KWL – 284 – Navigating Non-Monogamy with Rachel Krantz

We are joined on the podcast by Rachel Krantz who spoke to us about her recent memoir, Open: An Uncensored Memoir of Love, Liberation, and Non-Monogamy. Rachel discussed the process of writing her memoir, why she felt she needed to tell this story, and she also shares tips on how to write about polyamorous relationships in fiction.

We are joined on the podcast by Rachel Krantz who spoke to us about her recent memoir, Open: An Uncensored Memoir of Love, Liberation, and Non-Monogamy. Rachel discussed the process of writing her memoir, why she felt she needed to tell this story, and shares tips on how to write about polyamorous relationships in fiction.

  • Rachel gives us some background into the intense relationship chronicled in the book, and explains why she documented so much of her life during this time
  • She discusses how the #MeToo movement impacted her perception of her relationship, and how her background in journalism and editorial helped shaped the book
  • She also dives into the process of writing the book; why it was both therapeutic and traumatic, and how she created a narrative out of her collection of notes, recordings, and research.
  • Rachel also gives some insight into writing about sex; both fictional and non-fictional, and about how to represent non-monogamous relationships in writing
  • We also chatted about the experience of recording the audiobook version of Open, and what Rachel hopes to explore in her next project

If you are affected by the issues discussed in this episode, here are some resources you can reach out to for help. The Network/ La Red serves queer, polyam, and kink/BDSM populations. You can call their hotline at 617-742-4911. If you’re more comfortable texting, you can reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline by texting LOVEIS

Rachel’s Website, Twitter, and Instagram

Open: An Uncensored Memoir of Love, Liberation, and Non-Monogamy

“Cat Person” and Other Stories

My Dark Vanessa

Books by bell hooks

Girl, Woman, Other

Books by Sally Rooney

Books by Sheila Heti

Insatiable Wives

The Heroine’s Journey

Maybe You Should Talk to Someone

Into Thin Air

Rachel Krantz is one of Bustle’s three founding editors. At Bustle, she served as Senior Features Editor for three years, and Senior News Editor before that. She also worked at The Daily Beast as Homepage Editor, and at the nonprofit Mercy For Animals as Lead Writer.

She’s the recipient of the Peabody Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights International Radio Award, the Investigative Reporters and Editors Radio Award, and the Edward R. Murrow Award for her work as an investigative reporter with YR Media.

She was the host of the Bustle podcast Honestly Though, a show about taboo topics recommended by The Guardian. Her work has been featured on New York Magazine’s The Cut, Vice, LitHub, Vox, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, NPR, The Daily Beast, Newsweek, High Times, Men’s Health, AFAR, USA Today, Buzzfeed Books, Publishers Weekly, Salon, Marie Claire, VegNews Magazine, and many other outlets.

Episode Transcript

Transcript provided by Speechpad

Rachel W.: Hey, writers, you are listening to the “Kobo Writing Life Podcast,” where we bring you insights and inspiration for growing your self-publishing business. We’re your hosts, I’m Rachel, promotion specialist at Kobo Writing Life.

Joni: And I’m Joni, author relations manager at Kobo Writing Life. On today’s episode, we’re talking to Rachel Krantz, who is a journalist and one of the founding editors of Bustle, where she served as senior features editor for three years. She spoke to us today about her memoir, “Open: An Uncensored Memoir of Love, Liberation, and Non-Monogamy.”

Rachel W.: Our conversation with Rachel today was fascinating. We spoke to her a lot about the writing process for “Open.” Her memoir is a reported memoir. So she uses a lot of transcripts, a lot of email threads, a lot of recorded conversation in order to create the narrative that drives the book. So we talked a lot about how she went from all of these sources, as well as her own research into a novel. We talked to her about the editorial process, what it was like recording her audiobook. And she also talked about writing intimate, steamy scenes. I do wanna give our listeners a heads up, we do touch on the topics of abusive relationships, gaslighting, and eating disorders in this conversation. So please listen mindfully and we hope you enjoy. We are joined today by author, Rachel Krantz, whose memoir “Open” was released on January 25th of this year. Hi, Rachel, thank you so much for joining us.

Rachel K.: Hi, thanks for having me.

Rachel W.: Can you start us off just by telling our listeners a little bit about yourself?

