I am thrilled to have an absolutely brilliant guest post by Elisabeth de Mariaffi, author of I Remember You, today as part of the book’s launch celebrations. In it Maria sets an utterly chilling background to her new novel.
Published by Titan yesterday, 27th March 2018, I Remember You is available for purchase through the links here.
I Remember You
When her child is lost, she’ll do anything to find him…
Heike Lerner has a charmed life. A stay-at-home mother married to a prominent psychiatrist, it’s a far cry from the damaged child she used to be. But her world is shaken when her four-year-old son befriends a little girl at a nearby lake, who vanishes under the water.
And when Heike dives in after her, there’s no sign of a body.
Desperate to discover what happened to the child, Heike seeks out Leo Dolan, a television writer exploring the paranormal, but finds herself caught between her controlling husband and the intense Dolan. Then her son disappears, and Heike’s husband was the last to see him alive…
Look back, look back, there’s blood on the track: how a childhood of reading Grimm’s fairy tales found its way into I Remember You
A Guest post by Elisabeth de Mariaffi
Writers have different ways of coming to a story: some authors I know love a good outline; others have a character, fully developed, in mind, and only need place her in the right set of circumstances. For me, everything always begins with an image.
So it was with I Remember You. The image that came to me first was of a young mother and her little boy, lounging on a wooden raft in the middle of a pond, when a strange girl surfaces from the water—seemingly, out of nowhere. While her son is enchanted by the girl and immediately begins to play with her, the mother is anxious: Where did this girl come from? Where are her parents? The woods around them are still. A moment later, the little girl skips across the surface of the pond and dives below. In a panic, the mother clutches her son. The girl never resurfaces.
This was the scene I held in my mind as I wrote the novel. I wanted that strangeness, that dark feeling, to pervade the book. But I’d also been thinking a little more about theme and where the story might be taking place.
These days, it seems to me, we write (and read!) so many dystopias. I began to wonder why we don’t write utopias anymore. Growing up in Canada in the 1980s, the utopia that was presented to us, again and again through popular culture, was the Happy Days of 1950s America. This had as much to do with the fact that the Baby Boomer generation had come of age and was producing our pop culture for us, with a nostalgic nod to their own childhoods.
Of course, we know the 50s were anything but a utopia, and America, before the civil rights and second wave feminist movements, was a deeply unequal society. Still – the idea stuck with me. I found the friction compelling.
The two sides of this story—the more gestural, imaged feeling part, and the thematic thinking part– came together, for me, in remembering my own childhood: more specifically, they came together for me in fairy tales.
A child of immigrant eastern Europeans, I grew up listening to traditional fairy tales. The real stuff: the grim Grimm, if you will. Sometimes allegorical, these stories revealed the worst traits of human behaviour – greed, sloth, jealousy, violence – and also, our worst fears. The scene in the pond, without my having to construct it consciously that way, already recalled elements of some of my favourite tales. How many stories involve a mysterious creature in the water? The Frog Prince, to be sure, but also The Nixie in the Pond, and Perrault’s Diamonds and Toads, among others.
But in America in the 50s, these fairy tales would undergo a sweetening: think of Disney’s Cinderella, in which the mice and birds help Cinderella dress for the ball, and her stepsisters, while ugly, are little more than annoying. How different from the stepsisters in my own anthology of tales, who cut off pieces of their own feet with a sharp knife in order to fit the mysterious slipper. Here, too, a bird is helpful, but it’s a crow, and rather than tying pretty bows it issues a cawed warning to the fooled Prince: “Look back, look back!” it says. “There’s blood on the track.”
That same contrast was what I aimed for in I Remember You. While the protagonist – the young, pretty Heike Lerner – dresses up for tony cocktail parties, clinking champagne glasses with the smart set, she’s also aware that something dark and ominous is at play in that world. Everything is not as it seems.The mysterious little girl in the pond, and her eerie disappearance, make the threat impossible to ignore. Blood on the track, indeed.
(My goodness Elisabeth. If ever there was a compelling introduction to a book this is it! I can’t wait to read I Remember You.)
About Elisabeth de Mariaffi
Elisabeth de Mariaffi is the critically acclaimed author of the Giller nominated How to Get Along with Women and The Devil You Know. The Devil You Know is currently in development for television with New Metric Media. It was shortlisted for the prestigious Thomas Raddall Atlantic Fiction Award and longlisted for the 2017 International DUBLIN Literary Award.
Born and raised in Toronto, she now makes her home in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
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