Please welcom Kyra Wilder to The Qwillery. Little Bandaged Days, Kyra's debut novel, is published today by Harry N. Abrams.
Please join The Qwillery in wishing Kyra a Happy Book Birthday!
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What is the first fiction piece you remember writing?
Kyra: I really went for the drama when I was a kid. I remember writing very involved stories about historical sets of brothers, and I was all about long, tragic scenes involving betrayals and complicated disguises. I also tried my hand at robots. My family still teases me about a story I wrote where robots become obsessed with the “smell of minds.”
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Kyra: Definitely a hybrid. I’ll have a scene or two in my head when I start writing and a general idea of how I want things to arc, but after that I have to see how it looks on the page.
Every project is different though. I started writing Little Bandaged Days with almost no plan and that worked out alright in the end.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Kyra: Finding the time! Making space for writing outside of other commitments is a real struggle for me. I suppose the silver lining is that this book is proof that it’s possible to write even in the midst of the hectic sort of overstuffed lives most of us have.
When I come across writers talking about gazing out their windows from quiet desks and thinking about sentences …. sometimes I laugh, sometimes I cry. It’s just not where I’m at right now.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
Kyra: Everything - I think the most amazing thing about writing is that anything can be useful. The books you read, but also the paintings you can’t stop thinking about, the food you cook, that weird thing you heard someone say one time crossing the street, it’s all out there, available for you to pour into your work.
As far as authors go, Elena Ferrante’s a huge inspiration for me, as well as Shirley Jackson. I love what they do with domestic spaces, those are two writers who understand the intense relationship between people and their interior environments. I love it.
TQ: Describe Little Bandaged Days using only 5 words.
Kyra: She is trying her best.
TQ: Tell us something about Little Bandaged Days that is not found in the book description.
Kyra: Erika’s own mother is really important to her.
TQ: What inspired you to write Little Bandaged Days? What appealed to you about writing a psychological thriller?
Kyra: I like reading psychological thrillers myself. My main coping mechanism during the first lockdown was running alone through the woods listening to Blindness. As for writing, I’m drawn to atmospheric tension, so a psychological thriller seemed like a good fit.
As far as inspiration goes, I think our surprise move to Geneva had a lot to do with it. Within a matter of months, I went from living in a small town in New Jersey, taking care of my kids and working at the local bakery, to living within screaming distance of the villa Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in. Not an opportunity I wanted to waste! It didn’t hurt that our first summer in Geneva was unusually wet and rainy, and we were often stuck inside, just like Mary Shelley was when she stayed at Villa Diodati and brought her monster to life.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Little Bandaged Days?
Kyra: The book really came out of the research I’d done for my master’s thesis, which looked at the psycho-social implications of the disturbing mother figures found in Victorian sensation novels. I focused on two irresistible, bestselling Victorian thrillers, East Lynne and Lady Audley’s Secret. I also dug into a lot of really amazing feminist literary theory while I was writing it. I’d like to think some of those ideas worked their way into my book. I love the research part of a project, it’s when everything is fascinating and possible.
TQ: Please tell us about the cover for Little Bandaged Days.
Kyra: I love the cover so much! Seeing it for the first time was one of the biggest thrills of the whole publishing process, such a dream.
The jacket design is by Ami Smithson and the jacket photograph is by Ralf Brocke. It’s perfect because it does relate to certain things that happen toward the end, but it also conveys Erika’s mood. She’s a match burned down to the last bit of wood. She’s alone in her little matchbox, and she’s got nowhere else to go.
TQ: In Little Bandaged Days who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Kyra: There might only be one character in this book, depending on how you look at it. But that being said, I found Erika to be disturbingly easy to write. Her voice came very naturally to me, so naturally that it made me quite uneasy at times. In fact, I had a hard time writing anything that didn’t sound like her for a while.
M was a character I wanted to be careful with. I have a soft spot for him actually. That doesn’t mean I liked him all the time, but I did feel for him. I didn’t want to be unfair to him, I suppose.
TQ: Does Little Bandaged Days touch on any social issues?
Kyra: I hope so! There’s not nearly enough help for people in Erika’s position. She’s struggling, alone, and she’s lost her identity, yet she has these two young people who depend on her for round-the-clock care. She’s falling apart and she has to turn her own disintegration into a game, because she’s got to entertain her kids along the way.
I think in this pandemic we’ve seen a lot more people fall into situations resembling hers. Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of isolation, a lot of people not getting help. The New York Times called the pandemic “a mental health crisis for parents,” which I think is absolutely true, but isolation and lack of adequate help were problems that, for many caregivers, were already there.
TQ: Which question about Little Bandaged Days do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Kyra: What is strozzapreti?
Erika gives her daughter a bowl of warm strozzapreti for dinner one night while she’s waiting for M to come home.
Strozzapreti (“priest-strangler” in Italian) is a hand-rolled pasta from Emilia-Romagna. Its name might come from the way frustrated women used to curse the priests when they had to fit pasta-making for the clergy into their too busy lives, or it might come from the way the dough is curled, ‘choked’, to make the shape.
Erika’s always worried about E choking on her food, and while she has the time to cook E dinner, she only has that time because she takes none for herself. At any rate, I had a lot of fun writing about food in the book.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Little Bandaged Days.
Kyra: I think this is a feeling that a lot of people who are taking care of young children can relate to:
We slept all the time, E and me and B, and sometimes we didn’t sleep at all. Time was inconvenient, unpredictable. Sometimes it rushed me along and sometimes the minutes wrapped themselves around me, pressing, expecting to be entertained like children, needing something, needing to be fed, as if the hours were animals opening their mouths, the endless parade of minutes lodging like tiny bones in a thousand soft throats.
TQ: What's next?
Kyra: I’m working on a modern-day take on the Hesperides. I’m really enjoying digging into the research and the drafts at the moment. Obviously, we never know if the thing that we’re working on will end up on a shelf, but for the moment that’s what I’m playing with.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Kyra: Thanks for having me!
Little Banadaged Days
Harry N. Abrams, April 20, 2021
Hardcover and eBook, 256 pages
An emotionally charged, tautly composed debut thriller about motherhood, madness, and the myth of the perfect life
A mother moves to Geneva with her husband and their two young children. In their beautiful new rented apartment, surrounded by their rented furniture, and several Swiss instructions to maintain quiet, she finds herself totally isolated. Her husband’s job means he is almost never present, and her entire world is caring for her children—making sure they are happy and fed and comfortable, and that they can be seen as the happy, well-fed, comfortable family they should be. Everything is perfect.
But, of course, it’s not. The isolation, the sleeplessness, the demands of two people under two are getting to Erika. She has never been so alone, and once the children are asleep, there are just too many hours to fill until morning . . .
Kyra Wilder’s Little Bandaged Days is a beautifully written, painfully claustrophobic story about a woman’s descent into madness. Unpredictable, frighteningly compelling, and brutally honest, it grapples with the harsh conditions of motherhood and this mother’s own identity, and as the novel continues, we begin to wonder just what exactly Erika might be driven to do.
Kyra Wilder is a debut novelist who received her BA and MA in English literature at San Francisco State University. She then worked under Michael Tusk at the Michelin-starred Quince, making pasta. She continued working in restaurants in New York before moving with her family to Switzerland where she is now based.