Author Spotlight: Lauren Mansy talks THE MEMORY THIEF
I'm so excited to welcome Lauren Mansy on today's blog! Lauren grew up in the Chicago area, where she spent years working with youth of all ages, from young children to high schoolers. When she's not writing, Lauren loves to travel, spend time with her family, and explore the city to find the best deep dish pizza.
THE MEMORY THIEF, which was inspired by Lauren's own journey with her mother, is available now from Blink Books. Check out the synopsis below!
In the city of Craewick, memories reign.
The power-obsessed ruler of the city, Madame, has cultivated a society in which memories are currency, citizens are divided by ability, and Gifted individuals can take memories from others through touch as they please.
Seventeen-year-old Etta Lark is desperate to live outside of the corrupt culture, but she grapples with the guilt of an accident that has left her mother bedridden in the city's asylum. When Madame threatens to put her mother up for auction, a Craewick practice in which a "criminal's" memories are sold to the highest bidder before being killed, Etta will do whatever it takes to save her. Even if it means rejoining the Shadows, the rebel group she swore off in the wake of the accident years earlier.
To rescue her mother, Etta must prove her allegiance to the Shadows by stealing a memorized map of the Maze, a formidable prison created by the bloodthirsty ruler of a neighboring Realm. Etta faces startling attacks, unexpected romance, and, above all, her own past as she uncovers a conspiracy that challenges everything she knew about herself and the world around her.
In a place where nothing is what it seems, can Etta ever become more than a memory thief?
Hi, Lauren! Welcome and congrats on The Memory Thief. Can you tell us a little about the story and what inspired it?
Hi, Megan! Thank you so much, and I’m thrilled to be on your blog! Thief is a YA fantasy set in a society where memories are currency, and memory thief Etta must return to the world of theft she left behind—the black market of memories—to complete the greatest heist of her life and save her comatose mother’s memories from the auction block.
This story was actually inspired by a memory that I share with my mom. I was sitting at her bedside when she first began to stir after her surgery, and I slipped my hand into hers and told her that it was me. Then she began to squeeze my hand three times, our signal for I love you! That’s my most favorite memory because I’d never felt such fear suddenly overcome by the most incredible joy. That collision of emotions was the moment which first sparked the idea for The Memory Thief.
Though my mom’s recovery process was long and difficult, she never gave up hope that things would one day get better. Her unwavering courage inspired me to want to share this story.
So much of Etta’s journey is about coming to grips with her guilt. For writers, do you have any tips for getting into your character’s particular head space?
I love this question, Megan! Whenever I’m reading a novel, I’m always stuck by how a story is just a peek, a tiny glimpse, into a character’s life. I love that characters have lived life before we get to meet them, and that they’ll go on living long after we finish the last page. For me, this mindset can also helpful for getting into the head space of a particular character. I do my best to understand what the character loves and hates, what makes them happy or sad, and which memories they cherish and which memories haunt them.
Because this story is based off my own journey with my mom, drafting Etta was a unique experience for me. Etta and I share similarities but we’re very different, as well. She’s haunted by the past and is crippled by guilt yet she refuses to stop fighting to save the people she loves.
When I sit down to write, I have a little routine that I like to do – such as putting on background music and grabbing a cup of my favorite coffee – to signal to myself to get into a drafting state of mind. Sometimes I’ll journal from a character’s perspective, as well. I’ve found this can also help me find their voice and discover what drives them towards both their particular physical and emotional goal. It’s also very fun!
How did you approach your magic system for The Memory Thief?
With a lot of notecards! :) Like many writers, I asked myself “What If” questions, most of which were based off of the emotions I felt when faced with the possibility of losing my mom. Ever since then, I’ve always been struck by how memories make up so much of our identity and influence our relationships, and I realized I cherished my memories above everything else. So I wondered, “What if memories could be traded like currency? And what if I wasn’t the only one who faced this fear of a loved one no longer remembering them? What if my mom’s memories hadn’t been lost because of a risky surgery, but because they’d been stolen?” It was these kinds of thoughts which ultimately let me to want to explore a world where memories reign over everything.
Though it took me a while to build this world (I filled quite a few notebooks with different ideas!), I loved this part of the drafting process!.
I'm a firm believer in the idea that every story teaches the writer something new, so what did writing The Memory Thief teach you?
I absolutely believe that as well, Megan! Because this story is based on my own journey with my mother, writing The Memory Thief had a big impact on me. Many of Etta’s worries, doubts, and fears are things I also experienced when faced with the possibility of losing my mom, and the questions that Etta asks about how to deal with a situation like this are questions that I often pondered myself. Getting into Etta’s head space was both cathartic and painful at times. Reliving the memories of seeing my mom in the hospital or watching her struggle to get stronger throughout her healing process wasn’t always easy, but writing this story taught me how to express myself ways that I’d never done before. It helped me find my own voice. I’m incredibly grateful that writing proved to be a source of healing for me, and having the chance to now share this story with others has been such an amazing gift.
What are you reading, or otherwise currently infatuated with?
Oooo, ALL the fall-ish things! Fall is definitely my favorite season, so I’ve been trying to embrace endless amounts of sweet treats, falling leaves, and cozy sweaters :) And for some reason, autumn always puts me into the mood for the classics, so I’ve been rereading Anne of Green Gables and loving every bit of it!
And finally, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned (so far) in your publishing career?
One lesson I’ve learned is how important it is to cherish each and every moment. Though the publication process is filled with many wonderful “big” moments (like holding the final copy for the first time!), getting here is what has forever changed me. When I look back on this journey, it’s all those tiny little “ordinary” moments that have made the bigger moments so joyful. I never would’ve imagined that a memory that’s so personal to me could’ve opened up a door to connect with others. I couldn’t be more grateful for each word of encouragement, every lovely note, and to have met such amazing individuals who love stories and storytelling as much as I do! And I’ll be forever thankful that even as the last chapter of The Memory Thief ends, it’s a chance for a new journey to begin. :)
Many thanks go out to Lauren for taking the time to tell us more about the inspiration behind THE MEMORY THIEF, and as well for sharing her tips on deepening character, and crafting magic systems. Be to sure to add this unique and engaging fantasy to your Goodreads list, or (better yet!) order your copy (WRITE) NOW from retail sites like Amazon, and Barnes & Noble, or request it at your library, or local independent bookstore!
And, as always,