Sarah Lyu grew up outside of Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania. She loves a good hike and can often be found with a paintbrush in one hand and a cup of milky tea in the other. Sarah is the author of The Best Lies and I Will Find You Again. You can find her on Instagram, Twitter, Tik Tok, and Facebook.
I had the opportunity to interview Sarah, which you can read below.
First of all, welcome to Geeks OUT! Could you tell us a little about yourself?
Hi there, I’m Sarah Lyu, YA author of The Best Lies and the upcoming I Will Find You Again. I write books about love and loss, trauma and hope.
What can you tell us about your latest book, I Will Find You Again? What inspired the story?
I Will Find You Again is the story of two girls, Chase and Lia, childhood best friends who fall in love and fall apart before one of them disappears. It’s about how far we’re willing to go for love, what sacrifices we’re willing to make, and what happens when it’s just not enough. It’s also about the idea of choosing to be internally happy or to be externally successful in life, about suffering when you’re young for some undefined golden future. And it’s about sleepovers on a yacht, playing hooky in NYC, and the pure, unadulterated joy of being with someone who sees the real you and loves you, flaws and all.
I was initially inspired by some of my high school experiences—all-nighters spent cramming for tests, intense pressure to be perfect all the time, the abstract fear of failing at life. This sense of never living in the moment and always chasing a future defined by achievements and outward successes when we think we can finally be happy. But that happiness never comes because all we know is the chase so if we ever catch the thing we thought we needed, we just move on to needing something else. (There’s a reason the main character’s name is Chase, ha.) I wanted to write about that feeling of never being enough but in a way that’s empathetic to anyone who’s ever struggled with it because I’m still struggling with it myself.
What drew you to storytelling, particularly young adult fiction? Were there any favorite writers or stories that sparked your own love and interest in storytelling?
I love young adult fiction so much because the teen years are such a wonderful and terrible period of transformation and realization. So many firsts and so many intense emotions! It’s often the time when we start to see the complexity of the world and when we start to figure out how we fit in that world. My favorite author is E. Lockhart, and I read The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks about once every year or two.
How would you describe your writing process?
I usually start with a concept I’m intrigued by and it can take a while for the characters to speak to me. I do outline but only the major plot points to keep the writing fresh. I like the advice that the first draft is for telling myself the story first and subsequent drafts are for telling the story to readers.
What inspires you as a writer?
I find human beings fascinating, particularly when we do things we know we shouldn’t do. When we self-destruct or hurt the people we love even though we never intended to. The ways we mess up and the ways we try to fix things. The ways we lie to hide how we really feel, even (or especially) to ourselves. I’ll spend my whole life trying to uncover why we do what we do and I’ll still never get to the end, but that’s part of the fun.
What are some of your favorite elements of writing? What are some of the most challenging?
I love getting lost in a conversation between characters. Sometimes when I’m deep in a scene, it feels like there’s a movie playing in my brain and I’m just trying to keep up with what everyone’s saying. That’s how it often felt when writing I Will Find You Again—the love between these two girls was palpable and I was sometimes just a third wheel watching Chase and Lia argue and make up, fall in and out of love, find each other again and again.
I find plot and structure to be a huge challenge. Both I Will Find You Again and The Best Lies are thrillers with complicated plots and I facepalmed a lot during the process because I had no one but me to blame for choosing to write such un-straightforward stories.
One of the hardest parts of writing a book is finishing one. Were there any techniques/ strategies/advice that helped you finish your first draft?
If I’m completely honest, I managed to finish the first draft only because of a deadline. I think in theory I like the idea of touching the book every day and trying to write something in the story so that it stays fresh in my mind. In reality, I write in spurts and stops, and I’m trying to just embrace it because we can only be the person we are, right?
What’s a question you haven’t been asked yet but wish you were asked (as well as the answer to that question)?
How does love fit into your books? To me, love is the whole point of life. Not falling in love or romantic love necessarily, but the love that connects us to each other and more than that, to ourselves. These connections are what give us meaning in a world where nothing really lasts. They’re what reveal us and preserve us, what we crave in good times, and what sustains us in bad. And for Chase, someone who believes in the sandcastles she could one day build (money and power and possibly fame), love is something she takes for granted because what she has with Lia has been there since they were young and so she thinks true love is something that comes easy. It takes losing that love for her to not only appreciate it but to understand the honesty and attentiveness and vulnerability it takes to build a relationship that feels like home.
Besides your work, what are some things you would want readers to know about you?
I have two dogs that I absolutely adore. I love going to new places and meeting new people and hearing their life stories—if you end up sitting next to me on a plane or train, there’s a good chance I’ll walk away knowing the names of your family and pets and all about what drives you and what you hope the next five years will bring. I also love painting and lug brushes, tubes of paint, and blank canvas panels with me wherever I go, much to the annoyance of my travel companions, ha.
What advice might you give to other aspiring writers?
This is advice for me too because I am constantly reminding myself: write for yourself first. What is something that’s troubling you? What are you struggling with? What do you love and why? What are your dreams and what gives you hope? What haunts you and what soothes your soul? Each of my books are stories I needed for myself, and often when I’m struggling with something (an old trauma, my perennial perfectionism), I’ll think, hey, I wrote a whole book about that. Fiction is how we learn through imagination—writing is self-exploration first to me and a way for me to work through the ghosts that I carry and understand the world in a different way.
Are there any other projects you are working on and at liberty to speak about?
I’m currently working on a story about clones but it’s in the very early stages—more soon, I hope.
Finally, what LGBTQ+ books/authors would you recommend to the readers of Geeks OUT?
Nina LaCour, David Leviathan, Victoria Lee—they’re all wonderful!
Header Photo Credit Anna Shih