Few things bring me as much pleasure as a GOOD BOOK, and when I enjoy one, I like to spread the word about it. You might have heard of the bestselling novel “The Memory Box,” but did you know it was written by a Westfield resident? I caught up with the author to get the scoop on how her riveting debut novel came to be!
Eva Lesko Natiello has lived in Westfield for the past 15 years with her husband and two teenage children, and only started writing creatively 12 years ago. Eva said, “I actually never planned on writing a book, but one day I read in the ‘New York Times’ an article about people Googling themselves. This was back when people just started Googling themselves. The article told the story of a teenager who Googled himself and discovered he was on a missing persons list. He didn’t know that he was kidnapped when he was two years old, until he Googled himself. When I read that article I thought it would be a great idea for a psychological thriller. ‘The Memory Box’ is about a NJ suburban mom who Googles herself and discovers the shocking details of a past she doesn’t remember.” If that isn’t a great premise for a suspenseful novel, I don’t know what is!
Eva revealed that living in Westfield greatly influenced “The Memory Box.” She said, “‘The Memory Box’ is a fictionalized version of Westfield, which I called Farhaven. The opening scene at the schoolyard was inspired by the grounds of Franklin School. Some streets in the book were unintentionally named after streets in Westfield. When I was in the throes of creative inspiration and the writing was coming fast, I would use street names from town just as place holders for when I’d have time to really think about names. I never wanted to interrupt writing flow with naming, but in the end I never went back to change them. People think that some of the characters are based on locals, and they will stop me in the grocery store or at a party to tell me their theory of who the characters are based on. That’s always funny for me. None of the characters in the book are based on real people. But they are definitely relatable.”
Admit it: if you haven’t already read the book, you want to now!
I enjoy interviewing creative people, because I get a sneak peek into the inner workings of their minds, almost like a magician revealing the secrets behind his tricks. Eva described a little of her writing process to me: “My current routine is to write 1500 words a day, and I usually write first thing in the morning and I will typically stop by noon. After noon, I work on the business side of being an indie author: marketing, public relations, distribution, etc. I also blog, so that needs to be fit in somewhere. I do have loose outlines for the novel in progress. It keeps my first draft organized and on target, but honestly, once the writing flows it can take me in directions I’d never planned. So it’s important for me not to stay too committed to the outlines. The characters always have their own ideas!”
If you’re an aspiring writer, you’re sure to be motivated by the story of how “The Memory Box” came to be published, because it did NOT happen overnight. Eva recounted, “When I finally finished writing and editing ‘The Memory Box,’ I queried literary agents in hopes of getting representation. Unfortunately, after about three years of writing to agents, I was rejected 81 times and could not find one to work with. This was a tough time for me because I thought if I couldn’t get an agent, the book would never be published. So I put it away for over a year and worked on other projects. Then one day a book called ‘Gone Girl’ was published, and after reading that book and seeing its success, I realized ‘The Memory Box,’ which is in the same genre, had a potential audience out there. That’s when I decided to self-publish. It took a long time to learn about self-publishing and cover designing, and copyediting, and distribution, marketing etc. It finally was published in June 2014 and is available worldwide. I have also started to sell the foreign rights to the book, which is very exciting. And last spring, the audio book rights were sold at auction. You can imagine how happy I am that I didn’t leave it in a desk draw to collect dust!”
“The Memory Box” went on to become a New York Times bestseller and even reached #1 on Amazon and BarnesandNoble.com, and it’s been one of the top ten bestselling books at The Town Book Store in Westfield for three years running. Eva had this to say about the wild success of her novel: “Honestly, it has surpassed my wildest dreams. And I’m additionally proud of its success because it’s self-published. It’s very difficult to author a book and then do all of the business behind it as well. Indie authors, these days, are called authorpreneurs. It’s the perfect name for what we do.”
So many of us are members of book clubs (which is where I first learned about ‘The Memory Box’), and Eva is no stranger to them and has visited with dozens of book clubs to discuss her book. She makes sure to acknowledge those that have contributed to the success of ‘The Memory Box.’ “I am very grateful to the community for all of their support. I am sure that ‘The Memory Box’ would not have been as successful without the enthusiasm of the community, book clubs, and readers who have been so excited to spread the word. Thank you, readers!”
You can follow Eva and read her blog on her website: https://evanatiello.com. If you’re a fan of ‘The Memory Box,” please comment!
Gretchen Boger-O'Bryan says
I LOVED the book. After I read it I went to a book discussion and met Eva, and loved being able to discuss it with her in that group format. It was a delight to hear her take on the characters and, as a writer myself, hearing about her process in birthing this book, as well as its unusual back story to publication. She’s wonderfully down to earth and was a pleasure to meet. I was told about the book a year and a half ago or so by my hairstylist — Eva and I are loyal customers of his. I had it downloaded and half finished by the time I finally left the salon, with pesky grays gone! Couldn’t put it down. Have recommended it to others; it doesn’t disappoint. Loved knowing some of the settings — my siblings attended the elementary school she says she envisioned as she wrote the book on the main character’s school-aged children. Brava, Eva!