Catherynne M. Valente is joining us today to talk about her novel, Comfort Me With Apples. Here’s the publisher’s description:
Comfort Me With Apples is a terrifying new thriller from bestseller Catherynne M. Valente, for fans of Gone Girl and Spinning Silver
Sophia was made for him. Her perfect husband. She can feel it in her bones. He is perfect. Their home together in Arcadia Gardens is perfect. Everything is perfect.
It’s just that he’s away so much. So often. He works so hard. She misses him. And he misses her. He says he does, so it must be true. He is the perfect husband and everything is perfect.
But sometimes Sophia wonders about things. Strange things. Dark things. The look on her husband’s face when he comes back from a long business trip. The questions he will not answer. The locked basement she is never allowed to enter. And whenever she asks the neighbors, they can’t quite meet her gaze….
But everything is perfect. Isn’t it?
What’s Catherynne’s favorite bit?
CATHERYNNE M. VALENTE
Well. I can’t actually tell you about my actual favorite bit.
That would be spoiling it.
Comfort Me With Apples has the biggest twist I’ve ever committed to paper. It is a Sixth Sense level twist. So we always knew this one would be terribly tricky to market, since I can’t actually tell anyone what it’s about without lighting the whole thing up and ruining the mystery.
But I can tell you about my second favorite bit.
Comfort Me With Apples is a suburban murder mystery. Sophia lives a perfect life with her perfect husband in a perfect gated community with a beast of a Homeowners’ Association at the heart of it. Perfection takes a lot of work to maintain, after all. And Sophia is happy. She is happy. She tells herself so every day.
Even the day she finds a human finger bone in her kitchen and perfection begins to slip away into the dark.
Comfort Me With Apples is also a magic trick. Set up, distraction, complication, reveal. Look at my jeweled and wiggly right hand and pay no attention to what my left hand is doing! My left hand is fine. Don’t even think about it. My favorite bit to write was the reveal—how could it not be? But my second favorite was the set-up.
Unlike most of my work, Apples turned up in my head whole one day a few years back. I knew exactly where it was headed, how I’d get there, and how I’d wreck the neighborhood on the way there before I ever touched one letter on my keyboard.
So writing that first chapter was just so much fun. Building Sophia and her beautiful house, laying the foundations of her daily life, feeling out the tones of her voice and perspective. Placing the neighbors just so. Arranging the breadcrumbs of the mystery knowing that every single detail would be paid out later and so had to matter, no matter how small. Right down to the color of the paint on the walls, the pattern of Sophia’s bathrobe, the style of the drawer-knobs on the vanity dresser–and the texture of another woman’s lock of hair hidden inside that drawer. It all had to do the work of creating the world and the character and building the trick. And all the while convincingly portraying someone who is utterly fulfilled by daily housework, which is probably the most alien psychology I’ve ever created.
Even researching the worst HOA agreements in America and turning them up to 11 was a devilish kind of delight.
Apples is a slim, lean, furious blood-spattered satire, a fiercely angry examination of relationships and community, of how the systems in which we live lie to us to keep us furthering their goals instead of our own. And when you’ve got all of that to pull off while making it entertaining and tense and wry and full of feeling there is not a word to waste.
Writing that first chapter felt like building a gorgeously-decorated box before locking a woman inside and sawing her world in half for all to see.
I loved every minute of it. And I may even have cackled once or twice in anticipation of what I meant to do to my readers at the end of the show.
Catherynne M. Valente is the New York Times bestselling author of forty works of speculative fiction and poetry, including Space Opera, The Refrigerator Monologues, Palimpsest, the Orphan’s Tales series, Deathless, Radiance, and the crowdfunded phenomenon The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Own Making (and the four books that followed it). She is the winner of the Andre Norton, Tiptree, Sturgeon, Prix Imaginales, Eugie Foster Memorial, Mythopoeic, Rhysling, Lambda, Locus, Romantic Times’ Critics Choice and Hugo awards. She has been a finalist for the Nebula and World Fantasy Awards. She lives on an island off the coast of Maine with a small but growing menagerie of beasts, some of which are human.