Blink YA Books is pleased to present an exciting new YA fantasy title this fall, The Memory Thief by debut author Lauren Mansy, which brings readers on an unforgettable journey through the city of Craewick—a city where memories are currency, citizens are divided by ability, and “Gifted” individuals can take memories from others as they please. The Memory Thief goes on sale October 1, 2019. We are excited to present our first book brag with Lauren and learn a bit more about the book.
Seventeen-year-old Etta Lark is desperate to live outside of the corrupt culture of Craewick, but grapples with the guilt of an accident that has left her mother bedridden in the city’s asylum. When the power-obsessed ruler of the city, Madame, threatens to put her mother up for Auction, a Craewick tradition in which a “worthless” person’s memories are sold to the highest bidder before she is 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 prove her allegiance to the Shadows and rescue her mother, Etta must steal a memorized map of the Maze, a formidable prison created by the bloodthirsty ruler of a neighboring realm. So she sets out on a journey in which she faces startling attacks, unexpected romance, and, above all, her own past in order to set things right in her world.
Hannah VanVels: Hi Lauren! We are so thrilled to talk The Memory Thiefwith you. Tell us a bit more about the title. What—or who—is the memory thief?
Lauren Mansy: Hi Hannah! I’m thrilled to be talking aboutThe Memory Thief with you, as well! The main character Etta has a pretty unusual skill—she can steal memories from the minds of others. At beginning of the story, Etta has been out of the “thieving” game for a while, and it takes a threat to her mother’s life to pull her back into a life of crime. To save her mother’s memories from the auction block, Etta vows to complete an impossible heist for the rebels who first taught her how to steal memories. While she was pretty talented as a child, Etta now has to become a better memory thief than she ever thought possible.
Hannah VanVels: The idea of stealing memories is such a fascinating concept. How did you come up with this magic system?
Lauren Mansy: The first seed of the idea was planted after my mom underwent a heart operation when I was a teenager. Due to unforeseen complications, it was unlikely she would survive. I’m incredibly thankful to say that my mom made a full recovery, but it was during that time of uncertainty that I realized my memories of her were the most valuable thing I owned. I treasured the memories we’d made together, and the most amazing gift was being given the chance to make more.
After this experience, I always wondered what a world where memories were traded like currency could look like and what kind of people would exist in a society where their memories aren’t necessarily their own. One struggle that Etta (and many others in the story) faces is fighting to hold onto her true identity when it takes only one touch for someone else’s thoughts to seep into her mind.
Hannah VanVels: The main character, Etta, has such an important relationship with her mom. Why is it important that it’s her mom that Etta goes to the ends of the earth for?
Lauren Mansy: For Etta, her mom Gwendolyn represents so much of who she longs to be.
Because of her coma, Gwendolyn is in a very vulnerable state yet she’s far surpassed any expectations placed upon her. Gwendolyn processes a quiet, steady strength that Etta has never fully understood, but because Gwendolyn has first showed Etta the importance of never giving up, Etta will go to the ends of the earth to protect her.
Hannah VanVels: In The Memory Thief, some characters are Gifted and some are Ungifted, and the way that society treats them is very different. Tell us a bit more about the theme of classism and how that runs through the novel.
Lauren Mansy: There is definitely a divide between the Gifted and Ungifted. While the Gifted have the ability to transfer memories from one mind to another, the Ungifted don’t have this skill. They’re essentially like you and me J. One cause of this stark division is many of the Gifted take advantage of and steal memories from those they’ve deemed “weak”. Though being Gifted is often associated with strength, what really defines a person in this world is how they’ve chosen to use their Gift—to help or to hurt others? It’s when this tension between the Gifted and Ungifted is at its breaking point that this society is given a chance for rebirth.
Hannah VanVels: You’ve created a delightfully villainous antagonist with Madame. Although she is a “bad guy” in no uncertain terms, you’ve also written her to have empathetic traits. How did you get into the headspace to write such a complex character?
Lauren Mansy: I love the phrase “delightfully villainous”, Hannah! When I first began drafting, I had a pretty clear vision of who Madame was at the start of Etta’s story, but to better understand her character, I asked myself questions about who Madame was at the start of herstory. She once was a child, a daughter, a friend … what led her to this dark place? In Madame’s mind, she’s still a hero, so at what point did she become what we consider a villain? In fleshing out her history, I began to see how fear can both drive and cripple a person. Perhaps there’s a little bit of Madame in all of us, but it’s how we chose to deal with life’s obstacles which sets us apart from someone as harsh as her.
Hannah VanVels: One of the many things that we love about this book is the fleshed-out world building. The Four Realms almost seem like characters themselves. What went into developing each Realm? How did you decide to connect each of these settings to human values?
Lauren Mansy: I really enjoyed the process of brainstorming the Four Realms. The landscapes were inspired by my favorite family vacations … the Arizona desert, beaches of California, mountains of Washington state, and the forests of northern Michigan. I also loved daydreaming about the resources of each Realm and how their natural landscape could influence which skills are taught there. For example, the Coastal Realm values the arts. Everyone excels in arty talents, such as singing, dancing, and painting, and the people tend to be easygoing and calm, much like the sea.
Though the unique skillset of each region is the foundation of the alliance between the Four Realms, it’s also another element of what creates strife in this society. Many crave originality and feel boxed into a life that’s already been decided for them. This makes the Memory Auction very popular—it’s a chance for citizens to buy experiences they’ve only dreamed about, but these memories come at a high price.
Hannah VanVels: From our protagonists to villains, you have written some very compelling and multidimensional characters! Another thing that we really enjoyed about this book is that you’ve also built out distinct and individual secondary characters. How was writing your secondary characters different than writing your primary, main characters?
Lauren Mansy: That’s kind of you to say, Hannah! One piece of advice that always stuck with me is that you should know your secondary characters as well as your primary, even if all their likes, dislikes, fears, etc.… don’t make it into the story. I loved the process of crafting histories for each character, and I have notebooks filled with memories of everyone who makes an appearance in The Memory Thief. Since a reader is given larger windows into the lives of the main characters, I think specificity can be really helpful when introducing secondary characters. My hope is that readers will come away with a clear mental picture of who that character is, even if they don’t spend as much time on the page as the others.
Thanks so much, Lauren! We cannot wait for this book to make its way into the world. The Memory Thief goes on sale October 1st!
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About the Author:
Lauren Mansy lives in the Chicago area, where she’s spent years working with youth, from young children to high schoolers. When she’s not writing, Lauren is usually with her family or exploring the city to find the best deep dish pizza. The Memory Thief, which was inspired by Lauren’s own journey with her mother, is her first novel. You can visit her online at www.laurenmansy.com.