1. What was the inspiration for your novel?
The Memories That Make Us is a story of self-discovery and finding oneself when all is lost. It speaks to the question: if you had your time over would you live the same life twice? It was really this question that sparked the idea for the story, and got me thinking about fate versus destiny and the way our past and our memories shape us and lead us to where we are today. I started wondering about whether someone who had no recollection of her past might make the same decisions about her life and from there, Gracie’s character and the rest of the story started to come alive.
2. When did you take up writing?
I’ve always loved writing. The first piece of writing I ever had published was a travel article, and it wasn’t until many years later that I decided to write fiction.
3. How important is setting/place in your writing?
Until now, setting has been paramount. My debut novel, The Florentine Bridge is set in Tuscany, which is a crucial part of the story. And The Memories That Make Us is set on a fictional flower farm in Victoria. There’s a strong flower theme that runs through the book, which makes the book what it is. I enjoy reading books where the setting almost acts like a character and transports you to a different place, so maybe that’s why setting has been an important feature of my first two books.
4. Do you have a favourite character (s) in your current novel?
Gosh, it’s so hard to pick favourites! I wrote The Memories That Make Us in first person from Gracie’s point of view so I feel very connected to her, but really, I love all the characters for all their varying qualities. Tilly was probably the character that took me most by surprise because she came through so strongly on the page and was unlike any other character I had written before. She’s a little eccentric, straight to the point, and also a little mysterious so she was a lot of fun to write. Flynn is a sweetheart, as is Blake. My heart ached for Blake… And Scarlett—who wouldn’t want a best friend like her?
5. What’s the best piece of writing advice you were ever given?
I think it’s hard to single out one piece of advice, but I think one of the most important things writers can do is trust themselves. Trust the characters, trust the story, trust yourself.
6. Do you have a schedule for writing?
I have set days I allocate to writing but deadlines sometimes mean I need to fit the writing in by getting up early before everyone else in the house is up. Sometimes I fit in extra writing time while I’m waiting for the kids at their various after-school and weekend activities.
7. Are you a plotter or someone who tends to wing it?
I’m not a meticulous plotter, but I have used an outline for the last two manuscripts I’ve written. I generally know where the story is heading as well as the major turning points. I don’t always know the ending of my stories, and when I think I do know what will happen in the end, I am often surprised when things take a different direction.
8. Can you name a couple of your current favourite books?
I read The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah over the summer holidays and absolutely loved it. I cried a lot and couldn’t stop thinking about the characters for days. I don’t know how it took me so long to get to it! I also loved Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Eleanor is such a quirky character and the book had me laughing one moment and crying the next.
9. Can you tell me a little bit about what you are working on now?
I’m looking forward to embarking on the third draft of my current manuscript, another contemporary novel about a couple who want to become parents but life throws them some pretty major curveballs. It’s a story about the depth of love and motherhood, as well as the positive impact we make on the world.
10. What advice would you give to a fledgling writer to assist them on
1. Believe in yourself!
2. While you’re working on a first draft, trust the story. You can edit later.
3. Read. Read widely and take notice of what you’re reading so you can try to understand the way an author has crafted his or her scenes. If something moves you, or bores you, or causes you to frantically turn pages to find out what happens next, take note of why all these things are so.
ABOUT THE MEMORIES THAT MAKE US
After an accident leaves Gracie with severe amnesia, she’s forced to decide: live a life that is made up of other people’s memories of who she was, or start a new life on her own. Leaving her fiancé Blake behind, she moves to the country where she takes on the task of reviving her late mother’s abandoned flower farm.
While attempting to restart a business with an uncertain future, she tries to decide whether to let Blake back into her life now that he’s a stranger. What she doesn’t count on is developing a deep connection with Flynn, a local vet who is her neighbour.
Forced to examine the person she has become, Gracie confronts the question: if you had your time over, would you live the same life twice?
Vanessa Carnevale is an author and freelance writer who has contributed to The Green Parent, The Huffington Post, Muse, and Italy magazine, among others. She is the author of The Florentine Bridge (MIRA) and The Memories That Make Us (Fiction HQ). She was a finalist in the Best New Author category for the AusRom Today Readers Choice Awards 2017. Vanessa is also the host of Your Beautiful Writing Life Retreats in Tuscany, Italy and Australia. She loves travel, tea, and flowers and often dreams of escaping to the country.