Hi Sarah! Thank you so much for taking time to speak with Geek Vibes Nation about your upcoming novel, I Will Find You Again. Could you start by telling our readers a little about yourself and your work?
Hi, thanks so much for having me on GVN—love the content and articles on the site and big fan of the overall vibes! I’m a young adult author of The Best Lies and the upcoming I Will Find You Again, both young adult novels about love and loss, trauma and madness. I’m drawn to stories about intensely close relationships and the journey it takes to heal from our deepest wounds.
I Will Find You Again is a thrilling novel with lots of twists and turns. Could you talk about how you came up with the idea for the book? What were some of your inspirations?
There were pieces of the book that I had at the beginning but it took some time to put it all together. I knew I wanted to write about an overachiever girl and her free spirit girlfriend. I knew there would be a cheating ring. I knew that the climax would be tragic and ending bittersweet, but I didn’t know exactly how we’d get there. I was inspired by a lot of different things—personal experiences from my teens and early twenties, the movies Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Better Luck Tomorrow, the twist in We Were Liars by E. Lockhart. I wanted to write about serious subjects like depression, grief, perfectionism, the price of success, but I also wanted to capture a complicated love story and a lot of the twists and turns came as I let the characters guide the writing and development.
I love how the book alternates between the past and the present. What were some of the benefits and challenges of structuring the story that way?
I’m really drawn to nostalgia and how the way we look at the past colors the reality of what actually happened and turns it into a whole other thing: a myth, a story, an inspiration, a regret. I think it can be illuminating to see the way a character tells her own story, but I do think a pitfall is that flipping back and forth between past and present can drag the pacing. For this book, I think it worked because a crucial part of narrative was examining Chase’s history and piecing together the parts that didn’t completely make sense.
Chase and Lia are opposites but drawn to each other. How did you go about creating and developing each girl and her personality?
I based Chase off who I was as a teen and Lia off who I was in my twenties. That’s probably an oversimplified way of looking at them, and a more accurate way of seeing them is that they’re two parts of a conversation I’m constantly having with myself, an internal debate between striving for the idea of success and finding joy outside the culture of jockeying for money, power, status. These were the initial seeds of their characters and I used their inner motivations to develop them further.
Both Cole and Hunter are intriguing characters as well. What was your process when creating them and determining their function in the story? Did they surprise you at all while writing?
In many ways, both Cole and Hunter were foils for Chase. The biggest mistaken belief Chase has internalized is that she can only protect herself and exert control over her life if she becomes rich and powerful enough to “rewrite the rules” to suit herself. For Cole and Hunter, we can see that same paradigm play out in different ways. Cole is aware of his limitations and in comparing himself to Chase, he tells her he’ll never beat her at her game, but he has his own kind of resourcefulness—he knows how to put the right people together, build a team to achieve what he wants. Hunter, on the other hand, is very subtle in the way she manipulates Chase toward a very specific goal she has in mind. As much as this novel is about ambition and depression and love lost, it’s at the very core about control: why we crave it, what lengths we’ll go to attain it, and how it’s ultimately an illusion.
With this being your second novel, did you feel pressured to make sure this book was just as intriguing and amazing as the first? If so, how did you deal with that?
Like Chase, I’m a perfectionist at heart and I didn’t just want to match my first novel—I wanted to surpass it. But that kind of mindset isn’t very healthy and in writing about perfectionism and ambition, I had to keep reminding myself of the lessons Chase was learning. I found myself wanting very badly to write a perfect novel about perfectionism and sometimes the only thing to do was to laugh at myself a little. I think the impulse to compare is constant and universal—to compare a second book to the first, to compare my writing to other people’s writing—but all we can ever really do is try our best and let go of judgment, internal or otherwise, because nurturing our impulse to create is what really matters in the end.
Your passion for this story really came across as I read it. What was your favorite scene to write? Do you have a favorite character?
My favorite scenes to write were the earlier moments in Chase and Lia’s relationship, when they were falling in love. In the drafting process whenever I’d get stuck or feel kind of defeated, I’d reread those passages and fall in love with the two of them again. There’s so much love and tenderness, so much history between them to draw from. They had been best friends for a decade before and I loved writing the moments Chase realized she didn’t just love Lia, she was in love with her. In terms of favorite characters, it might change from day to day, but I think about Lia all the time, about the ways she felt trapped and the ways she rebelled against the messaging from everyone around her—that she wasn’t good enough, that what she wanted was silly, that the future she longed for was impossible. I love her.
The novel has such a delicious mystery at its core, and it kept me intrigued the entire time. As a writer, what do you think are some of the key elements of a mystery story that have to be present no matter what?
Despite writing two thrillers, I still feel unqualified to talk about constructing mysteries mostly because plot and structure are my biggest struggles, and it can take me months (or even years!) to properly untangle a story. I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that mystery, thriller, and suspense novels are best when they respect readers. It can be so tricky to hide pieces of the story in ways that don’t feel like the author is just intentionally being coy. For I Will Find You Again, I think the mystery only works because we are so closely tied to Chase’s point of view. We are with her each step of the way and so each discovery hits both Chase and the reader at exactly the same time. At least I hope this is what it feels like!
Could you talk about what you’re working on next?
I’m a relatively slow writer, so it’s likely that what I’m working on will change dramatically between now and when it reaches readers. All I’ll say is that like my other novels, it’ll be about love and loss, trauma and madness. And I can promise another bittersweet ending 🙂
Where can our readers connect with you online?
About The Book
All the Bright Places meets Ace of Spades in this smart, twisty teen thriller about a girl who can’t stop pushing herself to be the best—even after losing her best friend and the love of her life.
Welcome to Meadowlark, Long Island—expensive homes and good schools, ambition and loneliness. Meet Chase Ohara and Lia Vestiano: the driven overachiever and the impulsive wanderer, the future CEO and the free spirit. Best friends for years—weekend trips to Montauk, sleepovers on a yacht—and then, first love. True love.
But when Lia disappears, Chase’s life turns into a series of grim snapshots. Anger. Grief. Running. Pink pills in an Altoids tin. A cheating ring at school. Heartbreak and lies. A catastrophic secret.
And the shocking truth that will change everything about the way Chase sees Lia—and herself.
Writer. Video Essayist. Film/TV Critic. Pop Culture Enthusiast.
When he isn’t writing for Geek Vibes Nation or creating content for his YouTube channel, Tristian can be found typing away at the young adult novel he has been working on for three years.