Rachel K.: Sure. I’m a journalist who got my start as an investigative reporter with an organization called Wire Media that trains young people in radio journalism mostly. And then I had a lot of success with early investigation that got me a lot of awards, and that was awesome, but I sort of also realized I didn’t want to be that kind of investigative journalist long-term. It was a military investigation and very intense. So I ended up, you know, moving in a more kind of human interest direction but still really loving journalism. And I worked at “The Daily Beast” and then was recruited to start a then-unnamed website that I ended up naming Bustle, and served as a founding editor there and the senior features editor and would also write a little bit.

And then I left Bustle to work for a nonprofit called Mercy for Animals, where I was kind of freelancing on all things related to, kind of, veganism as a health story, environmental story, educating the public through working with mainstream outlets to get factual information out there. And then finally…I guess I’m giving you my resume right now. I don’t know. I left that job to write the book that’s out now, “Open: An Uncensored Memoir of Love, Liberation, and Non-Monogamy.”

Joni: Awesome. Can you tell our listeners a little bit about what “Open” is about and how you came to write it?

Rachel W.: Sure. So “Open” is a reported memoir that tells the story of my first open relationship, which was also my first dom/sub relationship, which was also later on my first relationship characterized by a lot of gaslighting and emotional abuse. So it was a lot of firsts that were quite intense. And it’s the story of this sort of romantic odyssey I went on to try to find out what does liberation, in a romantic context especially, mean to me? And you see me sort of, on the one hand, coming into my queerness, you know, feeling like I’m coming into being interested in all these kinks and feeling more free. And like I can throw out the script of what I’d been sold I have to be like to be an adult. And at the same time, getting increasingly bogged down in this primary relationship with a man who kind of slowly takes over my mind and my belief in myself.

And so as I was living it, the idea to document what I was experiencing was, in large part, a coping mechanism because, Adam, that man who I had the relationship with, he was very much wanting me to be polyamorous. And I wanted to try being polyamorous and to explore all these things I was afraid to try, but I was afraid that I wasn’t gonna go with the pace he seemed to demand. And so when I found out that actually I was interested in a lot of different things, it became this way of being like, okay, I feel like the ground is shifting under me all the time. And the things feel very out of control because I’m the inexperienced one in this dynamic. I’m the submissive in this dynamic. He’s older and calling all the shots. Then my, sort of, journalist instincts kicked in to be like, but I can document this journey.

And then later as it was…but I wasn’t really sure I would actually write a book. It was just very much this reflexive way I’d been living for so many years writing so much first-person journalism at Bustle. And then later as he became more gaslighting and he was telling me often, you know, “No, you’re remembering things wrong. Like, you’re misinterpreting reality. I didn’t say that. Like, that’s just in your mind.” I kept recording in part because I was like, okay, I don’t trust my own sense of reality anymore. So I’m going to have some sort of solid record and that it was all happening during Me Too. And I sort of knew what was happening was not okay, but I was so stuck and confused and had absorbed the message that if I did ever emerge from this and try to write about it, not only did I know I would have no ability to explain it accurately without recording along the way, but I also knew I wouldn’t be believed, right?

Because you had things like the Kavanaugh hearings when the Supreme Court justice being confirmed and it wasn’t enough that the women accusing him of sexual assault had transcripts with their therapists, you know, where the therapist had recorded them talking about it. That wasn’t considered evidence enough. So I was like, “Okay, I’m gonna record my therapy sessions literally so that no one could say I’m making this up.” And so I think that’s part of what’s so surreal and kind of badass, but also sad about the entire process is a commentary on, you know, the culture I’m living in.

Rachel W.: I just wanna kinda touch on, like you said, it was…what was the word you used? Like, everything was recorded that you had when you went into this memoir. How did you decide what of the real-life emails and transcripts and recordings to include in the book and how did you decide what to leave out?

Rachel K.: Yeah, it’s a great question. I definitely had way too much stuff. I had recorded days and days worth of audio because yeah, it was every couple’s therapy session, every personal therapy session arguments, all these interviews, just tons of stuff. But I had marked in a lot of the voice memos or whatever I recorded, like this one was especially important or, you know, I’d kind of tried to let myself have clues along the way. But I spent way too much of my advance getting it transcribed, getting most of it transcribed. And it quickly became clear to me that it was gonna be too much and that I needed to be really selective. And so I started looking at this book called “The Heroine’s Journey” that’s by Maureen Murdock that I really recommend. And it’s a feminine take on the traditional hero’s journey, but kind of through the lens of this idea that women and fem people throughout their lives have these, sort of, emotional journeys and phases that we go on and that it might not look the same as what the sort of very masculine narrative is of, you know, battling literal monsters, but that there’s internal battles that are going on, but it still broke down the steps.

