Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Kari's Kave: Welcome Special Guest Alison Gaylin!

We have a special treat for you today. Please help me give a warm welcome to a fabulous author named Alison Gaylin.

She has a fantastic new book you won't want to miss. A great new series I predict will be a huge success. AND SHE WAS is the first in a new series from Alison Gaylin which combines the psychological depth of Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan series with the fast pacing and gripping tension of Harlan Coben’s suburban thrillers. Indeed, Lippman and Coben are huge fans of this young and upcoming talent in the mystery world.

At the core of the series is a clever, striking, and literally unforgettable premise. Missing persons investigator Brenna Spector suffers from hyperthymestic syndrome, a rare neurological disorder which gives those who suffer from it perfect autobiographical memory. Triggered by the years-ago disappearance of her older sister, the disorder forces Brenna to remember every moment that’s happened since in precise, visceral detail: the good, the bad, the mundane, and the tragic. Yet the one event she wants desperately to remember—and solve—grows foggier and foggier in her mind.

Now the disappearance of a local woman named Carol Wentz has intersected with a missing child case that Brenna investigated eleven years ago, in which six-year-old Iris Neff walked away from a Labor Day barbecue, never to be seen again. Brenna learns that Carol—like herself—had been secretly obsessed with tracking down Iris, and may indeed have found her. Reliving life—changing and deeply upsetting memories, Brenna discovers myriad ties between Carol, Iris, and other residents of the town where they live—and uncovers a shocking web of murder and deception that stretches back more than a decade.

Take it away, Alison!

My new book, AND SHE WAS, is the first in a new series about a private investigator with perfect autobiographical memory. And though I don’t have that very rare condition, certain aspects of memory have always fascinated me – namely, the things we choose to remember and the things we don’t.

Some memories are wonderful, and it’s easy to understand why we’d want to hold onto them – keep them wrapped up like gifts in our minds holding onto as many details as possible, so we can open them and savor them whenever we need to. But others are true bad pennies – and for some reason, those are the ones I tend to remember the most. My earliest bad-penny memory, in fact, formed the germ of the plot of AND SHE WAS: the little girl walking away from the Labor Day barbecue, never to be seen again.

That little girl was me. I was four years old, having just moved with my parents from New Haven, Connecticut to the Southern California suburb of Arcadia. My parents took me to a party at a house on our street, and I met a girl there, maybe a year younger than me. I wanted to show her my house, and so we left the party together and promptly got lost. That was bad, sure. But lots of people have a getting-lost memory. The part that really sticks with me is the woman with the beehive hairdo.

There we were, my tiny friend and I, standing in the middle of a sidewalk, all turned around, wondering how we were ever going to find out way back to the party. Just when I was pretty much thinking we should probably go that way, this Aquanet commercial of a woman came flying out of her house, scooped up the smaller girl in her arms, and took her away. “You should be ashamed,” she told me. As if I wasn’t four years old. She left me alone on the sidewalk, feeling as though I’d been slammed in the stomach with a two-by-four. After that, I headed toward town, where I got more and more lost, until a police car picked me up and brought me home to my very worried parents, and sure, all of that was pretty traumatic. But not quite so much as it was to be left outside while the other girl was taken in. “What’s wrong with me?” I had wondered. “Why aren’t I good enough?”

And though I can’t remember the rest of that first year in California to save my soul, even though the next few years creep up on me in snippets and most of junior high school is pretty much a blur, I can close my eyes and return to that sidewalk and conjure up that awful, rejected feeling as if it’s just happened. I’m still mad at that beehived cow – who is probably around 90 at this point. I’m still confused and hurt and ashamed. And most of all, I wonder why it is that I’ve hung on to such an unpleasant memory so tightly, for so long.

I’m thinking it’s a comparison thing. After all, when it all comes down to it, my encounter with Beehive was my very first rejection, and also my worst. For all the rejection I’ve experienced over the years as a writer – be it from teachers or agents or publishers – it’s gift boxes full of champagne compared to the way I felt on that sidewalk. If I ever saw Beehive again, I’d like to think I would praise her for helping to make me into the thick-skinned professional that I am. But that would be disingenuous, wouldn’t it? I think my real response would be more akin to a long string of highly unfavorable and unprintable words, with maybe a kick in the shins for good measure. But whatever I chose to say to her, however I chose to respond, I’d hope she’d remember it, always.

It’s only fair.

To find out more about Alison go to


Anita Clenney said...

Welcome to M&M, Alison! This book sounds really intriguing. It does remind me of Harlan Coban. I love Harlan Coban. And your cover is great, the colors, the letters, all of it. This sounds like a fantastic story.

Kari Lee Townsend said...

Great to have you here, Alison! Love your book...

Cozy in Texas said...

I love Harlan Coben so will be sure to look out for this.

Alison Gaylin said...

Thank you so much, everybody! I appreciate the kind words, and I'm really happy to be here!

Jess Lourey said...

OK, Alison, me and my friend Schadenfreude came over to check out the story of your very worst rejection, and now it's just me, angry at that horrible woman. Four years old!!!! Come on.

I can see why that memory would stick with you, and though I'm sorry it happened, I hope it fuels many, many more years of brilliant writing.

Alison Gaylin said...

Thanks, Jess! Isn't it funny? It was when we first moved to California, and I can't at all remember what our house looked like (other than it being a ranch). But I can still see that woman's face!

Cassy Pickard said...

Alison: This is great. I am putting an order in now. I recently got lost AS AN ADULt who knew my area in the pitch black. Terrible feeling. All came out well, but it did get me thinking of a plot for the next book. Your'e already there! Thanks for joining us today. Cassy

Alison Gaylin said...

Cassy -- how terrifying! Nothing like suddenly having no idea where you are, eh? But yes, it will be great in your next book, and thanks for ordering mine!

Tiffinie Helmer said...

Alison, your story gave me chills. I'm angry on your behalf and might need something to calm me down. You are so lucky something really bad didn't happen to you. I don't think I will be able to look at another beehive hairdo and not think of you as that little girl alone on that sidewalk. I have to pick up your book! If you can do that to me with this blog, I'm in for one hell of a story with your book.

Oh, and I find Harlon Coben really HOT. I can't be the only.

Alison Gaylin said...

Thank you so much, Tiffinie, for those very nice words! And I know, I *am* lucky I survived (except for my self esteem, of course...) I really hope you like the book!

Liz Lipperman said...

Wow! What a premise. I guess my TBR pile will just have to get higher.

As for the beehived woman, some people should never ever be near children. That's the nicest thing I can say about her.

And welcome to Mysteries and Margaritas.

Alison Gaylin said...

Thank you, Liz! And I agree -- at least around certain children. She actually seemed very protective of the littler girl,so I'm thinking maybe I wasn't a very cute and cuddly four year old (?) Anyway, at least I got a book idea out of it!

Alison Gaylin said...

I'm late to say this -- because I just saw the list -- but congratulations, Kari, on your Agatha nomination!!