Tuesday, June 1, 2021

You Will Remember Me

  You Will Remember Me
Publication Information:  MIRA. 2021. 352 pages.
ISBN:  0778331814 / 978-0778331810

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and a publisher's blog tour free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Cold."

Favorite Quote:  "That's what sly people do, adjust and pivot seamlessly without anybody noticing what's going on until it's too late. Of course, the cleverest among us never let on we're doing anything in the first place."

***** BLOG TOUR *****


Jack aka Brad aka Asher wakes up on a beach, not knowing who he is. The beach is in Maryland. He has an accent. A bumper sticker on a trailer triggers recognition and makes him think he should be in Maine. There are two women in his life. Lily in Maryland and Maya in Maine. Lily is Jack's girlfriend, and Maya is Asher's stepsister. The mystery of how and why Asher evolves into Jack is what lies between them.

Jack remembers neither. Both with pictures and stories and emotions try to convince him of their truth. The thing is, one is the truth, and one is wish and a plan to make a wish come true no matter what the cost or the consequence.

Of the three main characters, Asher aka Jack is the least interesting of the characters. I suppose that is in keeping with a character with amnesia who does not know which way is up, what is true, or who to believe. This book is much more the story of two strong women acting out of what each of them considers love. Unfortunately, one is love. The other is something else entirely with devastating consequences. What makes the story even more interesting is that both women have secrets and complicated pasts of their own. The book seamlessly weaves in the backstories into the current events of the book, making a cohesive whole.

Let's start at the end. I love the ending of this book because I do not see it coming. Without that end, the book would not have worked as well. With a limited cast of characters, this book is not a mystery. The villain is not a mystery. The "why" is not a mystery. Both are disturbed, disturbing, and dark but not a mystery. It is all about how twisted the villain can get and how far  it will go.

Let's just say that it goes pretty far! That's what makes this such a fun read. Each time I think the villain cannot go further, the story goes further both in terms of the horrors wrought in the past and in terms of current steps taken. For a book in which the villain is patently clear, the suspense of the story builds with each evolution of how dark will it go.

One jarring note about this book is the small town setting. A small town setting. Multiple disappearances. One or more murders. Everyone knows everyone. How is it that no one has ever before connected the dots as to the common factor between all those events? How is that no one figures it out?

The other jarring note is that Asher evolves into Jack and manages to disappear from his life. The villain's character is well drawn and capable to research, planning, and execution. How is it that Jack managed to remain hidden from her? How was she not able to follow and find him? That fact is not in keeping with the rest of her character

Despite these two notes, the story works. Even at the end, two questions remain, and each speaks to the success of this story. What happened in the past to make the villain the way she is? What happens after? The fact that I vest in the story enough to pose the questions make this a story that works for me. I wonder if a sequel or prequel is coming.

About the Author

Hannah Mary McKinnon was born in the UK, grew up in Switzerland and moved to Canada in 2010. After a successful career in recruitment, she quit the corporate world in favor of writing, and is now the author of The Neighbors, Her Secret Son, and Sister Dear. She lives in Oakville, Ontario, with her husband and three sons, and is delighted by her twenty-second commute.

About the Book

He wakes up on a deserted beach in Maryland, wearing only swim trunks and a gash on his head. He can’t remember who he is. Everything—his identity, his life, his loved ones—has been replaced by a dizzying fog of uncertainty. But returning to his Maine hometown in search of the truth raises more questions than answers.

Lily Reid thinks she knows her boyfriend, Jack. Until he goes missing one night, and her frantic search reveals that he’s been lying to her since they met, desperate to escape a dark past he’d purposely left behind.

Maya Scott has been trying to find her estranged stepbrother, Asher, since he disappeared without a trace. Having him back, missing memory and all, feels like a miracle. But with a mutual history full of devastating secrets, how far will Maya go to ensure she alone takes them to the grave?

Author Q&A

Describe YOU WILL REMEMBER ME in three words or fewer?

Twisted, dark, surprising.

What’s “the story behind the story.” The inspiration for YOU WILL REMEMBER ME. Where were you when the spark came to you?

A few years ago, a man from Toronto vanished from a ski hill in Lake Placid while there on vacation and showed up six days later in Sacramento. He had amnesia and couldn’t remember much, including the cross-country trip he’d made as he’d hitchhiked across the US. Everything worked out for the man in the end and he found his way home, but it made me wonder—what could have gone wrong? That was the genesis for YOU WILL REMEMBER ME.

