Chandler Baker on enjoying The Undoing and what inspired her new novel The Husbands
Chandler Baker is finding her voice — and her voice sounds a lot like success. With 2019's Whisper Network, she pivoted from YA to the world of domestic thrillers: "I leaned into my emotional truth," she says. She's sticking with the genre for new novel The Husbands (out Tuesday), a deadly tale about the mental load women carry. "This book is really about women's burden of the second shift," Baker explains. After releasing Whisper Network, she spoke to readers who shared they felt overwhelmed at home and not their corporate environment. The Husbands plays with the idea of a gendered system around domestic tasks with a role reversal of a Stepford Wives tale.
Part of the exploration involves surprising readers who have expectations of suburbia. While people think women "in the city are much more worldly and less so in the suburbs," the women in the book are doing something radical and subversive, according to Baker. At the center of The Husbands is lawyer and mother Nora Spangler who feels like she's failing a little on all fronts, including her marriage. She's a relatable entry point for readers into the complex world of the thriller tale.
With the new story, Baker wants people who feel overwhelmed trying to balance the different parts of their life to feel seen. The division of labor within a household is personal because it happens behind closed doors, so people can get defensive or feel uneasy about discussing those difficulties. "I want [women] to think about what it might take to fix this burden of the second shift," Baker says, "Many of these issues are systemic."
Now, as we prepare for The Husbands, Baker shares the pop culture that fuels her.
The thriller novels that inspire me
I love work by Gillian Flynn, like Gone Girl — she's just such an interesting writer. And I wouldn't necessarily call them thrillers, but I love all of Liane Moriarty's books; I thought The Husband's Secret had such a great "what would you do" aspect to it that I think The Husbands shares.
The book that makes me laugh every time
I really love Bossypants by Tina Fey.
The snacks I need to write
I have a home office — I'm most in the flow of writing from 10 a.m. to mid-afternoon — and I'm really big on drinking hot water, or tea, and eating wasabi peas.
The TV show I watch when I'm looking for thrills
I loved The Undoing on HBO; that was a great series. It's based on one of Jean Hanff Korelitz's books, and I found myself reading her new [novel], The Plot, which is incredible.
What books you're excited about introducing to your child
I am excited about reading A Wrinkle In Time with her. My daughter's 6, so she's closer to that stage. Really excited about The Witches and Matilda, which are some of my favorites. I'm looking forward to those when she gets a little bit older.
Also, I can't wait to show her some of the YA books that got me into YA writing. There are so many wonderful YA books that I had when I started writing when I was in college and I'm just excited for her to find those books as well.
The music I play to help me write
I do not listen to any music — I am a dead-silent writer!
What I watch when I need a break
I definitely prefer comedy, like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia or The Office. I love that era.
What I learned writing this book
To listen to women around me and make them feel seen. I continued to find the voice I uncovered writing Whisper Network.
One thing I can do with YA that I cannot with adult thrillers
I used to do a lot more kissing scenes in YA than I do in adult thrillers. There's certainly more of a sense of wonder there and the romances for me.
A thing you love about writing YA novels
My favorite thing about writing YA is hearing from the readers because I just think that they're so smart and they always have such interesting perspectives. They reach out a lot and want to talk about the books, which is always a thrill because they'll tell you exactly what they think.
The first thing I did after I finished the book
Probably gave my son a bottle. He was like 3 months at the time.
The current thriller authors that excite me
I love Sally Hepworth. I just read her book The Good Sister, which I thought was fantastic. I'm really excited about this book The Neighbor's Secret by L. Alison Heller, which will be [out] later this year. I really like Lindsay Cameron, who wrote Just One Look.