All Is Not Forgotten - Author Q&A with Wendy Walker

All Is Not Forgotten - Author Interview with Wendy Walker

Today I'm very excited to take part in the Blog Tour for All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker. All Is Not Forgotten is going to be the psychological thriller of the year. Having already read it, I can tell you that it's a super addictive and unpredictable story that you don't want to miss. It's out today and to celebrate, Wendy Walker stopped by to talk about it:

1) Hi Wendy and welcome to Alba in Bookland. First, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
My name is Wendy Walker and I live in Connecticut, which is just northeast of New York City. I went to college at Brown University and law school at Georgetown University. I spent one year at the London School of Economics and I got to travel all around Europe. I have had many jobs from waitressing to investment banking at Goldman Sachs, to commercial litigation and now family law. I have three teenage sons and a large extended family. 

After I had my first son eighteen years ago, I decided to stay home to raise my children until they were all in school. I felt lucky to be able to do that and so I took the job very seriously! But after about a year, I started to feel unfulfilled so I started to write whenever I had free time (which was not very often!). I had two more children in five years and all the while I kept writing. I even wrote in the back of my minivan while waiting for them at pre-school! I felt like a time scavenger, especially after I found an agent who thought she could sell my work. Of course, life is never that straight forward! It was a long road and 17 years getting to the writing and publication of All Is Not Forgotten. During that time, I published other novels, edited, and eventually went back to work as a lawyer (after 14 years away from the field). The work I found was in the area of family law and it was a wonderful fit for my life experience. I practiced for five years, eventually opening up my own practice which focuses on consulting.

I am currently writing almost full time- but my doors are still open and I still have a few clients.

2) All Is Not Forgotten is about a teenage girl whose memory of a violent assault is medically erased with a drug and its consequences in her life. I found this idea very original and controversial. Where did your inspiration for it come from?
I read an article years ago about the emerging theories in memory science and the treatment of PTSD with drugs that can lessen the emotional impact of a trauma memory. I thought at the time that this could lead to significant moral, ethical and legal questions if such techniques were offered to victims of crime. When I decided to write a psychological thriller in 2015, I thought this concept would offer readers a great deal of substance. I started to do research and discovered that this area of memory science had just exploded and that drugs were now being developed with the hope of mitigating, reconsolidating and even erasing trauma memories. I developed the characters and plot in a way that I hoped would explore this fascinating topic.

3) How did you research this? 
Much of my initial research was done reading articles and research papers available on the Internet. There was an incredible amount of information, from detailed articles summarizing the research findings to the actual findings as they were reported in various science and medical peer journals. I then had relevant parts of the manuscript reviewed by neuroscientist Dr. Efrat Ginot, PhD, who was finishing her book The Neuroscience of the Unconscious: Integrating Brain and Mind in Psychotherapy, and Dr. Felicia Rozek, PhD, who is a practicing therapist with experience with children and adult trauma. 

4) What difficulties did you face getting inside Jenny Kramer's head to tell her story?
Really, it was not difficult. I think the teenage years are so fraught with anxiety and anticipation and big decisions and social conflict, that we all remember what it felt like. I was able to get inside her head on this basic level, and from there it was a matter of drawing on empathy (which is a major theme in the novel). I think if we imagine what it would feel like to be in someone else’s shoes, and then draw from our own painful experiences, we can come pretty close to understanding the emotions of others. I also read a lot of material from rape victims and therapists discussing their treatment so I could better understand the emotional torment that is specific to sexual assault. I wanted to be as authentic as I could on this issue, while also keeping in mind that Jenny did not remember what happened to her so her journey would be different in that respect. 

5) If you found yourself in a similar situation, would you choose to remember or to forget?
I think I would choose to remember. But I would also take full advantage of the wonderful treatments that can mitigate the emotional pain that is attached to the factual memory.

If I had to choose for my child … I honestly do not know. I think that is what makes this topic so compelling.

6) All Is Not Forgotten has all the ingredients of the perfect Psychological Thriller: tense and fast-paced with an unreliable narrator. Could you tell our readers what else this book has that makes it stand apart from the crowd?
What is different about this novel, I think, is that, first, it deals with a very real world controversial issue. I believe that we will be faced with decisions about treating our traumas and being able to choose, not only to lessen their emotional impact, but to forget or alter their facts. Every one of us can imagine having to make this choice – either for ourselves or for a loved one, a child.

Second – All Is Not Forgotten has many subplots that are highly relatable to our everyday lives. There is the Good Charlotte/Bad Charlotte theme. The dynamic between Charlotte and Tom and how it plays out in their marriage. The issues around parenting and the things we would do to protect our children. And the friendship between Jenny and Sean and how people who have suffered in the same way have a bond that transcends gender, age and pretty much everything else. All of these issues are things people face in their own lives and I think that makes this book thought provoking as well as entertaining.