And I wrote down a timeline of roughly the time period of the relationship. And I was amazed to find, like, so many things naturally matched up with that. And so I sort of kept that in mind and then I created another master doc for primary sources where I went back through all my old journals and through, you know, specific text messages to people who I knew were important or emails. And I just tried to really with an editor’s eye pull and put in linear order the most interesting or indicative things and including with like transcripts, okay, here’s like then…then I’d cut down, here’s the most interesting parts of this conversation. And that was sort of like a very rough outline. And from there, I could look and see, would this benefit from bringing it in as a primary source, like a verbatim transcript, email, diary entry? Would this be best adapted into a scene as dialogue, or I’m basically sticking to the transcript, or is this something that needs to just be told narratively, but I can use these primary sources with a journalistic rigor to make sure that what I’m saying is actually, you know, to the best of my ability what happened?

And, of course, memoir is an incredibly subjective form and I’m still the editor. And like I say in the book, there’s no one way to tell a true story, but it really was important to me to sort of view myself as the investigative subject and case study in my own life as worth the same rigor and investigation. Because, yeah, I think often we kind of create this thing of like either serious journalism or it’s, like, personal, right? And I just think that dichotomy is really BS and is used to silence women, especially.

Joni: And to that point, you also did a ton of research, it looks like, for this book, how did you incorporate all of that? And did you find it challenging not to go down endless rabbit holes when you were doing that part of it?

Rachel K.: Definitely. I mean, I found that by reading adjacently other books that had been…you know, like, for example, in the book, there’s exploration of sort of the cuckolding and hotwifing fetish as part of the story that Adam had that, and there’s a whole great book on that called “Insatiable Wives.” And so I was able to read that and sort of get an overview and then look at who is he citing and where do I wanna dig in more? And so I was able to do that for several different things that came up in the book, read a book, then look at who are they citing, crosscheck those studies, or see, do I need to dig in more? Also through doing a lot of the interviews, which many were done over the course of writing the book rather than the time I was living it. That gave me so much information of…they would be like, “You should check out this study, or you should look at that,” or maybe that I found people to interview through the research they were doing.

So I tried to have research be in there never just for research’s sake because I think that’s boring, but to really, you know, have it read very narrative in a hopefully page-turning sexy way, but it’s gonna be contextualized by these studies in the footnotes or these researchers commenting so that you’re getting more than just the plot and the hopefully empathy-building side of reading, but you’re also learning about how my story and other people in the book are indicative of larger social trends.

Rachel W.: Just sticking with the writing and research process, I’m curious how it went from you have all of your personal research, your transcripts, your text message chains, your email chains, you have all of your more in-depth research. How did you bring this together and cut it down into a book? What was that process like for you?

Rachel K.: I mean, it took years, right? It was just like complete a ton…It’s hard to say because, for me, I needed to quit my job to write the book proposal and just have everything on the line. And I was very lucky that I was able to make that risk, you know, that I had a few month’s savings and I was like, okay, I’m just gonna like do this because for me I really felt like I need to be able to devote like 12-hour days to this, I just need to be fully immersed. And because I worked as a writer, I just felt like I wasn’t gonna have enough leftover. So once I was in it and I got the book deal and I had that deadline, the journalist in me thrived just like, “Okay, like, you have a year to do this.” And it ended up being longer because of the pandemic that pub date kept getting pushed.

But I found that once I had that deadline, it was not hard for me to just work really long days and to sort of view it as this big puzzle. You know, there was many different master docs and then I would narrow that one and there’d be a new one, and then sometimes they’d be separate. So I could see all the other…I probably should have used Scribner basically, but I did the whole thing in Google Docs. And then sometimes I would just, you know, begin telling the story and writing narratively and a lot of the process of it feels like a magic blur, but I also know there was a lot of grit and determination and just routine. I would say that I think a lot of the research in terms of deciding what to include, that might have been some of the things that were done last because I think once I saw…there was so much of it, not the gathering of it necessarily or the reading books about topics related and saving my notes on that, but in terms of deciding like how to weave it in or what to weave in. I think that much of that became clear after I told the story narratively of like, okay, this needs to be contextualized here or this needs to be explained here. And kind of what research do I have that would help the reader understand this?

