Today I am so excited to welcome back the awesome J.L. Merrow to Joyfully Jay. I am a huge fan of her books and just reviewed (and LOVED) her most recent, Fall Hard. J.L. Is here to talk to us about amnesia, a theme in Fall Hard. She has also brought goodies to give away. So please join me in giving J.L. a big welcome!
Amnesia: it’s a tried and tested trope, popular in books, films and on TV, and it’s one of those ones that gets me every time. What is it, I wonder, that tickles me about a man who can’t remember his past?
I’m clearly not alone in liking this trope—think of The Bourne Identity, Memento, or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, to name but a few. So why is it so popular? Intriguingly, one article I read on the subject suggested the appeal to Americans stems from the parallel between losing one’s past, and overcoming it to live the “American dream”. Being British myself, I’d venture to say that’s not the whole story! *
One effect of amnesia is to render the sufferer vulnerable. Even the strongest of men is now at the mercy of his friends—or at least, those who say they’re his friends. He has no way of knowing if they’re telling him the truth about his past. Usually the reader (or viewer, if it’s a film) is left in the same position—struggling to work out what the truth really is. This is a powerful way to get us to empathise with the main character.
But there’s also, for me as a writer, the appeal of playing with the idea of personality. How dependant is it on our memories? Our pasts have shaped us; once we can no longer remember the defining events of our lives, do they still, in fact, define us? Or can the amnesia sufferer take the clean slate—the tabula rasa of the title—that life has handed him and truly start afresh?
The trouble is, anyone in that situation is likely to be burdened with a desperate need to know what they’ve lost—even though once those memories have been recovered, they may wish they’d left well alone…
Some memories are better off lost in the mist…
Eight months ago, British academic Paul Ansell lost his lover—and all the memories of their time together—in an accident at Iceland’s Gullfoss Falls. Returning to the misty island country to resume his study of the bloodthirsty Viking Egil Skallagrimsson is tough as he struggles to pull his life back together.
First, there’s his colleague, Mags, who treats him like glass, and summer student Alex, who peppers him with discomforting questions. Then there’s Icelandic jet-boat driver Viggo, a tattooed, modern-day Viking who won’t say much about how they know each other. Leaving Paul to wonder if their volcanic attraction is fuelled by a desire to make a fresh start, or desperation to forget the past.
As more fragments of his lost memories fall into place, Paul is unsure if he can trust himself, much less anyone around him. And he begins to suspect his accident was nothing of the kind.
Warning: Contains a modern-day Viking whose boat has V8 engines for oars, and a harsh land of hot springs and hotter passions that won’t forgive any false steps.
Samhain | Amazon.com | Amazon.co.uk
JL Merrow is that rare beast, an English person who refuses to drink tea. She writes across genres, with a preference for contemporary gay romance, and is frequently accused of humour.
She is a member of the UK GLBTQ Fiction Meet organising team.
Find JL Merrow online at: www.jlmerrow.com
I’m offering a free signed paperback copy of Pressure Head (I’m happy to ship internationally) to a randomly chosen commenter on the tour, plus a $10 Amazon gift certificate!
Giveaway question: What about you? Do you love reading about guys who’ve lost their memory as much as I do—or is there an alternative trope that has you clicking on the buy button every time you see it in a blurb?
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I’m a fan of JL Merrow’s books too and this one will be mine come pay day!! I loved Pressure Head so keen for a chance at a paperback. I like the amnesia film/books where the viewer/reader knows who is good or bad and watching the ‘victim’ find out – not sure what that says about me!
Ooh, interesting – I like being in the same position as the hero, and trying to work out what’s real right along there with him!
Hope you’ll enjoy Fall Hard! 😀
I never really thought about it, but I do like the amnesia trope. I’m not sure about the connection to the American dream idea, but the questions of personality are really fascinating. Thanks for the chance to win!
