"You've been captive far too long," she whispered. "So I'm releasing you."
The universe was bathed in white light, and as I touched the azure and ruby stars dancing above my head, the crack within me split and fractured into madness.
I felt the shatter. But I was powerless to stop it.
A.E. Hayes wakes up in a bright hospital room on the afternoon of August 24, 2010, with no idea of who she is or what has happened to her. When her doctors begin saying words such as “traumatic brain injury” and “retrograde amnesia,” she realizes that she cannot remember anything at all – including the man sitting beside her who claims to be her husband.
Guided by numerous doctors, hospitals, trauma units, her husband, a mysterious person known only as Starlight Boy, and an equally mysterious voice inside her head that tells her to seek the truth, Hayes sets out to uncover the answers about her rare condition. But is her amnesia truly all there is to her story? Through various sources, Hayes must learn about her startling and often traumatic past – and how that past may permanently alter the future.
Raw and riveting, Shattered: Memoirs of an Amnesiac leads readers down a path of darkness, mystery, and redemption – where heroes are often villains, fiction routinely gives way to fact, and how, ultimately, the truth can be both the disease and the cure.
Welcome, A. E. Hayes, our spotlight author for today, here to share her experience writing her memoir: Shattered!
Thanks for joining me today with answers to questions our readers want to know. Let's get started!
The first ten questions are related to her writing:
1. How did you come up with the title for this book?
I actually started this memoir in 2013 with the title A Heap of Broken Images: Memoirs of an Amnesiac.. The first part of that title is a line from T.S. Eliot’s brilliant poem, The Waste Land. I wrote about twenty pages, but then was diagnosed with cancer (which, at the time, was deemed terminal), and chose to put it aside. My focus had shifted from the past to the present. But in the spring of 2017, I felt as though it was time. I was still alive (clearly!), and I wanted to finish the story of my mostly-wayward life. But the title didn’t strike me in the same way – using the word “heap” on a cover looks a bit out of place! Eventually, after playing around with a few choices, the answer was quite clear – and Shattered: Memoirs of an Amnesiac best represented the story of my life.
2. Is there a message or theme in this story you want readers to be aware of?
Shattered is a dark, complex medical mystery, but at the same time, it’s been a go-to guide for many readers who struggle with mental or physical health conditions. Knowing that this memoir has helped them begin to come to terms with their own conditions or situations makes me feel as though I wrote this book for the correct reason: to spread awareness. Amnesia is more than a soap-opera plot. Mental health issues are not jokes for TV and movie actors to depict with a high degree of inaccuracy. And all pain is valid. No situation is better or worse than another. There isn’t a competition when it comes to who is sicker than whom. No matter what you’re struggling with, you have that right, and I wish for anyone who is struggling to find some measure of peace in any way possible.
3. What was the most difficult part of writing this book?
I’m an amnesiac, so I think the struggle speaks for itself! Seriously, it took a LOT of research to make sure that everything I wrote was 100% true. Yes, I changed identifiers – I’m not a fan of lawsuits – but the things that I experienced and the people I know and knew? All real. However, I had to search through twenty-plus years of journal entries, police records, online reports, and rely on stories from friends and family to make Shattered an honest, coherent memoir. That wasn’t easy, but it was absolutely necessary.
4. Is there a process you go through when writing memoir that is different from when you write your fiction?
Writing this memoir should have come easily in some cases, since I’m now thirty-five and I lost my memory at the age of twenty-eight. Therefore, I have seven good years of memory in my brain. But in fact, it was much harder for me to write. Fiction begins to take on a separate life – I may create the characters and give them a world, but after a while, they take over. I’m their puppet; they are the masters. But with a story about my own life? No one could really dictate what happened, or how the story could go, except for me. The creative license was restricted. So I don’t know if the process was , but I know that, for me, it was a far more challenging experience.