Joni: As you said, it deals with a very, very intense relationship. And I think that with memoir, I think people often have a misconception that it’s therapeutic to write all of this out, and maybe it is, but I also imagine that it can be a little bit traumatic as well to relive this essentially day after day for a year. How did you find that experience?

Rachel K.: Yeah. I found it to be both therapeutic and retraumatizing, and often within the same moment, you know? There was something that I felt I needed to do of sort of retracing the steps of once I had come back to my own mind and trusted my own capabilities that this book was like a way to prove to myself really that I was capable, again, because I had just lost so much faith in my own abilities. So that was very much driving me. And it was very therapeutic to feel like, holy shit, I’m doing it. Like, this is badass. Like yeah, you know, I am capable, I am smart, all these things that were sometimes said I wasn’t. And also to have the therapists who I worked with reviewing some of the verbatim transcripts with Adam and dissecting with me exactly what was going on in this intricate dance of gaslighting and what it is and how certain phrases are indicative of certain things they see with clients. That felt very validating and meaningful because it was about more than just me.

And I felt like, okay, there’s a reason why I kept this record is to hopefully help other people understand this because it’s such a hard thing to explain if I hadn’t had this record and that the therapist were kind of saying, “No, this is, you know, emotional abuse, like what was happening to you,” and kind of validate that was difficult because I think I had been really afraid of admitting that and still, in many ways, had his voice in my head throughout the writing process and still have a lot of resistance to labels. But, yeah, it was also very, I guess, healing to have them be like, “No, this was not all in your head,” because that’s what was being said to me, right? And it wasn’t just a matter of like, I should have just been able to get over myself and control myself.

And then in terms of the retraumatizing, yeah, for the same reason, those same conversations were the hardest ones to revisit. I found for me, although the book mentioned several times where I was physically violated, it was really the gaslighting that was the most difficult to revisit, the psychological stuff and just seeing how I was being talked to and just remembering how lost I felt. And so sometimes I would be writing and all of a sudden I would realize I was having a fight or flight response. Like, I’d be so absorbed, like my heart started beating in my ears and I realized I’m sweating. And so I would try to make that my cue to step away and meditate or be in nature or bakings really. I probably was baking every day while I was writing this book. And that was sort of my place to process in silence and just kind of step back. So yeah, I think having those other practices plus counselor and amazing friends and a really supportive current partner through all those things were really important. It definitely takes a village of support, in my case anyway, to be strong enough to do this.

Rachel W.: Well, first I just wanna say that the passage in the book where it is this therapist’s reacting to the transcript was so interesting and it’s not something…like, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that in a book before. So how did you come up with the idea to put this in the book to include the therapist’s reaction reacting to the gaslighting and the emotional abuse to kind of, I don’t wanna say like “prove that it’s real,” I’m using air quotes for listeners who can’t see, but just for lack of better terms to like explain that this is what’s happening and to validate your experience?

Rachel K.: Yeah. I’m not sure exactly when the idea came to me. I think that there were certain transcripts or conversations that I chose to give to the therapist, not the whole book, not all of them, because I would’ve been insane. Like, that one chapter I had just marked as indicative of really what it felt like. But it wasn’t by any means the worst conversation we ever had or even the most egregious, it was just one where I felt like, at the time, “Oh my God, this just is exactly the trap.” Like, and I knew at the time like I’m so smart and yet, like, I can’t out-argue him, I can’t even explain why this feels so bad. And so I think looking back on it and then learning more as I did afterwards about how gaslighting worked, I just felt like because it’s a term that’s thrown around so much or diminished, but is actually like quite a harmful psychological thing to go through on a prolonged, you know, basis that I felt like, okay, it’s very unusual that I have these audio records. I can let us both speak in our own words here.

