The Memory Book Q & A
What would be the most treasured memory you would put in your memory book?
I think I actually did put it in The Memory Book, right at the beginning as the first scene ‘Caitlin is Born’ is very much based on the feelings I had after my daughter was born. We were alone for a while and I will never forget the experience of falling in love with my own child. I’ve had three more children since, and each is very special, but my introduction to motherhood and the feelings that it inspires in you is a very strong life defining moment.
Your main character, Claire, suffers from early onset Alzheimer’s, how did you research this disease?
The most important part of the research that I did was finding words written down by Alzheimer sufferer’s, because I found it really hard to know whether I was getting Claire’s inner voice right. There is quite a difference often between what is going on in a person with Alzheimer’s head, in terms of thoughts and feelings, and what they are able to articulate outwardly. So I read a lot, about the disease, I also found cases of people s young and sometimes younger than my heroine, who suffered from Early Onset Alzheimer’s and I read as many first person accounts as I could find.
What do libraries mean to you?
Libraries mean everything to me, and that is no exaggeration. One thing many writers have in common is childhood spent in libraries, and I loved my weekly trips every Saturday and the joy that borrowing new books brought me. Now I take my own children (when I library is open, which sadly isn’t every day any more) and they love it too.
Which of your books is your favourite and why?
It’s a tough one, but I have to say ‘The Memory Book’ it’s a very personal book, I drew a lot on my own experiences of being and mother and a daughter for it, and I wrote it for my Mum. It feels like a book that drawn us all closer together in a funny sort of way. It made me think a lot about my relationships, and how much I value them.
Who is your inspiration?
My mum inspires me a lot. She married young, gave up her job to be a wife and mother, and when her marriage to my father broke down 28 years later she was sort of thrown out into the world to fend for herself and her children. And she did it. She taught me to be a strong independently minded woman, and she taught me how to be a mother. I think if circumstances had allowed it she would have been a writer too, she has an amazing imagination and a very quick wit. I’m lucky I had the opportunities that she didn’t, and that she encouraged me to take them.
If you had to choose your top three books, what would they be?
Jane Eyre is my all time favourite life changing book, also Anne of Green Gables and I have to say Pride and Prejudice, it’s a perfect book.
‘The memory book’ certainly makes the reader shed a tear or two, did you cry when you were writing it?
Yes, I’m afraid I did. When you put yourself in the shoes of someone who knows they are leaving their children, and the people they love its very hard not to.. But I also laughed quite a bit too.
How did you first get into writing?
I was always a storyteller, although being an undiagnosed dyslexic held me back at school for quite a few years. It wasn’t until I somehow made it to university that I began to help to cope with my dyslexia and then I became to write in earnest. I worked in bookshops, and then as a admin assistant at a publishers, and kept writing all the time. In 2000 I sent an entry to Company Magazine Young Writer of Year award and won, which opened up all sorts of doors for me and eventually I acquired and agent, and then my first book deal in 2001.
You have some fantastic female characters in ‘The Memory Book’, who was your favourite to write?
That’s a hard one, I think I would have to say Claire, when I was finally confident I had her voice right, she really seemed to come alive for me. I still think about her. That’s weird, isn’t it?
What is your next project we can look forward too?
I could tell you but I’d have to kill you. No really, I am working on the next book now and trying to perfect the plot so I can’t tell you yet!