Welcome to Debutiful’s 6-Pack, a new recurring questionnaire with six debut authors answering questions barely related to writing and literature.
Answering the questions this month include:
Tyler Barton, author of Eternal Night at the Nature Museum
Gwen Kirby, author of Shit Cassandra Saw
Rachel Krantz, author of Open
Kiare Ladner, author of Nightshift
Mark Prins, author of The Latinist
Morgan Thomas, author of Manywhere
What’s your favorite beverage to have after a long, busy day?
Barton: Coffee. I’m brewing some right now, at 5:45, after a long, busy day at work. I did end up in Urgent Care early last year with heart palpitations and they basically patted me on the back and said drink less coffee. And for a while I did.
Kirby: I love a glass of wine after a long day, especially if it’s served in a mug and enjoyed in my favorite chair with a book. Extra points on the rare occasion that it’s good wine and not a bottle of Gato Negro I picked up at CVS.
Krantz: Bubbly mineral water, or Throat Coat tea. I’m not much of a drinker.
Ladner: Glass of wine, color dependent on mood (I try to wait til Friday).
Prins: A Schweppes Ginger Ale, or if it’s a really long day a Schweppes with Scotch
Thomas: Peppermint tea.
Describe the perfect meal.
Krantz: Grown from the garden, lots of veggies, vegan, exploding with flavor. Usually pesto and a big salad with bread and dessert I made.
Prins: I think of a juicy burrito on a street corner, or my homemade winter stew on a cold day.
Kirby: Sushi with a group of friends. I love how beautiful sushi is, how much care goes into constructing each roll or bite, and how many different colors and textures can be on one plate. It always feels like a treat, something special that I can’t make for myself, and it’s so much better in a group (not because I love my friends and miss them desperately during the never-ending pandemic, lame), but because then you can try so many different kinds of roll! Ideally, this perfect meal would end with a walk and then a ridiculous dessert, the kind with totally unnecessary gold leaf on top.
Thomas: Seafood gumbo made with shrimp and scallops from the Gulf. A side of potato salad and French bread.
Ladner: Veggie burger or pizza or else a hundred small plates with drinks to wash them down. After sunset, I’d like fire or candles and stars too, please.
Barton: A whole pizza in a car on a long drive with someone you love.
What films, shows, and albums have you enjoyed lately?
Thomas: I recently watched Atlantics with a friend and found it beautiful—haunting and moving. In terms of music, I’ve been listening to Adrianne Lenker and Flock of Dimes lately.
Barton: I think Succession is the greatest drama ever put on television. Heavy-handed as it was, I loved The Power of the Dog on Netflix. Also recently I was put on to American Movie (1999), a documentary dark and funny as an Ottessa Moshfegh story, and Strangers in Good Company (1990), a docufiction that feels like if Chris Bachelder wrote a pastoral–can’t recommend either of those enough.
Prins: White Lotus was so much fun for me. Lately I’ve been revisiting Frank Ocean’s Blonde and channel ORANGE. I’ve also been loving The New Abnormal by The Strokes (and am counting down the days until I can see them live, safely).
Ladner: The Lost Daughter, Another Round, and an enthralling film from 1981 called My Dinner with Andre. I was going to see Zadie Smith’s first play on Christmas Eve but it was cancelled. Now I’m looking forward to Dita von Teese, postponed from two years back. I can’t stop listening to Max Richter’s recomposed version of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. Also on a darker note, Bloodline by Gabriels.
Kirby: Lately I’ve been loving season three of What We Do in the Shadows. It already had so many of my favorite things (humor, friendship, absurd situations, wonderful acting and writing) but now I find myself almost protective of their little Staten Island bubble, a gentler, sweeter place despite the blood sucking. I’ve also been loving The Great British Bake Off, Ghosts, Derry Girls, and literally anything that involves tiny houses.
I haven’t been listening to much new music lately but I’ve been rather obsessively listening and relistening to the Mountain Goats, particularly All Hail West Texas. I never listen to a Mountain Goats album without either hearing a lyric I haven’t noticed before or, sometimes even better, hearing a loved lyric in a new way.
Krantz: Recently enjoyed watching The Sex Lives of College Girls, Love Life, Insecure, and Station Eleven.
Who or what, outside of your family, was most influential to your writing as a child?
Ladner: As a child I didn’t want to be a writer. I hated it when adults suggested that. Yet I adored reading. At a certain age books held all the possibility in the world. So despite my rebellion I guess books were forming me. Better than writing I liked enacting stories with my orphanage of dolls.
Krantz: My fourth-grade teacher, who gave me Sophie’s World to read as a special gift. He also assigned a retelling of the Biblical creation myth, which completely absorbed me as a project.
Kirby: Is it really lame to say books? Probably. But the answer is still books! I was extremely fortunate and had books everywhere in my house growing up. I had books stuffed under my mattress in case I woke up in the middle of the night and needed one right that second. It seemed like there was a limitless number of stories in the world, a myriad of genres, and I still find that bounty to be thrilling and, when I’m writing, liberating.
Also, shoutout to the bushes on my walk home from elementary school that you could push through to a secret path between the bushes and the fence. I love a hidden doorway in books and in life.
Thomas: I read every book I could find about ecology and evolution—The Song of the Dodo, Endless Forms Most Beautiful. That framework still influences my stories.
Barton: I didn’t write anything, really, until I was 16. At that time, the musician Josh Scogin (Norma Jean, The Chariot) was what art meant to me. He tried to destroy/reinvent every song he made, every stage he played on. I think it’s all about the danger of boundaries.
Prins: My teachers. I think I wrote my first story to impress my 1st grade teacher, Ms. Yellen.
What’s a behind-the-scenes secret about your book not many people know?
Prins: I changed the beginning at the very last minute.
Kirby: This is more of a behind-the-scenes story about me because honestly, the secret about the making of my book is that I have a wonderful editor, agent, publicist, and cover artist and it went really smoothly. Anyway, as many of us now did, I sold my book during the pandemic. Instead of the raucous OMG-I-made-it-OMG celebration that I’d always imagined, I was alone in my apartment. Never daunted, I put hats on my few stuffed animals, slipped into a fancy dress, made myself a martini, and eventually had a good cry. Now it’s a year and a half later and most of my book events will be online at home, sadly, but I still plan to wear a fun outfit and have a fizzy water in a fancy cup because, well, selling a book is a miracle and I’m going to do my best to enjoy it as much as I can (and stay off of Goodreads).
Thomas: The stories are often linked by research. For instance, the story “Surrogate” was inspired by an article about a midwife in Vernal, Utah, who started asking about the health effects of fracking. I found that story while researching “The Expectation of Cooper Hill.”
Ladner: Nightshift started as a series of letters to a character no longer in the book. I also intended initially to tell the whole story as a walk across London and spent weeks plotting the route.
Krantz: Over half of the dialogue is reconstructed from verbatim audio transcripts.
Barton: Kevin Wilson, a hero of mine, wrote a blurb for the book in which he specifically pulls a phrase (“These are ‘painfully beautiful’ stories.”) from the end of a story that I wound up cutting in the final round of edits. We kept the blurb in full on the back cover because it was so good, but now I have this wild fantasy/fear of a very close reader who, after finishing the book, reads Wilson’s blurb and wonders if he was being ironic.
In 6 words or less, why will readers love your book?
Barton: Lose home, leave home, find home.
Kirby: Anger but make it joyous!
Ladner: Raw, honest exploration of obsession/negation.
Krantz: Erotic, educational, funny, page-turning, shocking, honest.
Prins: Obsessive Academics Will Stop At Nothing
Thomas: Um, it’s really queer?