I can sort of understand the connection with making a fresh start – but I don’t think that’s a uniquely American idea! 😉
Thanks for commenting! 🙂
I don’t think I really auto buy any particulary tropes. I think though that it’s the vulnerabilty that would draw me in to the amnesia trope. Thank you for the post and the giveaway.
Yes, there’s just something about a strong guy made vulnerable that really appeals to me. 😀
I do like a good memory loss trope when it’s executed well. JL Merrow is one of my favorite authors, so when it comes to picking stories I fall in line, author first – trope second. -LE
Aw, thank you! I think we all have our auto-buy authors, but some tropes will tempt me into the unknown, and amnesia is one of them! 🙂
Ah, the amnesia trope. This is a particular favorite of mine, because it usually involves some sort of dark past or traumatic event which lends itself nicely to hurt/comfort. *huggles*
Oh, yes – hurt/comfort is one of my guilty pleasures.
Well, I feel guilty about inflicting the hurt on the poor characters. I don’t feel guilty about the comfort! ;D
It’s funny, Taylor Locke and the Roughs’ song “Amnesia” was going through my head a few hours before I saw this post (and now is again). Whether I like the trope depends on how high-stakes the amnesia is…sometimes I get really upset at the injustice of it, and feel too much for the victim or the other person involved.
I don’t think I’ve heard that song – I’ll have to check it out!
And yes, I know what you mean about getting upset on behalf of the characters. While a lot of books, mine included, focus on the amnesiac himself, it must be horrible to have a loved one suddenly not know who you are (although I’m now tempted to go away and write something that focuses on just that! *g*)
I like the mystery and the examination of personality an amnesia plot line can bring. That said, it’s probably portrayed more often than it actually occurs.
Oh, I think you’re right about amnesia being much less common in reality. Although funnily enough I was talking to someone online just the other day who said they’d suffered from it after an accident!
Rather than trope, I am more interested in the author. So I definitely purchasing books by looking for the author first. However, I do find amnesia intriguing. I plan to read the book this weekend
Thanks, Theo – hope you’ll enjoy it! 😀
I do like amnesia trope stories, along with a lot of other tropes. It depends on the story line etc. I like second chance at love, friends to lovers etc.
Friends to lovers is a good one – lots of opportunity for pining and angsting over possibly ruining a friendship! Extra fun if they’re each secretly pining for the other! 😉
Second chance at love is a more thoughtful trope, and I wonder if that’s why (unless I’ve missed a whole tranche of ’em) we don’t see it so often. It’s not so simple to craft a storyline where a couple’s split up for a good reason – but end up getting back together having surmounted whatever the problem was.
I sometimes like to read about amnesia tropes if it’s done well as a mystery. I prefer HEA stories and many other tropes before an amnesia trope though.
Hey, an amnesia story can have a HEA too! 😉
One of my other fave tropes is the Pride and Prejudice one, where a disastrous first impression has to be overcome. Possibly, though not necessarily, with the aid of a large estate in Derbyshire… 😉
I don’t really like amnesia tropes for the most part. I can understand why the vulnerability of it attracts readers, but sometimes I feel like the character I’ve come to know is different before/after the amnesia. Then I would prefer reading about someone with a disability instead.
Oh, interesting – sounds like you empathise quite strongly with the amnesiac’s loved ones. 🙂
I really liked Fall Hard, I enjoyed the amnesia theme. Spellbound is one of my favorite movies, that slow reveal of the past and the truth, done well, grabs you and pulls you right in till the very end when all is revealed.
Oh, thank you! I haven’t seen Spellbound – will have to check that out! 🙂
When done well memory loss can be a very engrossing story arc. I’m not sure I have a particular story type that I always buy but I do have a horrible weakness for tragic heroes >.<
Mm, there’s something about a guy suffering nobly, isn’t there?
Thanks for commenting!
I have not read too many memory loss books. Just some here and there. I do enjoy them though.
debby236 at gmail dot com
Thanks for commenting, Debra! 🙂
I haven’t read much amnesia trope but I love seeing it in movies. I always looking forward to the big reveal and who (if there was a who) was behind it all.
