One of the best privileges that come with working at Off Colour is the early access we get to upcoming books. So when Simon and Schuster sent us their spring catalogue, I jumped at the chance to see what new releases caught my eye, and that’s where I found I Will Find You Again by Sarah Lyu. Described as All The Bright Places meets Ace of Spades, I knew it was right up my alley. But from the competitiveness and struggle to succeed came the story of love and a desire to be happy, and just like that, I Will Find You Again became an instant favourite. So keep reading to check out my chat with Sarah Lyu about her upcoming twisty teen thriller and see why you should preorder it immediately!
Off Colour: What was the inspiration behind I Will Find You Again?
Sarah Lyu: It had a lot of different inspirations. I was inspired by the movie Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Which if you’ve seen it, there are callbacks throughout I Will Find You Again. And I was really, most of all, inspired by my experience as a teen in high school, going through a lot of the stuff that Chase is going through. I thought about how badly I wanted again to this or that college, how it felt like that was the weight of the whole world. I wanted to go back, explore that, and prove that that’s not true.
How did you write and explore those heavier themes and sensitive subjects?
SL: Personally, it’s always been a struggle to need other people even though we all need others. We exist as a society; smaller than that, we live in a community. Even smaller than that, we exist inside a friend group, or a family, both chosen and blood. But I wanted to always do it all myself, you know? I didn’t want to depend on anyone else. And that’s how Chase feels.
That’s such an interesting concept to explore because we consider adulthood to be about independence and self-sufficiency. So Chase is almost punishing herself for not having this idealized goal while also striving for it.
SL: Exactly! It’s the story she told herself about who she is. She’s stuck to that so closely that anything that threatens that vision of herself is a threat to herself. She just really struggles with that. But in this relationship with Lia, she sees that Lia has all of these things that she can rely on. In her mind, she’s like, you have your mom you can depend on, your whole family, or you have all these other things going for you. But I don’t, and I do it all by myself. That is a matter of pride for her.
Your first book, The Best Lies, also dealt with these intense topics and kind self-exploration. How do you, as an author, care for yourself when writing such introspective stories?
SL: So both of these books are based partly on my traumas growing up through young adulthood. And I think I’m done with that. For The Best Lies, I was exploring sort of this awful friendship breakup that I had experienced that was also very unhealthy and kind of codependent. But I also explored growing up with emotional and physical abuse, which was very personal.
For I Will Find You Again, I was deeply exploring some of the mental health issues from growing up and from my 20s. Lia goes to the same psychiatric hospital I stayed in for a short time. A lot of the things that Lia talks about feeling about her depression and suicidal thoughts are directly taken from either my journals or things that I thought so heavily they’ve kind of like run a rut. I’ll remember always thinking these thoughts, that darkness and feeling that hopelessness.
So I was writing these books as a way to process that. To take off this heavy jacket and put it on the shoulders of the character. I feel like it was safer for me to sort of process things but also as a way to let it go and send it out into the world differently. I think that fiction is an amazing way to learn.
You’re absolutely right! Fiction has such an essential role in our histories. Indigenous cultures across the globe have used storytelling and fiction as a tool of oral tradition. This is how we keep stories alive, record history and information, to pass it down from generation to generation.
On a lighter note, I heard your dogs are named Mako and Naga. Are you a big Legend of Korra Fan?
SL: Yeah! I’m a massive fan of both shows, and I’m so excited for Avatar studios. I also love the character of Azula. She has a special place in my heart. The way that they handled the last few episodes of the third book were *chef’s kiss*.
Would you ever want to write for the Nickelodeon Avatar IP?
SL: That would be so amazing, but I don’t know how the IP world works. I’ve heard little things from some author friends about it, but I don’t know how to audition for it. But I mean, if ever there was an opportunity, I would love to. That is, if they like emotionally intense writing.
Is that what’s calling to you next, or will you explore mystery and thrillers a bit longer?
SL: I’m a very slow writer, so what I tell you now will probably change and evolve, But I’m ready for something different, and the next book won’t be a thriller. I think it won’t necessarily be looking back on the very personal traumas that I’ve gone through. It’ll be writing about something that’s very top of mind and that I’m pulled to. I think I’m thinking a lot about what it means to live a life and what it means to be afraid of death.
But I’ll always write about intensely emotional characters; I just don’t know how to do it any other way. And y endings will always be bittersweet because that’s authentic to real life.
What would you like readers to know before diving into I Will Find You Again, and what do you hope they leave with?
SL: Before they go into I Will Find You Again, I’d like them to know that this story is about two teens in an affluent and competitive neighbourhood, but it’s ultimately a love story between Chase and Lia. My favourite scenes were the ones writing about the two of them falling in love, the tenderness they share, and their maturity despite being teens.
There are a lot of conversations and arguments we have about how to live a life. Whether or not to try and strive for traditional success or to choose happiness. They were incredibly meaningful to me to write and see unfold on the page. That will resonate with many people, no matter their age, because we’re constantly making these kinds of compromises with ourselves, saying I’ll delay happiness now because if I grind some more, this will be worth it. It’ll push you to ask how we live meaningful lives and what are the consequences of our choices.
I hope they leave with the sense that the relationships in our lives also hold value above the external achievements and the shiny things that we’re always running after. It doesn’t have to be a romantic relationship by any means. Like my relationship with my dogs, the time I spend with people and with other beings makes me ultimately super, super happy. Maybe you won’t be like Chase at the beginning, who hopes to see her name on skyscrapers, wants multimillion-dollar bonuses, or, you know, to run for Congress. But maybe you’ll look at your relationships a little differently and see how much value they have in your life.
To check out some of our other interviews, click here!