Where did the idea for The Memory Book come from? Sammie has Niemann-Pick Type C. Was this a disease you were already familiar with before writing the book? What kind of research did you have to do to tell Sammie’s story?
The answer to the first and second questions you asked are pretty intertwined, so if you don’t mind, I smushed them together. :)
I researched Niemann-Pick Type C for about eight months, but did not do it justice. Though its effect on memory does
involve some of what Sammie experiences, The Memory Book is not medically accurate. Sammie’s version
of this disease serves to tell a fictional story that does not reflect the reality of a majority of NPC patients.
For the purposes of the story I wanted to tell, I was drawn only to the memory symptoms, and specifically what would happen to someone who lost their memories before they had much of a chance to build them up.
And in focusing on that aspect, this book became about Sammie trying to harness the power of the memories at her core, the memories she wouldn’t even think about on any given day.
When she felt like she was losing control of her body, she could at least control her story. She could gain access to something no one could take from her.
With all that in mind, I highly encourage everyone to find out more about the realities of families who live with the real Niemann-Pick Type C.
The Memory Book was a very emotional read for me, especially when Sammie’s loved ones left her messages, so I imagine it may have been difficult to write. What did you find most challenging while writing?
It was incredibly difficult to write at times. Though the cognitive problems that occur when someone has NPC can be very different from dementia, it was the closest personal experience I had, so I ran with it.
I watched three grandparents suffer through dementia, and by the way my family’s gene pool is laid out, it’s likely my parents might have the same fate, and myself and my brothers as well. Taking from
the time spent with my grandparents, and adjusting it into Sammie’s first person account was like inhabiting what could happen, and might have happened, to my loved ones.
But it was also an exercise in finding the good in all of it, the powerfully sweet times and bonds with people that will stay with you no matter what.
On the other hand, what did you enjoy most?
I loved writing in a journalistic style. I’ve written in a journal since I was kid, so Sammie’s habit of documenting everything came naturally. Telling your own story is one of the best ways you can begin to understand yourself, and though of course it was me writing the whole time, it was so liberating to feel like I was giving that power over to the character; the idea that Sammie was deciding what to write, not me. I got to know her and love her more than any other character I’ve ever written.
If you could have lunch with any character from The Memory Book, who would it be and why?
Probably Maddie, because I didn’t get to spend as much time on their friendship as I wanted to! Also because she is totally the kind of girl I wanted to be when I was in high school. Confident, funny, stylish, good taste in music.
When people read The Memory Book, what do you most want them to take away from it?
While I was writing I thought a lot about the ways we document our lives. These days, we document a lot where everyone can see us, which is okay, and can be good. But I hope readers, especially anyone who feels pressure to portray their body or experiences to the public in a certain way, can make a space for themselves where they don’t have to perform for anyone.
It doesn’t have to be a journal, but some sort of secret place where you can hold some memories to yourself, where you have permission to arrange your thoughts and dreams where you don’t have be judged or “liked” for them.
These places are also a good spot for talking to yourself like you would a friend. A place to practice self-compassion.
Can you tell us what’s next for you?
I’m working on two new projects, one for Young Adults, one for general audiences. One is about pain and everything we do to avoid it, and the other is a novel I’ve been working on since college which may never see the light of day, haha.
Either way, as I write, I hope to go to grad school so I can learn some new tricks, and hopefully teach.
Thank you so much for having me, The Young Folks! I hope you all enjoy The Memory Book. Xoxoxox
Sammie was always a girl with a plan: graduate at the top of her class and get out of her small town as soon as humanly possible. Nothing will stand in her way–not even a rare genetic disorder the doctors say will slowly start to steal her memories and then her health. What she needs is a new plan.
So the Memory Book is born: Sammie’s notes to her future self, a document of moments great and small. It’s where she’ll record every perfect detail of her first date with longtime crush, Stuart–a brilliant young writer who is home for the summer. And where she’ll admit how much she’s missed her childhood best friend, Cooper, and even take some of the blame for the fight that ended their friendship.
Through a mix of heartfelt journal entries, mementos, and guest posts from friends and family, readers will fall in love with Sammie, a brave and remarkable girl who learns to live and love life fully, even though it’s not the life she planned.
ABOUT LARA AVERY:
Lara Avery takes her role as a young writer very seriously; she enjoys wandering the world notebook in hand, making her living off of odd jobs. One of those jobs happens to be publishing the novel Anything But Ordinaryjust two years after getting a degree in Film Studies from Macalester College.
When Lara left home armed with nothing but a basketball scholarship, she told everyone she was going to law school. Then, when she started interning at The Onion and publishing pieces of fiction in national anthologies, she realized her secret plans to be a writer all along.
Though Lara sat down to write Anything But Ordinary everywhere from a 110 degree apartment in Kolkata to a hostel in Berlin, she always felt at home in Bryce’s story. Writing currently from St. Paul, MN, she hopes her debut novel will be the first of many.
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