5. What made you become an author?
I feel as though I need to answer this in two different ways: I became an author because someone published a poem I wrote when I was four years old. It was something about war, and I was paid, and that made me a paid writer (and therefore, an author). When I started writing in anthologies, music magazines, and books, I was still an author. But what made me become a writer? That is a different, and maybe more important, question. Writing is something that has always been within me. Sharing my stories, sharing the stories of other people, writing about what is going on in the world, committing myself to a tale about love, loss, or heartache because I didn’t want to do anything else – those things made me a writer. Publishing made me an author. One was in my veins, the other was an opportunity. And I’m grateful for both.
6. Beginning writers look to published authors for advice, so what words of wisdom can you give new authors, especially someone who wants to write non-fiction?
Tell your story, and commit yourself to the truth of it. It’s okay if you’re not the hero – God knows I’m not in my own memoir. Having a multifaceted life isn’t a bad thing at all. But dedicate yourself to the truth. Readers know when they are being lied to, and no writer wants to lose a reader due to credibility. Even if your truth seems, to be cliché, stranger than fiction, tell it. Sit down, put the pen to the page (or fingers to the keyboard), and have at it. Also, please don’t attempt to write a perfect first draft. That doesn’t exist. Just get the words onto the page, and rework them later. Unfortunately, no matter how awesome you may be, the perfect first draft simply doesn’t exist. But that’s a good thing – it just makes you work harder for the thing you love. Oh, and that whole writer’s block thing? It’s a myth. Don’t fall for it. Write instead. Write about the clock in front of you. Write about how wobbly your desk chair is, how annoying your commute was, how you don’t like when it’s cold outside because your lungs freeze up and stop working. If you’ve written down a sentence, which I’m sure you have? You’ll see that writer’s block is a myth. Don’t give in. Do what you love, and write!
7. How is promoting this book different from others you have written?
More time-consuming than I have time (or space) to explain. The problem with promotion is that social media is so expansive and fast, so by the time I would update my author page on Twitter, someone may have posted my words on Facebook. Then I’d run to my author page of FB, update that, and then jump to my blog. I’d change sentences on Goodreads to reflect subtle changes to cover art designs or release dates. I’d check Amazon rankings and see if this was worth it (it was), go have a good cry and eat a pint of ice cream, and sit back down at the computer to promote myself even further. I have never busted myself the way I have to promote Shattered, but it’s worth it. Plus, when I talk about the book, I have free stuff to give away, and people love free stuff. There’s another piece of advice for new writers/authors: offer swag. Give away bookmarks, pens, and magnets with your book name and website on it. Spend the money to make money. Sell yourself (in a good way) to sell your book. It’s worth it!
8. Social media takes up a lot of an author’s time, but it’s crucial to expanding our readership. Can you tell me which social media platforms you prefer to use when connecting with your readership?
I suppose I just touched upon that with question seven! Social media is a necessary evil when it comes to publication and writing, and that’s true for all authors – from the unknown to the incredibly famous. However, I like to use Facebook to connect with my readers on a personal level, and I do the same with my blog. Those are the two places where I can authentically discuss what I’m writing about, feeling, doing, or promoting. While Twitter is necessary, I don’t prefer it simply because it’s limiting, and I don’t feel as though I can engage readers in 160 (180? I don’t even recall!) characters. But if I have a social media site, I will update it: Facebook, Twitter, blog, Amazon, Goodreads, and so forth.
9. How do you want to be remembered as an author?
That’s a difficult question. As someone who has incurable cancer and a rare bleeding disorder, the notion of being “remembered” carries a very weighted connotation for me. But as someone who still lives moment to moment (and tries to enjoy those moments as much as possible), I’d have to say I want to be remembered for being honest and for being able to help others. If my memoir helps one person, I’ll be happy. And actually, I’ve received a few emails from readers who have said my story has helped them realize that they can talk about their own struggles. If I could do it, so could they. And I’m glad. I want people to feel the best that they can about themselves! So please remember me for my honesty and helpfulness. And for being a smart-ass, because that’s also a huge thing, and I think my tone in this interview probably conveys that just a few times…
10. What new stories/projects are in your pipeline?
I have many new things coming up! I’ll be publishing a romance story in an upcoming anthology titled Merry Kind of Love, as well as publishing a paranormal science-fiction story in an upcoming graphic novel anthology titled The Eynes Anthology. I’ll also be working on a regional publishing deal with a distributor on the East Coast (an exciting literary fiction project called On Common Ground), and finishing a science fiction/dystopian work that is almost fourteen years in the making called The Keeper of the Key. I’ll also be at a few book signings, including one this October in York, Pennsylvania.
And then, at some point in 2018, I plan to sleep. I’ll get there. But writing will always come first.
The next ten questions are fun ones to give us a glimpse of the little things A. E. Hayes enjoys:
1. Coffee or tea? Or, neither?
Always coffee! Unfortunately, due to my health, I can only drink decaf, but if I drink enough, I can feel it. And it tastes fantastic. Coffee all the way.
2. Chocolate or Vanilla?
I’m not really a person who likes sweets. I know, I’m awful. But I think the answer, for me, is neither.
3. Favorite color?
Red. Or red and black. I think that my entire wardrobe consists of nothing but shades of black and red.
4. Favorite TV series or movies that inspire your creativity?
Battlestar Galactica (the 2004 reboot – sorry, old-school fans) will forever be my favorite TV series, and I watch it (or listen to the soundtrack) constantly. The show is written with so much power, and touches upon issues that all of us face – creation, destruction, war, fear, political unrest, where we belong, who we are, how we can love, and what kind of impact we can make. The characters are real and flawed. The writing is profound. The music is intense. I’m inspired just talking about the show!
5. Where do you prefer to write?
Two distinct places: My office at home (in the middle of the night, when it’s quiet and no one needs me for anything), or by the water in St. Michaels, Maryland. The former happens more than the latter, though I’d love for the latter to become a permanent reality.
6. Do you have a playlist to listen to when you write, or do you prefer the quiet?
I typically write with only white noise around me (a fan, a sound machine, or something like that). If I’m listening to music, I’ll sing along, and then get so involved with singing that I stop writing. But I still create playlists for every book I write, and when I listen to them in the car, I come up with new ideas for what I can write. It works well that way.
7. Reading preference: E-Books, paperback, or hardcover?
There is nothing better than the smell of a book. Or the feel of a book. So paper or hardcover, though paper is easier to stash in a bag or purse while on the go. While I have eReader platforms on my devices, I’ll always spend more just to hold the “real thing” in my hands. There’s a distinct pleasure in that.
8. If you could vacation any place in the world (or universe) where would you go?
In 1998, I went to Toledo in Spain. While I don’t remember the event (thanks, amnesia!), I’ve seen the pictures and have heard the stories. In the Cathedral, I fell to my knees in sobs. In the cafes, I drank coffee and Fanta Limon. I explored old buildings and marveled at the architecture. And I heard amazing stories from the people in the area. If I could, I’d return in a heartbeat.
9. What three things are in your refrigerator now?
I’m going to include my freezer, because I only eat a few things, and my freezer contains one of those items: Eggs (not the freezer, ew), bottled water (also not in the freezer), and pints of Halo Top ice cream (ding ding ding!). I think I basically exist thanks to Halo Top and scrambled eggs – but not mixed together, of course. That’s disgusting. But both are amazing to me.
10. Most writers wear many hats, but if you weren’t a writer, what else would you be?
I would be an opera singer. I was trained to be a singer – I began when I was a child, and studied opera rigorously in college. I was fortunate enough to star in many operas and musicals, and I absolutely loved putting my emotions into the songs I shared with the audience. My soul has always been in two distinct places: writing/literature and music. Both matter so much to me. But writing called to me the most, and I’ve been honoring that calling ever since 2003, when I began working for a music magazine. Since then, I haven’t turned back, and I don’t regret it a bit.
THANK YOU, A. E. HAYES!
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