Karma Brown is the author of the novel The Life Lucy Knew. Her other books include In This Moment and The Choices We Make. Her work has appeared in a variety of publications, including SELF and Redbook, and she lives near Toronto.
Q: You've noted that The Life Lucy Knew was inspired by an article about a man who experienced memory issues after an accident. How did that lead you to create your character Lucy?
A: I was writing an entirely different book, when about a third of a way into the first draft everything went upside down and I was left with a looming deadline and an unsalvageable novel.
Panic ensued until I remembered an article I’d read a few months earlier. It featured a 29-year-old man in England who, after a serious bicycle accident, woke from his medically induced coma with these fantastical memories that were not experiences he had lived through. Yet despite the memories being false, they felt incredibly real to him.
Q: What kind of research did you need to do to write the novel, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?
A: I did a lot of reading on memory, and how we form—and retain—memories, which was fascinating. But because confabulated memory disorder is somewhat rare, most of the research I found on that specific condition was anecdotal—stories of people dealing with these false memories, and the challenges they faced to unravel what was real and what wasn’t.
The thing that surprised me most was how inaccurate our memories are! We are constantly reframing our memories; every time we recollect a memory we subtly make changes to it. So eventually, while the memories we have feel intact and accurate, they are quite different from the original experience.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: My next novel, Recipe for a Perfect Wife, comes out Feb. 25, 2020. It’s a dual-narrative, dual timeline novel about a vintage cookbook and an old house, which connect across decades a reluctant, modern housewife and a 1950s housewife with a sinister secret, proving you can never really know what goes on behind closed doors, or within a marriage.
It showcases that while we have made progress since the 1950s, there remain challenging gendered roles and expectations for today’s women, especially wives and mothers. I’m really excited for people to read it!
I’m also working on my first non-fiction project—The Happy Hour—which is about getting up early (like, 5am early!) to do something you’ve always wanted to but never thought you’d have the time for. It looks at how to uncover this “magic” hour each day, and strategies to exploit it so you can accomplish a passion project. It publishes winter 2021 with HarperCollins.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb