Into YA with Sarah Lyu
I absolutely love getting to share this interview with you as this book is absolutely fascinating! We dive into how she pieced together the perfect twists and turns in her thriller, handled an unreliable narrator, and responsibly handling a toxic friendship story. If you haven't read the book, check out my review first for more (spoiler free) context on the story, and make sure you head to the store to grab a copy of your own.
1. You’ve written a very twisty thriller. It’s timeline is broken up, and we’re given the events in fragmented flashes. Did the book come to you out of order, or did you think of the story linearly and rearrange it later to add suspense?
The story came to me linearly, and it wasn't until maybe draft 4 or 5 that I added the frame story of Remy speaking to Detective Ward. The first way I'd envisioned the story didn't work structurally because Remy needed to be examining all of the things that she'd experienced, which wasn't possible without that look-back perspective. Once I rewrote using the frame story, much of the narrative sort of clicked into place because Remy was now really examining her relationship with Elise and seeing all these things that she'd missed.
2. Your voice is so strong and suited to adding the subtle twists and turns in the very deliberate word choices. Did this take many drafts to cultivate, or is it an element that was on the page from the start?
Thank you! Her voice is something I'm really proud of. It definitely evolved and deepened in personality through all the drafts, but I would say that it came to me fairly developed. I think all the pain she was experiencing really spoke to me. She has so many feelings! She's such an open character emotionally that it was easy to "talk" to her, if that makes sense.
3. The book is full of unreliable characters. We’re working with an unreliable, or at the very least, a deeply confused, narrator, and the way that we’re shown the other characters, it’s hard to figure out who to trust. Was it challenging to write a characters with so many questions surrounding them? How deeply did you know these characters deep turns before you started writing, and did they evolve as you drafted?
Yes, we're definitely dealing with unreliable characters in this story. It was one of my favorite aspects of the book if I'm being honest. It wasn't that I wanted to play with readers or manipulate them; I was (and still am) really fascinated by the lies we tell ourselves, and these characters really take that to the next level. One of the biggest lies they tell each other is that what doesn't kill them makes them stronger. It's this seemingly harmless thing that's a throwaway cliché we use in casual everyday speech. "No pain, no gain," that kind of thing. Elise loves this lie because she's dealing with so much pain and the idea that there's no point to this pain is unbearable to her. I wanted to explore how a lie like this, something that starts out as a positive coping mechanism, can twist inside a person and make them a warrior for good but also push them over the edge. This story is really about the stories we tell ourselves, how we frame our own realities--and how dangerous that can be. All of this definitely wasn't in the early drafts, however, and it was something that evolved through several drafts as I got to know the characters better.
4. While the story is twisty and gripping, the book also deals with very serious subjects like abuse and emotional manipulation. You do an excellent job of showing readers the warning signs while also making it very clear how the main character fell into the toxic friendship. Was it difficult to find a responsible balance wile telling the story? Did you do research before you wrote these elements?
It was definitely difficult to find a responsible balance. It was a concern of mine the entire time, and that's the way it should be--representing abuse in fiction is a big responsibility. In a note in the back of the ARC, I disclose that I've personally experienced physical and emotional abuse, but I found out in the process of writing this book that personal experience isn't always enough to responsibly represent an issue. I've been in therapy for years (highly recommended!) and even that wasn't necessarily enough because therapy is very client-specific. My therapist did recommend a great resource, however--a book by adultchildren.org (Adult Children of Alcoholics) called The Laundry Lists Workbook. It discussed the cycle of violence in a way that was new to me and that had a big impact on the book as I was writing.
5. Your book has left me totally speechless. Can we expect another book any time soon? Are you interested in continuing to write thriller type stories or are you looking forward to exploring another genre?
Wow, thank you again for your kind words. I'm so, so glad you enjoyed THE BEST LIES!! As for a new book, I have to admit that I'm a slow writer (my editor can attest to this, ha!). All I can say is that I'm working on something and I hope to get it out sooner rather than later. But I think it'll be a departure from the thriller genre, though who can say? THE BEST LIES wasn't a thriller when I started and wasn't one even at the time it was sold!
Books By This Author...
The Best Lies: Review Here
Links of Interest:
Screen Queens: Review Here
Past Perfect Lives: Review Here
What's Coming Up In July: Here
A Brief Chronicle of Another Stupid Heartbreak: Review Here