“Claire wakes from a coma with only fragmented memories, and her struggle toward recovery is both a haunting mystery story and a beautiful meditation on the questions of what, exactly, identity, love and friendship are made up of. Remind Me Again What Happened is a gripping debut novel, and Joanna Luloff is a writer to watch!"
—Dan Chaon, author of Ill Will
“Remind Me Again What Happened is a profound and elegiac exploration of the relationship between memory and identity, the way one has the power to remake the other. Joanna Luloff is a splendid writer, and this haunting novel is a wonderful testament to her gifts.”
—Laura van den Berg, author of Find Me
Joanna Luloff’s Biography
Joanna Luloff is the author of a story collection, The Beach at Galle Road, a Barnes & Noble Discover selection. She lives in Denver, where she teaches at the University of Colorado.
An Interview with Joanna Luloff
Joanna Luloff’s debut literary fiction, REMIND ME AGAIN WHAT HAPPENED, will be published on June 26, 2018 by Algonquin Books.
Question - Please describe what the book is about.
Joanna Luloff - Claire wakes up in a hospital all alone, her memory faulty, not sure how she got there or why. She, her husband Charlie, and their best friend Rachel, take turns narrating the stories of their past as Claire tries to regain her memory and sense of self. But the past holds betrayals and old injuries, and Claire starts to wonder if Charlie is still her husband and Rachel is still her friend.
Q - Where did you get the idea?
JL - When my mother was in her early forties, she came down with a terrible fever that resulted in memory loss. Once, during a chat, she told me how strange it was to have to borrow other people’s memories. That observation became the seed for my novel.
Q - What’s the story behind the title?
JL - I came up with the title. It also comes a bit from my mom’s experiences. A lot of our phone conversations started with the phrase, “Remind me again…”
Q - No spoiler, but tell us something we won’t find out just by reading the book jacket.
JL - There are photographs layered into Claire’s chapters within the novel. They come from old family albums, thrift stores, and photos I took over the past several years.
Q - Tell us about your favorite character.
JL - I don’t think I can choose one of my main characters because I love and dislike them equally. Maybe I’ll choose Bernard, a quiet, perceptive man who Rachel treats pretty badly.
Q - If you could spend a day with one of your characters, who would it be and what would you do?
JL - I’d spend the day with Claire on one of her journalism assignments. She’d know all of the best places to eat, what busses to get on, what kinds of trouble to get into. She’d do all of the talking to strangers so I wouldn’t have to.
Q - Are your character based on real people, or do they come from your imaginations?
JL - The characters have traces of real people—their fears and desires and confusion and longing, but I think of them as completely fictional.
Q - How long did you take to write this book?
JL - I took about two years to write the initial draft, then four more years of revision and back-and-forths with my editor, then about two more years before my publication date.
Q - What kind of research did you do for this book?
JL - I researched quite a lot about encephalitis, neurological therapies for treating memory loss, and patients’ responses to these treatments. I also researched global conflicts that come out of climate change and environmental destruction for stories linked to Claire’s job as a journalist.
Q - What did you remove from this book during the editing process?
JL - I had to remove a lot of the photographs that were in earlier drafts and some of the backstory around the main characters’ families, all of which were taking away from the tensions and conflicts between the main characters.
Q - Are you a plotter or a pantser?
JL - A plotter, for good and bad!
Q - What is your favorite part of your writing process, and why?
JL - The early drafts when everything seems possible, but particularly those rare moments when I can see where the story needs to go and why.
Q - What is the most challenging part of your writing process, and why?
JL - Giving the story over to other readers because I get wracked with self-doubt and suddenly see all of the problems and flaws and missteps with the book.
Q - Can you share your writing routine?
JL - I teach full time, so I don’t have a consistent routine as much as I wish I did. I grab a few minutes, hours, days whenever and wherever I can.
Q - Have you ever gotten writer’s block? If yes, how do you overcome it?
JL - Because I don’t have a regular writing routine, I rarely suffer from writer’s block. I jot down ideas and questions when I have them, so when I sit down to write, I usually have too much that I want to tackle.
Q - If you could tell your younger writing self anything, what would it be?
JL - To read as much as you can and with curiosity.
Q - How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
JL - One!
Q - Do you have any writing quirks?
JL - I’ve written most of my first drafts (of short stories and novels) long-hand into a notebook before I’ve transferred the text onto my computer.
Q - Tell us about yourself.
JL - I teach at University of Colorado Denver and edit fiction and nonfiction for the journal Copper Nickel. I like to tromp in the mountains with my partner, Will, and our dog Tillie.
Q - How did you get into writing?
JL - I had some really supportive teachers who were willing to read my very bad poems in elementary school. I was shy and it was easy to live in my imagination, in books, and other people’s stories until I was ready to start writing my own.
Q - What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
JL - I watch a ton of movies. I take photos. I travel whenever I can.
Q - Apart from novel writing, do you do any other kind(s) of writing?
JL - I’ve started to write essays. I’ve written short stories for a long time.
Q - Share something about you most people probably don’t know.
JL - I used to figure skate competitively. I still have nightmares about it.
Q - Which book influenced you the most?
JL - This is an impossible question—there are too many! For this book, probably Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald.
Q - What are you working on right now?
JL - I’m working on a novel set in the 1930s about two friends who run away from Queens, NY and get involved with FDR’s Federal Theater Project out west.
Q - What’s your favorite writing advice?
JL - I think I’ve become a better writer from becoming a better reader.
Q - The book you’re currently reading
JL - Barbara Comyns’ Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead and Valeria Luiselli’s The Story of My Teeth.
Links to Joanna Luloff