Vanessa Carnevale talks about her new book, The Memories That Make Us.
1. Tell us a little about the inspiration for the novel, where did you get the idea?
I was folding socks at the time (sorry I don’t have a more glamorous story), wishing my husband wouldn’t put them in the wash inside-out, which irritates me to no end! It made me wonder whether this was something that never bothered me in the beginning but bothered me now because we are busier as parents. I started thinking about all the ways we have changed over the years, as a couple and as individuals. And as I looked at him, I asked myself the question: if I had my time over, would I live the same life twice? Would I fall in love with the same person? Would I follow the same career path? Would I make the same decisions about my life? Gracie’s character came to me shortly after that.
2. What comes to you first – the setting, the characters or some aspect of the story?
I’m starting to learn that every book is different. For The Memories That Make Us, the story idea came from a question, and the flower farm setting felt like a good fit for this particular story.
3. How long did it take to write the novel and how many drafts did you write?
I’m not sure exactly how many drafts this one took because I didn’t work that way. I edited and re-ordered scenes as I went so I didn’t keep track of actual drafts. Many authors will tout this as something you shouldn’t do, and this is usually very good advice, but in this instance it worked better for me to tweak along the way. I think I submitted it to my publisher a little over a year after I started writing it.
4. Your writing is beautiful, it’s sparse and tight and your dialogue crisp. How did you learn the craft of writing?
Thank you! The most truthful and possibly unhelpful answer is that I don’t really know. I’ve always been an avid reader and I have always considered myself first a reader, then a writer, so it’s quite possible that I’ve in part learnt how to write from loving to read. I think freelance writing taught me to be concise though, so that’s been helpful and I always learn new things when I go through the editorial process as well.
5. What authors have inspired you in your writing journey?
I don’t think there’s a single author I can name here without feeling like I have left someone out as I admire so many authors for so many different things!
6. There is a fantastic plot twist in your novel. Did you know how it would end and did you intentionally plant the seeds along the way or did you have to go back and intersperse these later?
I knew the twist before I started writing the book, though I never quite know how my stories will actually end. I did go back and intersperse seeds along the way during the editing process.
7. What was the hardest part about writing The Memories That Make Us?
Writing Gracie’s character was challenging in some ways because she doesn’t know her own backstory. I purposely made sure I knew only certain things about her so I could experience her frustration and struggle of not knowing who she was.
8. Flowers are a lovely feature in the book. Did you already know a lot about flowers or did you have to learn and if yes, what research did you undertake?
I didn’t know much about flowers or the cultivation of flowers before writing this book and it’s given me a deeper appreciation of nature and fresh blooms. As far as research goes, I pulled up my veggie patch and replaced the vegetables with flowers. I now grow roses, peonies, ranunculus, dahlias and most of the flowers mentioned in the book. I also attended a flower arranging workshop, visited flower farms, and interviewed growers. In addition, I also did a bit of research into the ‘Language of Flowers’, a means of communicating with flowers as a way to convey feelings that was used during the early Victorian era. This helped me tap into the ethereal qualities that flowers have. Research shows us there is a connection between flowers and emotion as well as memory, so I touched on this in my research as well.
9. When we discussed your previous novel The Florentine Bridge, you said you never set out to write a love story, but that is how the book turned out. Did you intend to make this one a love story?
Yes, I knew this one would be a love story, albeit not a typical one! I suppose it turns out I enjoy writing about love.
10. If you had your time over, would you live the same life?
Yes, absolutely. 🙂
One moment can change your life
When Gracie Ashcroft wakes after a crash with severe amnesia, she must choose whether to live a life through other people’s memories or to start a new life all her own.
Discovering her late mother left her an old flower farm, Gracie leaves her fiancé, best friend and the home full of forgotten memories behind, hoping to learn who she is now.
Torn between wishing she could remember and afraid of losing what she now has, Gracie starts to wonder: if you had your time over, would you live the same life twice?
Vanessa Carnevale is a freelance writer based in Melbourne, Australia, who has contributed to The Green Parent, The Huffington Post, Muse, and Italy magazine, among others. Her debut novel, The Florentine Bridge, was published by HQ in Australia earlier this year. She was a finalist in the Best New Author category for the AusRom Today Readers Choice Awards 2017.