This week is kicking off with a guest post from author Kali Wallace who is going to let us in on her journey to writing her book, The Memory Trees. Before we hear from Kali here is a little bit about her book.
The Memory Trees is a dark magical realism novel about a mysterious family legacy, a centuries-old feud, and a tragic loss that resurfaces when sixteen-year-old Sorrow returns to her mother’s family orchard for the summer.
Sorrow Lovegood’s life has been shaped by the stories of the women who came before her: brave, resilient women who settled long ago on a mercurial apple orchard in Vermont. The land has been passed down through generations, and Sorrow and her family take pride in its strange history. Their offbeat habits may be ridiculed by other townspeople—especially their neighbors, the Abrams family—but for the first eight years of her life, the orchard is Sorrow’s whole world.
Then one winter night everything changes. Sorrow’s sister Patience is tragically killed. Their mother suffers a mental breakdown. Sorrow is sent to live with her dad in Miami, away from the only home she’s ever known.
Now sixteen, Sorrow’s memories of her life in Vermont are maddeningly hazy; even the details of her sister’s death are unclear. She returns to the orchard for the summer, determined to learn ore about her troubled childhood and the family she left eight years ago. Why has her mother kept her distance over the years? What actually happened the night Patience died? Is the orchard trying to tell her something, or is she just imagining things?
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The Memory Trees will be published on 10th October 2017
I wrote the very first draft of the book that would eventually become The Memory Trees simply because I wanted to write a classic ghost story: spooky atmosphere, family secrets, a central mystery. But that book wasn’t very good; it pretty much failed at all the different things I was trying to do because I couldn’t seem to focus on what the most important things were.
With a lot of time, a lot of rewrites, a lot of back and forth with my editor, and a lot more rewrites, I began to realize that the classic ghost story structure I was working with didn’t really fit the core of the emotional story I wanted to tell. I had to change my perspective to realize it was not a story about a haunting in the traditional sense, but about other ways in which the past informs and impacts the present, particularly with regard to how the trauma endured by parents can be passed down to children and how mistakes of previous generations can have repercussions years or decades or centuries later.
I don’t even know how much of that original draft is left in the final version of the book. It went through so many changes, from the most general shape of the plot arc down to the smallest details of character interactions, that it is a completely different story than the one I started. I removed entire characters and subplots; I reframed character relationships; I moved the beginning of the story first by one chapter, then two, then back a half; I rearranged the order of the backstory chapters just days before the final deadline; I added magical elements, then removed them, then added them back in; I killed off one character, then another, then deleted those characters from the book and caused other deaths entirely.
Was this a normal process of revision? I don’t think so. I think it took so long and required so many rewrites because the story I wanted to tell–one about mothers and daughters and sisters, about living with mental illness, about deep hurts and grudges carrying through generations, about explicable tragedies–was a frightening story to tell and I needed to learn how to tell it before I could get it right.
I am proud of the result, and I think all of those months of work resulted in a good book in the end, but I also hope very much I can take what I learned writing The Memory Trees forward to make future novels a bit less agonizing to create.
For those of you based in the US you have the chance to win…
a signed hardcover of The Memory Trees
Also there is a little preorder bonus, anybody who preorders by 10th October can get a signed bookplate and some bookmarks if they send an email to email@example.com.
If you want to check out the rest of the stops to find out more about the book then click the button below.
Kali Wallace studied geology and geophysics before she decided she enjoyed inventing imaginary worlds as much as she liked researching the real one. Her short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, F&SF, Asimov’s, Lightspeed Magazine, and Tor.com. Her first novel, Shallow Graves, was published by Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins in 2016. Her second novel, The Memory Trees, will follow in 2017. She lives in southern California.
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