Meet Lauren Mansy.
Lauren grew up in the Chicago area, where she spent years working with youth of all ages, from young children to high schoolers. When she’s not writing, Lauren loves to travel, spend time with her family, and explore the city to find the best deep dish pizza. The Memory Thief, which was inspired by Lauren’s own journey with her mother, is her first novel.
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Hi Lauren! Thanks for joining us today. Tell us a little about yourself:
LM: Hi Rae! Thank you so much for having me. I’m from the Chicago area, where I grew up helping my parents in our family business, playing sports, and performing in musical theater. I like to say that I stumbled upon a love of writing fiction. I first began writing while recovering from treatments from Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a form of lymphatic cancer. Writing helped me process through a lot of my most difficult memories, and The Memory Thief is my debut novel. It feels like an incredible gift to now have the chance to share this story!
What fascinated and/or challenged you the most while writing The Memory Thief?
LM: Because so much of the story was inspired by my journey with my mom, reliving the memories of when I was a teenager and faced with the possibility of losing her was both the most fascinating and challenging part of writing The Memory Thief. It was uncertain if she would survive yet she never stopped fighting to get better. Those memories also inspired me to never give up on my own journey to healing when I was diagnosed with cancer three years later. Ultimately, it was my mom’s ability to cling to hope in the midst of hardship which made me want to tell this story. While some things were difficult to put down on paper, writing about this experience proved to be a huge source of healing for me. I’m very grateful for that.
Why use memories as a currency?
LM: When I was a teenager, my mom was diagnosed with a heart condition, which led to an immediate open heart surgery. On the way to the operating room, her heart stopped six times, and the doctors warned my family that it was unlikely she’d survive. And if she did, she may not remember us due to the trauma she’d experienced throughout the entire ordeal.
I was sitting at her bedside when my mom first began to stir after her surgery, and I slipped my hand into hers and told her that it was me. Then she began to squeeze my hand three times, our signal for I love you! That’s my most favorite memory because I’d never felt such a deep fear suddenly overcome by the most incredible joy. That was the moment which first sparked the idea for The Memory Thief.
Ever since then, I was always struck by how memories make up so much of our identity and influence our relationships with others. I realized my memories were the most important things that I owned, so I began to wonder … what if there was a world where memories reigned over everything? What type of person would exist in a world where their memories aren’t necessarily their own? And how would anyone ever really discover their true identity when it only takes one touch for someone else’s thoughts to seep into their mind? I filled quite a few notebooks with those kinds of questions, and The Memory Thief was born 🙂
In your bio you mention that The Memory Thief, was inspired by your mother. What is one thing you really want readers to take away from the novel after they are finished reading?
LM: One thing that I hope readers take away from this story is that it isn’t the hardships of the past which define us, but the strength we find in overcoming them. This was something that my mom often demonstrated for me throughout her recovery process. There were many difficult days on her road to healing, and not knowing if she would survive was really scary. But throughout that time, my mom was teaching me so much about what courage looks like. For her, being brave was learning how to speak again after her breathing tube was removed, and taking one tiny step, then two. She was vulnerable and accepted help when she couldn’t continue on alone, and never gave up even when the odds were stacked against her. I’m incredibly grateful that my mom made a full recovery, and what it took for her to get there will forever stick with me.
On the same note, I believe that we all have stories to tell. Of course, not everyone will want to share theirs by writing a book, but we’re all storytellers because we’re all living life. If The Memory Thief can play even a tiny role in encouraging someone else to share their story, I’d be very thankful for that.
Love the educator’s guide you have available on your website. Did you get the initiative yourself to create it, based on your work experience with children, or had someone reached out to you about a guide to teach with?
LM: I’m thrilled you like it, Rae – I love it too! It was created by a wonderful educator named Jennifer Jowett, who designed the guide alongside my publisher. I first fell in love with reading and discussing literature when I was a student, so the educator’s guide has a very special place in my heart. I’ve been amazed at Jennifer’s creativity and passion for learning, and I couldn’t be happier with how it turned out. I’m always so touched to see The Memory Thief in a classroom!
At any point while writing did your main protagonist, Etta Lark, interfere with anything you had anticipated to happen?
LM: Such a fun question — writers often joke that characters have minds of their own, and I think that’s absolutely true!
I really enjoyed writing from Etta’s perspective because she’s a character who kept me on my toes. She’s made a lot of mistakes which haunt her and fears never amounting to anything other than a memory thief. She wonders if she’ll ever really discover her true self. At the same time, Etta never stops fighting to save the people she loves. It’s on her journey to save her mother that she’s learning how courage looks a little different for everyone. Though she’d run headfirst into a fight, Etta struggles with being vulnerable with others.
Etta surprised me by showing strength in a different way than I originally anticipated when I first started writing The Memory Thief. Like the characters who surround her, I also learned while drafting Etta that I had to be patient with her, try my best to understand her, and that it would take time for her to learn how to be vulnerable. Her bravest moments aren’t necessarily in battle but in the quiet, still moments when words are the only thing that can break down the barriers around her heart.
Though Etta and I have faced similar situations, we’re also very different, and Etta often showed me that she also had her own story to tell 🙂
Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers today?
LM: I love connecting with readers on Instagram (@lauren_mansy) or Twitter (@laurenmansy), and if you’re interested in learning more about The Memory Thief, please feel free to visit my website at http://www.laurenmansy.com.
Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions.
Thank you so much, Rae!