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Nat Cassidy Interview

Ana and Reid have an exclusive opportunity to live in a well-established New York City apartment building called the Deptford. It couldn’t have come at a better time, too. Paralyzed following a complicated birth, Ana is struggling with motherhood and her marriage. But their new life in their new home brings with it unsettling events that the couple cannot explain. With comparisons to Rosemary’s Baby and Salem’s Lot, Nat Cassidy’s Nestlings is one of the most highly anticipated books of the Halloween season.

Read the full interview below.

There’s something particularly claustrophobic and unnerving about horror set in the home space, where one is supposed to feel safest. What originally drew you to the subject?

You nailed it: home is supposed to be the place you’re trying to get back to, not the place you need to run away from. When your home is the locus of danger, it makes things all the more terrifying—because now where are you supposed to go? I’m a naturally anxious person anyway, so I love stories that make me feel extra unsettled like that. I think another part of the appeal, too, is that so many of the stories I’m drawn to write can be boiled down to “Be careful what you wish for.” We all have an idealized living space, and we all spend so much time and energy trying to make our home the perfect place to be; this story is about what happens if you actually get that idealized living space and it winds up being something far worse than you could’ve imagined.

I was recently talking to a fellow writer about how fascinating apartment building horror can be. It sets up such a compelling microcosm. How did you go about constructing that framework?

Agreed wholeheartedly! I love apartment building horror, and wish there was more of it (proud to be doing my part)! Honestly, I didn’t have to do too much to construct it. I’ve been living in New York City for essentially half my life now, and it’s pretty much always been in apartment buildings, so that’s just kind of how I think of default living standards. I almost have to remind myself what it’s like to not live in an apartment building.

The book trailer for Nestlings really leans into those incredible old New York city architecture vibes. What was it like crafting the Deptford as an iconic historic building?

It was a ton of fun! I was basically able to combine all the elements that might make up a dream apartment building into one place. The location, the architecture, the courtyard, the lobby, the gates, the amenities, the price—they’re all based on things I’ve wished for over the two decades I’ve lived in New York City. I also read a lot of books on the history of famous buildings, like the Dakota, the Ansonia, to get a sense of how places like that evolve over time.

In the book, Ana is paralyzed and dealing with postpartum challenges. What kind of research did you do to make the character feel authentic?

I’m a big believer in doing as much research as you can, especially if you’re writing about a lived experience that’s outside of your own. I actually based a lot of what happens in Nestlings on things that I’d experienced either first- or second-hand (and I go into those details in the book’s Afterword), but because the second-hand stuff is so intensely physical and intimate, I wanted to make sure to also consult with sensitivity readers, experts, doctors, friends, and more. YouTube proved to be a great resource, as well—there are a lot of great channels specifically curated for people living with paraplegia, as well as for people dealing with postpartum, and I was so grateful to have those to turn to. And I’ll always give special shoutout to the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which answered so many of my questions and gave me so many valuable documents and insights into how to adjust to an injury like Ana’s.

We don’t often see a lot of Jewish horror from big publishers. How does it feel to be putting out a book like this from somewhere like Tor Nightfire?

You’re right, we don’t, and I’m immensely grateful to have Nightfire’s support on this project. Jewish horror is, historically, a pretty neglected subgenre and it’s high time we had more of it. As a Jewish horror writer, I went into writing this book—which deals with some classic horror tropes that are often specifically rooted in Christian symbology—with a very clear goal of bringing some non-Christian perspective to things. I’m eager and excited (and occasionally, yes, a little anxious) to see how this aspect of the book is received. These are very unsettling times to be Jewish, with so many prominent, powerful people feeling quite comfortable expressing antisemitic sentiments (and also treating other marginalized communities with a familiar, pre-genocidal fervor that I think most Jews recognize). But one of the MANY things that makes Nightfire such an incredible imprint is how much it values socially-conscious horror, and how it isn’t afraid of novels that confront contemporary issues like this head on. (See recent masterpieces by Alison Rumfitt and Gretchen Felker-Martin for just an example.)

You are an actor and a writer. Do you find that skills from one of those areas often informs the other? Or are they completely separate in terms of how you approach them?

