The first book I ever wrote was epic. I researched and wrote the biography of Leslie Joseph Hooker (born Leslie Joseph Tingyou). It’s called LJ Hooker The Man, The Untold Story of an Australian Icon. To this day, his name is known by everyone in Australia. What was not known was how his rise to success was against all odds and that he had Chinese heritage.

It was an extraordinary experience to uncover his fascinating story, especially because he was my grandfather. During his lifetime his heritage was controversial due to the White Australia Policy, so he had never talked about it and had not told anyone, including his children, about his family lines. I was eager to know the truth about his heritage, and also, where he got his incredible drive and business acumen.

My vision was to create an illustrated book full of images from the times, and, because he was a leader in real estate, I wanted to show the development of the Australian nation and his part in that. I envisioned a beautiful coffee table book that could be either dipped into from time to time or read in one sitting. I didn’t have another biography as a reference point, so I used some stunning cookbooks and design books, such as the award-winning Lygon Street by Michael Harden and Etcetera by Sibella Court, as inspiration.

LJ Hooker was born in 1903 and died in 1976. I was too young to remember him. When I started research in 2004, most of his peers had already passed away, so I started by interviewing any of his former employees that I could track down. I also met with family members, contacted newspaper groups and retrieved any articles about him or his company that I could find. I went to the Births, Deaths & Marriages register to gather all the documents I could to create the family tree. My final step was to take a trip to China where his ancestors were from.

Through my research, I found out that my grandfather was illegitimate, and his mother, Nellie Tingyou, was half-Chinese. He was orphaned at the age of eight, brought up in a Chinese-speaking household, and had no high school education. With each additional piece of research that I did, I was overwhelmed with pride as to what he had achieved. He created housing for thousands of people, owned land the size of Belgium, was a huge philanthropist and knighted by the Queen of England for his service to commerce and the community. But all of this was happening under the guise that he was LJ Hooker, an Anglo man that featured in the newspaper almost every week. He would regularly go to his favourite Chinese restaurant, and the Chinese proprietor would quietly say, “He’s one of us.”

I did so much research that there were piles of papers in my apartment. Stacks of documents, company annual reports, newspaper articles, photos, transcribed interviews, and letters from family or LJ Hooker employees. After I finished the research, I wrote the book chronologically. I wanted to start from the beginning to get to know my grandfather through his journey, every step of the way.

It was a feat to choose what was the most important to include in the book, put it all in order, write the chapters and find the time to get it done. From start to finish this project took me over 7 years. The biography is 300 pages, with 400 images and 40,000 words, and my vision came true – it can be read in one sitting or slowly dipped into to enjoy each visual element. The last year of the book’s creation was extremely intense and I worked around the clock, coordinating with a designer in Australia in great detail so that every page of the book would be unique. I urge you to take a look on Kindle, even just to see some sample pages. Who knows, it might be a good inspiration! See here.

Although it was a lot of work, I loved every step of the process. After having completed the biography, I knew I wanted to create more books, but less complicated projects. It was then that I started the children’s book series, Misha the Travelling Puppy. My vision for that series was to teach children about the world in a fun way. I have lived abroad most of my adult life, I have a mixed heritage of Australian, Polish, and Chinese, and I have learned to speak many languages. I strongly believe that knowing the world and different cultures is such an important part of a child’s education. With this series, the world is brought to a child’s bookshelf! No need to get on a plane, Misha will take them there vicariously.

What is your vision for your book? Take the time to think about this, and make a note in your journal, or better still, email me by replying to this message. Let this be the first step to make your vision a reality.

If you would like to learn more about the LJ Hooker The Man biography, please follow this link. At the moment, it’s available on Amazon Kindle for just $2.99 US. For more information about Misha the Travelling Puppy, please see this page, and it will lead you to Goodreads and Amazon.

Please stay tuned! I will be launching “Insights”, a wonderful interview series where authors reveal their stories and inspirations. There will be an interview with Karen Hughes, author of Kalika Magic, to kick off the series. Kalika Magic is claimed to be the next Harry Potter series. Find out more from Karen herself in this exclusive interview, coming soon.

And, in case you missed it, please follow this link for my free 4-part training for beginner writers, and this link for a short training on ChatGPT for Entrepreneurs. Enjoy!