Nothing to See Here is Kevin Wilson’s best book yet—a moving and uproarious novel about a woman who finds meaning in her life when she begins caring for two children with remarkable and disturbing abilities. We spoke with author Kevin Wilson about his inspiration, his favorite bookstores, and more.
…At turns hilarious and heartbreaking, this unique novel explores family dynamics, resentment, and retribution, leaving the reader with a new perspective on motherhood and what it means to be loyal to those you love.Laura Simcox, Sunrise Books
Please tell us a little bit about what inspired you to write this book and how this story took shape for you.
The book’s central conceit, children that catch on fire, is an obsession of mine that has persisted since childhood. I remember reading a book about spontaneous human combustion when I was seven, and I was mesmerized by the phenomenon. I don’t know that a week has gone by since then where I don’t think about it, imagine how it works, what it looks like. At first, I was afraid of the possibility, just another way for my anxiety to flare up, but as a teenager, struggling with my mental health and issues with anxiety, bursting into flames became a kind of fantasy that I had, a way for all the anxiety inside of me to simply catch fire and burn out, leaving me fine afterwards. As an adult, I was diagnosed with Tourette syndrome, and that helped me figure out how I worked—gave me some control over myself.
Now I have two kids and I realized how raising them oftentimes felt like handling children who could burst into flames at any moment, the way their emotions shift so quickly and sit right on the surface. The novel became a way for me to explore the danger of caring for anything, of hoping that you might protect them from the world when you feel incapable of protecting even yourself. I knew what to do if I burst into flames, but my own children, with their own anxieties, how would I protect them? So I wrote this novel.
In two sentences or less, what’s something that might surprise Libro.fm listeners about your audiobook?
If you listen to the audiobook, it will absolutely not surprise you, but the narrator for this novel, Marin Ireland, is one of the most amazing narrators that I’ve ever heard. I listen to audiobooks constantly, and I have so many narrators that I admire, but she is just spectacular.
Have you listened to your own audiobook? If so, what struck you about the narration?
I haven’t before, but my oldest son, Griff, asked if we could read the novel, and I thought it would be fun to listen to it together. And I think he loved the book because of Marin’s narration, because what was so amazing was how perfectly she captured the voice of every character, the subtleties of their accents. Not just Lillian and Madison. Griff said that a minor character, Timothy, sounded exactly how he’d imagine him to sound, and he’s right. Marin’s just amazing.
Are you an audiobook listener? If so, what are some of your favorite audiobooks?
I am. I love them. I’m a proud member of Libro.fm (supporting Parnassus Books in Nashville).
I love On Beauty by Zadie Smith (narrated by Peter Francis James), and his narration is amazing. I sometimes, when frustrated with myself, will say, “Oh, Howard” in the same tone as when the main character’s wife Kiki talks to him in exasperation. James also narrated Ann Patchett’s Run, and any Ann Patchett novel is fantastic on audiobook. Julie Buntin’s Marlena is also a fantastic novel, and the narrator, Emma Galvin perfectly captures the voice.
And for two recent books, you have to listen to Steph Cha’s Your House Will Pay, where Greta Jung and Glenn Davis weave together the narrative in such brilliant ways, as well as Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown, which is narrated by Joel de la Fuente (who manages all the different voices so well).
What have independent bookstores and/or booksellers meant to you personally and professionally?
Parnassus Books has always been so kind to me, but they’ve also provided an amazing space for my sons to see how important a bookstore is to a community. What Ann Patchett and Karen Hayes have done for Nashville is so lovely. Maybe my favorite reading ever was at Books are Magic, where I talked with Emma Straub—that whole night was like a dream come true.
I love Square Books and Page 158 Books and Lemuria, and when I lived in NC, I always loved The Regulator Bookshop and Quail Ridge Books. When I lived in Cambridge, MA, I was mesmerized by Harvard Book Store.