|photo: Missy McLamb
Kelly Braffet is the author of the novels Save Yourself, Last Seen Leaving and Josie & Jack. Her writing has been published in the Fairy Tale Review, Post Road and several anthologies. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and received her MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia University. She lives in upstate New York with her husband, the author Owen King. She is a lifelong reader of speculative fiction, and the idea for The Unwilling (Mira, February 11, 2020) originally came to her in college. Twenty years later, it's her first fantasy novel.
On your nightstand now:
Erin Morgenstern's The Starless Sea, which I'm rereading because I'm doing an event with her at the New York Public Library. Last weekend I re-read The Night Circus. Basically, I would like to move into Erin's imagination and live there forever, despite the bees. I'm also dipping into Ann Patchett's Commonwealth, because Ann Patchett brings me joy and never disappoints me.
Favorite book when you were a child:
It's a toss-up between Robin McKinley's The Hero and the Crown and Cynthia Voigt's Homecoming--or maybe Dicey's Song? I can never decide. Either way, I grew up in the '80s, and looking back there was a serious paucity of strong, three-dimensional female protagonists in my life, so it makes perfect sense to me that I was drawn to those stories.
Your top five authors:
What an impossible question! I'm going to limit myself to authors who are still actively publishing. I will read everything Kate Atkinson writes, always, forever; same goes for Ivy Pochoda. Both of them often leave me wondering why I even bother. China Miéville is always surprising and wonderfully bizarre, and I am a huge fan of Tana French. I was lucky enough to blurb Tana's very first book, back in the day, and now she's better than ever.
Can I say my husband? I'm going to say my husband: Owen King.
Book you've faked reading:
I'm sure I've faked reading something, at some point through the years, but I don't remember anything specific. Honestly, just the thought makes me a little stressed out: What if the person I'm lying to has follow-up questions? How long do I have to remember that I've lied about this book? I'm way too old for that nonsense. There are so many books out there; nobody's read everything, and anyone who judges you for not having read something is being a gatekeeper and a jerk.
Book you're an evangelist for:
Ivy Pochoda's Visitation Street and Wonder Valley. Has everybody read Ivy Pochoda already? Everybody should read Ivy Pochoda, because she hits all the notes: depth of setting, depth of character, beautiful writing, compelling stories.
Book you've bought for the cover:
Natasha Pulley's The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, which has a gorgeous cover and which most certainly did not disappoint. I'm very excited for the sequel, The Lost Future of Pepperharrow, which will probably just be inching its way to the top of my TBR pile when this is published. Also, can we discuss her brilliant titles?
Book you hid from your parents:
When I was 13 or so, I took my copy of Stephen King's Different Seasons on vacation with us, and my dad started reading it in the hotel room. I let him read "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption," but when he told me he'd started "Apt Pupil," I snuck it back into my suitcase. He never asked about it and I never brought it up.
Book that changed your life:
First, here's a disclaimer: I have not actually read this book in 20 years, and I've found that the last few decades have really changed my perspective on certain books that I loved as a young person (I'm looking at you, Catch-22). But reading John Steinbeck's East of Eden as a teenager really opened my eyes to what massive, multilayered creatures novels could be, and I've never forgotten it.
Favorite line from a book:
"As I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home." Which, of course, is the first line of S.E. Hinton's The Outsiders, and which I can still recite from memory. That book lived in my head for literal years. Or maybe my head lived in that book? Hard to say. But it's a classic.
Five books you'll never part with:
1) The copy of Cynthia Voigt's Homecoming that I literally read to tatters in my school years will never, ever leave me; my husband tried to get it signed for my last birthday, but told me afterward that there wasn't really enough book left to sign, so he had to buy me a new copy.
2) When I was 10 years old, my family moved from Arizona to Pennsylvania, and I spent the five-day trip reading and re-reading Elizabeth Boyer's The Troll and the Grindstone. I still really like that book, but now the cover is falling off.
3) The copy of The Hero and the Crown that my parents bought me for Christmas the first year we were in Pennsylvania--which is actually not falling apart, so that's good. My dad wrote a note on the endpapers, because my family used to do that. I didn't much enjoy that move, and so many of the books I read during that first year really became totemic for me--Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn is another one.
4) The maybe-almost-Very-Good-quality first edition of East of Eden that I bought in a used bookstore in Susquehanna, Pa., on a high school field trip. It was my first official Nice Book purchase; it cost $20, and was worth every penny. I hope that bookstore is still there. It was wonderful and the man behind the register all but gave me a hug, he was so delighted by my combat-booted self clutching my new treasure.
5) The copy of John D. MacDonald's A Purple Place for Dying that I was reading when I met my husband in a grad school committee meeting. We gave away newer copies as favors at our wedding. I think it's a good book, although it's been kind of overshadowed by the amazing thing that happened to me when I was reading it.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Kate Atkinson's Life After Life. Stayed up until the wee hours with that one, weeping all the while.