A while later I had a vivid image in my head—a man waking up on a deserted beach without any recollection of who he was, or what he was doing there. I kept coming back to his story, how he’d arrived on that beach, what he’d do, and how much danger he was in. As I noodled the plot around, I wondered what might happen if he found his way home but had no idea he’d actually left the town years before, and unknowingly walked back into the dragon’s den. That was it. I needed to know what happened next, who was looking for him, and if he’d survive.

What did you have the most fun with, character or plot?

Hmm…both were tricky. Having multiple point-of-view characters (there are three) is always more complex than having one protagonist as you have to develop the character more quickly. I’d also completely underestimated writing a point-of-view character with amnesia. You can’t give them any backstory or memories, nor can you have scene after scene of somebody telling them about their past. YOU WILL REMEMBER ME was a tricky book to write, but it stretched me as an author.

Did the story end the way you’d initially thought?

I had three endings in mind, and when I pitched the book to my editor, I asked her, “How dark can I go?” She said, “As dark as you want.”

Do you have a favorite character?

They were all interesting to write for many different reasons, predominantly because they’re flawed. Maya was probably the most complex, certainly one of the darkest point-of-view characters I’ve ever written. Although Lily is a sunshine girl, she has her secrets, too, which were fun to explore. As for “the man from the beach,” unearthing him was a longer process, and I kept remining myself that because I knew his history, it didn’t mean he could because of the amnesia.

How did publishing your first book change your process of writing, if at all?

My novels have definitely become darker–in that sense I’m taking more risks because I’m more confident in my ability to pull it off. With each book my process has also become more streamlined, and, six books in, I feel more in control.

Having said that, self-doubt always, always creeps in, particularly when I’m writing my first “skeleton draft,” which is a first, very loose version nobody will ever see. However, I’ve learned to trust my writing process. If I can get the bones of the story on paper, I’ll add layers and complexity as I go over the novel again and again in preparation for my editor’s eyes. I accept the finer details will come as I work through the story. I’ll figure out plot-holes if I allow myself time to work through them. Just like most people who draw, paint, or write music or books, the first draft will never be my best work. I’m glad I’ve accepted that because it stops me from being overly self-critical when I start a project. I also set myself deadlines and work hard to beat them.

What's your favorite part about writing/being an author? What do you find challenging?

I love the camaraderie of the writing community, it’s like nothing I’ve experienced elsewhere. Authors, readers, agents, publishers—we all love books and it’s truly wonderful. In terms of writing, I love the initial anticipation of starting a new book where everything is open, and the only limit is my imagination. I also adore when I get to the editing part and think, “Yeah, I believe I’ve got something here” — that’s always such a rush.

What is your writing process like?

Very structured, and the more I write, the more I plan. My novels start with an idea—something that pops into my head such as the news story for You Will Remember Me, or a radio segment for Sister Dear—maybe a discussion I overheard. I noodle the thoughts around for a while as the main characters take shape. The next step is to write an outline. I start by jotting down the big picture plot points, which I then use as stepping-stones to build and write the rest of the outline. I fill out personality questionnaires for my main characters to understand them better, and search for photos on the internet to build a gallery I stick on my pin-board. By this point I’m raring to go.

At first, I write a basic manuscript that’s a little over two-thirds of the final word count, then layer and develop until I’m happy calling it a first draft, and send it to my wonderful editor, Emily. That’s when the real editing work begins, which is incredibly exciting because I know the story will become a thousand times better with her expert input.

What was the most unique research you had to do for a book?

That’s such a great question and my dubious search history has definitely got me flagged somewhere. I think the most unique bits so far are how to get rid of an extra body in a graveyard without it being detected, how to muddle a crime scene enough to mess up forensics, how allergy meds can jumble your memory, how a person can die while working under a car, and, more recently, how to hire a hitman on the dark web (for Book 6). Like I said: dubious!

Who or what are your literary influences?

I’ve had a long-standing love-affair with both Lisa Jewell and David Nicholls’s books. I discovered Lisa Jewell’s first novel, Ralph’s Party, at the airport back in 1999, and have all her books. She has a shelf to herself! I adore how she expertly shifted from rom com to family drama to domestic suspense throughout her career, and her stories always pull me in.

