If you like serial killers, messy families, and houses that are metaphorically and literally haunted, Just Like Home is just for you. Claustrophobic and melancholy, this read sent chills down my spine with most scenes when it wasn’t also playing games with my heart.
I’m hype to have Gailey back on the blog to talk about how the different elements of this work came together, the research into it, writing comics compared to writing books, and what they’re working on next.
Building the Crowder House
Which aspect came to you first? Was it Vera, the house, or something else?
The first thing that came to me was the space beneath the bed. I started thinking about (and then couldn’t stop thinking about) the idea that under the bed is the scariest place in the house. It’s fascinating to me because there’s such mystique and intrinsic terror connected to that space – what might be down there, what might drive someone to hide there. And yet, at the same time, it’s a part of the home that is closest to the place where we are frequently at our most vulnerable. The bed is, ideally, a place of ultimate comfort and safety, and we associate that comfort and safety closely with fear.
Where did the idea for a woman coming home to settle her serial killer father’s estates come from?
In Vera’s return to her childhood home, I knew that I wanted to explore the question of confronting and coming to terms with one’s origins. In her father, I wanted to visit monstrosity and attachment, framing him as a person who is clearly monstrous in the eyes of society, but who was beloved in the eyes of his daughter.
What kind of research did you do for the book?
I ended up doing a lot of research on the construction of houses. As I was writing this book I discovered that I have a lot of… let’s call them ‘ill-informed notions’ about how houses are put together. This became very inconvenient for a person who had chosen, for some reason, to write in great detail about a house that had been built by one man. Fortunately, many things can be explained under the umbrella of “Francis Crowder probably didn’t know how to build a house right, either.” I also did a ton of research on the flora and fauna of upstate New York. Just Like Home is set there, and while I’ve spent a good deal of time in the area, I don’t have an intrinsic knowledge of the ecosystems there, and I wanted to get as specific as possible with sensory details.
In an interview on the Tales from the Trunk Podcast, you mentioned doing three to four rewrites of Just Like Home. Were there any elements that stayed the same throughout the process?
The only thing that stayed the same from start to finish was Vera’s interaction with a bartender. I wanted to give the reader a chance to understand what kind of person she is. That bartender represents the only time I have indulged myself in writing a character who is based on someone I’ve known in real life.
You also had a comic come out between The Echo Wife and Just Like Home called Eat the Rich. Comparing comics and prose novels, in what ways is the story crafting different?
Storycrafting a novel is completely different from storycrafting comics. It’s extremely challenging to make multiple subplots legible in a comic script – the real estate available in words is much smaller, and so efficiency in the storytelling becomes paramount. Writing a novel is also more solitary than writing comics; comics production, as I’ve experienced it, renders the script a conversation among an entire team, from the writer to the artist to the colorist to the letterer. Collaboration is central to the process.
What are you working on now?
I’m currently working on drafting my next adult novel! I’m also writing The Vampire Slayer, a comic series set in the universe of Buffy the Vampire Slayer for BOOM! Studios.
You’ve written young adult, adult, fantasy, weird west, horror, and more. Is there a genre-age combination that you’re itching to work in but haven’t yet?
I would so love to write Young Adult horror. I have a pitch and an outline and a few sample chapters, but it’s still simmering while I work on other, more immediate projects. Someday!
What books that are coming soon or out now that you are looking forward to reading?
Lee Mandelo’s Feed Them Silence had a cover reveal on the day I’m writing my answers to these questions. It’s spectacular.
Hugo award winner Sarah Gailey lives and works in California. Their nonfiction has been published by Mashable and the Boston Globe, and their fiction has been published internationally. Their novel, Magic for Liars, was an LA Times bestseller. You can find links to their work at www.sarahgailey.com. They tweet @gaileyfrey. Photo credit ©Allan Amato 2019.