Chloe Grant-Jones is a third-year History and English Literature student from Belfast. Her first novel ‘Forgotten in Memory’ was published in February 2017 by The Book Guild Publishing. In the throes of third term, she agreed to an interview. There may be a few spoilers ahead.
Hey Chloe, so this is your first book. Was there a few run-ups and writing attempts or did you have the story all planned out?
I wrote a first draft of a story called Never Say Goodbye which I wrote pre-uni. Then when I got to York I read it over, realised it wasn’t great and redrafted it. One thing you learn about being a writer is that you’re constantly changing your style. I wrote that first draft when I was eighteen but by the time I began rewriting and reforming the story I was nineteen and a year into university – I’d grown up and so the book did too.
I knew there’d be a car-crash, that the parents would have passed away and that the story would be based around an anniversary of their death but I actually found the plot the hardest thing to write – the characters came much easier. I started with Imogene. It was fun to write her as smirky and sarcastic. Then I imagined the kind of people that she’d interact with and built up her family. I drew her at the centre of a web and added in the rest. I’d write out each person then list their traits and stuff like their favourite books.
That’s a lot of planning! What would Imogene’s favourite books be?
I envisaged Imogene would be into To Kill a Mockingbird and books that discuss significance and morality. She’s a musician and I suppose she’d like to draw significance out of small occurrences and motifs.
What were your inspirations for the story? Were there any books or stories which you drew from?
In a way, I’m inspired by the little things. I drew a lot of story out of everyday things. I liked what you wrote in your review, ‘nothing earth shattering’. That’s what I love about writing: the ordinary, down-to-earth interactions and scenes we go through. I got a lot of story ideas from daily news programs.
In terms of specific literature references, The Book Thief by Markus Zuzack inspired me to write from different perspectives. It’s a great concept – I mean, it’s narrated by death!
Another inspiration was my grandparents. In my first year at university, my grandma passed away. She and my grandfather both had Alzheimer’s and they helped form the characters Mr. and Mrs. Vincent. I wanted to challenge views on Alzheimer’s with the book. People often think that if you suffer from it, you forget everything but my grandparents had a wealth of history and stories which were insightful and fascinating.
One of the biggest messages behind the book is removing stigma around mental health too. I’ve been told that the narrative around Imogene’s struggle with anxiety and depression was helpful – particularly how she interacts with her family and finds it hard to talk about her struggle. Even through more minor characters like Charlie, I wanted to remove the veil behind an often happy demeanour. I wanted to show what goes on beneath the surface.
Forgotten in Memory is fab, is there anything in the pipeline?
For my next book I’d like to make it much more plot-based. I’m planning a mystery-thriller drawing more on my history knowledge. It’ll likely be set in Russia and Britain in the early 2000’s from two girls’ perspectives. It’ll be something to keep me busy over the summer!