love and joy. And people just want to… And that’s why I wrote this book too, because I wanted to just step back away from the pandemic and everything else and just have a little nugget of queer brown joy on the shelf.

Jeff: And you need it even more now with the state of the world that we live in. It’s all the more needed that queer people find their joy wherever they can get it, including seeing themselves in books.

Dominic: Yeah, it’s true. I mean, I thought that when I was writing this book, this was around when he who shall not be named was president. I was like, “Well, this is the worst it’s ever going to get. And so people are going to need some joy now, but maybe later they won’t.” I said, “No, no. I don’t think so. Some other things have taken that guy’s place.”

Jeff: You’re going to get a big dose of the romance community too because you’re off to Steamy Lit Con in August.

Dominic: Yeah, yeah. I’m excited about that. Yeah, I got invited to that. They were so kind. They were so kind to reach out to me. My book was months away from being published. They probably had not…they had not seen the arc or anything, but they knew of me from Forever, so they invited me. And, yeah, I’m really excited about that. There’s going to be a lot of authors from my imprint there, so it’s going to be a party. I’m so…

Jeff: Do you have a favorite scene in the book that you could share without spoiling?

Dominic: I have a favorite scene. Oh, that’s a good question. I don’t want to give it away, but it is the scene where you find out what went wrong in college that night. Yeah, and not just that but also the day after when things really hit the fan. I had a lot of fun constructing that whole entire sequence of events because I was, kind of, playing with perception and sort of memory. I’m a big fan of writing about memory. Oh, there’s my psychology degree coming into play right there.

Jeff: You have made use of it.

Dominic: Yay, it was worth it. Yeah, so I’m a big fan of memory and so memory comes into play here because one person has remembered things one way and one person has membered it another. And one of it is a little bit more of the truth, right, because that person was not as inebriated and other stuff. So, yeah, that to me… And maybe especially what happens after when Quito’s sort of running around trying to figure out what’s going on with everything. That was probably my favorite scene to write.

Jeff: People will definitely know that when they come to it.

Dominic: They’ll know.

Jeff: So you hinted at another book coming out next year. What can you maybe tell us a little bit about?

Dominic: Yeah, it is… Gosh, talk about topical. It is about a drag queen who tries to invigorate a karaoke bar. And so when I pitched it… Oh, let me tell you a story. Okay, so this is what happened when I got my book deal. I was on vacation with Peter, who’s my husband, at the time, was my fiancé. And we were in Monterey. It was just when things were starting to open up. So, it was our first time, like, out of the house or anything. So, we went to Monterey, got a hotel, and while I was there, I got this call from my agent that said, “Hey, please tell me that you’re working on a second book because I think we’re getting a two-book offer.” And I said, “Yeah, totally.” And I totally was not.

Jeff: There was no way you were saying you weren’t though.

Dominic: I mean, what was I going to say? She was like, “Well, just give me three or four sentences.” And so I was like, “Can I get back to you?” So, Peter and I… I said, “Peter,” we went to a coffee shop and we brainstormed ideas. And he helped me come up with that idea. Basically, we pitched it as “Tootsie” meets “Kinky Boots” because basically it’s about a guy who used to be a drag queen, doesn’t do drag anymore, runs into an old crush of his who he just lusted after in college, that never got together with. And this guy is working at a bar that’s failing. So, the main guy comes up with this idea to reinvigorate it by doing this karaoke night. And one thing leads to another and then he figures out he needs to host it because no one wants to host it, and he needs to do it as his drag queen persona. But he doesn’t want the guy to know that he’s a drag queen because he’s based his whole life after drag on rejecting femininity, rejecting what it means to be femme, and sort of adhering more closely to the typical old gay construct of masculinity being superior to everything else. And he does that. He did that to save himself really. But then he finds out that he’s gone about it all wrong because he has to teach this other guy to do drag and starts to, sort of, fall in love with drag again, and then therefore also fall in love with himself. I promise you. It’s not a self-ancestral story, but one thing leads to another. There’s shenanigans. He has to try to figure out how to be in two places at once. There’s a love triangle. You’ll love it. I promise. It’s not finished yet.

Jeff: “Tootsie” and “Kinky Boots.” And you picked two movies that have been made into musicals.

Dominic: That’s true, that’s true. Haven’t even thought about that. Yeah, there will be a lot of music in this too, trust me.

Jeff: Oh, good. Any chance that we’ll get another new original composition out of it?

