Hey, everyone! Welcome to my stop on the Triple Threat Blog Tour for “Hysteria”! I really enjoyed Megan Miranda’s latest effort, so for your reading pleasure, I asked her to write a guest post on using unreliable narrators. It makes for a lot of insight into the book and great reading, so follow me behind the jump to read her answer!
Usagi’s prompt: Why choose Mallory to be an unreliable narrator – or rather, what is the allure of the unreliable narrator to you as an author for a mystery story like this one?
Miranda’s answer: I have to admit, I didn’t begin writing this story thinking, “I’m going to have an unreliable narrator.” Honestly, I didn’t even realize it when I finished the first draft. I mean, I knew that Mallory wasn’t telling all of the story, or that she was picking and choosing what to say, but I didn’t put a name to it. I think it’s a case of character and story reflecting one other. Mallory is unreliable because of the story. The story is what it is because Mallory is potentially unreliable.
Wait, did that make any sense?
Let me try again. I was very interested in eye-witness accounts. Or people who live through something horrible, and the elements they remember versus the elements they forget. When I remember an event that had a big impact on me, there are certain things that play out over and over in my mind. But it’s not like I replay the entire day… I think there are things you hold on to, and things you don’t. Meanwhile, Mallory has a lawyer telling her a story, and she practices it until, as she says, “it was the only thing I remembered at all.”
I love the idea that we can almost create memories out of bits and pieces. That our minds can make the leap without facts.
Mallory never lies. She tells pieces that are true. She gives hints that there may be other pieces that may be missing, but she doesn’t push herself to go there—possibly letting her mind protect her.
Because of who she is, the plot as a psychological thriller is able to exist around her. What is happening to her? Is it real? If she doesn’t know all the details, she can’t solve what’s happening to her, or why it’s happening to her. These questions all push her to an extreme, near breaking-point, which allows something more, something bigger, to happen around her—using her as part of another crime.
So I didn’t think: Mallory will be unreliable. I thought: Mallory is going to have suffered a major trauma, and possibly her mind is going to protect her from something. Or possibly it’s protecting her from herself.
I love the idea that Mallory isn’t sure whether she can trust herself at all. Whether she can trust that she’s not the type of person to do certain things. Because in the past, she was that person. She did.
I guess what makes her unreliable is that fact that it’s hard to reliably trust a narrator that doesn’t necessarily trust themselves. And the allure as a writer is unraveling two mysteries at once—discovering not only what happened during the crimes, but also unraveling Mallory as a character.
Thanks, Megan! And remember, “Hysteria” is out now, so be sure to check it out!