Author Interview: Lyn Liao Butler, author of Red Thread of Fate

author interview lyn liao butler red thread of fate

The Lily Cafe is thrilled to welcome author Lyn Liao Butler! Her novel, Red Thread of Fate, focuses on family and friendships, motherhood and adoption, secrets and culture, all through an American/Chinese/Taiwanese lens.

Title: Red Thread of Fate

Author: Lyn Liao Butler

Publisher: Berkley

Publication date: February 8, 2022

Genre: Fiction

In the wake of a tragedy and fueled by guilt from a secret she’s kept for years, a woman discovers how delicate the thread that binds family is in this powerful novel by Lyn Liao Butler.

Two days before Tam and Tony Kwan receive their letter of acceptance for the son they are adopting from China, Tony and his estranged cousin Mia are killed unexpectedly in an accident. A shell-shocked Tam learns she is named the guardian to Mia’s five-year-old daughter, Angela. With no other family around, Tam has no choice but to agree to take in the girl she hasn’t seen since the child was an infant. 

Overwhelmed by her life suddenly being upended, Tam must also decide if she will complete the adoption on her own and bring home the son waiting for her in a Chinese orphanage. But when a long-concealed secret comes to light just as she and Angela start to bond, their fragile family is threatened. As Tam begins to unravel the events of Tony and Mia’s past in China, she discovers the true meaning of love and the threads that bind her to the family she is fated to have.

Thank you so much, Lyn, for answering some questions about yourself and your novel!

What made you want to write Red Thread of Fate? What drew you to it?

Right before we traveled to China to adopt our little boy, my FDNY husband came home one day and said they’d responded to an accident where the husband was on the phone with his wife when she was struck and killed by a truck. And the first thing I thought was, OMG, what would I do if that happened to me? And that was how Tam’s story was born.

How horrifying! How did you come to choose Red Thread of Fate as the title?

The book was originally titled HER LITTLE SECRET but my agent and editor both thought it was too generic. Since the book is about the characters finding who their red thread is connected to, not just romantically, but as a parent and child, I suggested the title and my editor thought it was fitting.

It’s a fantastic title! Which one of your characters is your favorite? Which character was the hardest to write?

Tam’s mom was my favorite. I’ve known so many Asian woman like her mother that she was really easy to write. The hardest character to write was Tam herself. She is shy, awkward, and not very sure of herself at the beginning. It was so hard to still make her relatable and I know not everyone is going to like her. But there are so many people out there like Tam, who find social interactions difficult and who don’t have a lot of faith in themselves. Hopefully someone out there sees how Tam grew and was no longer held back by her insecurities.

I found myself really identifying with Tam because of that. Her journey was amazing. What was your favorite part of writing Red Thread of Fate? What was the hardest part?

This book was really hard to write. I wrote a version of it in 2016 and when it got a lot of agent interest but no one picked it up, I had to put it aside for two years. I knew I needed to fix the structure, but I didn’t know how. I ended up re-writing the first book I’d ever written and that book got me my agent. While we were on sub with that first book, my agent and I brainstormed and I finally figured out how to fix it. It took a long time and at times I didn’t think this book would ever see the light of day. But I loved being able to draw from our adoption journey and traveling to China and bringing it to life in Tam’s story.

The adoption process is so fascinating and was so detailed. It was wonderful to learn more about it. Moving on to you, how have you done during the pandemic? Has it inspired any part of your writing?

I hardly wrote anything during the pandemic because I was suddenly forced to homeschool an eight year old who did NOT want to be homeschooled. It was probably one of the worst experiences we’ve had together and he actually said after a few weeks that he “retires” from mommy school. When I did try to write, I let him watch TV since that was the only way to get him to leave me alone, but then all my Kauai characters started speaking with a British accent and saying things like, “Don’t be cheeky, Mummy” because he loved British shows. So I gave up until he went back to school. And then I wrote the book I’d set in Kauai, but it was so depressing that I knew no one would want to read it. It wasn’t until two writing friends pointed out that I’d written a thriller that I finally understood what was wrong with it. And so I accidentally wrote a thriller and our family lived in Kauai for two months at the beginning of 2020 so I could research ways to make characters die on Kauai. It was the best decision we ever made during the pandemic and my brilliant agent sold that book very quickly!

Sounds like a great way to do some research! Why do you write? What do you love about it?

I have a very active imagination and stories are always popping into my head. I never thought I’d be a writer. I used to be a professional ballet and modern dancer, and also a personal trainer and fitness/yoga instructor. I owned a gym in Manhattan for ten years. I loved to read, but never wanted to write. But then one day, on January 1, 2015, I woke up and said, I’m going to write a book. And I haven’t stopped writing since.

What’s your writing routine? How do you plan your stories? How long does it take you to write a novel?

I don’t write every day. I think about a story, and sometimes go months without writing a word. But I’m always thinking about the characters, the plot, etc, what I call percolating an idea. Once I have the general idea, I sit down and write a chapter by chapter outline. Then I play around with the outline until things make sense. So by the time I sit down to write, I can just bang out the book. I literally just wrote an entire book in two weeks because I’d been thinking about it for so long and had a detailed chapter by chapter outline that the book just flowed out of me. For me, this method works. Other people need to write every day, but I don’t write unless I’m inspired to do so. In this way, I never get writers block because I don’t force myself to write.

For some, taking the leap to publish is a huge one. Was that true of you?

Yes! I didn’t realize at first how hard it is to get traditonally published. First you need to sign with an agent, and it took me 3.5 years of querying to find my amazing agent. Then you go out on sub, and a lot of the times, books die on sub. There is so much rejection along the way that unless you have a very thick skin or just love to write so much that you can’t stop, it is so easy to give up. I almost did at one point. But I couldn’t stop writing and so I pushed forward. It really is a leap of faith. Yes, a lot of it comes down to talent and good ideas, but I also think a lot of it is timing and luck too. Getting published is not easy and there were many tears shed along the way. But I’m so glad I stuck with it.

Thank you so much, Lyn, for letting us get to know you and Red Thread of Fate a little more!

Come back tomorrow for my review of Red Thread of Fate.

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