Guest Chick: Lyn Liao Butler

Jennifer here, and I’m excited to have Lyn on the blog today. We met in the 2020 Debuts group, and it’s been fascinating how her publishing journey has unfolded, including writing an accidental thriller!

My Accidental Thriller

My first two books, which came out during the pandemic, are categorized as upmarket fiction, or book club fiction. My option for the third book was supposed to be in this genre and I started writing it in 2020. It takes place in Kauai and I had planned to travel there with my family to do research. But then the pandemic hit. And I ended up homeschooling a then seven-year-old. And I got stabby. My son hated e-learning and told me after six weeks, “Mommy. I RETIRE from your school.” (Note: he didn’t quit. He RETIRED)

Fall of 2020, I got the harebrained idea to go live on Kauai that winter since it looked like we would have to shelter in place again. There was no COVID on the island because they weren’t letting people in. I’d been struggling to write that third book so on a whim, we went for it. As luck would have it, three days before we left, Hawaii lifted their strict 14-day quarantine in a hotel room (along with electronic bracelets and armed guards). We only had to quarantine for three days in a resort bubble and tested out the fourth day.

It was the best decision we made during the pandemic. Not only were we out of the cold, we were living on a beautiful island where our son got to play with the local kids. The words flowed on that third book, fueled by Mai Tais but remember, pandemic homeschooling put me in a dark place. I started killing people off in the book. Then there was a stalker who followed the MC all the way from New York to Kauai, then an accidental murder from the past, and then an intentional murder. One day, while paddle boarding with my family on the Wailua River, I asked the guy renting us the paddle boards, “If there was a really bad storm, could someone get swept away out into the ocean?”

He said yes. It has happened, to his father in fact who survived, because he was a strong swimmer. I then asked, “So, if someone can’t swim, they could potentially drown?” He nodded, telling me all about the surge from up the mountains and how in a second, it could sweep anything along the banks away. My face lit up with glee as I said, “Perfect! That’s how she’s going to die!”

He looked at me, cocked his head, and took a few steps back from the river. He told us we could just leave the paddle boards by the river when we were done. No need for him to come back. Oops. Maybe I should have prefaced that with, “I’m an author. Not a murderer.”

When I told some writer friends and my agent about the book, they said to me, “Lyn. That’s not a family drama. You wrote a thriller.”

Huh. I didn’t know how to write a thriller. I love them, but never attempted to write one. I had accidentally written a thriller. My agent and I fine-tuned the concept, and then she sold that book, Someone Else’s Life, in two weeks on only three chapters and a synopsis. And suddenly, I was now a thriller author. The ideas started to flow out of me. Every time something in real life happens my thriller brain would start spinning it into a new story. I started researching ways people could die (like, how many seconds do you have to hold a pillow over someone’s face), and other subjects that I’m sure has put me on some national watch lists. Every time I ask questions like that, I have to preface it with, “I’m not a serial killer or plotting a kidnapping.”

It’s been fun getting into the heads of twisted people, but I had to write a rom-com next to get out of that dark place. After all, doesn’t everyone need a happily ever after, after all that murder and stalking?

What have you accidentally done?

About the Book

A new life in paradise should have healed her wounds. But for a woman struggling to hold on to her family and her sanity, one stormy night could change everything.

Blow by blow, Annie Lin’s life crumbles. Her dance studio goes bankrupt. Her mother and beloved dog are gone the same year. Then a terrible accident leaves her young son traumatized.

It’s time for a change.

Palm trees, mai tais, peace and quiet―Annie should be at ease, safe in her new Kauai home with her husband and son. She hopes proximity to her family can provide them all with a sense of belonging and calm. But soon items from her past start turning up―her dog’s collar, a bracelet that disappeared years ago―and she has the unnerving sensation she’s being watched. Reality begins to fracture, and Annie’s panic attacks return. When, during a brewing storm, a woman appears on her doorstep looking for shelter, Annie is relieved to have the company and feels an unexplainable bond with her visitor.

As the night progresses, Annie realizes the woman is no stranger. Their lives are inextricably intertwined―and Annie might just lose everything.


About Lyn

Lyn Liao Butler is a Taiwanese American author of thrillers, upmarket fiction, and rom-coms. Her most recent thriller, Someone Else’s Life, is an Amazon bestseller, followed by a rom-com, Crazy Bao You coming June 2023, and another thriller What Is Mine, out February 2024. Before becoming an author, she was a professional ballet and modern dancer, and is still a personal trainer and fitness/yoga instructor. 

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32 thoughts on “Guest Chick: Lyn Liao Butler

  1. Love that story with the paddle board guy, Lyn! The first book I wrote, back in 2011, started as a cross-country adventure and accidentally turned into a romance. My wife tells me it’s still her favorite of all my books. Cheers!

    Liked by 3 people

      1. One quick one. My critique group meets at a local Panera. One day, we were talking over the technicalities of how a particular murder could occur. When the women at the next table got up, one stopped and said, “What ARE you talking about?” LOL We had to explain: writers, not criminals. 🙂

        Liked by 3 people

  2. Lyn, congratulations on your “accidental” thriller. It sounds amazing. (And what a great way to write your first book in a new genre!) I already felt as if I were on vacay reading this post with my coffee. And thank you for visiting Chicks today–wonderful to meet you. I love that you write rom coms also. Next up: thriller/rom com mash?

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Wow, what a story! And I love the photos. They bring back memories of a vacation in Kauai – especially all the clouds. And I feel for you having to homeschool a kid during Covid. It basically ruined our daughter’s college experience.

    I’m so impressed you wrote a thriller! And I love the cover. I hope I accidentally write one someday. Right now when I try to write anything else, I accidentally write cozies, lol.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Love the “accidental thriller” idea (a bit like “accidental killer’!). And the books sounds terrific! Sitting here in Hilo right now, where we’ve had over 30 inches of rain in the past two weeks, I know very well how the rivers can rise…

    Thanks so much for visiting the Chicks today, Lyn, and yes, I agree with Lisa–thriller/rom-com next!

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Lyn, I love this so much! Thrillers always top my must-read list and yours sounds fantastic!! Plus “Accidental Thriller” would be a great band name.

    I accidentally fell into my career (advertising copywriter), and I couldn’t be happier!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Congratulations on the book, Lyn, and what a great strategy to survive the pandemic and write a thriller. Most of my writing accidents, alas, involve spilled coffee on the keyboard.

    Liked by 1 person

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