This week my client, hybrid YA author Olivia Rivers, published a brave new book called In the Hope of Memories. If you liked Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews and Hopeless by Colleen Hoover, this book is for you!

Here’s the description of In the Hope of Memories:

Hope is dying.

Hope Jackson has lived her short life to the fullest, but her four closest friends are dangling on the brink of disaster. Right before dying of a rare heart condition, Hope sets up a scavenger hunt across New York City using her graffiti art. The directions she leaves her friends are simple: Solve the clues hidden in her art, and they’ll solve the problems haunting their lives.

Hope is dead.

Two days after her heart fails, Hope’s friends are thrown together:

Aiden, her best friend, whose plans to attend college have been scattered by his OCD.

Kali, her foster sister, whose last ties to sanity are as razor-thin as her anorexic waistline.

Erik, her high school crush, whose success as an athlete is based on a lie with no end in sight.

And Sam, her online pen-pal, whose perfect life exploded into chaos in the aftermath of a school bombing.

Together, the four teens take to the streets of New York to complete Hope’s scavenger hunt and fulfill her dying wishes. But in order to unravel the clues hidden in Hope’s graffiti, her friends will need to confront their personal demons head on.

Hope is within reach.

And now a brief interview with the author, Olivia Rivers:

  1. Can you tell us a little about your new book?

Absolutely! “In the Hope of Memories” is the story of Hope, a young, eccentric graffiti artist who’s stuck in the foster system. When Hope gets diagnosed with a terminal heart condition, she realizes that her four best friends are on the brink of ruining their lives, and that they might not be okay once she’s dead and not there to support them anymore. So she creates an elaborate scavenger hunt using her graffiti art that’s meant to “fix” her friends so she can die in peace and know they’ll be alright without her.

  1. Do you have a favorite character?

Asking authors this question is like asking a parent who their favorite child is. So my answer is Aiden, because I am terrible enough to actually pick favorites. Aiden is intensely logical, loyal, and moral. He’s a total sweetheart, and I see him as being everything that’s right with the world. But since he has OCD and an autism spectrum disorder, the world sees him as being “wrong,” just because no one else understands him. As an author, writing Aiden’s character was both a heart-warming and gut-wrenching experience, and he’ll always be a favorite of mine.

  1. What genre is In the Hope of Memories?

That’s a very good question, and everyone from my agent to my author friends can’t quite figure out the answer. However, I think I like my critique partner’s description best: “It’s like if a Colleen Hoover book had a baby with The Breakfast Club, and that baby was given a huge dose of shitty luck and LSD.”

  1. Do you plot out your story before you write it?

No, I find it impossible to plot my stories before I start writing. I always have a vague idea of the beginning, and I usually know what the ending lines will be. But how my characters will get from the beginning to the end is always a mystery I unravel in the first draft.

  1. Where did you get the idea for In the Hope of Memories?

My inspiration for the book came from a quirky mix of sources, which is probably why the book turned out pretty quirky itself. I’d been listening to a rap song by the Gym Class Heroes called “Stereo Hearts,” and while listening to this, I was also reading about Erwin Schrodinger’s satirical thought experiment critiquing the Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. This led to two major epiphanies: The first was that I am a total geek, which really wasn’t all that interesting of an epiphany, since I have it at least ten times a week. The second epiphany was that I desperately needed to write about a young graffiti artist who is both dead and alive at once, just like the subject of Schrodinger’s thought experiment. And so the concept for In the Hope of Memories was born.

Resarching In the Hope of Memories:

Olivia says: My life is far too normal to make for interesting fiction, but you wouldn’t guess it by looking at my internet search history. When you write about people who have been screwed over by fate, you end up having to research some really sad, really dark topics. And also some flat-out bizarre topics no normal chick should spend her time reading about.