Dominic: I don’t know about that. That’s the great thing about karaoke is it don’t got to be an original so…

Jeff: True. True, true. So, the book’s coming out in Pride Month. The interview’s coming out in Pride Month. What does pride mean to you in 2023?

Dominic: Gosh. Yeah, to me, it’s a tough time. And for me personally, it’s centered around two things. One is trans rights and, sort of, the attack on drag right now. And there’s separate, but there’s a lot of overlap as well. And the other thing is book bans, the bans on…especially bands on queer material and people of color authors and material and especially queer people of color material. So, those two things are very hot for me right now. Not hot. That’s weird. It’s not a hot happening thing. No, they’re very important to me right now, and that’s, sort of, at the forefront of my mind. I’m actually on the employee…the LGBTQIA+ employee group at work, and sort of, that’s my focus there is. From my theme of pride there is… I don’t know what the words would be but like fighting back or something. We go through these cycles, right, where some years we really celebrate when gay marriage was made legal and then there’s some years where we’re really fighting. And I, kind of, feel like this is one of those years we’re fighting. At least that’s how I feel.

Jeff: Yeah, I agree with you. It’s hard not to need to take this moment as a standup and resist and push back kind of year.

Dominic: Yeah. So, that’s pride to me, so that maybe pride to me next year and pride to other people next year can be more joyous. I don’t know, but I’m fighting now.

Jeff: We got to fight to get the joy.

Dominic: Yeah, totally.

Jeff: And of course we love to get book recommendations and what to watch recommendations. What have you been reading and watching lately that our listeners should check out?

Dominic: Yeah, I got two good books for you. One is a great gay novel actually from a publishing buddy of mine. His name is Rod Pulido, and it’s come out actually. Both of these books actually just came out the same day. I think it was last week. Rod Pulido’s book is called “Chasing Pacquiao.” And it’s a YA book about a queer Filipino kid who’s bullied and then finds a way to, sort of, empower himself by patterning himself after Manny Pacquiao. He’s probably the most well-known Filipino personality, the boxer, but then finds out about Manny Pacquiao’s very anti-gay statements. And so there’s this, sort of, reckoning about I’ve become stronger because of this person but this person is really not who I thought they were, which I think is fascinating. I haven’t read it yet. I just got it. That’s the thing about trying to meet deadlines is I don’t have the time to read all the books I want to read. It’s unfortunate, but I am going to read it.

And the other book is by Sid Karger. It’s called “Best Men” and Sid is…he’s primarily a screenwriter for TV. And he wrote for “SNL” and he wrote for, like, Comedy Central. And this is his first novel. It’s called “Best Men.” And it is a rom-com and it is… Let me just say I started reading it in bed at night next to my husband, and he was like, “You have to leave because you keep laughing.” And I know you’re trying to not laugh, but it’s even worse because it’s one of those, “Oh, my God.” I mean, Sid is… I actually had to stop reading it because as I was writing my book, it, sort of, started to make me feel like, “Oh, I’m not funny, like, at all compared to Sid.” It’s just he’s got this humor that is just so sharp, and the jokes just keep coming. So, that’s a big recommendation for me for what to read.

To watch? Can I say Broadway shows? I know not many people are going to be able to watch them but… So, Peter and I, we tried to go to New York. We didn’t do it in the pandemic, but we try to go to New York once a year to go see… And what we do is like we go for three or four days and we watch like one to two shows a day. So, we can go for four days and watch, like, six shows. And people think we’re crazy but it’s like the most beautiful, amazing thing like you could ever possibly do. I don’t know. Have you done that before? It’s fantastic.

Jeff: Oh, yeah. Pre-pandemic, we would go for like four or five days. We’d be there. We’d make sure to be there on a Wednesday and a Saturday. Maybe a Sunday. And just book every slot.

Dominic: Pack it in.

Jeff: So, I’m right there with you.

Dominic:Good, good. So we did that recently. Most recent visit we saw the revival of “Sweeney Todd,” which was fantastic. Josh Groban sings the shit out of that role, and also… What’s her name? The woman that plays Mrs. Lovett.

Jeff: Emily Ashford.

Dominic: That’s it. Oh, my gosh. She’s amazing. It’s like it’s one of those things where you think you’ll never get Angela Lansbury out of your head, and then you see her and you’re like, “It’s a completely different role.” She just takes it and just runs with it. And then we also saw “Parade” which… I don’t know. Have you gotten a chance to see “Parade”or…?

Jeff: I saw the original back in the day.

Dominic: Oh, wow.

Jeff: I have a ticket to see “Parade”two weeks from now.

