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PART OF THE Inner Space ISSUE

An Interview with Ross Sayers

‘Just as memories in your head can change over time, the technology begins to change.’

A tale of two times. It’s 2019 – Hannah Greenshields has her first day at Memory Lane, a memory clinic in Edinburgh’s centre, which houses advanced technology which allows clients to relive their favourite memories for a substantial fee. Fly back to 1975 and John Valentine, another client, is reliving his wedding day over and over, hoping to change one key event he can’t forget. John soon realises his memory isn’t such a safe place after all. The pair must work together to get John back to the real world before it’s too late.
Ross Sayers had a quick chat with Books From Scotland to celebrate his latest release.

 

The Everliving Memory of John Valentine
By Ross Sayers
Published by Fledgling Press

 

Another publication day for you – congratulations! Could you tell us about your latest book The Everliving Memory of John Valentine?

Thank you so much! Of course, the book is about a mysterious memory facility in the middle of Edinburgh, Memory Lane, which allows wealthy clients to pay to relive 12 hour segments from their memory. The narrative is mainly split between Hannah, who is a new employee of Memory Lane, and John, who is reliving his wedding day over and over again. Hannah discovers that clients can’t be automatically removed from their memories when the 12 hour period is up, and it’s her job to go into client’s memories if they refuse to leave after their allotted time. I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that Hannah ends up going into John’s memory at some point…

You’re a bit of a writing machine! This is your second book in the space of a year, and a year, let’s face it, that has been quite challenging. How have you stayed motivated to write?

I definitely think I had a bit more motivation at the start of lockdown, when the novelty of being at home all the time hadn’t worn off. I had the idea for the book a couple of months in and was fortunate enough to have the time to get going with it. As more and more opens up, I’m finding it harder to sit down at the laptop!

You’re normally better known for writing Young Adult fiction, what made you decide to write your first novel for adults?

I think I just wanted to try something different. YA is great but you’re a little restricted in that your main characters have to be quite young, whereas I knew for this story I needed one of the main characters to be an older gent. Personally I don’t think there’s a huge difference in the writing/ tone etc, and certainly there’s just as much swearing in my YA books as in this one! I’m aware that even the phrase ‘YA’ will put certain readers off, so I wonder if I’ll get anyone reading this book that wouldn’t have read my previous ones.

Both your latest novels feature time travel, though The Everliving Memory of John Valentine is more internal time travel than physical time travel, which brings its own problems! What did you want to explore in writing this novel?

So I wanted to explore this technology, the tech that allows the clients to relive their memories. I wanted to explore the limits of it, eg what you can and can’t do within memories. For the character of John, he’s trying to change something in his memory, trying to do something differently, and is finding that, well, it’s a struggle. But also, it’s not impossible? Just as memories in your head can change over time, the technology begins to change. I also wanted to explore the relationship between John and his dad, and fathers and sons as a whole. And then with Hannah’s storyline, that’s more about the relationship young people have with both their workplaces and workmates. I’ve found that no matter the workplace, there are always the same kind of dynamics. So it doesn’t matter that this Memory Lane place is hugely wealthy clinic with incredible technology…the vending machine in the canteen still doesn’t work properly.

Do you enjoy reading sci-fi or speculative fiction yourself? Which writers, books and films have influenced your work here?

I loved Red Dwarf growing up (both the show and the books: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers and Better Than Life), and then the Back to the Future films are some of my favourites. The Discworld books too. And then more recently, I really loved Trackman by Catriona Child, which did that great thing that the best speculative fiction does, of introducing an unreal concept (an MP3 player which independently plays the perfect song at the perfect moment) into the real world.

Are there any favourite memories of yours that you would like to visit again, that you can share?

When I was in my early twenties, I got really lucky that I was able to visit some really cool places (Rio, Tokyo, San Diego), but I only got a day or two in each. I think I was too young to properly appreciate these trips to be honest, I wouldn’t mind doing them again. Wouldn’t mind spending longer than 48 in each place as well mind you …

Your novels always have great humour in them. Do you have any tricks or tips for writers who would like to write comedy?

Thank you! I think taking notes is a good thing to do, and it’s a lot easier these days when you can note it down on your phone rather than having to be that weirdo who’s scribbling on a notepad at the football. But yeah, if you hear someone say something funny, just take a note of it and then when you’re writing, and you think, this character would make a funny comment here, you can look through your notes and see if you can slide anything in. Just steal from others, basically.

Do you know what you’ll be working on next, or are you ready for a rest now?

I’m working on a new YA book but I’m keeping all details under wraps for now. I think I am anyway. I find I forget what I’ve said publicly. But as far as I know, I haven’t said anything about it!

What’s been your favourite books of the year so far?

Ok the main ones which spring to mind: Happiness Is Wasted On Me by Kirkland Ciccone, Luckenbooth by Jenni Fagan, and Duck Feet by Ely Percy. Can’t go wrong with those three.

 

The Everliving Memory of John Valentine by Ross Sayers is published by Fledgling Press, priced £9.99.

 

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