New Voice: Angie Smibert on Memento Nora

Angie Smibert is the first-time author of Memento Nora (Marshall Cavendish, April 1, 2011)(author blog). From the promotional copy:

Nora, the popular girl and happy consumer, witnesses a horrific bombing on a shopping trip with her mother. In Nora’s near-future world, terrorism is so commonplace that she can pop one little white pill to forget and go on like nothing ever happened.

However, when Nora makes her first trip to a Therapeutic Forgetting Clinic, she learns what her mother, a frequent forgetter, has been frequently forgetting. Nora secretly spits out the pill and holds on to her memories.

The memory of the bombing as well as her mother’s secret and her budding awareness of the world outside her little clique make it increasingly difficult for Nora to cope. She turns to two new friends, each with their own reasons to remember, and together they share their experiences with their classmates through an underground comic. They soon learn, though, they can’t get away with remembering.

What were you like as a young reader, and how did that influence the book that you’re debuting this year?

In a round about way, my precocious tastes in reading early on have influenced Memento Nora—or at least me writing in this genre.

In grade school, I remember reading Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series (1941-1989)—as well as an anthology by Alfred Hitchcock. I have a particular memory of the latter because I loved twisty shows like the “Twilight Zone” (1959-1964) and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” (1955-1962). Plus, my classmates laughed at me for saying he was my favorite author. To them, he was just the fat man their parents watched on TV. So even in grade school, I was getting ahead of myself.

By the time middle school came around, I’d already jumped into adult reading. Possibly that was because YA/middle grade wasn’t huge in the 70s. More than likely, though, it’s because I was bored.

One summer, I started on the classics shelf at the town library. I kept a list of everything I read. I do remember reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë (1847) and Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse (1951).

Then I discovered science fiction (and fantasy). I’d always loved “Star Trek” (1966-1969) and other science fiction series and movies. I started reading Ray Bradbury, Robert Heinlein, J.R.R. Tolkien, etc. It was meaty, yet fun reading that took me places (in my head).

I didn’t really start reading YA/middle grade again until much later. I went back and discovered things like the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis (1950-1956).

Now, there’s so much great YA/middle grade fiction out there.

Writers like Scott Westerfeld and Phillip Pullman showed me what YA/middle grade science fiction and fantasy could be: entertaining and intelligent.

So, long story short, I guess I found my voice in YA/middle grade because I felt a huge gap in that genre when I was a young reader.

(Or, I just missed all the good stuff the first time around because I was too busy acting all grown up.)

How have you approached the task of promoting your debut book? What online or real-space efforts are you making? Where did you get your ideas? To whom did you turn for support? Are you enjoying the process, or does it feel like a chore? What advice do you have on this front for your fellow debut authors and for those in the years to come?

Marketing is the scariest part of the whole book process to me. So I decided not to go it alone. I joined both The Elevensies and the Class of 2k11.

I was also asked to join the League of Extraordinary Writers, a group blog about YA dystopian fiction.

The funny thing is that I’m not usually such a joiner, but I recognized that I didn’t have a clue about marketing my book.

And that’s the great thing about the Class of 2k11, for instance. Everybody knows something, and together we can do far more than we can do ourselves.

(Very few authors, especially new ones, have the luxury of a publishing house able to lavish big bucks—or any bucks—on marketing.)

The Class of 2K concept started back in 2007. The Class of 2k11 is a group of 18 debut authors—all YA/middle grade—whose emphasis is on the marketing aspect. However, we have become a great support system for each other. We have a website/blog (as well as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) dedicated to promoting our books. We also have lined up group book signings, conference events, contests, mailings, etc.

Elevensies is a wider community of YA/middle grade debuts. We do some group marketing but the emphasis (at least in my mind) is more on the online community—and the support we can give each other. It’s wonderful to have 70 or so other writers—all going through the same process—to which you can turn to for advice, celebration, or commiseration.

My advice to fellow debuts is to seek out fellow debuts and work together. It’ll make the seemingly overwhelming task of marketing your book seem more manageable and less like a chore. However, don’t forget that the most important thing is to keep writing.

9 thoughts on “New Voice: Angie Smibert on Memento Nora

  1. Sounds like an unusual plotline–I'll be looking for it. Thanks for the promotion advice–I imagine this is one of the hardest areas to tackle as one make the adjustment from writer to author.

    Thanks Cynthia for another great interview! 🙂

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  2. As a fellow member of the Class of 2K11, I heartily second everything that Angie says here. I would be lost without these guys!

  3. We all get by with a little help from our friends … and Angie has been a great resource to the Class of 2k11!

  4. Don't like Ms Smibert fool you. She can do nothing wrong and is one of my all-time favorite writing geniuses in the world. Talk about creative!!! … and smart!!!

  5. Memento Nora is the work of an extremely talented genius. If you enjoy original story concept and a beautifully developed protagonist, you will love this book! Thanks for giving it the world, Angie!

  6. please don't be scared by randy's freaky eye, he's really a pussycat. yay angie for giving your book to the world! yay elevensies! oh cool, look, my word verification word is prourge! that should totally be an actual word. it should mean "to eat a lot without breathing."

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