Margarita Montimore: ASLEEP FROM DAY

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When I read the blurb of ASLEEP FROM DAY, I was struck by some of the similarities between Margarita Montimore’s novel and my first book, THE MEMORY THIEF. Like one of my main characters in TMT, Margarita’s protagonist, Astrid, was hit by a car and woke up in the hospital, missing a crucial set of memories. But whereas my character, Nicholas, found himself in possession of a dead man’s life story, Astrid has somehow misplaced the memory of the best day of her life—yesterday. The result is a mesmerizing, unusual novel that’s part dream sequence, part love story, and part mystery. I read it in one gulp, and Astrid stayed with me well after I turned the final page. 

Thanks so much for being on the blog, Margarita! Tell us—where did you get the idea for Astrid’s story? 

The seed of the story was planted decades ago, when I came across a human interest news story about a man looking for a woman he met on a bus in Boston. They only spoke for about ten minutes, but he was so captivated, he ended up putting fliers up all over the city trying to find her again. This was in the ‘90s, before the days of Missed Connections and before social media made it so much easier to find people. I don’t remember if he ever found this woman, but I was fascinated with the idea that meeting someone briefly could create such a lasting impression, and the lengths a person might go to in order to find someone they lost.

Over the years, I’ve also been inspired by movies like Before Sunrise and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind that show romantic connection as uncertain and tenuous through a more offbeat lens. When I started actually writing the book, I also wanted to pay tribute to Boston during the years I lived there (late 1990’s), to create a time capsule of some of the city’s quirkier corners. 

I’m curious about the way you’ve structured the novel. It’s written in both first and third person, switching between Astrid’s recollection of the day she lost, her present-day journey, and memory/dream sequences. What inspired you to tell the story this way? Did you experiment with several structures for ASLEEP FROM DAY before settling on this one?

Yes. Initially, it was going to take place in chronological order: Astrid’s day with Theo, followed by the car accident that makes her forget that day, and her subsequent search to recover her memories. While workshopping the early pages, a fellow writer pointed out that there wasn’t enough conflict and said, “nobody is going to want to read 80 pages of someone’s perfect day.” She was right.

So I started playing with timelines and structure. Astrid’s present day needed to be in first person to give the reader a deep POV. The lost day needed to be in third person because it was one degree removed from Astrid’s current reality. I also wanted to give the story a dark/surreal vibe—enter dream sequences. Here’s this young woman who’s been hit by a car, who can’t remember what happened in the 24 hours leading up to the accident, and whose life takes all these strange turns as a result. I saw a way these bad dreams could reveal layers of Astrid’s subconscious mind and trauma but also offer clues about her lost day. This left me with three narratives that needed to be braided into a whole story. Making them work cohesively took a lot of time and effort. There was a wall of Post-Its and multiple spreadsheets involved.

ASLEEP FROM DAY is centered on a gap in Astrid’s memory—a day that may or may not have been the best day of her life . . . that is, if it happened at all. One of the main characters in my first novel, THE MEMORY THIEF, was hit by a car, just like Astrid. Like Astrid, he woke up in the hospital missing a crucial set of memories. What do you think is so fascinating about amnesia as a storytelling device? Why were you drawn to use Astrid’s missing memories as a vehicle for the story you wanted to tell?

For me, it’s the tenuous nature of memory. We’re all shaped by the past, but we don’t all remember the past exactly the way it happened. I recently heard about a new scientific study that said when we remember something, our brains don’t actually access existing information but have to create the memory in the process. Which makes me wonder how much of our memories we can trust. And once you start questioning your memories, you may question your sense of identity and even the way you perceive reality. For me, that opens the door to all kinds of mysteries on a tangible level but also more philosophical when considering the nature of consciousness. So someone can read the story in terms of untangling the puzzle of Astrid’s lost memories and her character growth, but if they want to get deeper and more existential, those layers are also present in the story.

This is your first novel . . . but you’ve been involved in the world of writing for a long time. Tell us about your work in publishing, as well as your experience blogging for Marvel, Google, Quirk Books and XOJane.com . . . and your journey to becoming a novelist.

