Wendy Walker talks about the complex female lead from All Is Not Forgotten.
The new “Grip Lit” novels seem to have three common characteristics. The first is the unreliable narrator. The second is the first person narration. And the third is the focus on strong, complex female characters. By taking female characters “out of the box” and giving them psychological depth, suspense is created in a whole new way. It is not just about solving a mystery or seeking vengeance for a crime, but rather sorting out the motivations of the characters. The portrayal of women who have multiple layers is new and what makes this genre so special.
One of the most gratifying moments in the publication of All Is Not Forgotten was a conversation I had with actress and producer Reese Witherspoon, and her partner Bruna Papandrea at Pacific Standard. They were excited to produce the film and we were discussing the themes and characters in the book. One of those topics had to do with my strong female character, Charlotte Kramer, our young victim’s mother. Ms. Witherspoon felt so passionate about her complexity that she plans to portray her in the film.
As the story unfolds, we learn about Charlotte’s past, what drives her, what scares her, and what is at the heart of her internal conflict. She has built a perfect life and is emotionally unable to see it tarnished in any way. But why? And why does she do things herself that could destroy this life she is fighting so hard to protect?
The answer is that there are two selves living with Charlotte – Good Charlotte and Bad Charlotte. Good Charlotte has dominated, and is responsible for the perfect life with Tom and their children in the bucolic town of Fairview. But Bad Charlotte lives in the shadows, rattling the bars of the cage she has been relegated to since Charlotte’s dark childhood.
What I love about this theme is that we all have aspects of this fractured self. We all think things we do not say out loud, do things we wish we hadn’t, and desire things that are not good for us. I think readers will hear a voice inside saying “yes!” when Charlotte is deconstructed, because they will see themselves in her. Those are the connections between readers and characters that make books stay with us after the last page is turned – and one of the reasons we love Grip Lit.
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.
Wendy Walker has worked as an attorney specialising in family law. She lives in Connecticut where she is at work on her next novel.