I don’t really need to change anything besides editing it down and let the psychologists explain it. And at first, it was gonna be kind of them coming in and out of the conversation. Like how, in some other parts of the book, the commentary is sort of woven in, but it quickly became clear through their comments there was just too much where they were like, “Oh my God, this is exactly the thing that I’m always trying to say.” And they were just telling me like, “Yhis is really valuable. You need to…”Like, because it’s so specific and confusing, and yet there’s patterns to this that people will recognize who have been in this kind of dynamic or maybe are doing it themselves. So yeah, and, of course, the conversation, the chapter is called, “What Evidence Do You Have?” And that was a question he asked me a lot, you know, in that chapter, what evidence do you have that I’m manipulating you? And I would try to answer that question then go on to the next Socratic, you know, question that showed me why I was misguided. And so, yeah, I thought there was just something pretty poetic about being like actually I have days and days and day’s worth of evidence and let’s have the psychologist help me make sense of it.

Rachel W.: Oh, that’s a very effective chapter.

Rachel K.: Thanks.

Rachel W.: And as we’ve been discussing, this is obviously very, very personal experience that you’re writing about. What was the editorial process like when it came to handing over your experience to somebody else and getting feedback?

Rachel K.: It was emotional. I think every time I thought, oh, this time I won’t, you know, feel like the book is being canceled and I’ve messed it up somehow. Or like, if I don’t hear back from my editor for a few weeks, then they just like decided to quit or so. I mean, my editor Donna’s great, but I think that in the beginning, it was hard for me to trust because it was such a dream come true that it was really happening. And so yeah, each time it was just like giving birth and then just waiting, you know? And whenever her notes did come back, I mean, I love notes. I’m I used to be an editor. Like, I really appreciate that editors are the unsung heroes. And I almost always found that I took almost all her notes and that she really helped me just clarify things or explain things further.

A lot of it was knowing where to cut. That was the hardest thing because the first draft of the manuscript I wrote was like 160,000 words. It was just like I had way too much, there was so much. So it was like, you know, her trying to figure out where to cut, which was hard for her too. And yeah, I found that I just always really appreciated the process and feeling less alone. It was more just the periods of silence and where I should have just been resting. And I tried to, but where I’d feel like, oh, I want my baby back, you know? Or like, what’s happening? You know, does she hate it? And then, of course, every time they’d be like, “No, it’s great.” But I just felt like I wanted to be in that dialogue all the time.

Joni: So it’s still very early days but how has the response been from readers so far? Have you heard much from people?

Rachel K.: Yeah. Overall, it’s been very positive. I’ve been very pleasantly surprised. I think I was sort of bracing myself for like a lot of hate coming my way and that…I mean, there are some normal trolling and judgemental interviewers and reviewers and that sort of thing. But by and large, it’s been really, really positive and meaningful. And I just feel like I’ve been surrounded by all this love coming my way. And it sort of feels like this big, like, love force field around me of all my friends and family and strangers, you know, who are telling me what it’s meant to them. And it’s just like, you know, when any hate or judgment comes my way, it’s like, you know, I can just like fight it off with the force field. So it’s been really good. And yeah, just hearing from people who say they feel really seen, or they feel less shame, or that it’s amazing for them to see a depiction of someone living this way who’s not disowned by their family because they’re in the closet.

Or, yeah, just for all kinds of reasons, people who are not non-monogamous, but who have survived a situation that’s the dynamic like the one in the book. Yeah, just people feeling like they appreciate the nuance and that I didn’t try to sugarcoat stuff in an attempt to have acceptance of these lifestyles because it’s a lot of pressure if you feel like people already have stereotypes about non-monogamy or kink or whatever else it is, that you don’t wanna represent it badly. But I think in that attempt, you end up actually being able to build less empathy with society at large because it just rings false. And it’s, like, none of us are perfect and, of course, any time you have two or more people coming together in relationship, like, there’s gonna be any range of outcome just like in monogamous ones, right? You’re gonna have beautiful love stories. You’re gonna have horrible love stories. And same thing with non-monogamous people or people in BDSM dynamics or queer dynamics, whatever it is, we should be allowed to be flawed too.

Joni: I wanted to ask you actually about the representation of this in fiction or in any kind of writing, I guess, like, I’m curious about what kind of mistakes do you think that people make when they’re writing about polyamorous relationships, whether they’re fiction or not?

Rachel K.: Well, I don’t know about mistakes, but I would say if it’s people who have no experience with the lifestyle and they’re writing about it, sometimes I see that more obviously like in TV representations or something, it’s just obvious like that it’s kind of almost the brunt of a joke or it’s just kind of this very salacious outsider view of it. So I think it’s the same thing of that sort of own voices approach of, okay, if you’re gonna write non-monogamous characters and you’ve never been non-monogamous, I wouldn’t have a problem with that, but like definitely have readers who are because you’re probably gonna get a lot wrong otherwise. So I think I see that mistake.

And otherwise, yeah, I think it’s not a mistake so much as an understandable tendency of because there’s so few of these narratives when people are writing about it as memoir or as how-to guide, maybe sometimes a desire to not talk about the uglier sides of things or the way things can go wrong because they don’t wanna confirm negative stereotypes, which I think is very understandable, but also doesn’t do anyone in the community a real service because people like me who are in a situation where they’re like, on the one hand, I kind of love this and like, I think this is gonna be for me moving forward, but also I feel like this is being used as like another means of a man controlling a woman. How can both those things be true at the same time? And why are the books I’m reading all saying that, you know, I should be…or, you know, I often felt like people weren’t struggling as hard with jealousy as I was and it was sort of very idealistic or I just felt like I must be bad at this. And so I felt a further shame and desire to hide, which is, of course, very dangerous when you’re in an unhealthy dynamic. So I think, yeah, it’s important to really own the flaws so that people don’t feel so alone if they’re in a not ideal situation.

Rachel W.: I’m gonna switch gears and kind of take a hard left turn here. You write about some very intimate experiences in your book. And I was just wondering if you have any advice for people who are writing sex scenes, fictional or otherwise.

Rachel K.: Yeah. Thanks. I love that. Well, one would be read books with good sex. You know, like I think I reread all of Sally Rooney like two or three times just because she writes sex so well. And yeah, lots of writers who I think write sex well I look to the mechanics of, what are they doing? Why is this working? What are they withholding that makes it even sexier versus saying? And then for me, it was also like the sex needs to be working on multiple levels. It needs to be an important part of the story, but also be psychological. And that it’s not like you have to choose between, oh, is this about like the emotions or the psychology or the plot, or is it erotic? And to me, like so much of what makes sex erotic is the psychological, you know, and for a lot of people I think, so I really wanted…and also that I’m often in my head way more than I would like to be during sex. And I wanted to depict that as well.

Have you be in my head and see where I’m confused or have these conflicting desires and so many moments where I’m feeling pressure to perform or be a certain way at the same time as I’m feeling, you know, lost in it in a nice way. So to just kind of have, you know, the character dynamics and motivations always be a part of it so that it’s not just sex for sex’s sake, but also to really allow myself to depict, you know, unapologetic pleasure as well. Because I think that sometimes if it’s memoir, like if women write about sex, it’s supposed to be like self-deprecating or it’s supposed to be like funny horror stories. And sure, that’s definitely worth talking about, but that’s really annoying to me because it’s like, otherwise, what, we’re not supposed to talk about what makes sex good or better or times we’ve enjoyed it because then it seems like we’re bragging or something?

And I just thought that was another thing I wanted to push against of you’re gonna see me having some really bad, really problematic, really funny, awkward sex. You’re gonna see me having some really hot sex. And hopefully, you know, getting turned on while you read it at the same time as there might be a footnote contextualizing like what percentage of other people get turned on by this kink, right? So that there’s just gonna be all these things happening on multiple levels and that that should be allowed because that’s the reality of our lived experience is that we are intelligent, psychologically complex beings who often also like being out of our heads as much as possible during sex and having hot experiences. So I just wanted to let all that complexity come through in every sex scene.

Joni: I’m curious, are there any other memoirists that you particularly look up to or who you sort of look at as a model of how to write this kind of journalistic style of memoir?

Rachel K.: Yeah. The reported memoir is definitely a less popular genre than memoir-memoir, but like a traditional immersion journalist. I’ve looked to like, you know, Jon Krakauer, I think, you know, he wrote “Into Thin Air,” and I have a kind of little jab at him in the book, but I actually really like that book, but I say like, why is a man climbing Everest considered award-winning journalism while a woman plumbing her most extreme psychosexual depths is confessional erotica? And so, to me, I was very much like I’m an immersion journalist, I’m living the story and I’m gonna approach it as such, but he mixes real reporting with memoir.