At this point, I’m pretty sure at least a few government agencies have me flagged on some sort of Potential Psychopath Watch List. Looking up weird things is kind of unavoidable when you’re a writer, and while writing “In the Hope of Memories,” I researched some extremely strange questions. After a while, I started keeping track of my quirkiest research questions. Among my top favorites are the following:

  1. Can the content of graffiti art make a jail sentence harsher or lighter?
  2. How do graffiti artists paint details without getting totally high? (Hint: they don’t.)
  3. Can you hack a store’s standard security system from an Android smart phone?
  4. Is it legal to bring a cat into a restaurant?
  5. What are the best techniques for smuggling an illegal cat into a restaurant?
  6. How fast would a taxi have to be travelling to cause serious injuries to a pedestrian?
  7. How do Ivy League universities detect applications that use forged documents?
  8. What’s the most successful way to shoplift?
  9. What’s the best part of a car to steal, if you can’t take the whole thing?
  10. Can you use allergy medication to stop someone from going into cardiac arrest? (Hint: shockingly, yeah, you can.)
  11. What is the difference between a psychopath, a psychotic, and a sociopath?
  12. How do you build a bomb?
  13. Where do you buy materials for building a bomb?
  14. Is it cheaper for an author to hire someone to erase their name from government watch lists, or to just move to a secluded island nation?
  15. Which website has the best deals on one-way tickets to Bora-Bora?

Excerpt from In the Hope of Memories:

“Wait!” I slam my hand against the door to stop it from clicking shut, wincing as the splintered wood digs into me. “I’m looking for Hope. Hope Jackson. She said she’d be here.”

The dude shakes his head. “She’s dead.”

My heart stutters a fast and hard beat, like it does right when I get tackled on the field. “No. No, she’s not. She’s the exact opposite of dead. Today is her eighteenth birthday. Her birthday party is about to start right now.”

Official Reason Number Infinity it Sucks to Be Going Blind: When you can’t see right, you can’t stop a fist from colliding with your face. The dude’s knuckles crash into my jaw, and I yelp, more out of shock than pain. I’m about to pound my own fist into the freak when he starts talking again, this time in a tone that’s actually kind of pissed.

“She’s dead, you jerk! You really think it’s funny to joke about that?”

“I’m not joking!” I rub at my jaw with the back of my clenched hand. Part of me is itching to mess up this guy’s face, but a larger part is starting to panic. “You’re the one with the wrong info,” I say, silently praying I’m right. “Hope isn’t dead.”

The dude stares down at his hand and slowly curls and uncurls his fingers, like he can’t quite believe he just threw a punch. Then he whispers, “You’re not messing with me?”

“No! What kind of sick joke would that be? Like I said, I’m just trying to find her birthday party. I got an invite from her, I swear. It said to come here.”

“Oh.”

Apparently, this conversation isn’t weird enough for him, so he has to add in some awkward silence. Fan-freaking-tastic. Just when I’m starting to think he’s slipped into a coma, he says, “Sorry I punched your face.”

I take a deep breath. “Just tell me where her birthday party is, okay?”

“I told you, there is no party. Hope is dead.”

“Christ, are you seriously going to make me explain this again? She’s not dead. It’s her birthday today. As in the day when you celebrate a person being alive.

“It would have been her birthday,” the dude says, slipping back into his strange monotone. “But now she’s dead.”

The seriousness in his voice makes my gut twist, and for a moment, I wonder if maybe he hurt Hope. My hand edges toward my pocket, but just as I’m considering grabbing my cell phone and dialing 9-1-1, I see a tear trickle down his cheek. It looks strange on his expressionless face, but another tear quickly follows, and then a third. He sniffs and turns away, wiping his right eye on the battered sleeve of his hoodie.

“What happened?” I ask, my voice a cracked whisper. All sorts of scenarios rush through my head—Hope’s plane crashing on vacation, a car accident, getting caught in a wrong-place-wrong-time shooting…

“You don’t know?” the dude asks.

“No. Was it in the news?”

The smallest beginning of a frown tugs at his lips. “Of course not. Why would the news report about a stroke victim?”

“Stroke?” I repeat. “She had a stroke? What…why? What triggered it? She’s a health freak.”

He blinks slowly and then says again, “You don’t know?”

*****

Pick up In the Hope of Memories at your favorite bookstore, online or IRL. Her next novel, Tone Deaf, is out May 3rd from Skyhorse Publishing.