A Life of Books with Lucie Britsch, author of Sad Janet

Lucie Britsch‘s Sad Janet follows the titular character as she works in a run down dog shelter. She’s an anxious cynic who has a passive-aggressive boyfriend and a nosy family. Her life changes when she discovers a pill that provides instant happiness. In all, Sad Janet is a hilarious look into depression. Fans of Miranda July and Melissa Broder will find comfort in Britsch’s writing and viewpoint.

Brtisch has had writing has appear in Catapult Story, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Split Lip Magazine, and The Sun, and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.
Below, Lucie Britsch answered Debutiful‘s “A Life of Books” questionnaire.

Is there a book or series that, when you think back, helped define your childhood?

I read a lot growing up, I was obsessed with Sweet Valley and Point Horror, all that good trash. When I was really little, I loved these Dorrie books about this little witch, she was basically my hero. I always liked weird stuff but to me Sweet Valley was weird, they were basically fembots, their world was totally alien to me. I remember my sister reading me this book called The String People, about these little people made from string, that was weird but also cool. Mary Norton who wrote The Borrowers came from my town so that was cool, I loved books like that. Narnia was pretty big in my house; I still check wardrobes. I remember my mum reading me The Hobbit but I was only really interested in the magic and the animals and wanted to live in a hobbit hole. I don’t know if any one book can ever define someone, that’s a big ask. Books in general were just always part of my life.

Would you want any children in your life (yours or relatives’) to read those too? Or what’s your philosophy on what children read?

I don’t really care what people read as long as they read.

Moving to your school years: what book did you read in high school and hated (or skipped reading at all) that you learned you loved later in life?

I don’t think I’ve ever really hated a book, just the fact it’s a book is pretty awesome, I’d read anything if I was desperate, which I am sometimes.

I definitely hated Austen when I had to study her because I was a punk and it was the opposite of everything I believed and wanted for myself but now I can appreciate it more for what it is. I hated War and Peace for a long time until I watched that recent TV adaptation with Paul Dano, now I dig it.

What about the opposite way? One you loved in your teens, but realized you didn’t love it so much later on?

Sweet Valley obviously is problematic, but I still secretly love it, or more what it means for me. A lot of people say Geek Love doesn’t hold up, but I think it does.

I definitely read a lot of white men when I was younger, I was a big Douglas Coupland fan, and I don’t know if I really love him anymore. I was really into Poppy Z Brite for a while, but I’d probably really cringe if I read it now.

Generally, if I love a book, I’m always going to love it, even if it’s just for how it made me feel once.

Are there any books that you read while writing your debut that helped shape the direction you took your own book?

I can’t really read a lot of fiction when I’m writing. I prefer biographies, things that aren’t anything like what I’m writing, or I just feel bad about what I’m writing which is the opposite of what I want to feel. Sometimes when I’m writing I have to almost pretend other books don’t exist if I’m going to actually make mine authentic. 

There are books that influenced me for sure, going as far back as things like Brave New World and a lot of the sci fi I love, and then more recently things like Limitless and Pharmakon, but I try to let what I’m writing go where it needs to go on its own, I don’t try to over think it and am not big on planning. I trust it will sort itself out. I don’t think I write like anyone else and am trying to see that as a good thing despite the voice telling me constantly, I’m doing it all wrong.

What is a book you’ve read that you thought, Damn, I wish that was mine?

So many! Most recently, Kevin Wilson’s Nothing to See Here was just perfect. Marcy Dermansky’s Bad Marie, Helen Philipps’s The Beautiful Bureaucrat, Elena Ferrante’s The Lost Daughter, Miranda July’s The First Bad Man, Chloe Aridjis’s Sea Monsters, for me, these are perfect books that make me happy but also jealous, because I will never be that good, but they also make me want to be better.

What book has been an escape during your time social distancing and in quarantine?

At first, I didn’t actually feel like reading, or writing, or doing anything much other than lying on the floor, but once I’d watched all the TV, I slowly got back into it thankfully.

I was saving Kevin Wilson’s Nothing to See Here until I really needed it because I knew I’d love it so much and I was right, so I was glad I could read it in quarantine. I also went on a bit of a Ferrante bender and read everything she wrote in the space of two weeks. I resisted her for a long time but then once I started, I didn’t want to read anything else. She just gets it.

I also read Katie Williams Tell the Machine Goodnight, that was really great.

I’ve re-read a lot of books in quarantine, for comfort, but also because I couldn’t get to a bookstore so had to just make do with what I had sometimes. I re-read Stephen King’s Misery, because we’d been watching Castle Rock, then I fancied some Shirley Jackson so I read Hangsaman again, which made me want to read Ruth Franklin’s A Haunted Life again. I watched the Shirley movie and actually thought it was better than the book, I really loved what she did with it.

I finally got round to reading Olga Tokarczuk’s Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of The Dead too, which I loved.

I’m just started Britt Bennett’s The Vanishing Half now.

And, finally, I have to ask… I’m sorry. What’s next? But wait! Only use three words.

Trying to write.

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