I also liked “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone.” I think that she…I actually didn’t read it till I was, you know, I think like second draft or something more than that, but I was like, oh, yeah, we kind of have some similar style here in terms of voice and how she weaves in reporting or just her own knowledge and context with the story that’s true. I really loved recently the memoir by Susan Burton called “Empty,” which is about her eating disorder and that one’s not reported, but I just really was inspired by how raw she was willing to be and, sort of, complex and flawed and unresolved, you know, like and how she wasn’t claiming to be like all better in order to write this redeeming memoir. She was just telling the truth of the story and where she’s at now. And I really admired that as well.

Rachel W.: Now, you also recorded the audiobook. You were the narrator of the audiobook for “Open.” What was that experience like?

Rachel K.: Oh my gosh, it was so fun. And it was, like, definitely one of the highlights of the whole journey. I was also like, “I need to be an audiobook narrator. This is a really good kink.” Like, I feel like this would be really fun because it was, you know, kind of itching my high school theater scratch and…or scratching my high school theater itch, I should say. And like, you know, still pretty introverted because it was just like me alone in a booth with a producer in my ear. But at the same time, like, so, you know, different than just being in a room with my screen. And it was just really surreal because there were so many things where I’m reading about myself feeling so helpless and confused and being told in meantimes a lot of ways of like what’s your work to write down your feelings, you know? Like, it’s literally part of…So there was kind of element of me being like, whoa, okay, I like took that experience and really ran with it. Like, here I am now reading the recording of that, doing his voice for my audiobook. Like, this is bizarre, but also I feel like, yeah, Rachel from six years ago would’ve been like, “Good job.” So yeah, I was hoping I was doing her proud.

Rachel W.: I was gonna ask if there was a difference in reliving these experiences by writing them down versus speaking the final product out loud? Or by the time the book was done, were you kind of like good feeling like you had accomplished what you set out to do?

Rachel K.: Yeah. I think it was different, it made me realize like I really need to read the final draft fully out loud. And I did, you know, most every part of it at different stages read it out loud, but it takes like five days. You know, like, it’s many hours. I mean, it wouldn’t have taken that long to read it out loud to myself, but I found that often when I was revising, it was hard to maintain the stamina of reading the entire thing out loud to myself. But I think in the future, I really will try to do that. And if I can’t make myself do the whole thing every round because that’s too much, then I will at least with the dialogue because there were like a few things where I was like, oh, okay, like that worked really well on the page, but when I say it out loud, I feel like maybe that could have been a little more how I would say it. But I’m very nitpicky about that. And, of course, so much of the dialogue in the book is people speaking in their own words. So I’m was really lucky that I didn’t have to make up a lot of it. But I think that because of that, I’m still gonna be learning how to write, you know, really authentic, natural-sounding dialogue moving forward and reading aloud is a good way to make sure you’re doing that well.

Joni: Moving forward, do you have any plans for your next writing? Are you interested in writing fiction?

Rachel K.: I am interested in writing fiction. I sort of have something I’ve started, but I’m not totally sure if I’m gonna go forward with it. It’s kind of it’s still that beginning stages. I’m also really interested in doing another work of immersion journalism, similar approach of memoir and research and reporting. The kind of most…I mean, there’s a few ideas around that, but the one I’m most excited about is sort of going on a new odyssey where I attempt to confront my fear of death by any means necessary. And so, yeah, just talking with the foremost researchers and shamans and psychologists and all these people who claim to have reasons why you shouldn’t be afraid or evidence of life after death or ways to make peace with it and kind of see if I confront that very head-on for like a year, let’s say, of just total immersion in traveling, doing whatever means necessary. Like, can I probably not overcome it, but can I make a certain peace with it that I don’t have now? And what would that liberate for the time I have left? So yeah, that’s one that I feel like is very compelling to me as the next idea.

Joni: I think that sounds super cool. And anecdotally just from conversations I’ve had with friends over the last, I don’t know if it’s the pandemic or what, but I feel like there’s absolutely an audience for that because I think a lot of people are feeling like that right now. I’ve had like just this weekend talking to friends about fear of death and just how impossible it feels to overcome. So I would be fascinated to read that.

