John Nieves, talented poet and all-around fantastic guy, tagged me for this interview. His beautiful book Curio will be available from Elixir Press in 2014. You can read his Next Big Thing here: http://johnanieves.com/blog/2013/3/18/the-next-big-thing-qa My Q&A follows below.
What is the title of your book?
Remind Me Again What Happened
What is the one-line synopsis of your book?
Claire, her estranged husband Charlie, and their mutual friend Rachel take turns offering up their version of the past after Claire suffers memory loss from a pesky mosquito bite.
Where did the idea for the book come from?
My mother suffered from memory loss from complications with lupus and possible Japanese Encephalitis. She tried to explain to me how strange it was to have to “borrow other people’s memories of your own past.” That got me thinking about the links between identity and memory, who gets to guard the “truth” of a shared past, and how we make sense of our lives through narrating memory. I was also interested in the ways in which memory loss not only affects the person who struggles with their own absences, but also those who rely on that person’s memory to understand their history.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the book?
The first draft took about two years. Editing and revising have taken another year or more.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
As I mentioned before, my mother inspired me to write this book. When I was in the earliest stages of thinking about the book, she and I exchanged recorded CD’s, where she would respond to some of my questions about her memories, record them, and send them back to me. At the same time, I started gathering photographs from our own family albums, but also from thrift stores and antique shops. Because my mom relied on photographs quite a lot when she was first grappling with her memory loss, I wanted my character to delve into her own fictional archive too. The layering of photographs and texts was inspired by W.G. Sebald’s novels.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The generous and thoughtful and brilliant Christopher Vyce is my agent. The book will be published by Algonquin Books.
What other works would you compare this book to within your genre?
In terms of the form itself — photographs arranged alongside fictional narrative, it resembles W.G. Sebald’s novels a bit, Alexander Hemon’s The Lazarus Project, Wright Morris’s The Home Place. I am also influenced by Michael Ondaatje and his willingness to create fragmented narratives with often competing/complementing points of view. I think the reticence of the characters and their occasional unwillingness to confront their own culpability, desires, and anger resembles some of Ishiguro’s characters. There may also be some echoes (hopefully) of Rebecca West and Daphne du Maurier’s novels. I also admire Trezza Azzapardi’s novel Remember Me and how it tackles memory loss.
What actors would you choose to play the characters in your book?
I can’t imagine any of my stories being transformed into film, but just to play along: Claire would be played by Julianne Moore, Charlie by Rufus Sewell, and Rachel by Vera Farmiga.
What else about your book might pique a reader’s interest?
It is narrated by three main characters, each taking turns offering his/her version of the past. There are chapters layered with photographs that drive a different kind of narrated history. I hope that readers’ loyalties will continuously be pushed and pulled between the different points of view.
Stay tuned for links to two writers I will be tagging to continue the thread of The Next Big Thing!
The Next Big Thing Interview with Nathan Oates can be found here: The Empty House, Stories