Yes, I love that kind of “mystery tour” movie! 😀
This might be my first amnesia book but I loved the movie Memento where the MC had short term amnesia.
*shudders* I always think short term amnesia must be horrible to deal with. Imagine never being able to learn/remember anything new again – or having to cope with a loved on with this affliction.
At least when it’s past memories that are affected, the sufferer can make a new life if he never recovers the memories.
Yes, I do like reading about amnesia. I particularly liked the type of amnesia you employed in Fall Hard – the inability to remember a particular period of time, as opposed to not remembering anything at all, even who you are (which I have also enjoyed). But since it also meant that he couldn’t remember Sven at all it was particularly interesting.
Glad you enjoyed it! Yes, I like the “Who am I?” type of amnesia stories too, but it seemed more natural for Paul to just forget his time in Iceland. Plus, of course, the “Who am I?” type is more fun when NOBODY knows who they are, which wasn’t the story I wanted to tell in Fall Hard! 😉
I like to read about amnesia as a story line as long as it is believably written and has a happy outcome – I’m all for the happy ending 😀
Oh, yes – I think in romance there has to be a happy ending! 😀
Broken characters appeal to me in books as well as movies. So when it comes to loosing one’s memories? Yeah, I’m there, first row, waiting to watch and live their lives through their stories and hope that at the end all will end up positive for them. A story grips and takes possession of my mind, heart and soul is a story I’ll never forget and will probably come back to it time and time again. Will your story steal my breath? …
Sandra, all I can tell you is that the story stole my imagination and wouldn’t let me go until I’d written it down! I hope you’ll enjoy it if you give it a go. 🙂
I’m not sure if this is a trope or not; but I really enjoy stories with two strong characters that are investigators of some kind – police, FBI, PIs – I really like a good mystery with my romance 🙂
I really enjoyed Pressure Head – it’s one of my comfort re-reads 🙂
I’m a big fan of mystery, too – some of the very first m/m books I ever read were Josh Lanyon’s Adrien English mysteries. I think an action plot of some kind is great for showing character, and throwing the guys into stressful situations they’ll need to work through together! Glad to hear you liked Pressure Head – I’m just editing the sequel for submission at the mo, and that should be out next March. 😀
You know I haven’t read many stories about amnesia but it is a good hook to build a story around. I don’t think I have any particular thing that draws me in, it is more the author or getting a good recommendation, I love variety
I know what you mean – there are some authors I’ll read whatever they’ve written, and some people’s recommendations I’ll follow regardless of genre. But there are definitely some tropes I’m more willing to take a chance on, and amnesia’s one of them! 🙂
Most of the time, most of us have fairly predictable futures, so amnesia as a plot device allows a character’s understanding of their life to be turned upside down and inside out. I do like amnesia novels: the earliest I know of is Random Harvest by James Hilton – also a film, which considerably shortened and simplified the plot.
Fall Hard is an honourable addition to the genre, and I loved both Paul and Viggo -although perhaps especially Viggo.
I’m a bit more creeped out by amnesia since I found someone hurt after an accident and called an ambulance – it turns out that she has amnesia for the day of the accident, so I am the only person who knows what happened to her for part of that day. I wrote it down for her in a letter, but she hasn’t felt up to reading it yet, which seems entirely understandable.
Ooh, Random Harvest looks interesting! And by the author of “Goodbye, Mr Chips”. I know of one earlier book dealing with amnesia: The Return of the Soldier (Century, 1918), by Rebecca West which can be downloaded for free here: http://manybooks.net/titles/westrother07return_of_the_soldier.html
I’m so glad you enjoyed Fall Hard – all the more so as you know something about the subject! It must be a strange responsibility, to be effectively someone else’s backup memory. Thanks for sharing your experience with us! 🙂
While it’s fun to read about amnesia, if it has amnesia with a shapeshifter twist, I love it! If it has shifters, I’ll give it a try.