I had interned with a literary agent in high school and majored in Creative Writing in college, but I knew pragmatically having a career as a writer would be a long shot, so I initially decided pursue a career in book publishing. I was fortunate to work for a literary agency (Trident Media Group) and book publisher (HarperCollins), but I realized, that as much as I loved the industry, I couldn’t find the right role for myself within it.

So I went on to work for Marvel, a job that evolved into becoming their first community manager. Working in social media, I got to flex my writing muscles and since I worked closely with the editorial department, I had the chance to write longer form content for the blog. Having experience doing these fun pop culture pieces later helped me become a contributing blogger at Quirk Books. After Marvel, I contributed blog content when I worked at Google. I also did a couple of personal essays for XOJane.com as a result of pitching to them directly (including one on having my embarrassing teenage diaries read on live national TV). Basically, I’ve tried to incorporate writing into my life whether as a side gig or ancillary work project.

As I developed a career in social media, as much as I enjoyed the work, my big dream was still to write novels. So in 2014, I went for it: I left my hectic NYC life and started over in the suburbs as a writer. Since then, I’ve completed three standalone novels, the first of which was published last month. Along the way, I also become an editor/book coach, which has been a great way to connect with other writers and helped me improve my own writing tremendously.

 You say you “love all things dark, strange, and surreal,” but are “also optimistic—verging on quixotic.” How do these qualities manifest in ASLEEP FROM DAY? What was your favorite element of the book to write, and why?

I think the dark, strange, surreal qualities of my book are most prominent in the dream sequences, which were a blast to write. Partly because they came so easily and partly because I had the freedom to be more imaginative and come up with eerie vignettes that veered from reality to varying degrees. I also had a lot of fun writing the party and club scenes because I got to relive some of my own colorful Boston outings from back in the day. As for my quixotic optimism, that’s present in the romantic elements—Astrid’s hopefulness with Theo, how she wonders if he’s too good to be true. It’s also in characters like Sally, who’s so determined to secure a happily ever after ending for her best friend, she sets up what turns out to a series of misadventures for Astrid (which circle back to the dark and surreal). Basically, if a story starts to get too sweet, I look for ways I can make it dark or weird, but if it gets too dark, I like to shed a little light for balance.

I’ve finished the book now, and the ending wasn’t what I expected it to be. Did you intend to conclude Astrid’s story this way? [No spoilers, I promise!]

Initially, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to end the story. I knew the ending couldn’t be predictable, and it had to remain true to the story’s overall dreamy tone. Anything the reader might see coming would be the equivalent of abruptly waking them up. Instead, I wanted them to be haunted in the same way that Astrid is haunted and uncertain about her lost memories. But I wasn’t sure exactly what that would look like. I brainstormed for hours and hours with my husband, devising and discarding multiple outcomes. Then he suggested what became the last page of the novel. As soon as he said the last two lines, I gasped and knew. YES. This was the way the book had to end and it couldn’t be anything else. From that first completed draft, it was always the one element I was absolutely adamant would not change.

Granted, the ending has gotten mixed opinions from readers. Some love it; some hate it; some hate it at first, but then give it time to marinate and end up loving it—or at least respecting it. What’s great is that readers usually have a passionate reaction to it. And I’ll take passion over indifference any day.

Is there a possibility of a sequel to ASLEEP FROM DAY?

I haven’t ruled it out, though the book is intended as a standalone. I’ve been throwing around some ideas for a Sliding Doors-type take on the sequel. While I think of Asleep from Day as being about the fantasies we pursue or cast aside as we face the realities of adulthood, I’d need to consider the larger theme for the next stage of Astrid’s life. And the next book would need to progress Astrid’s character/circumstances in a compelling way, but also maintain the dreamy, surreal mood of the first book. Which means while some lingering questions might get answered, new questions and uncertainties would arise to take their place.

Writing-wise, what are you working on now and what’s next?

I’m finishing a hefty revision of my third novel, an offbeat upmarket women’s fiction take on time travel, which may become a duology or trilogy. I’m going to take another look at my second completed novel, about a secret and strange hotel resort, and possibly rewrite one of its two POVs (so, basically, half the book; not a daunting prospect at all, oh no). And I’m going to work on something brand new, possibly involving serial killers or possibly inspired by my years working at Google or possibly something else entirely.

ASLEEP FROM DAY

Astrid can’t remember the best day of her life: yesterday.

A traumatic car accident erases Astrid’s memories of September 9th, the day she spent with an oddly charming stranger named Theo. Ever since, she’s been haunted by surreal dreams and an urgent sense that she’s forgotten something important.

One night, she gets a mysterious call from Oliver, who knows more about her than he should and claims he can help her remember. She accepts his help, even as she questions his motives and fights a strange attraction to him.

In order to find Theo and piece together that lost day in September, Astrid must navigate a maze of eccentric Boston nightlife, from the seedy corners of Chinatown to a drug-fueled Alice-in-Wonderland-themed party to a club where everyone dresses like the dead. In between headaches and nightmares, she struggles to differentiate between memory, fantasy, and reality, and starts to wonder if Theo really exists.

Eventually, she’ll need to choose between continuing her search for him or following her growing feelings for Oliver. Astrid might go to extreme lengths to find what she’s lost… or might lose even more in her pursuit to remember (like her sanity).

Available at: Amazon | IndieBound | Google | iBooks | B&N | Kobo | Indigo  

Universal Page: www.asleepfromday.com

Author Bio

Margarita Montimore received a BFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. She worked for over a decade in publishing and social media before deciding to focus on the writing dream full-time. She has blogged for Marvel, Google, Quirk Books, and XOJane.com. When not writing, she freelances as a book coach and editor. She grew up in Brooklyn but currently lives in a different part of the Northeast with her husband and dog.

Margarita writes upmarket/literary fiction that tends to be left of center and flirt with multiple genres. While she loves all things dark, strange, and surreal, she’s also optimistic—verging on quixotic—and a pop culture geek, so her work tends to incorporate all those elements to varying degrees.

Author Links: Newsletter | Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

When I read the blurb of ASLEEP FROM DAY, I was struck by some of the similarities between Margarita Montimore’s novel and my first book, THE MEMORY THIEF. Like one of my main characters in TMT, Margarita’s protagonist, Astrid, was hit by a car and woke up in the hospital, missing a crucial set of memories. But whereas my character, Nicholas, found himself in possession of a dead man’s life story, Astrid has somehow misplaced the memory of the best day of her life—yesterday. The result is a mesmerizing, unusual novel that’s part dream sequence, part love story, and part mystery. I read it in one gulp, and Astrid stayed with me well after I turned the final page. 

Thanks so much for being on the blog, Margarita! Tell us—where did you get the idea for Astrid’s story? 

The seed of the story was planted decades ago, when I came across a human interest news story about a man looking for a woman he met on a bus in Boston. They only spoke for about ten minutes, but he was so captivated, he ended up putting fliers up all over the city trying to find her again. This was in the ‘90s, before the days of Missed Connections and before social media made it so much easier to find people. I don’t remember if he ever found this woman, but I was fascinated with the idea that meeting someone briefly could create such a lasting impression, and the lengths a person might go to in order to find someone they lost.

Over the years, I’ve also been inspired by movies like Before Sunrise and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind that show romantic connection as uncertain and tenuous through a more offbeat lens. When I started actually writing the book, I also wanted to pay tribute to Boston during the years I lived there (late 1990’s), to create a time capsule of some of the city’s quirkier corners. 

I’m curious about the way you’ve structured the novel. It’s written in both first and third person, switching between Astrid’s recollection of the day she lost, her present-day journey, and memory/dream sequences. What inspired you to tell the story this way? Did you experiment with several structures for ASLEEP FROM DAY before settling on this one?

Yes. Initially, it was going to take place in chronological order: Astrid’s day with Theo, followed by the car accident that makes her forget that day, and her subsequent search to recover her memories. While workshopping the early pages, a fellow writer pointed out that there wasn’t enough conflict and said, “nobody is going to want to read 80 pages of someone’s perfect day.” She was right.

So I started playing with timelines and structure. Astrid’s present day needed to be in first person to give the reader a deep POV. The lost day needed to be in third person because it was one degree removed from Astrid’s current reality. I also wanted to give the story a dark/surreal vibe—enter dream sequences. Here’s this young woman who’s been hit by a car, who can’t remember what happened in the 24 hours leading up to the accident, and whose life takes all these strange turns as a result. I saw a way these bad dreams could reveal layers of Astrid’s subconscious mind and trauma but also offer clues about her lost day. This left me with three narratives that needed to be braided into a whole story. Making them work cohesively took a lot of time and effort. There was a wall of Post-Its and multiple spreadsheets involved.

ASLEEP FROM DAY is centered on a gap in Astrid’s memory—a day that may or may not have been the best day of her life . . . that is, if it happened at all. One of the main characters in my first novel, THE MEMORY THIEF, was hit by a car, just like Astrid. Like Astrid, he woke up in the hospital missing a crucial set of memories. What do you think is so fascinating about amnesia as a storytelling device? Why were you drawn to use Astrid’s missing memories as a vehicle for the story you wanted to tell?

For me, it’s the tenuous nature of memory. We’re all shaped by the past, but we don’t all remember the past exactly the way it happened. I recently heard about a new scientific study that said when we remember something, our brains don’t actually access existing information but have to create the memory in the process. Which makes me wonder how much of our memories we can trust. And once you start questioning your memories, you may question your sense of identity and even the way you perceive reality. For me, that opens the door to all kinds of mysteries on a tangible level but also more philosophical when considering the nature of consciousness. So someone can read the story in terms of untangling the puzzle of Astrid’s lost memories and her character growth, but if they want to get deeper and more existential, those layers are also present in the story.

This is your first novel . . . but you’ve been involved in the world of writing for a long time. Tell us about your work in publishing, as well as your experience blogging for Marvel, Google, Quirk Books and XOJane.com . . . and your journey to becoming a novelist.

I had interned with a literary agent in high school and majored in Creative Writing in college, but I knew pragmatically having a career as a writer would be a long shot, so I initially decided pursue a career in book publishing. I was fortunate to work for a literary agency (Trident Media Group) and book publisher (HarperCollins), but I realized, that as much as I loved the industry, I couldn’t find the right role for myself within it.

So I went on to work for Marvel, a job that evolved into becoming their first community manager. Working in social media, I got to flex my writing muscles and since I worked closely with the editorial department, I had the chance to write longer form content for the blog. Having experience doing these fun pop culture pieces later helped me become a contributing blogger at Quirk Books. After Marvel, I contributed blog content when I worked at Google. I also did a couple of personal essays for XOJane.com as a result of pitching to them directly (including one on having my embarrassing teenage diaries read on live national TV). Basically, I’ve tried to incorporate writing into my life whether as a side gig or ancillary work project.

As I developed a career in social media, as much as I enjoyed the work, my big dream was still to write novels. So in 2014, I went for it: I left my hectic NYC life and started over in the suburbs as a writer. Since then, I’ve completed three standalone novels, the first of which was published last month. Along the way, I also become an editor/book coach, which has been a great way to connect with other writers and helped me improve my own writing tremendously.

 You say you “love all things dark, strange, and surreal,” but are “also optimistic—verging on quixotic.” How do these qualities manifest in ASLEEP FROM DAY? What was your favorite element of the book to write, and why?

I think the dark, strange, surreal qualities of my book are most prominent in the dream sequences, which were a blast to write. Partly because they came so easily and partly because I had the freedom to be more imaginative and come up with eerie vignettes that veered from reality to varying degrees. I also had a lot of fun writing the party and club scenes because I got to relive some of my own colorful Boston outings from back in the day. As for my quixotic optimism, that’s present in the romantic elements—Astrid’s hopefulness with Theo, how she wonders if he’s too good to be true. It’s also in characters like Sally, who’s so determined to secure a happily ever after ending for her best friend, she sets up what turns out to a series of misadventures for Astrid (which circle back to the dark and surreal). Basically, if a story starts to get too sweet, I look for ways I can make it dark or weird, but if it gets too dark, I like to shed a little light for balance.

I’ve finished the book now, and the ending wasn’t what I expected it to be. Did you intend to conclude Astrid’s story this way? [No spoilers, I promise!]

Initially, I wasn’t sure how I wanted to end the story. I knew the ending couldn’t be predictable, and it had to remain true to the story’s overall dreamy tone. Anything the reader might see coming would be the equivalent of abruptly waking them up. Instead, I wanted them to be haunted in the same way that Astrid is haunted and uncertain about her lost memories. But I wasn’t sure exactly what that would look like. I brainstormed for hours and hours with my husband, devising and discarding multiple outcomes. Then he suggested what became the last page of the novel. As soon as he said the last two lines, I gasped and knew. YES. This was the way the book had to end and it couldn’t be anything else. From that first completed draft, it was always the one element I was absolutely adamant would not change.

Granted, the ending has gotten mixed opinions from readers. Some love it; some hate it; some hate it at first, but then give it time to marinate and end up loving it—or at least respecting it. What’s great is that readers usually have a passionate reaction to it. And I’ll take passion over indifference any day.

Is there a possibility of a sequel to ASLEEP FROM DAY?

I haven’t ruled it out, though the book is intended as a standalone. I’ve been throwing around some ideas for a Sliding Doors-type take on the sequel. While I think of Asleep from Day as being about the fantasies we pursue or cast aside as we face the realities of adulthood, I’d need to consider the larger theme for the next stage of Astrid’s life. And the next book would need to progress Astrid’s character/circumstances in a compelling way, but also maintain the dreamy, surreal mood of the first book. Which means while some lingering questions might get answered, new questions and uncertainties would arise to take their place.

Writing-wise, what are you working on now and what’s next?

I’m finishing a hefty revision of my third novel, an offbeat upmarket women’s fiction take on time travel, which may become a duology or trilogy. I’m going to take another look at my second completed novel, about a secret and strange hotel resort, and possibly rewrite one of its two POVs (so, basically, half the book; not a daunting prospect at all, oh no). And I’m going to work on something brand new, possibly involving serial killers or possibly inspired by my years working at Google or possibly something else entirely.

ASLEEP FROM DAY

Astrid can’t remember the best day of her life: yesterday.

A traumatic car accident erases Astrid’s memories of September 9th, the day she spent with an oddly charming stranger named Theo. Ever since, she’s been haunted by surreal dreams and an urgent sense that she’s forgotten something important.

One night, she gets a mysterious call from Oliver, who knows more about her than he should and claims he can help her remember. She accepts his help, even as she questions his motives and fights a strange attraction to him.

In order to find Theo and piece together that lost day in September, Astrid must navigate a maze of eccentric Boston nightlife, from the seedy corners of Chinatown to a drug-fueled Alice-in-Wonderland-themed party to a club where everyone dresses like the dead. In between headaches and nightmares, she struggles to differentiate between memory, fantasy, and reality, and starts to wonder if Theo really exists.

Eventually, she’ll need to choose between continuing her search for him or following her growing feelings for Oliver. Astrid might go to extreme lengths to find what she’s lost… or might lose even more in her pursuit to remember (like her sanity).

Available at: Amazon | IndieBound | Google | iBooks | B&N | Kobo | Indigo  

Universal Page: www.asleepfromday.com

Author Bio

Margarita Montimore received a BFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. She worked for over a decade in publishing and social media before deciding to focus on the writing dream full-time. She has blogged for Marvel, Google, Quirk Books, and XOJane.com. When not writing, she freelances as a book coach and editor. She grew up in Brooklyn but currently lives in a different part of the Northeast with her husband and dog.

Margarita writes upmarket/literary fiction that tends to be left of center and flirt with multiple genres. While she loves all things dark, strange, and surreal, she’s also optimistic—verging on quixotic—and a pop culture geek, so her work tends to incorporate all those elements to varying degrees.

Author Links: Newsletter | Website | Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Goodreads

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