Thursday 13 February 2020

Q & A with Sam Lloyd author of The Memory Wood

Q:- What is the Memory Wood about?

Sam:- It’s about two incredibly gifted kids engaged in a life-or-death game of deception. Elissa, a thirteen-year-old chess prodigy, is competing at a world-ranking event when she’s snatched from the venue and sedated. She wakes in darkness, tethered to a metal post. When her abductor arrives, it’s clear he has no plans to release her. Elissa’s situation looks hopeless. Then, a chance event: twelve-year-old Elijah, playing in his local woods, stumbles across her underground cell. Elissa thinks she’s saved, and urges Elijah to get help. But Elijah thinks he’s found his first true friend, and knows that if he calls the police he’ll lose her. Elissa concludes that her survival depends on deceiving the boy into helping her. But he’s far, far sharper than he seems. As the stakes rise, their mind games grow increasingly twisted and sophisticated.

Q:- When did the idea for The Memory Wood formulate?

Sam:- It was actually the smashing together of two separate thoughts. Elijah had been holed up in my head for years, without a story to release him. Then, when my son turned eight, he reached the regional finals of a national chess tournament. One Saturday morning, I drove him to the venue. It was pretty chaotic – hundreds of people rushing about. Parents had to wait outside during the matches, and it struck me how easily a determined stranger might snatch away a kid. By the time we drove home, I had the bones of a story. 

Q:- Tell us a little bit about your two central characters – Elissa & Elijah.

Sam:- Elissa is scary-smart – a mentally strong teenager who refuses to play the victim. Reducing her circumstances to the abstraction of a chess game, she plans her moves several steps ahead of everyone else. Elijah is home-schooled, introverted and cripplingly lonely. He has no TV, no internet, little contact with the outside world.  By day, he roams the Memory Wood on the country estate where his parents work. He’s delighted to discover Elissa, even though he’s fairly certain how events will play out. 

Q:- Were these characters difficult to write?

Sam:- They became more difficult to write as the book progressed. I grew very attached to each character in different ways, and their later chapters are harrowing. Writing the last few pages was an emotional experience. 

Q:- Do you plan your novels out, or are you more of a pantser? Why?

Sam:- A reluctant pantser. I’d love to have a detailed road map, but there’s a point when I just lose patience and dive in. With the Memory Wood, I wrote the first page with little inkling of where it was going, or how it would end. And although Elijah had been knocking around inside my head for years, Elissa appeared on the page fully-formed, with very little forethought. Weird, how that happens. It’s why writing’s so bloody addictive.

Q:- How hard is it to write twists into books?

Sam:- It’s a tightrope over broken glass. The only thing worse than a twist that feels shoehorned is one so glaringly obvious you guess it from the blurb. While great twists knock you sideways and are a boatload of fun, they should always take second stage to the characters. As a reader, I’ll take a memorable cast over a shocking plot twist every day of the week. What I really want, of course, is both. 

Q:- What are you reading at the moment?

Sam:- Wuthering Heights, and loving every word of it, even though it’s lightyears away from what I usually read. My in-laws bought me cloth-bound editions of all the Brontë novels for Christmas. Last year, they got me a Joe Hill graphic novel and the Preacher series, so they like to mix it up.

Q:- Who are your favourite authors in the crime/thriller genre?

Long-time favourites: Thomas Harris, Gillian Flynn, Rosamund Lupton. Writers I’ve just discovered: Will Dean, Shari Lapena, Alex North. Books I’m most looking forward to in 2020: Three Hours, American Dirt, My Dark Vanessa.  

The Memory Wood is by Sam Lloyd is published by Transworld Publishers Limited.
Elijah has lived in the Memory Wood for as long as he can remember. It's the only home he's ever known.  Elissa has only just arrived. And she'll do everything she can to escape.  When Elijah stumbles across thirteen-year-old Elissa, in the woods where her abductor is hiding her, he refuses to alert the police. Because in his twelve years, Elijah has never had a proper friend. And he doesn't want Elissa to leave. Not only that, Elijah knows how this can end. After all, Elissa isn't the first girl he's found inside the Memory Wood.  As her abductor's behaviour grows more erratic, Elissa realises that outwitting strange, lonely Elijah is her only hope of survival. Their cat-and-mouse game of deception and betrayal will determine both their fates, and whether either of them will ever leave the Memory Wood ...

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