Memories Make the World Go Round…Or Crash and Burn
By K.L. Romo
“I don’t remember.”
So says protagonist Addison Hope in bestselling author-duo Liv Constantine’s newest thriller, THE STRANGER IN THE MIRROR.
“I’d like to think I’m a good person, but I have no way of knowing for sure. I don’t remember my real name, where I’m from, or if I have any family. I must have friends somewhere, but the only ones I recognize are the ones I’ve made in the two years since the new me was born—every memory before that has been wiped away.”
Addison has no memory of her life before Ed picked her up on a deserted highway, bloodied and bedraggled. Retrograde amnesia wiped her memory clean. Gigi and Ed had lost their daughter Beth when someone picked her up, hitchhiking 10 years ago, then killed her. Luckily for Addison, Ed’s mission was to be a savior to female hitchhikers.
Addison has spent the last two years remaking her life in Philadelphia. She discovered she’s a talented photographer and has scheduled a showing at the Oliver family’s gallery. She’s engaged to Gabriel Oliver, who loves her even though she can’t remember who she was before. What scares her are the memories that spontaneously combust—bloody images and violence.
“Flashes that come at unexpected times—blood-spattered faces, flesh torn away from bones, eyes open and staring at me. Lifeless and condemning. So many bodies.”
And the jagged scars on her arms tell a story of prior trauma.
Boston psychiatrist Julian Hunter has been searching for his wife Cassandra for the last two years. Their seven-year-old daughter Valentina needs her mother, and he’s vowed to find her. How could Cassandra just leave them? But one thing he knows for sure—he has “the power to influence the mind. The more time passes, the more convinced I am that I can mold anyone into anything.”
As the lives of Addison and Cassandra unravel, a dark thread of truth connects both in a sinister and sordid game of life or death.
Constantine (pen name for sister-authors Lynne and Valerie Constantine) come up with their story ideas by batting them around in back-and-forth discussions. When speaking at the Sharjah International Book Festival in 2019, they had 10 days together in the United Arab Emirates to collaborate. For this book, Valerie tells The Big Thrill about their inspiration.
“[Possible ideas] can include a subject we find interesting, a character type we’d like to examine, or those everyday events and relationships that, with a little tweak, can become dark and foreboding. With all of that togetherness, we had lots of time to throw ideas around and decided amnesia was a subject we both found fascinating. We became intrigued by the prospect of building a story around a woman with amnesia and were also excited about researching the condition more fully.”
An interesting aspect of THE STRANGER IN THE MIRROR is that the story explores how what others tell us can skew our memories, even more so if the telling comes from a counselling professional.
“Our brains are much more complicated than most of us realize, and memory can be tricky. Two people can experience the same thing and recall it dramatically differently. Our memories are not always accurate, which is one reason eyewitnesses are unreliable. We fill in missing information using our imagination and details from what others tell us and come to believe a ‘memory’ that is untrue.
“Counseling professionals have learned to be careful when helping patients recall early memories. There have been tragic cases where people are falsely accused of crimes they never committed because of an imagined repressed memory.”
Constantine says there’s a message they’d like readers to take away after finishing the book.
“The story is very much about the inner strength we possess—the strength that allows us to overcome what might seem to be impossible obstacles—but it is also about letting people in and accepting help when we need it.”
As a writing duo, what does Lynne and Valerie’s writing process look like?
“Once we’ve established a premise for our story, we work together every day for several weeks to develop the characters and the setting. When we’re ready to begin the actual writing, we assign each other scenes, email them to each other when they’re finished, and edit each other’s work. We speak daily until we finish the first draft, and then we each do a thorough edit and compare notes. The process begins again as we come up with revisions and new scenes. We generally go through three rounds before we hand it off to our editor.”
What writing advice do Lynn and Valerie have for other writers?
“Perseverance is the one word that always comes to mind when the word ‘advice’ is in the question. Maintaining the discipline of writing every day is key, even if it’s only responding to writing prompts. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it does make it easier.
“In addition, reading good books and taking workshops/classes to hone your craft. Networking is also an important component to success. We haven’t missed a ThrillerFest in seven years and value the friendships we’ve made through attendance.”
Constantine is busy working on their next novel, which is “set in the glittering political environment of Washington, DC, in the aftermath of a tragic fire that took the lives of the spouses of our two protagonists.”
The pair share something about themselves their fans might not already know.
“We’re both married to Welshmen.”