A Conversation with Lyn Liao Butler



"In this day and age, the definition of “family” is so different. Embrace whatever family you have, whether it is by blood, adoption, or found family."

Red Thread of Fate charts Tam Kwan's journey to find community following a tragedy. After her husband, Tony, and his cousin, Mia, are suddenly killed in a car accident, Tam struggles with survivor's guilt and grief. To complicate matters, she becomes the official guardian of Mia's five-year-old daughter, Angela, and an adopted son from China whom she intended to raise with her husband, within weeks of the accident. As she navigates her new responsibilities as a mother, she must also grapple with family secrets that threaten to upend her relationships with the living and her memory of the dead. Red Thread of Fate releases to the public on February 8, 2022. 

Today, I am excited to welcome the author of Red Thread of Fate, Lyn Liao Butler, to the blog to discuss her upcoming release. My questions will be in blue, and the author's responses will be in standard text.

Welcome to the blog, and thank you so much for joining us today! For anyone new to your work, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Thanks for having me! I was a professional ballet and modern dancer in NYC for many years and also owned a gym/fitness studio in Manhattan. I’m still a personal trainer and fitness and yoga instructor but when I moved out of the city, I suddenly decided I wanted to write a book. I’ve been a voracious reader all my life but never thought I could write. But a story popped into my head one day and that was the idea for my debut novel.

When did you first get the idea for Red Thread of Fate?

I started writing the book in 2016. The concept is based on my husband and my journey when we adopted our son. It’s not our story at all. I just used our journey as inspiration.

Tam’s choices and circumstances align in unexpected, painful, and beautiful ways. In spite of, or perhaps because of, tragedy, she grows into new and existing relationships. Can you elaborate on the idea of the “red thread of fate” that runs through your book?

The red thread of fate originated in Chinese mythology where it was believed that the gods tied together with an invisible red thread between two people who are destined to be together. Originally, it refers to romantic love, but I like to think we are also tied to people who become our family, whether by blood or not.

In Red Thread of Fate, Tam develops relationships with family born of blood and family forged through friendship and hardship. What did you hope to convey in portraying these two kinds of family relationships?

Before we adopted our son, I’m embarrassed to admit that I thought “family” only meant those that are related to you by blood. But I realized this isn’t true. Some people have blood relatives that they never speak to, yet call people they’ve found in life “family” because those are the people who have stood by them and are there for them when needed. It made me realize that “family” is the people you find that you want to support you through life. This was what I hoped to convey with Red Thread of Fate. That family can be blood-related, or it can be a found family or anything in between.

You’ve shared that your research for another one of your books (Someone Else’s Life, to be released in 2023) took you to Hawaii. What did the research and writing process for Red Thread of Fate look like for you during the pandemic?

I actually wrote this book and it was sold before the pandemic. I finished it in 2016 and queried it and although it got a lot of agent interest, no one picked it up. I put it aside and rewrote my first book, which eventually became my debut, The Tiger Mom’s Tale. My agent remembered Red Thread of Fate because she had requested the full, so while we were out on sub for The Tiger Mom’s Tale, we worked on this one and I completely rewrote it. When we sold The Tiger Mom’s Tale in July of 2019, my editor bought Red Thread of Fate in a two-book deal. All my research for this book was done during our adoption journey, and while we were in China, I was making notes for my book. So I was lucky that I was able to experience all the places I mentioned in the book firsthand before the pandemic hit!

One thing I appreciated about Red Thread of Fate was how it sought to evoke empathy for characters that committed what some would consider egregious mistakes. How did you navigate writing about empathy and forgiveness?

I did want to show that everyone has a reason for what they do, so even though people make mistakes, sometimes really big mistakes, there’s a reason why they did what they did. So I’m so glad that you pointed this out. I really wanted to show Mia as a human being. Both she and Tam are flawed characters. They’ve done things they’re not proud of and yet, the reasoning behind why they did what they did was something I wanted to explore. I wanted to show them as sympathetic characters, even as they did things they weren’t proud of.

What did you enjoy most about writing Red Thread of Fate?

