In The Forgotten Girl (St. Martin’s/Dunne, June), Youers’s everyman hero, Harvey Anderson, must deal with the theft of his memories by someone he loves.
Why did you choose to make your hero a regular guy?
Lee Child sells in the millions, and it’s easy to see why; readers love the edge-of-the-seat, vicarious thrill that Jack Reacher unfailingly provides. Harvey is a different kind of hero. He could be your son or your brother, your best pal, your cousin. You know Harvey, so your investment in him is based on emotion. He isn’t ex–Special Forces. He doesn’t know how to fire a gun or even throw a punch. I was motivated by the idea of seeing how far Harvey could go—in a classic thriller environment—based purely on the size of his heart. No spoilers, but it turns out he can go pretty far.
How did you develop the idea for a memory thief?
The arbitrary nature of memory has always fascinated me. I’ve played around with it over the years, but never as fully as in The Forgotten Girl. The original spark hit when, years ago, I wanted to write a story about a vampire who fed on memories instead of blood. A pretty cool concept, only the story never came to light because I felt it was wasted on a vampire, whom the reader would struggle to empathize with. So I shelved the idea, but never forgot about it, and when Jaime Levine at Thomas Dunne asked me to pitch her a few ideas, I took my memory-stealing vampire off the shelf and reworked it (to put it mildly) until I had something I thought Jaime would be interested in acquiring.
What surprised you the most about how it evolved?
I think that it evolved at all. The pitch I sent to Jaime was vague, at best. I remember the wording on the contract and subsequent press release: “A character-driven thriller that will be a cross between Patrick Lee’s Runner and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.” How’s that for a combo? I had the concept, a few characters, and a few key scenes, but not much more. Jaime came up with a couple of early suggestions that sent the novel in a different and important direction (thank goodness), and I flew by the seat of my pants from that point on.
How much of Harvey is you?
Harvey is a peace-loving, liberal-minded vegetarian who likes to read and play guitar. I’m a peace-loving, liberal-minded vegetarian who likes to read and play guitar. I think if we ever met for dinner (something with tofu, probably), we’d get along just fine.