What: Valerie Geary discusses

“Everything We Lost”

When: 5 p.m., Sept. 23

Where: Sunriver Books & Music, 57100 Beaver Drive, Building 25-C, Sunriver

Cost: free (registration requested)

Contact: sunriverbooks.com or 541-593-2525

In 2014, Valerie Geary had been writing what she hoped would be the successor to her critically acclaimed debut novel, “Crooked River,” but felt the manuscript just wasn’t working.

As she flicked through the TV channels, Geary stumbled across a show featuring a woman who claimed to have witnessed the crash of a spacecraft in Roswell, New Mexico, in the 1940s when she was a young girl. The woman said men in black suits later came to her home and warned her not to discuss the incident.

“I was intrigued by the idea of how we remember things as an adult that happened when we were younger,” Geary recalled.

This concept of the uncertainty that can grow between reality and a childhood memory inspired Geary to scrap the book she’d been working on and start a fresh manuscript that became her sophomore novel, “Everything We Lost.”

Geary’s latest psychological suspense was released Aug. 22, and she will discuss it at an event in Sunriver on Sept. 23.

“Everything We Lost” tells the story of 24-year-old Lucy Durant who uses alcohol and avoidance to blunt her guilt and confusion over the disappearance of her older brother Nolan 10 years earlier.

Nolan experienced paranoid delusions as he became increasingly more obsessed with UFOs and government conspiracies, until he walked into the desert outside Bishop, California, and never returned.

But Lucy may uncover the truth about her brother’s fate when she is forced to confront her tangled memories from that time.

As with “Crooked River,” “Everything We Lost” includes elements of the paranormal and supernatural.

“I’m always intrigued by that in-between place where we’re not sure what happened,” Geary said. “I like to explore things slightly outside our reality that push the boundaries of what we know.”

Some early reviews praise the novel’s thoughtful examination of the effects of undiagnosed mental illness on both the person suffering from it and those around them. Geary said that while the issue of mental illness wasn’t a kicking-off point for her, it was a layer that emerged and solidified as she worked with her editor to fine-tune the book.

“It’s about more than mental health and illness,” Geary said in explaining Nolan’s obsessions. “It’s more about belief to me and the way we can get so caught up in a belief that we lose ourselves or alienate those around us.”

Geary paces and reveals the key plot points in the novel using two narrators and converging time lines. As the story alternates between Lucy and Nolan’s viewpoints, Lucy’s memories travel further back and Nolan’s story moves forward until the two meet at the culminating moment of Nolan’s disappearance.

While Geary set out to write the novel using two narrators, she still found the writing process very challenging. She wrote Nolan’s sections first and then wrote Lucy’s chapters, being careful to try and give each the right amount of balance. She also had to be cautious with the ongoing plot revelations to make sure she didn’t accidentally disclose something by one character that she wanted the other to reveal.

“Crooked River,” also used two narrators, but Geary didn’t set out to write it that way. She came back and added other points of view after she was quite deep into writing the book. So the process was somewhat different for that first novel than for “Everything We Lost,” where she began writing from two perspectives and different points in time from the outset.

Geary feels very lucky to be able to write full time. Before completing “Crooked River,” she worked for an auto insurance company and would write after work. With the support of her husband, she decided to take a year off to focus on writing, and just around that time secured a book deal for “Crooked River.” Prior to that, she had been shopping around another book, but received rejection after rejection. “I started writing ‘Crooked River’ to distract myself from those rejections,” Geary recalled.

However, when she finished the book, she realized it was better than her first manuscript. In order to get “Crooked River” published, she took a different approach and looked for an agent first. Fortunately, that happened fairly quickly, but it still took some time to find a publisher for her book. It received several rejections until Emily Krump at William Morrow Paperbacks (an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers) connected with it.

“She took that rough draft and shaped it into what it is,” said Geary.

Geary has already completed the first draft of her next novel, which is once again set in Oregon with a wilderness theme about survival and missing children. She says it needs some rewrites, and that she’s interested to see what her agent thinks of it.

This time around, Geary is hoping to shorten the time frame from the three years it took between the publication of her first and second novels. She finds mornings are her most creative time and tries to write then, before the day and everything else going on gets into her head.

“I don’t wait for inspiration, otherwise I don’t know if it would ever come,” Geary said with a laugh.

“More than anything, what I know now from having published two novels is that it’s a process,” Geary said. “Now I know I just have to get the words out, so I show up at my office every morning and have more patience with myself than I did with the first two.”

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