Hello, I am here today with romance writer Kathryn Shay. Today we are going to talk about her upcoming release of A Man She Couldn’t Forget. I was lucky enough to be able to read an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy) of this book and found it to be a true love story. Could you please start off by telling your readers a little about this book?
A Man She Couldn’t Forget, released by Harlequin Superromance this month, is the story of Clare Boneli, who wakes up in the hospital, not knowing who she is nor does she recognize the two men keeping vigil at her bedside. Jonathan, she’s told, is her current love interest and owner of the TV station where she hosts a popular cooking show. The other, Brady, her long-time best friend, is the illustrator of her cookbooks. And much more, she soon finds out. But what’s going on with these two men and Clare to cause the almost unbearable tension among them all?
The story was fun to write because it includes a combination of the types of plotlines I’ve always enjoyed as a reader. First, the book deals with amnesia. Next, the book has a friends-turned-lovers angle. Finally, the third element I used is the concept of a love triangle.
When I read this novel it reminded me of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. In reality it did not have the same theme or even a Christmas background. However, the way Clare looks back on her life and changes as a result reminded me of it. How did you come up a storyline about a woman with amnesia who changes who she is?
Sometimes authors just get ideas out of the blue. I was sitting on the porch one summer morning, and an idea for an amnesia story just came to me. Originally, it was about a husband and wife, who have a troubled relationship and the wife gets amnesia. Then it evolved to combine three of my favorite plotlines, mentioned above. Once in a while, books just happens that way.
Speaking of amnesia, even today there still is not much medically known about this. Did you have a hard time finding the facts about this condition? Did you learn anything interesting that you may have not known?
Oh, I learned a lot of new things about amnesia. First, there are several types: one is when you can’t remember how to do anything, like read. Another is when you forget what you did five minutes ago. The kind I chose was retrograde amnesia, when a person doesn’t remember who she is, or the people around her, but does recall how to do procedural things. This fit into my plot, as did details of how memory returns, especially the fact that events furthest away from the trauma which caused the amnesia come back first. This helped move the plot along because memories of the hero, Brady, return first, so right away Clare feels closer to him, which I wanted to happen. Other tidbits worked into the plot, too: how important dreams are, how sensory things trigger memories, and the significance of flashbacks, all of which I discovered happen with amnesiacs.
And, addressing your comment about not much being known about amnesia today: I watched several amnesia movies and Hitchcock’s SPELLBOUND, made in 1945, was amazingly in line with the current thinking on the condition.
While reading this book I saw Brady as an alpha male when it came to claiming Clare. However, when it comes to Clare herself he seems like such a pushover. Was this done deliberately to show a softer side of him?
Oh, yeah. Don’t you just love an alpha male who is putty in the heroine’s hands? Brady was so much fun to write.
It’s ironic because Jonathan is not your typical “bad guy” but there was just something off about him. I could not put my finger on it but at times I wanted to strangle him for how he manipulated Clare. Did you base him from a real life person? What about Clare or Brady?
No, they weren’t based on real people. But Jonathan was very carefully crafted. I went back several times into the manuscript to make him more likable. Then, I had to go back again because he was too likable. It was a delicate balance, but I’m pleased with how the character turned out.
The way Clare struggles with her feelings for both men was very emotional. There was such a bittersweet tension in the air. While writing these sad scenes, did you use any type of sensory like music or television to write?
No, I never use anything like this when I write. The quieter the better. Usually, I can actually picture the scene, who’s feeling what, how sad they are, and it just comes onto the page. I often get emotional myself when I write. Once, my son came into the room and asked why I was crying. The book I was working on had a 9/11 firefighter who was in a wheelchair, and I said, “I feel so bad Ian’s always going to be in this chair. I want him to walk.”
“Mom,” he said, “it’s your book. Get him out of the thing.”
I looked at him as if he was crazy. “But Ben,” I said, “He can’t walk. He never will! It’s SO sad.”
While looking at your website, I read that you were a teacher in the state of New York school system. What did you teach? What is it about teaching that had you falling in love with it?
I taught every grade level and ability level of high school English, as well as some electives like Science Fiction, Women in Society and Humanities. What made me love the job was seeing reluctant learners rush to class to get there first so they could read parts of OF MICE AND MEN aloud. (That’s how we taught the book.) I also loved seeing advanced kids take off on their own, suggest books to read, how they’d be evaluated, what process they wanted to follow during class time. And in my art, music and literature class (Humanities), I had the wonderful experience of watching kids figure out how to analyze a painting or interpret a piece of music. All that, as wells the true joy of working with teenagers that you find truly interesting, made me love my time as a teacher. (PS—I decided to retire when I no longer found teenagers quite so interesting!)
Do you have any other websites like MySpace or face book where readers can find you?
Yes, I have a MySpace page, aAnd I’m on a livejournal. I’m trying to get up the nerve to go on Facebook!
Your bio mentions you are married and have two kids. Can you tell us how long you have been married and what your husband’s name is?
I’ve been married almost 38 years to my college sweetheart Jerry. I have two kids—the 27 year old is a reading teacher, and the 24 year old majored in Creative Writing. How’s that for influence?
Your website mentions you started writing when you were fifteen, a story about a woman reporter. Do you still have this story? Have you gotten it published or thought about getting it published?
Yes, I still have the story. No, I’d never publish it. But what’s significant is that it’s a romance. At fifteen. How about that?
I used to live in upstate New York near the Adirondack Mountains, which are beautiful. Do you have any hobbies like camping or fishing or hiking?
No, none of those hobbies are mine. I take yoga classes, read—one of my greatest pleasures. I watch TV, which I could never do when I was teaching and writing full time. I love to go to movies, I have a best friend, also retired, who I do everything with, I belong to a church and do a lot of volunteer work, like working at a soup kitchen and answering the phones at a battered women’s shelter.
You have a very soulful way of writing that has a reader relating to the characters. Do you have any authors you like to read, maybe a favorite? Was there one author that started you on your writing career?
My favorite genre writers are Nora Roberts, Susan Elizabeth Phillips and Linda Howard. I read everything they write. I think Judith McNaught really inspired me to write romance. My favorite book of hers is Whitney, My Love. Before that, my style of writing was greatly influenced by Judith Guest’s Ordinary People. It’s beautifully written and very emotional.
Clare has such a wonderful love story. Do you have a favorite couple whether from a book, movie, or history that you have fallen in love with? If you could become half of a famous couple from history, who would it be and why?
Well, my favorite couple in all of romance/women’s fiction is Roarke and Eve in J.D. Robb’s Death series. I’d sell my soul to be half of that couple! Not so much anyone in history.
And one last question that I like to ask all of my interviewers. In keeping with the Coffee Time Romance theme, if you were a flavor of coffee, what would it be and why?
Is espresso a flavor? I’d be that because a small amount of it is strong and potent and packed with a punch!
Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I had a wonderful time reading your book and asking these questions. I have a feeling that Clare, Brady, and Jonathan’s love story will become a great classic. A Man She Couldn’t Forget published by Harlequin Superromance will be available January 2009 in paperback, large print, adobe PDF eBook, Microsoft eBook, and Mobipocket eBook