Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Remember When . . . She Forgot Nothing?

Well, here we are. March 12. That means 19 days until the official, in-stores-everywhere release of Circle of Spies. My copies arrived on Monday. And when I looked it up, I saw it was in stock already at (woot!!!!).


A book release is always fun--and funny. Because though this is the latest book the public sees, the author hasn't been working on it for months. The last I saw of it was Thanksgiving, when I did my galley edits. I turned it in back in July. My mind has spent months in first-century Rome, and now it's moving on to 1910 England. That's where my thoughts are...but then these beautiful books show up, all the promo stuff starts appearing, and I get to shift gears.

Which is cool. Because I love Marietta and Slade. Love them. It was so much fun to write about a these two far-from-perfect characters. Even after agonizing over edits that required I cut 20K from the manuscript, even after reading through it three times in the course of two weeks back in November, I love this book. Sometimes I get sick of my books, LOL, but not with this one. I'm so, so happy to welcome Circle of Spies to the world.

So I thought today I'd talk a bit about one of my favorite aspects of the book. If you look at that back cover, the blurb beings with A glimpse was all she had. A glimpse was all she needed.

The line is taken almost verbatim from the book and is a key point. Marietta, which we learn in the first chapter (click here to read the first chapter!), has a perfect memory. As in, perfect. She can recall everything she has ever read. Everything she has ever seen. Everything she has ever heard. Every minute of every day. Every joy.

Every pain.

Every laugh.

Every scolding.

Can you imagine? There are documented cases of people with these unbelievable memories, but their stories vary. Some are great academics, capable of so very much because of this remarkable gift. Some of them are so overwhelmed by it that they in effect do nothing.

As I developed Marietta in my mind, I already had some of her figured out by necessity. I knew her role in the story--she was a widow, one who has to covertly help an undercover agent without him knowing. At first I thought she would rather hermit-like, but as the plot came to me, I saw that wouldn't work. No, Marietta Hughes had to be a southern belle to put southern belles to shame. She had to know how to flirt. She had to know how to manipulate. That was how she would pull off the task assigned to her.

Those of you who read Whispers from the Shadows will no doubt remember that Gwyneth had a pretty amazing memory too. She could recreate with pencil or brush anything she had seen. A glimpse was all she needed. That's what started me on the thought of memory. That's what made me remember the stories a coworker at my college used to tell.

See, St. John's College is a place where you read. All classes are conversation-based, on the assigned texts. Twice a week are the big classes, the seminars as we call them. Where we discuss philosophy. To every class, the students and professors (whom we call tutors) come in not with text books but with original books. Conversations about the texts obviously require a lot of flipping through pages to hunt up that section you just have to quote to refute someone's point...even though half the time, by the time you find it, the talk has moved on to another topic.

I worked in the Admissions Office, and one of the counselors was named Dave Cherry. Dave was a talker. He loved to tell us all about...everything, LOL. One of his favorite stories was of his days as a student at St. John's, and of another student in his class. I don't remember the guy's name, but he had perfect recall. This was how he read a book: he opened it up, he flipped through the pages one by one, just glancing at each page. Then he'd put the book away, lay back on his bed, close his eyes, and read. Read, from the images of the pages in his mind.


How cool is THAT??

I never forgot those stories. Never forgot about how he never once took a book to class but could quote from anywhere in the book, perfectly, at will. How he wowed all his classmates with his ability to do this on command.

That, I decided, was a trait worthy of a heroine. But it could easily make a character too perfect, right? Too amazing. Too unbelievable.

So I decided it would be pretty darn fun to give it to a girl who just wanted to have a good time. Who wouldn't appreciate the gift for many years. Who, in fact, viewed it as a burden.

Which it would be, if it were as extended as I made it. If she could forget nothing, including the bad things. If, as Marietta puts it, her mind were always filled with the march of meaningless facts, always so overwhelmed with the past, how could she help but want to just live in the moment? She cannot forget--so she ignores. And she has become a master of it by the time the book opens. Until Granddad Thad gives her a shake to her foundation and says it is time to use this gift of God for His purposes rather than her own.

Yes, I had a lot of fun working this gift into the story, and recreating those stories I heard. I always love to hear of the amazing, miraculous giftings the Lord sometimes gives.

Have you heard of any awe-inspiring stories of the human mind?


  1. While not exactly perfect recall, my uncle has something close - in college, the first couple weeks of the semester they could buy books and return them for a full price refund, so he'd buy all his books, read them, and return within that time period. He remembered well enough that his scholarships paid entirely for college and then some - pretty good for a poor farm kid in those days!

    1. That's definitely awesome! And handy too, LOL. I have a good memory for things I read, but not nearly THAT good.

  2. How exciting!! I can't wait to read your book! I have a few writing questions, if you don't mind....
    How long does it take you to write a novel?
    How long do you usually research for?
    How do you balance research with writing?


    1. I don't mind at all! =) Before homeschooling, it took me about 2 months to write a book. These days it takes me 3-6 months, depending on the length of the book and how many times I have to stop in the middle of writing it to edit another project. =) (From what I can gather, I'm a pretty fast writer compared to others though. Just a warning.) I usually do the mass of my research for a week before I start writing, then I keep researching as I go. I find that I need a working knowledge of a setting as a foundation, but I don't need every detail right away. I'm usually reading a research book the whole time I'm writing, and looking up a gazillion little questions every day. Which kinda answers the balance question too, I think.

  3. I don't have a great memory and can't recall or recite everything I read in book either.

    I was watching on the History channel regarding Edison and Nikola Tesla. Tesla actually had an amazing memory where he could think of an invention in his mind with precise dimensions then construct it.

    1. That sort of ability boggles my mind! I'm so bad at spacial stuff, LOL. But Tesla was one cool dude, for sure.