A friend gave me David Nicholls’s One Day when it published. I devoured it in a matter of days and ordered all his other books so I could do the same. His characters are so rich, his dialogue perfect, his stories funny yet poignant, he’s an auto-buy author for me and I love his work.

I must also mention Jennifer Hillier. While waiting for my son at our local library I spotted her debut Creep on a shelf. Intrigued by the cover, I picked it up, read the blurb, took it home and couldn’t put it down. It was a turning point in my writing career. When I was younger, I mainly read thrillers, but after a personal tragedy in my early 20s, I could only stomach light-hearted reads. Creep reminded me of my love of thrillers, and I realized the second book I was working on, The Neighbors, was far grittier than my debut (rom com Time After Time). Jennifer’s book gave me that final push I needed to cross over to the dark side. Fun fact: we live in the same town and have become great friends. Jennifer is an inspiration to me and fiercely talented, and I have all her books. I’ll read anything she writes!

Is anything in your book based on real-life experiences?

No! Thankfully, my books aren’t true crime. I do sprinkle little details here and there my family would recognize: Superman pajamas, a stuffed toy, mud runs—those kinds of things but otherwise I pull very little from my life. My job is to make things up and it’s a part of the process I thoroughly enjoy.

How are you adjusting to promoting a book during a pandemic? 

I never have to ask, “Does my bum look big in this?” – which is brilliant! In all seriousness, I flipped events online very quickly and I’ve had a blast ever since. Don’t get me wrong, I miss in-person events and can’t wait until we can have them safely again, but the reach with online is so broad, it can’t be underestimated. I adore meeting and chatting with readers and other authors virtually—people who I wouldn’t otherwise get to see. There are no geographical restrictions, either. My mother was disabled, and being able to offer events to people with physical limitations, and who can’t get to an in-person event is so important. Once things return to normal, I do hope we keep the online component.

Another great thing that came out of the pandemic for me is First Chapter Fun. Back in March 2020, when Covid first hit Canada, a group of us were discussing how we could help promote one another and give our books a boost. I half-jokingly offered to read the first chapter of their novels on Facebook and Instagram, and within a few days I had over 40 daily readings lined up and launched First Chapter Fun. I read for 53 days in a row (didn’t think the “must do hair and make-up” thing through very well), introducing viewers to a new novel and author each day.

In May 2020, I teamed up with my partner-in-fictional-crime, powerhouse author Hank Phillippi Ryan. We created a new Facebook group www.facebook.com/groups/firstchapterfun and www.instagram.com/firstchapterfun. We read twice a week, every Tuesday and Thursday (the days with a “T) on both platforms simultaneously at 12.30 pm ET, and already have readings scheduled until the end of 2021. All the previously aired episodes are saved and can be viewed at leisure. It’s a wonderful community where we share the love of books, and introduce new and/or new-to-you authors twice a week. Our goal is to keep your “to be read” pile completely out-of-control and, or so we’ve been told, we’re succeeding.

The one thing that surprised me the most about the writing industry is how genuine, welcoming, and helpful authors and readers are. This project is a way of paying it forward.

What kind of advice would you give to aspiring thriller READERS?

Try different sub-genres, of which there are many. Perhaps you love police procedurals, or psychological thrillers may fascinate you. Maybe you don’t want something overly graphic, so cozies might be to your taste, or alternatively you could go hard-boiled noir. I think some people have the impression thrillers are all blood, guts and gore, but that’s not the case. There’s something for everyone. Take Jill Orr, author of the Riley Ellison Mystery series. Sure, people die in her books, but her novels are laugh-out-loud funny. She’s a comedic genius.

What are you working on now?

My 6th book is done and in my wonderful editor’s hands. It’s written from the anti-hero’s point-of-view, which I’ve never done before, and is the story of Lucas, who hired a hitman to kill his wife. A month later, Lucas receives a partial photograph of his wife in the mail. Who sent it? What do they know? And, more importantly, what do they want? I can’t wait to introduce you to my characters! In the meantime, I’m plotting and outlining Book 7, but it’s too early to give anything away.

Social Links

Author Website
Twitter: @HannahMMcKinnon
Instagram: @hannahmarymckinnon
Facebook: @HannahMaryMcKinnon

Buy Links

Barnes & Noble

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