This was a hard book to write. As I said earlier, I put it aside for about two years because I knew what I wanted to say, but I couldn’t figure out how to get it out on paper. It took over two years of pondering before I found a format that worked. I loved incorporating our adoption journey and the way Tam was able to use the dachshunds that their neighbor Bee fosters to help Angela understand adoption. Weaving all those red threads in the book was complicated, but at the same time, when it finally came together, was so satisfying.

I could relate a lot to the interactions between Tam and her mother. Zhong-Ying often tries to share life stories with her daughter out of care, but Tam sometimes views her mother’s experiences as an immigrant and a member of an older generation as too different from her own to be relatable. Through the accident, though, they come to a new understanding of each other. What was important to you in depicting their mother-daughter relationship?

I think it’s so true that children of immigrant parents often think their parents wouldn’t understand because they didn’t grow up in America and share similar experiences. We’re all familiar with the Asian moms, and they are a stereotype for a reason. Most of them really are like Zhong-Ying. Often criticizing, being blunt to the point of being rude, and doing things the way they were done in Taiwan and not in America. I wanted to show how Tam had always brushed her mother off, rolling her eyes at her, thinking she would never understand, but in the end, realize they are more similar than she thought.

If you could leave readers with one lasting message, what would it be?

In this day and age, the definition of “family” is so different. Embrace whatever family you have, whether it is by blood, adoption, or found family.

About the Author
Lyn Liao Butler was born in Taiwan and moved to the States when she was seven. Before becoming an author, she was a professional ballet and modern dancer. She is still a personal trainer, fitness instructor, and yoga instructor. She is an avid animal lover and fosters dogs as well as volunteers with rescues. When she is not torturing clients or talking to imaginary characters, Lyn enjoys spending time with her FDNY husband, their son (the happiest little boy in the world), their three stubborn dachshunds (Lokie, Mochi, Cash, and Pinot in heaven), sewing for her Etsy shop, and trying crazy yoga poses on a stand-up paddleboard. So far, she has not fallen into the water yet.

You can support the author by purchasing Red Thread of Fate at these links:


  1. I love this interview. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. What a fascinating interview, Claire and I think I will add this book to my tbr! I'm really interested in books that depict adoption, though I don't have a lot on my shelf. The main one I can think of is Little Fires Everywhere, but I'm of course open to other interpretations.

  3. What a great interview! I always like to learn just a bit more about what goes into the writing process.

  4. This sounds like a great book. Thanks for sharing this interview.

  5. Wonderful post, thanks for sharing the interview.

  6. While this book isn't my normal type of read, the dachshund on the cover grabbed my attention of course. Love this interview, really makes the book sound good! Thanks for sharing!

  7. I love the cover of this book. Fascinating interview with the author, thanks for sharing!

  8. That cover is beautiful. I like that the author features characters that are human, people who've made mistakes, because we all do. Wonderful interview, Claire! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Great interview. I love the cover.

  10. Wonderful interview, I love the red thread. That cover is wonderful and the story sounds fascinating.

  11. This sounds like a poignant book, I also love how the author talks about family and her experiences. Thanks for sharing!

  12. This book sounds so moving, and I love seeing all kinds of family "structures" in stories.

  13. Great interview. This book sounds very poignant. I like stories that explore family relationships and the concept of found family.

  14. Wonderful interview. I especially liked the discussion about stereotypes and how it can be difficult for children of immigrant parents and those selfsame parents to relate sometimes. The story about how the two books came to be published was interesting too.

  15. Thank you for sharing this wonderful interview. I actually have this book on my wish list and so enjoyed hearing from the author about her writing experience and more about the books themes. I have a feeling I will love this book when I do read it.

  16. Lovely interview :)
    And yes I think I have watched enough US tv/movies to have come across the stereotypical mum too

  17. Read Threat of Faith sounds like a brilliant read and this interview just makes me want to read it even more.

    Excellent job!

    Have a wonderful week.

  18. Such a lovely interview! I definitely agree that family can be whatever you decide it will be. Thanks for sharing this! :)

  19. This was a great interview. I really enjoyed reading it. I hadn't heard of her or her books before. I'm very curious about them now and will look into them. Thanks for sharing. :)

  20. Awesome interview! Sounds like a book worth to check out :)

    Vanessa @ Blushing Geek