There’s a ton of overlap, actually. It’s kind of inescapable for me: I’ve been doing both for essentially my entire life (started acting around 6 and started writing shortly thereafter). They’re both artforms that thrive on specificity and on finding a balance between freedom and structure, looseness and coherence. They’re also both exercises in empathy, in putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, in finding ways to communicate emotional states. Plus, to get super specific, my training as an actor was very much rooted in the physical, so I find a lot of what I write about focuses on my characters’ bodies and physical realities. I’m always fascinated by the influence of the physical on the emotional.

Your last book, Mary, takes place in your home state of Arizona. Nestlings is set in New York City, where you live now. Were there any unexpected challenges in writing these novels about two vastly different places, both of which you know so well?

I think the biggest challenge was that I have a lot to say about Arizona and New York but I didn’t want to go too overboard in my descriptions and observations! They are vastly different places, but I love them both and they’re both incredibly important to my life experiences. In a way, each book is a love letter to its setting: Mary’s plot makes much of how mythical, disorienting, deadly, and beautiful the desert can be, and Nestlings relies on the strange isolation-yet-saturation every New Yorker knows well.

I love this cover because from a distance I thought it was a ghost, but then when I looked closer I realized it was something different and far more chilling. Who did the design and how did you feel when you first saw it?

Haha - I love that! And I love this cover so much. Nightfire is SO damn good at cover design and I’ve been so blessed to have two particularly amazing examples of their magic with my name on ‘em. This particular cover features artwork by the brilliant James Zapata (@jameszapata_) and design by the brilliant Esther S. Kim (@esthersarahk). Plus, I can’t not shoutout my editor, Jen Gunnels, who has come up with the initial concept behind each of my covers and knocks it out of the park every time.

Do you have any other work coming out this year you’d like to tell people about?

Nothing much this year—especially since basically half of the year has been taken up by much-needed strikes (WGA and SAG-AFTRA strong!). I’ve just started revisions on the second draft of my NEXT book, though, which is scheduled to hit shelves in early 2025, and which I’m so incredibly excited for people to read. In a way, 2025 feels impossibly far away . . . but so did October 2023, and here we are! I also just finished up a novella which I’m hoping can get released in 2024 so I’ll have something on the calendar for that year. And a few particularly gnarly short stories. Stay tuned for updates!

What’s your favorite recent read? Any genre or category. It doesn’t have to be horror.

Sorry, but that’s an IMPOSSIBLE question! I can’t narrow it down to just one! I could say, like, Whalefall, but then I’d be neglecting Black Sheep, What Kind of Mother, Looking Glass Sound, A Light Most Hateful, Boys in the Valley, Where the Dead Wait, Your Shadow Half Remains, Night’s Edge, Schrader’s Chord, Tell Me I’m Worthless, Brainwyrms, The Dead Take the A-Train, Edenville, and so many, many more! You can’t blame me—it’s not my fault there are so many amazing books out right now.

Thank you so much for talking to Frightful!

Nestlings hits shelves on October 31, 2023.

Nat Cassidy writes horror for the page, stage, and screen. His debut novel Mary: An Awakening Of Terror, was published by Tor Nightfire in July 2022, and was named one of the best horror novels of the year by Esquire, Paste Magazine, Harper's Bazaar, and more. He won the New York Innovative Theatre Award for Outstanding Solo Performance for his one-man show about H. P. Lovecraft and was commissioned by the Kennedy Center to write the libretto for a short opera (about the end of the world, of course). Also an established actor on stage and television (usually playing monsters and villains on shows such as Blue Bloods, Bull, Quantico, FBI, Law & Order: SVU, and many more), Nat lives in New York City with his wife. His follow-up horror novel, Nestlings, is due out from Nightfire in October 2023, and has been named one of the Most Anticipated Horror Novels of the year by Paste Magazine, CrimeReads, and Goodreads.


Author photo courtesy of Kent Meister Photography

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1 comentário

17 de out. de 2023

Another fascinating interview. I love the questions asked and how they invoke such detailed and interesting responses from the authors. It makes me want to go out and purchase the book talked about.

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