SheReads April guest editor—and British Fantasy Award recipient—Sarah Lotz is bringing the perfect fantasy/sci-fi read to fans this spring with her new funny sharp novel, The Impossible Us. The two main characters are as relatable as they are realistic: Bee feels like she’s living the dream—she runs a successful business repurposing wedding dresses and her friends love and support her—the only negative her inability to find love. But there’s always Tinder. Then there’s Nick, who is recovering from a failed marriage and hit a wall with his writing career. But as long as gins is around, he’s happy.
One day, Bee opens her email to find a hilarious story written by Nick, intended for one of his clients, and she decides to respond. As they get to know each other over email, bonding over odd pop culture and political references, they realize they’re falling hard for each other. But whenever they try to meet, they fail spectacularly. Turns out they’re actually living in near-identical but parallel worlds. How will they overcome the odds to be together—and at what costs to both of their worlds?
Sarah Lotz is a novelist and screenwriter based on the Welsh borders. Her novels include the bestselling The Three and Day Four, both of which are currently being adapted for television.
Read on for our exclusive interview with Sarah Lotz about the inspiration behind her parallel worlds, writing during UK’s lockdown, and her favorite speculative fiction.
What inspired The Impossible Us?
I’ve always been obsessed with the classic spec-fic parallel universe trope and wanted to see if I could come up with a spin on it.
Sci-fi and romance has to be one of the more difficult cross genres to balance. So how do you balance the darkness, the world building, the romance and the comedy?
The truthful answer is that I didn’t stress too much about the genre-mashing aspect in the first draft, and let the characters set the tone. It helped that I related very strongly to Bee and Nick, the protagonists (Bee self-medicates with workaholism and snacks; Nick is a failed writer who likes a drink). Once their voices started to emerge, everything else sort of fell into place.
What was the most surprising thing for you about writing this book, in terms of research or the direction it went that you didn’t expect?
Despite being a not-so-secret romcom fan, I never thought I’d end up writing what is essentially a love story. If I’m known in the book world at all, it’s as a writer of often quite grim horror fiction, so I massively surprised myself with this one. The bulk of it was written during the U.K’s first lockdown, when collectively, we were struggling to make sense of so much loss and tragedy, and I suppose I used the writing of it as an escape of sorts.
What are some of your favorite speculative fiction titles?
Oh blimey – I could write you a list running into the hundreds, but I shall try and be good and restrict myself to five:
The Shining Girls, Lauren Beukes; Red Mars, Kim Stanley Robinson; The Fifth Season, N K Jemisin; Joyland, Stephen King; The Knife of Never Letting Go, Patrick Ness.
What are you currently reading?
Insomnia by Sarah Pinborough (the woman’s a genius) and I’ve just finished All the White Spaces by Ally Wilkes (immersive and brilliantly written).
What are you working on next?
I have a number of projects on the go, but I can’t talk about them in case they don’t work out (I’m a bit superstitious like that!)