And third – the structure of All Is Not Forgotten is unique. I designed it to move in different directions, backwards and forwards and sideways, but in a fluid, conversational way. It was my goal to grab the reader, make him or her stop everything else, put away computers and phones and televisions, and focus on the characters and the story and emotions they contain. I think we are moving, as a world culture, toward more complex and non-linear forms of entertainment. Because of the overwhelming amount of devices and applications, we often have numerous inputs running all at once. We can follow them all if they are simple and moving in a straight line. But I think this takes away from the pleasure of certain types of entertainment, such as television drama, film and books. Most of us want to be so engrossed in a story that we live and breathe it and forget our own lives. Entertainment is about escaping and feeling things we don’t normally feel. To that end, I was very much inspired by some of the newer films and television dramas that have captivated audiences with their multidimensional deliveries. We see the plot from years ahead, and years behind. We see the characters in the past and present and future. And we have to piece together the plot using the clues given to us. This forces us to be engrossed and occupies every part of our brains and in the end we do escape because we cannot follow the story if we don’t give it our full attention. I know something is good when I have to shut my computer screen (and with it facebook, twitter and my three email accounts!). All Is Not Forgotten attempts to create that feeling of total escape by telling the story in a way that is new, but that feels as seamless as an engrossing conversation with a friend.

7) About your writing process: Are you a plot planner or do you prefer to just write and see what happens?
I am a plot planner for sure! For All Is Not Forgotten, I had different colour note cards for each plot line. I kept them in order and then layered them into each chapter. When I read through the first draft, I kept a list of facts that each character learned or revealed and I wrote down numbers next to them as they occurred in the book. I also went back into the manuscript several times to layer in more pieces of the back story for each character to add substance and depth. Their stories consumed my mind entirely for many weeks and new ideas would come throughout the day and night. I would write them down and then go back in and add them when I had time. 

8) You began your writing career writing Women’s Fiction – what compelled you to switch across to the genre of Psychological Thrillers? 
My first two published novels were called Four Wives (2008) and Social Lives (2009). These books were in the genre of women’s fiction and involved stories of women in wealthy suburbs struggling with their identities, marriages, children, and former lives. I have lived in suburban Connecticut most of my life, both as a child and a grown woman, and I find it fascinating! Here, many women quit their highly skilled jobs to take care of homes and families while their husbands work long hours and travel for jobs in finance. This always made me think about Betty Friedan and her seminal work, The Feminine Mystique. I built my plots around these themes of economic dependency and the division of labour within families where both partners are highly skilled and educated.

After I started practicing law again, I never gave up the dream of making a career as a writer. I used to tell my boys that it was important to always have a dream, but to also be responsible. I did not stop working as a lawyer. But I also managed to keep writing! I signed with a new agent and she loved my concept of a psychological thriller based on memory science. I was a bit nervous about switching genres, but I had always enjoyed suspense and thrillers and I was very interested in this story concept, so I dusted it off and wrote All Is Not Forgotten. It was great advice and I am so glad that my children may get to see my dream come true (fingers crossed) so that they will believe what I told them about having dreams and never giving up – even if you have to keep your day job!

9) Finally, can you tell us what you’re working on now?
Yes! I am working on my next psychological thriller. Here is a little bit about it:

Five years ago, two sisters disappeared into the night. Now, one has returned to tell the dark story of years spent on an Island off the coast of Maine. As the FBI searches for the Island and the sister who did not make it out, we learn about the twisted past the girls endured in their own home before they left - and the truth about where they have been comes under scrutiny. Through the voice of our narrator, the sister who has returned, and the testimony of the Bureau’s forensic psychologist, the stories of past and present converge in an unexpected ending.

Like All Is Not Forgotten, this novel has an original narration structure and complex plot that is intended to capture the reader’s attention from the start and not let go until the entire story is told!

Connect with Wendy Walker:

About the book:

Title: All Is Not Forgotten
Author: Wendy Walker
Published: 14th July 2016 by Mira

Blurb: In the small, affluent town of Fairview, Connecticut everything seems picture perfect.

Until one night when young Jenny Kramer is attacked at a local party. In the hours immediately after, she is given a controversial drug to medically erase her memory of the violent assault. But, in the weeks and months that follow, as she heals from her physical wounds, and with no factual recall of the attack, Jenny struggles with her raging emotional memory. Her father, Tom, becomes obsessed with his inability to find her attacker and seek justice while her mother, Charlotte, prefers to pretend this horrific event did not touch her perfect country club world.

As they seek help for their daughter, the fault lines within their marriage and their close-knit community emerge from the shadows where they have been hidden for years, and the relentless quest to find the monster who invaded their town - or perhaps lives among them - drive this psychological thriller to a shocking and unexpected conclusion.

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