- Can you present The Memory Book ?
Sammie McCoy, an ambitious, feminist senior in high school, is losing her Memory as a result of a brain disease. She begins to write to a future version of herself, hoping it will reverse the effects of the disease. Even when it seems like her dreams will be taken away, she fights back, opens her eyes to her surroundings, and without expecting it, falls in love.
- How did you have the Idea of The Memory Book ?
My editor Annie Stone and I developed it together, along with the team at Alloy Entertainment.
- In The Memory Book, Sammie writes the Book to the future Sammie. Do you started to write the Book like this or did you have this idea later ?
We started this way, and because of it, the Book really flowed. It always helps to know who you’re writing to.
- A lot of novel are about Teenage disease, usually cancer, but you choose a unknown disease: Niemann Pick. Why this choice? Can you explain what it it ?
The effect of Niemann-Pick Type C on the brain is similar to dementia or Alzheimer’s. The body ceases to metabolize properly, and a build-up of lipids (or fats) blocks neurological functions. NPC causes degeneration of muscles, nerves, insides, and more. It’s an all-around miserable process, but it stands out as truly heartbreaking because the patient not only loses control of their body, they lose control of their emotions and their memories.
Many people have grandparents and parents affected by dementia (myself included), but when Annie (my editor) stumbled on Niemann-Pick, it was almost inconceivable that a young person should have to lose their memories before they could even collect two decades’ worth. We wanted to explore this process in order to find hope and strength at its core, unlikely as that may be.
I’ve read all those teen cancer Books, and I imagine other readers have, as well. To be honest, I’m not crazy about putting a romantic lens on the diminishing of any young woman, whether it’s emotional or a disease taking over her body. There are these sort of “Ophelia narratives,” the tragic wilting flower of a teenage girl, et cetera. No, thanks.
It became incredibly important that Sammie not fall into any of those narratives. And yet, the fact is that NPC exists, and cancer exists, and those who are affected by these diseases should have stories about them.
This is why Sammie is the one to “write the Book.” She controls her story and how much of the physical process she wanted to reveal. She decides when she wants to show her optimistic side, she decides when she wants to be honest about the difficulty of her situation, and even when she starts to get lost, she decides when she wants to document the bad parts.
I’ve already been asked, why didn’t you get more into the physical details of the disease? And my answer is: if you were dying, what would you want to remember? The exact angle at which an IV goes into your arm, or a beautiful day with someone you love? I think Sammie would choose the latter, and I always thought of this as her Book, not mine.
- When you wrote your Book, have you thought about a message you want to convey to the readers ?
It wasn’t until after I was done! But then I realized that I hope it inspires young women to document their lives in whatever way they can—control their stories like Sammie controls hers. In the age of social media, a journal or a diary seems like an ancient ritual, but when writing, there’s no one to look good for, there’s no one to shame you, no reason to be embarrassed when asking big questions.
I remember being a teenage girl vividly, and I was always giving myself away or pretending to be a certain way. To the boys I liked, to my parents, to my teachers, to my friends. And really, unless you hide, women will be asked to give themselves up for the rest of their lives, not just when they’re young. A journal, or any piece of self-expression that you do just for you, is a little world that you can control. It’s a part of you that you don’t have to give away. I hope every woman finds that.
- When you write, do you listen or think of a song, an artist? What inspire you ?
A lot of the time, though, I put on a piece called “Disintegration Loops” by William Basinski. It’s the sound of a taped orchestra looping over and over until the tape wears out. It’s weird, I know, but the white noise helps me concentrate.
- The Memory Book is going to be released in July in the USA, French readers are going to be the first to discover your new Book (and you, because The Memory Book is the first of your Books have been published in France). How do you feel about this ?
C’est fantastique! I love France. I’ve stayed in Paris for a week or so, and my favorite movie of all time, The Science of Sleep, is by French director Michel Gondry. I couldn’t be more thrilled to reach French readers, and to hear what you all think!
- Is that you know what your next novel is about ?
There are two in the works right now, but I can’t say much. One is about a boarding school in the near future; the other is about a bartender, a soldier, and fake marriage. Both are a lot of fun.
- Did you plan to come in Europe for signing or meeting readers ?
I certainly hope so. I don’t have the funds right now, but when I do, I would love to meet European readers.
- Have you got something else to tell us? A message to your readers and future readers ?
I hope you enjoy The Memory Book, and love reading Sammie as much as I loved writing her. Thank you for reading—not just my Book, but any Book. Please never stop!
Thanks to Lara Avery for her disponibility and her kindness
Lara Avery is on Twitter : @LaraAvery