The first lockdown was strange old time for many. While so many were relentlessly trying to hoard all the necessities, loo rolls and the like, purchasing outlandish items like hot tubs and garden paddling pools or even taking a moment to enjoy the enforced peace. However, for Rotherham-based Steve Johnson and co-author Kirsty Cooper – who lives in Cambridgeshire - it was definitively a ‘light-bulb moment’ as they decided that they would use the time to pursue their shared ambition of writing a book. But there was one rather large catch in this case… they lived over well over 100 miles apart. Undeterred the two utilised video conference calling technology and synchronised shared documents to lay the foundations and ultimately write their debut psychological fiction release, What Don’t You Remember. Not only were they able to collaborate, plan and create a novel, they did all of this despite being unable to meet in person throughout the entirety of the writing and publication process!
"Early in the first lockdown of spring last year, we spontaneously decided to work together to enter a scriptwriting competition. We didn’t get through to the final stages of the judging but we enjoyed the experience and wondered if we’d be able to do it on a bigger scale with a full novel” said Steve, and so they did. Kirsty added that, “Working together has been wonderful. We’re both parents so we understand that family has to come first, always. It’s meant we’ve not had any pressure to do things in a certain timeframe. Like many parents all over the world, we’ve had to do homeschooling and look after our families during a very frightening and difficult time. This project has given us a little outlet.”
There were moments throughout the novels creation that one of them had to take a step back to deal with homelife and other things going on at the same time, but while this happened the other continued apace, Kirsty explains that “the deal was we do what we can, when we can. Some weeks Steve would get loads written while I was AWOL with family stuff, other weeks Steve would be really busy and I would be able to get a chapter done. It’s worked really well and has definitely given us the support and motivation needed to see it through.” As each of them juggled parental responsibilities, remote working and everything else in-between, the other would carry on working on the book.
The novel focuses on a couple, who are both seeking counselling due to their fractious relationship. As part of an aim to relive happy memories, they are offered the chance of a radical new memory therapy where memories are able to be recorded and played back on a screen. The aim, rather hope of these sessions, is that they would be able to see each other’s happiest memories but the process unearths some awkward secrets and the realisation that not everything was as it seemed to either of them.
"It’s a story and an idea that will get into your head,’ says Steve. ‘What would you do if you could record your unfiltered memories and watch them back? What hidden elements would be exposed? We had no idea what to expect from people but the response has been fantastic so far”, and Kirsty says that “we’ve been overwhelmed by the response and how well the launch period went. We were gobsmacked at seeing our book alongside some of our favourite authors such as Kathy Reichs, Patricia Cornwell and Peter James. The whole experience has been a dream come true.”
The experience has certainly been a lockdown boon for the duo, who said, “We hope that lots more people will enjoy the story now and we’re already working on ideas for a second book” — watch this space.
What You Don’t Remember is out now in both paperback and in ebook format also.
You can also follow Kirsty and Steve on: