J. S. MON­ROE

THE AUTHOR OF NEW NOVEL FOR­GET MY NAME TALKS MEM­ORY, AMNESIA AND HOW TO KEEP THE READER COM­ING BACK FOR MORE

Real Crime - - Contents -

The author of For­get My Name talks putting a new spin on the old twist

For­get My Name delves into mem­ory as a theme. What was it about that sub­ject that in­trigued you?

For me, mem­ory is tied up with iden­tity, and I wanted the chal­lenge of be­ing able to write a char­ac­ter who has psy­chogenic amnesia – amnesia brought on by stress – and how that might de­fine her char­ac­ter. I think mem­ory has al­ways in­ter­ested me; the very first book I wrote, back in the early 1990s, was the World Mem­ory Cham­pi­ons book on how to de­velop a per­fect mem­ory. I re­searched a lot of that on a guy called Do­minic O’Brien, who went on to be a world mem­ory cham­pion, and I got re­ally in­ter­ested in how it de­fines some­one’s char­ac­ter, what hap­pens when you take that mem­ory away and what you’re left with.

You men­tion the un­re­li­able nar­ra­tor trope. Were there any nov­els that in­spired you in par­tic­u­lar?

Clare Mack­in­tosh’s I Let You Go. It opened my eyes to the pos­si­bil­ity of what we can do with un­re­li­able nar­ra­tion. When I got to the twist, I went back and checked all the wiring and plumb­ing to see if it all checked out. Of course, it does check out – she did a bril­liant job, it re­ally pulls the car­pet from un­der your feet. I’m hop­ing to achieve a twist of some sort in For­get My Name.

Like Find Me, I Let You Go starts with a ba­sic premise, then you have a slow- build of char­ac­ters and plot twists. How do you bal­ance this process while not over­bur­den­ing the reader?

I like to dig my­self a re­ally big hole at the be­gin­ning. In the case of For­get My Name, a woman turns up in a vil­lage, she doesn’t know who she is, no one else knows who she is.

How did she get there, and why has she come to the vil­lage? I then have to work back­wards. With

Find Me, this guy is con­vinced his girl­friend is alive, but is he suf­fer­ing from be­reave­ment hal­lu­ci­na­tions, or is she re­ally alive? Then he gets an email, os­ten­si­bly from her, say­ing “Find Me”. So that’s how I try to start – it’s so im­por­tant to draw the reader in at the be­gin­ning.

How much of what you wrote was in­formed by your own ex­pe­ri­ences and ca­reer to date?

Peo­ple al­ways say ‘ write about what you know’, but

I like to write about things I don’t know about to a cer­tain ex­tent. I’m get­ting in­creas­ingly in­ter­ested in neu­ro­science – noth­ing too heavy. I like to have some new stuff there so I feel I’m learn­ing some­thing, and hope­fully the reader’s learn­ing some­thing, but I also tether that to ar­eas of my life I can draw on. Hav­ing worked in jour­nal­ism for many years, I quite of­ten have char­ac­ters who are jour­nal­ists or even writ­ers, and sim­i­larly with In­dia, I spent sev­eral years as a for­eign cor­re­spon­dent in Delhi, and that def­i­nitely has fil­tered through into a lot of my writ­ing.

What is it about crime and mys­tery nov­els that ap­peal to you?

I used to write spy thrillers, so I was very in­ter­ested in that be­cause of the over­lap with jour­nal­ism. We are awash with good psy­cho­log­i­cal thrillers. I think it was read­ing Gone Girl by Gil­lian Flynn that con­verted me to the genre of psy­cho­log­i­cal or sus­pense thrillers. It al­lowed me to play with the form of the book much more, but I think ev­ery­one likes a good twist, and al­though in spy thrillers and lit­er­ary fic­tion you can have twists, by the very na­ture of psy­cho­log­i­cal/ sus­pense thrillers, there are cer­tain ex­pec­ta­tions a reader has, and I re­ally en­joy try­ing to ful­fil them.

I LIKE TO DIG MY­SELF A RE­ALLY BIG HOLE AT THE BE­GIN­NING

J. S. Mon­roe’s For­get MyName is pub­lished by Head of Zeus and is avail­able tobuy now

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