As Middle Grade Bloggers, we get the opportunity to review books before they hit the shelves. Luckily, we had the privileged of getting Bryce Moore’s book, The Memory Thief, before it made its way to Barnes & Noble. Even better is that the author agreed to answer our questions.
Middle Grade Mafia: Each author’s path to becoming a published author is unique. Please share your journey to getting THE MEMORY THIEF on the shelves.
Bryce Moore: After VODNIK came out in 2012, I was at a point where I’d completed all of my current novels, and I wanted to try something new. My wife and I at the time had a series of medical appointments in Portland, almost two hours away from our house. So we had plenty of time in the car together with nothing to do but talk. On one trip, I was stressed because I had no time to get my writing done that day, and my wife suggested we come up with a story idea as we drove. We came up with the magic system (how to steal memories and share them with others) on the way. I coupled that concept with the memory of awesome Disney horror movies I watched when I was a kid. (Something Wicked This Way Comes and Watcher in the Woods were the two that I loved the most.)
The book practically wrote itself after that.
Getting it published was much rockier. We sold it to one publisher, only to have them shutter their doors a few months later, leaving the book orphaned. That’s where my new publisher, Adaptive, stepped in. They’re all about finding lost projects (typically screenplays, but occasionally books) and breathing new life into them. My editor at the first publisher had found a new home at Adaptive, and she suggested MEMORY THIEF would be an excellent addition to their slate.
MGM: What is your writing process? Do you plot out the whole book before starting or are do you have an idea or character and see where it goes?
BM: I’m always tweaking my process, trying to find the approach that works best for me at any one time. I’ve plotted out a novel down to the tiny details, but in the end, I found out that a lot of what keeps me going as a writer is finding out what happens next. When I already know everything, I don’t feel the need to write it.
These days I generally start out with a general description of the book. What the main conflicts are and how most of it plays out. That document is probably only a couple of pages long. From that initial kernel, I write the whole book in one go, almost always in order (start at the beginning, end at the end), though occasionally I’ll jump ahead in the plot if things are getting bogged down.
After I’m finished with a first draft, I like to set it aside for three months or so. I then come back to it with fresh eyes so I can begin the revision process, which is typically extensive.
MGM: How did the idea for Memory Thief come about?
BM: Once I had the initial idea set (a magic ability to steal and share memories, and a creepy horror vibe), there was still a ton of work to be done to figure out what exactly would happen in the book. Who was the main character? What was the conflict? Where did it take place? All of those are important decisions that can make a huge difference in the final product.
I’d been living in Maine for a few years by then, but I’d never used it as a setting. In rural Maine, agricultural fairs are a big deal. They come around every year and the entire area shows up. School lets out early, and kids look forward to them for months in advance. I thought it would be a perfect place to set the book, especially since it mirrored some of the elements of Something Wicked This Way Comes, which was what I was going for.
Other ideas came from all over the place, as my ideas usually do. I’d written YA for the past few projects, and so I wanted to switch things up on this one. My son was about 9 at the time, so I decided I’d write a book just for him, so that meant Middle Grade (for kids age 8-12). Benji, the main character, was named after one of my best friends in second grade. The principal in the book is named after a character in one of my favorite movies, Joe vs. the Volcano.
I firmly believe we’re always surrounded by great ideas. All we need to do is listen to them and pay attention.
MGM: Authors are known for sharing bits of their life in their work. What about Bryce made it into The Memory Thief?
BM: I’ve already mentioned a lot of the media influences on this book. I watch a ton of television and movies—always have, always will. It’s inevitable that bleeds out through my writing. I see a lot of myself in Benji. I was never really outgoing at that age, content to sit back and let other people do most of the talking. But that didn’t mean I didn’t have plenty of dreams and ideas.
I said Benji was named after one of my best friends, and interestingly, his twin sister was originally not related to him at all. Kelly wasn’t even a girl. She was Chris, Benji’s best friend, and the other close friend I had at that age. But as I was writing the book, I needed to up the tension, and Chris just wasn’t feeling right. (A lot of my writing is done by feel. Like trying to solve a Rubiks Cube in the dark. If something’s out of place, it just doesn’t feel right, and I switch it until it’s better. That’s what revision is all about for me.)
MGM: Being a librarian, you see a lot of books. What are three recently released MG books you’ve read that you just loved?
BM: Wonder, by R.J. Palacio, came out in 2012, but I just read it last month, and it blew me away. I’d heard it was excellent, but I wasn’t expecting just how great it would be. Not fantasy, but an important book and one everyone should read.
The Screaming Staircase, by Jonathan Stroud, came out in 2013. I’d heard good things, and so I started it late one night, thinking I’d just read a few pages and go to sleep. Big mistake. Not only was it incredible, but it was super creepy as well. I didn’t sleep well at all, and I finished it the next day.
Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, by Brandon Sanderson, first came out in 2007, but it just got rereleased by Tor, and so I’ll count it as well. One of the things I love most about it is how Sanderson has a magic system based around things that should be weaknesses. Always being late. Breaking things. But he shows how those weaknesses can be turned into strengths.
MGM: I have to be a dork now. Living in Western Maine, do you notice a higher than normal amount of creepy things? Mostly around the Bangor area?
BM: Ha! Bangor’s a ways away from me, but I have to go there frequently for librarian meetings, usually in the Bangor Public Library. For those of you who might not know, a good chunk of Stephen King’s It takes place in that building. It’s a beautiful library (recently renovated!), but it’s prone to making strange noises now and then (pipes banging, wind wailing), and it’s easy to see how someone might think it was haunted. Pennywise (the evil clown in It) always talked about things “floating” in the novel. “Everything floats.” Well, the library system I work for (which includes BPL) was having a big discussion a year or so ago: whether or not books should travel freely from library to library, depending on where they’re requested. The library term for this is a “floating collection.” We had an hour long discussion in the library about what should float and what shouldn’t float. Maybe you have to be a geeky librarian to really get the joke, but I found it highly amusing.
Thank you, Bryce for joining us and we wish you great success with your books. To learn more about Bryce, his work and what he’s up to, visit his website, follow him on Twitter, or like him on Facebook.
To buy his book now, click here!