Sarah Zachrich Jeng grew up in Michigan and always had a flair for the morbid and mysterious (for her dad's 35th birthday, she wrote a story entitled "The Man Who Died at 35"). She had a brief career as an aspiring rock star before she came to her senses and went back to school to become a web developer. Sarah lives in Florida with her family and an extremely hyper rescue dog. The Other Me is her first novel. Find her on Twitter and Instagram.
In this post, Sarah discusses the process of writing her thriller novel, The Other Me, the surprising joy of chatting with readers, and more!
Name: Sarah Zachrich Jeng
Literary agent: Joanna MacKenzie of Nelson Literary Agency
Book title: The Other Me
Publisher: Berkley/Penguin Random House
Release date: August 2, 2022 (paperback)
Elevator pitch for the book: A striving artist is transported into an alternate life in which she never followed her dreams, and she must determine what happened before her reality shifts beyond recognition.
What prompted you to write this book?
The idea came to me while I was thinking about where our life choices lead us, along with wish fulfillment and the classic “guy meets girl, guy loses girl, guy moves mountains to get girl back” narrative. Those kinds of stories are often told from the man’s point of view, framed as romantic and wholly positive. I wanted to look at it through a slightly darker lens and from the woman’s perspective, and I wanted to see what would happen when my main character had her choices twisted and changed to force her into a life that was unrecognizable to her.
How long did it take to go from idea to publication? And did the idea change during the process?
It took me about five years, taking breaks and working around various other responsibilities, to grow the book from the seed of an idea to the final manuscript. During that time, it went through many changes—I always knew it was going to bend genres, but it started out much more slow-paced and literary and ended up being more of a thriller.
I probably wrote three or four different endings. The beginning, however, with Kelly being whisked from an art gallery to her surprise birthday party with her family and a husband who is essentially a stranger to her, remained pretty much the same.
Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title?
I didn’t realize how much I would enjoy talking about the book in interviews and with readers. Like many writers, I’m an introvert, and I thought publicity would be something I would dread a bit—but I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find it’s fun!
Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book?
That it could change so much and still retain much of its original essence, both thematically and in the characters.
What do you hope readers will get out of your book?
First and foremost, I hope they’re entertained! I would also love to have written the kind of book that still has people thinking about it days or weeks after they’ve finished. I’d like them to think about where their own choices in life have led them and what they would do in a similar situation to Kelly’s. And I’d like them to think about who gets to be protagonists, in stories and in real life.
If you could share one piece of advice with other writers, what would it be?
When you have a book coming out, it’s very easy to get caught up in external markers of its success. Try to focus on what you can control: writing your next project. And try to remember why you started writing in the first place.