Dominic: Oh, my God. You’re going to… Oh, be prepared. Well, the thing is you already know the whole show, but I went there with Peter and then some friends of mine who didn’t know really anything about it at all. And it’s funny. Most people think it’s about like an Easter parade. Like, they think it’s like this fun comedy, and it’s the absolute opposite.

Jeff: It is not at all.

Dominic: No, it’s so… I don’t want to say it’s heavy, but it is very substantial. And, man, does it make you… Like, after that, when we went to dinner, it was like a full hour of us talking about it because you have to… When you see something, you just have to get it out of your system. You have to talk it through. And that’s what I love about theater or any arts really is that when it really moves you, you just have to share it with somebody else because you can’t contain it within yourself, right?

Jeff: Yeah, absolutely.

Dominic: That’s what I love about stuff like this like a podcast. It’s just like you want to share it with someone, so you put it out there in the world. That’s what I love about the arts.

Jeff: Yeah, yeah. I can’t wait to see “Parade.” And I’ve heard some of the new cast recording. I’ve been trying not to take in too much of it to let it, kind of, be in the moment but…

Dominic: Yeah, that’s smart.

Jeff: …I’m excited about that. So, what is the best way for folks to keep up with you online so they can follow what happens as this book comes out but also when the new one gets ready to come out in 2024?

Dominic: Sure. The easiest is they can follow me at my website at Although I’m trying to keep it up to date, but you can also follow me on Twitter @j_dominic_lim. You know how like someone’s already taken your name, it sucks. And then Instagram, I’m doing a bunch of Instagram stuff jdominiclim, and I just started doing TikTok.

Jeff: Oh, my. Brave soul that you are. But you’re a performer, you could do it.

Dominic: I guess. I mean, I’m trying. I don’t want to look like an… Well, I think that’s the whole point is you just need to look like an idiot on TikTok, and that’s kind of what I did. So, there’s about five or six on there. And that is dominiclim_author. I managed to snag that. So, you can follow me there as well.

Jeff: We will link to all of that and everything we talked about in our show notes. Dominic, it’s been so awesome talking to you about this amazing book. Thank you so much for joining us.

Dominic: Thank you so much, Jeff. It was such an honor to be here, and I’m so happy to get the chance to talk to you.


Will: This episode’s transcript has been brought to you by our community on Patreon. If you’d like to read the conversation for yourself, head on over to the show notes page for this episode at We’ve got links to everything that we’ve talked about in this episode.

And as a quick reminder, if you want to get book recommendations in your inbox every single Friday, you should sign up for the Rainbow Romance Reader Report. It’s this podcast’s official newsletter. We feature new releases and upcoming books to help keep your TBR up to date. And you can sign up at

Jeff: Thanks so much to Dominic for coming and talking about “All the Right Notes.” You heard me go on in the interview about what I loved about this book, but hey, I have more to say. Right after the book came out earlier this month, I did in fact read it again because I had to hear Aaron Albano’s performance since Dominic had talked about it in the interview.

Aaron took Dominic’s already amazing story and just brought all the right stuff to it. From the perfect voicing of Quito and Emmett as teenagers and adults, just the right sass and attitude and compassion for Ujima, not to mention brining out all the emotions. I already had so many feels when I read it, but I found even more through Aaron’s performance. And the singing… mmmm. You don’t get that often in audio books and it was gorgeous. Of course, someone who has performed in “Miss Saigon” and “Hamilton” is gonna sing great at Aaron did not disappoint. Fun fact, we actually saw Aaron back in 2012 in “Newsies” when he was in the original Broadway cast, and I saw him again in 2016 in the Broadway revival of “Cats.” Anyway, as I said last week, and I’ll say it again here, go read this book And don’t be surprised in December when this is at the top of my favorite reads list. Meanwhile, can’t wait to see what Dominic writes next and what Aaron narrates next.

Will: All right, I think that’ll do it for now. Coming up next Monday, dancer and now children’s book author Mark Kanemura joins us.

Jeff: Now you may know Mark from season four of “So You Think You Could Dance,” or his many appearances in music videos, in particular from Lady Gaga, or his amazing Instagram feed where he kept us all dancing through the pandemic. Mark’s just released a children’s book called “I Am a Rainbow,” and we’ll talk to him all about it.

Will: Thank you so much for listening. We hope that you’ll join us again soon for more discussions about the kinds of stories we all love, the big gay fiction kind. Until then, keep turning those pages and keep reading.

Big Gay Fiction Podcast is part of the Frolic Podcast Network. Find more shows you’ll love at Original theme music by Daryl Banner.