Hello, friends! I know it’s been a while since my last blog post, but I’m delighted today to bring you an interview with author Stacy Stokes. I was fortunate enough to snag an ARC of her debut, REMEMBER ME GONE, a YA thriller with a speculative twist. The premise hooked me right away, and the novel lived up to all my hopes and expectations! First, about the book, which releases March 22:
Lucy Miller’s family has the unique ability to remove people’s painful memories—but Lucy isn’t prepared for truths she will uncover in this twisty speculative thriller, perfect for fans of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Neal Shusterman.
People come from everywhere to forget. At the Memory House, in Tumble Tree, Texas, Lucy’s father can literally erase folks’ heartache and tragic memories. Lucy can’t wait to learn the family trade and help alleviate others’ pain, and now, at sixteen, she finally can. But everything is not as it seems.
When Lucy practices memory-taking on her dad, his memory won’t come loose, and in the bit that Lucy sees, there’s a flash of Mama on the day she died, tinged red with guilt. Then Lucy wakes up the next morning with a bruised knee, a pocketful of desert sand, and no memory of what happened. She has no choice but to listen to Marco Warman—a local boy she’s always wondered about, who seems to know more than he should.
As Lucy and Marco realize there are gaps in their own memories, they team up to fill in the missing pieces—to figure out what’s really going on in their town, and to uncover their own stolen history along the way. But as the mysteries pile up one thing becomes certain: There are some secrets people will do anything to keep.
Stacy, thank you so much for joining me today! The premise behind REMEMBER ME GONE is fascinating. How did you come up with the idea of the Memory House and Lucy Miller’s family being able to “unburden” people’s memories?
The inspiration for REMEMBER ME GONE came from an episode of True Blood, the HBO series based on The Sookie Stackhouse novels by Charlaine Harris. In the episode, someone hires a vampire to erase her husband’s memories in the hopes of curing his PTSD. I started wondering what it might be like to run a memory-taking business and, boom, the idea was born. Sans vampires, obviously. 😉
Ha, ha, proof that writers aren’t wasting time watching TV! I love Lucy and Marco and the way they struggle to piece together who they are in light of their forgotten past. What was your inspiration for these two characters? What did you like best about writing from Lucy’s POV?
As soon as I had the idea for the story, Lucy’s voice popped into my head. I knew she felt trapped in her small town and dreamed of traveling, but at the same time she loved the Memory House and wanted to take it over one day. Those two things are immediately at odds with each other, because how can she leave Tumble Tree but also take over the family business? That’s one of the things I loved most about writing Lucy—many things about her are in conflict, and as she uncovers the truth about what’s happening in her small town she starts to question everything she thought she knew about herself, her family and what she thought she wanted out of life.
Marco is in many ways Lucy’s catalyst. It’s not until she sees him at the mines that she really starts to question what’s happening in Tumble Tree. I loved this idea that Lucy and Marco were once together but couldn’t remember—there’s an immediate tension between the two of them because they can feel their history, they just can’t remember it. Their scenes were some of my favorites to write.
I can imagine! The tension between them is so successful. The small-town, Texas border setting also works incredibly well. I felt like I was right there with the characters. Have you visited or lived in that part of the country? Where did you draw your inspiration for Tumble Tree?
I grew up in a small town in Texas that, when I was a kid, still had a dirt road leading out of town. But eventually two highways were constructed that cut straight through it, and my hometown became a bustling suburb that could hardly be called small. Years later, I read an article about the fate of towns that were built near highways without exits—they became forgotten and often abandoned unless the town could find a way to lure people to it, either through industry or roadside attractions (world’s largest ball of twine anyone?) This stuck with me—what would have happened if my hometown had been one of the places the highways just went right past, with no exit or ability for people to stop at? Tumble Tree is that imagined town—a place on the edge of extinction that would be forgotten if not for the Memory House.
What was your favorite part about writing REMEMBER ME GONE? What was the most challenging part?
I loved writing the narrative in first person present. It allowed me to play with what Lucy knows vs. what the reader knows in a really fun way. Without sharing too many spoilers, there’s a scene where we get to see Lucy’s memories being removed. This immediately puts the reader at an advantage because they know something that Lucy doesn’t.
This was also the most challenging part of writing the story—I had to find a balance between how much the reader knew vs. how much Lucy knew in a way that wasn’t frustrating.
I thought you handled that challenge really well. A number of my blog readers are also writers. Can you tell us a bit about your writing journey and what it took to get your debut out in the world? When did you first start drafting REMEMBER ME GONE? How long did it take you to find an agent? Was this your first manuscript to go out on submission, and how long did it take to sell? Was there ever a time when you were tempted to give up on being traditionally published?
I’ve been working towards publication for about twelve years now, with several trunked manuscripts and 100+ rejections along the way. To say it’s been a long and bumpy road would be an understatement, but now that I have the beauty of hindsight, I realize that those early manuscripts weren’t strong enough for traditional publication.
Unlike previous manuscripts, things with REMEMBER ME GONE happened quickly. Joanna, my amazing agent, was in the first batch of queries I sent out. She offered about three weeks after I’d sent my first query and I signed with her two weeks later. After a round of revisions, we went on sub and had an offer within two weeks. I was incredibly fortunate that things moved so fast. I still get goosebumps whenever I think about the day Joanna called me to tell me the news that we had an offer.
That’s awesome! And such an important reminder for writers who are just starting their querying journey–behind those “overnight” success stories, there are usually years of rejections and shelved manuscripts. What was the editing process like for you? Did the story undergo any major changes during revision? How long did the process take, from initial offer to release day?
I am so happy with where REMEMBER ME GONE landed after revisions—my editor pulled out new layers of the story that I hadn’t considered. The initial narrative focused primarily on Lucy finding out the truth about her mother. But during revisions my editor had me explore more about what was happening in the town and to the townspeople. I ended adding an entire sub-plot about Tumble Tree with new chapters and scenes that hadn’t existed in the earlier drafts. I think the new additions to the mystery make the story so much richer.
All in, it was a little over two years from initial offer to release, which is pretty common for traditional publishing.
A great editor makes a world of difference to a book! As soon as we readers are done devouring REMEMBER ME GONE, you know we’ll be clamoring for the next Stacy Stokes book. Can you drop any hints about your next project?
Absolutely! My next book comes out with Penguin/Viking Books for Young Readers in the back half of 2023. It’s about a girl who sees dark clouds hovering over strangers’ heads whenever their lives are in danger. But when she saves a boy and causes a tragedy, someone discovers what she can do and wants revenge for her role in what happened. I like to describe it as Karen McManus’s Two Can Keep a Secret meets I Know What You Did Last Summer with a speculative twist.
Sounds like a fantastic read! Last of all, just for fun… Lucy’s father isn’t a fan of tuna salad sandwiches for lunch, but what about you? What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
The best meal I’ve ever had was on my honeymoon—we ate at this amazing Omakase place in Tokyo that I still dream about. I love all things Sushi, so getting to eat amazing sushi in Japan was a dream come true.
As for tuna fish sandwiches, it’s a hard pass from me. It looks too much like cat food!
LOL, I can totally see that! Mmm, the sushi sounds amazing. I hope you’ll be able to enjoy some next week as you celebrate the release of REMEMBER ME GONE! Thanks so much for joining us, Stacy!
Readers, don’t forget to snag your copy of Stacy’s book, which releases next Tuesday, March 22! Also, if you’d like to hear more from her yourself, she’ll be speaking in a virtual book launch event on release day. You can find the details and the zoom link here. I hope you can join her!
You can find Stacy on: