Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Kim Neville Interview - The Memory Collectors

Photo Credit; Jeremy Lim

Kim Neville is an author and graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop, where she found the first shiny piece of inspiration that became The Memory Collectors. When she’s not writing she can be found heron-spotting on the seawall or practicing yoga in order to keep calm. She lives near the ocean in Vancouver, Canada, with her husband, daughter, and two cats. The Memory Collectors.


What inspired you to pen your first novel?
The spark for the book came from a short story I wrote at the Clarion West Writers Workshop, an intensive six-week workshop for writers of speculative fiction. That story was much more fantastical than The Memory Collectors. In it, Harriet is a witch who hoards actually magical objects, and she runs into trouble when she steals a neighbor’s dragon. It wasn’t the best story I’d written, but there was something in it that captured my imagination. I knew I wanted to develop it further but make it a story that was more grounded in the real world.

I began thinking about how we as humans relate to physical objects, and what makes an object “magical”. We ascribe meaning to things based on our interactions with them, and our stories about them. I found it so interesting that inanimate objects can hold such power over us. The memories associated with a cherished piece of jewelry or a favorite mug can be so vivid and emotional, that it’s as though the object itself has taken on those emotions. This led me to start thinking about what life would be like for a person with an acute sensitivity to the impressions we leave behind on objects.

Tell us your latest news.
I’m hard at work on my second novel. It’s the story of a family of witches and the grimoire that binds them. Like The Memory Collectors, it’s contemporary fiction with some magical elements. I’ve been describing it as Little Women meets Practical Magic, but like most of my stories, it has darker moments—and there are definitely ghosts.

Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
  • 1) My husband, who was the first person to tell me I could (and should) be a writer, and who has never stopped encouraging and supporting me;
  • 2) My daughter, because I knew from the moment she was born that I wanted to show her what it looked like to live whole-heartedly and to chase your dreams;
  • 3) My writer friends­: all the folks who have read and critiqued my work, shared in my rejections and acceptances, provided insight and advice, and continued to cheer me on.
Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I love seeing readers and reviewers connect with my book in a meaningful way. It’s always been my goal to write stories that change people, so when a bookstagrammer or book blogger tags me in a review, talking about how THE MEMORY COLLECTORS really touched them, that is absolutely the best feeling.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I’d like readers to feel the hopefulness that runs throughout the book. I want it to leave them feeling that forgiveness and recovery after trauma are possible, and that it’s good to do the things that scare us, because that’s how we learn and grow. I also hope to spark wonder in readers. I think the world can always use a bit more wonder.

In your new book; THE MEMORY COLLECTORS, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
The Memory Collectors is the story of two women with a shared gift: they can sense the emotions left behind on objects. Ev sees this ability as a curse. She’s witnessed firsthand how dangerous it can be. She seeks to protect herself and others from it, and she calls objects with emotional charges “stained”. Harriet views her gift as a blessing and one of the great joys in her life, and she collects what she calls “bright things” and “treasures”. Both women are haunted by events in their pasts, and when they meet, their lives become intertwined in surprising ways.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
Parenting! But that’s also been the most rewarding experience of my life. I learned how to sneak in writing time where I could, and of course as my daughter got older and became more independent, it got easier.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I would love to introduce Ev to Alexis and her amazing best friends in When We Were Magic by Sarah Gailey. I can’t help but wonder what Ev’s life would look like if she had a group of tightknit, supportive friends (who also happen to be magical) to help her navigate her power.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Ev and Harriet?
In my research, I read about the Collyer brothers, who were amongst the most famous of hoarders. They lived reclusive lives in their Harlem brownstone and amassed something like 120 tons of stuff. It’s a sad story and it didn’t end well for the brothers. One of the things that always stuck with me was the fact that after they died, the workers cleaning out the brownstone recovered a total of 14 pianos. That’s just…so many pianos.

  • 1. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow
  • 2. The City We Became by N.K. Jemison
  • 3. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  • 4. Where the Forest Meets the Stars by Glendy Vanderah
  • 5. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  • 6. The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones
  • 7. Goddess of the North by Georgina Kamsika
  • 8. The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
  • 9. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
  • 10. The Mask of Mirrors by M.A. Carrick
What’s the most ridiculous fact you know?
My daughter was watching the making of Frozen 2 documentary this morning, so the fact that is currently stuck in my head is that turtles can breathe through their butts (thanks, Olaf).

Best date you've ever had?
It would have to be my first date with my husband since I can say, twenty-three years later, that it worked out pretty well. We went to a punk rock show, and then we had our first kiss at a bus stop while a busker played saxophone on the street corner.

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
I’d want to be five years old again. For a little while, I’d like to be back in my family’s old wood-paneled living room, spinning in the bamboo chair swing with my best friend Tommy while we listen to ABBA records.

If you were a geometric shape what would you like to be?
I aspire to be a circle—elegant simplicity and strength—but in reality I’ve got bumpy and sometimes sharp edges, so I’m probably an irregular octagon.

What is your most memorable travel experience?
In 1995, I spent all night at the top of the Eiffel Tower. It’s a long story that starts with my best friend and I making poor life choices, so I’ll just say we had nowhere to sleep in Paris in November, and were making the best of it on a park bench in the Champ de Mars. The security guards who took pity on us snuck us up the tower via the stairs (because the elevator had cameras). They stole beer and cheesecake from the cafĂ© for us to eat, and we got that incredible view all to ourselves for hours.

Most memorable summer job?
In high school, I had a job at Flintstones Fun Park, which is exactly what it sounds like: a theme park based on the animated TV series. I worked mostly at admission and in the gift shop, but sometimes I got to monitor the boats or the pedal cars, and sometimes, I had to wear the Dino suit. The costume was hot and you had to strip down to your underwear before getting in. There was a zipper right in the front under Dino’s collar that kids always wanted to yank on, so being Dino wasn’t my favorite part of the job, but it was definitely memorable.

What is one unique thing are you afraid of?
I have trypophobia, which is an aversion to clusters of holes. Just thinking about a lotus seed pod makes the skin on my scalp crawl. I guess since it has a name, it’s not an entirely unique fear, but I’ve always found it weird and inexplicable. I’ve never been threatened in any way by a lotus seed pod, so why??

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer?
Attending the Clarion West Writers Workshop, besides being a turning point in my writing development, was one of the highlights of my life. It was six weeks of living in a sorority house with other writers, talking about fiction and creating fiction all day every day—basically, intensive summer camp for writers. My class bonded in a real way, and we are all still close. 

Perfect for fans of The Scent Keeper and The Keeper of Lost Things, an atmospheric and enchanting debut novel about two women haunted by buried secrets but bound by a shared gift and the power the past holds over our lives.

Ev has a mysterious ability, one that she feels is more a curse than a gift. She can feel the emotions people leave behind on objects and believes that most of them need to be handled extremely carefully, and—if at all possible—destroyed. The harmless ones she sells at Vancouver’s Chinatown Night Market to scrape together a living, but even that fills her with trepidation. Meanwhile, in another part of town, Harriet hoards thousands of these treasures and is starting to make her neighbors sick as the overabundance of heightened emotions start seeping through her apartment walls.

When the two women meet, Harriet knows that Ev is the only person who can help her make something truly spectacular of her collection. A museum of memory that not only feels warm and inviting but can heal the emotional wounds many people unknowingly carry around. They only know of one other person like them, and they fear the dark effects these objects had on him. Together, they help each other to develop and control their gift, so that what happened to him never happens again. But unbeknownst to them, the same darkness is wrapping itself around another, dragging them down a path that already destroyed Ev’s family once, and threatens to annihilate what little she has left.

The Memory Collectors casts the everyday in a new light, speaking volumes to the hold that our past has over us—contained, at times, in seemingly innocuous objects—and uncovering a truth that both women have tried hard to bury with their pasts: not all magpies collect shiny things—sometimes they gather darkness.

You can purchase The Memory Collectors at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you KIM NEVILLE for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of The Memory Collectors by Kim Neville.


  1. "Last thing you bought?" A piece of wood.

  2. The last thing I bought was a watering can.

  3. The last thing I bought was mixed fruit.

  4. I have not been out of the house for weeks, but I managed to purchase a book for my granddaughter via Amazon.