Bookworms: The Memory Thieves (14) by Robertson (Interview)
The action begins as the mysterious memory thief Jacob is on the run and the pacing of the story doesn’t slow down until the end. Jacob steals for a living in a world where memories are extracted from the mind and kept in glass jars in vaults for better security and safety. His work is dangerous and more than likely to get him killed, if not by the memories themselves, by the very people he works for.
His boss hides a deep secret, one Jacob is desperate to reveal, but the shocking truth has the power to change all their worlds forever.
The Memory Thieves was one of three winners of the 2014 Summer Writing Project, a collaboration between Black Hill Press, JukePop Serials, and California Public Libraries. Posted a chapter at a time and voted on by the public, The Memory Thieves won through instant popularity and an engrossing story. It has been released just this week, and is available digitally or in paperback through the Black Hill Press website.
I spoke with J.T. Robertson about The Memory Thieves and his writing process.
Redbeard: First of all, congratulations on winning the Summer Writing Project from Black Hill Press and JukePop!
Robertson: Thank you.
Redbeard: I got a Blade Runner, sort of future noir vibe from the story. Also there seems to be a little Inception going on here. Who or what would you say are your influences on this story?
Robertson: “I can definitely see where you’d see touches of both Blade Runner and Inception. I’d add Total Recall, Memento, and the Maltese Falcon. As I built the world in the story, I made a conscious effort to keep it somewhat timeless and open to reader interpretation. To keep it grounded I needed it to be a relatively low tech, disconnected world. A more obscure influence was a game I had for NES as a kid called “Déjà vu,” where the main player character was a private eye who wakes up with no memory near a murdered guy and has to regain his memories to clear his name.”
Redbeard: What was the genesis of the story and the idea of memory thieving?
Robertson: “I keep a running list of story ideas in Evernote. Sometimes they’re fully formed, other times they’re just a line. I ran down the list looking for something that would work well with a crime story, and the one that hit was ‘Information is kept in bank. Memories too?’ from April 11th, 2012. From there it was just brainstorming. I sat down and wrote the first chapter, just trying to get a good beginning.”
Redbeard: In the story, the memories are not passive. They act almost ferally. Why did you go with active, brain seeking organisms rather than passive gelatinous blobs?
Robertson: “The aggressive nature of the memories was really a happy accident. I was halfway through the first chapter when I came up with the idea of Jacob having to give up some of his precious cargo to escape. I’m really glad I stumbled on that idea though, as it added an inherent tension to the story. Not only did Jacob work for dangerous people, the product itself was dangerous. He wasn’t just a skilled smash and grab guy, he was a specialist who knew what he was doing. He had to be if one handling mistake could kill him.”
Redbeard: Any “behind-the-scenes” information on The Memory Thieves?
Robertson: “Many of the street names are actual streets in Springfield, Missouri. Also, Carl: in my head, he’s always played by Steve Buscemi.”
Redbeard: Do you have a sequel or prequel planned?
Robertson: “I have titles and very rough outlines for four more novellas set in the The Memory Thieves world. The protagonists will be different in each, but there will be connections throughout. The tentative title for the next book is The Redacted Detective.”
Redbeard: What made you settle on novella?
Robertson: “When I came across the Summer Writing Project [a project that was novella centered], it’d been a year or more since I’d touched [the] old novella [idea], so I decided it was time to try again with completely new story. I truly believe The Memory Thieves works best as a novella. There’s very little downtime for the characters to chew scenery, and with the ten chapter limit I set for myself, it really made me examine every word and scene with a critical eye. I think the story is far tighter thanks to that limitation and the excellent work of my Editor, Jennifer Eneriz.”
Redbeard: I, and my readers, are often interested in a writer’s process. Can you comment on yours?
Robertson: “I don’t really have a set daily or even weekly routine, though not for lack of trying. For some reason my output tends to come in bursts. My wife Pamela is also a major part of my process. I make sure she reads everything I write before anyone else. As a voracious reader, she has a knack for catching plot holes and other issues that I miss.”
Redbeard: Pencil and paper or typewriter or word processor?
Robertson: “[A combination of all of the above, except for typewriter, though I recently received a typewriter I might use in the future.] I’m an obsessive brainstormer and planner. I keep a variety of journals and notebooks on hand, and do all my brainstorming and outlining in them with my collection of color Pentel Flair felt-tips. I’m also a fan of Evernote for brainstorming on the go.”
My sincere thanks to J.T. Robertson for letting me pick his brain about his book and his writing process. The Memory Thieves is about as exciting as it gets, and catching a small glimpse into the world of the author is a treat. Grab your copy today and get reading! You can visit J.T Robertson on the web at jtrobertson.com and you can follow him on Twitter at @jayteerobertson.
Black Hill Press provided me a review copy of The Memory Thieves. My review is entirely my own opinion.