Rachel K.: Absolutely. Thank you. Yeah, I agree. I feel like a lot of the death books I’ve read have been really good, but it’s also more for people who are maybe older at the end of their lives. I think there’s a lot of people like in our generation who having lived through the pandemic and being like, okay, I don’t wanna wait till I’m older, assuming I’m gonna get older, to deal with coming to a certain peace with that, or how do I live my life to the fullest like considering this constant reminder/gift in many ways we’ve all heard of just really confronting how finite it is? And how do we not just like push that down and forget about it and move back onto the way things were before, but really, like, use it to live life meaningfully. But yeah, it’ll be interesting to see because it’s definitely a harder sell than sex to be like, yeah, people wanna read a death book, but I think they do because I would, of course, make it funny and sexy because I think like to talk about death is to talk about sex also. Like, so, of course, like anything I write I think is gonna have lots of like death and sex in it and control issues and all these things are very related, and psychedelics and stuff like that.

Rachel W.: And for the listeners who are listening to this interview and they wanna go out and pick up Open, what do you hope your readers get from reading your book?

Rachel K.: Well, I hope they feel seen in some way, even if they, you know, are not non-monogamous or are not survivors of an abusive situation. That they just feel like something I’ve admitted, you know, about my sexual psychology or just feelings around food or drugs or there’s so many things that I’m just kind of admitting to that I hope…I know the books that have helped me the most, I read and I’m like, “Oh my God, I can’t believe she just admitted that, and now I feel less alone.” Like, I’m not the only person who has had that thought or that shame. So I hope that there’ll be a lot of that, that people can read it and just feel more permission to be themselves and to love how they want and feel more of a sense of self-compassion in the moments where they fall short of what they feel like they should be.

Joni: And where can that listeners find you online?

Rachel K.: So you can find me on Twitter and Instagram @rachelkrantz. Just my name, my website’s also racheljkrantz.com. Those three ways are the best ways to get in touch. And yeah, I love hearing from people. Feel free to slide into my DMs. Like I said, I like having my love army around me. So as long as you’re being respectful, you know, go for it. And yeah, you can find the book wherever books are sold. And like we said, there’s an audio version as well narrated by me.

Rachel W.: I just personally like to endorse the audiobook. It was a lot of fun to listen to. You kept me company on many morning runs over this course of a week.

Rachel K.: Oh, I’m honored. Thank you.

Joni: And we’d like to finish off by just asking you about some of the books that you enjoy. What kind of books do you typically read? What is your go-to genre?

Rachel K.: My go-to genre is usually contemporary literary fiction written by women. So yeah, that’s usually what I find myself, like, most drawn to when it comes to reading for pleasure. But I also, of course, read a lot of nonfiction, memoir, craft books. I like a lot of different stuff. I do find that since the experience of that the book depicts where I was so heavily associated with the masculine energies and values being superior to the female ones that a real part of the way I came back to myself and appreciating those sides of me was through reading other women and fem people who are writing. And yeah, so I still feel myself more drawn towards those voices almost as a way to counterbalance the fact that in school I was mostly taught men and just what we’re always all hearing.

Let’s see, there are so many, but I really enjoyed “Cat Person,” the story collection. “My Dark Vanessa” by Kate Elizabeth Russell was kind of a novel that had a similarly dark dynamic that was also sexy. And so I learned a lot from that. Bell Hooks is really big for me in terms of the theoretical thinking about the ways love has impacted. “Girl, Woman, Other” by Bernardine Evaristo, that was a really important one for me as I was writing this book because she just writes in her own voice so unapologetically and you kind of gotta adapt to it and it just works. And there’s kind of that blur between poetry and prose that I really appreciated. Like I said, Sally Rooney, I think, writes sex and romance really well. And Sheila Heti is another really big influence for me in terms of that, sort of, auto-fiction voice and exploring the psychological and what it means to record one’s life as an artist. But they are so many, way too many than I could say. Those are just some of them.

Joni: No, that’s great. Those are all really great recommendations. So we will share those links and links to your book and everywhere that you can be found. And thank you so much for doing this. This was so interesting.

Rachel K.: Thank you. I really appreciate having the chance to have this conversation.

Rachel W.: Thank you for listening to the “Kobo Writing Life Podcast.” If you are interested in picking up “Open,” we will include a link in our show notes. And if you or anyone you know are experiencing an emotional abusive relationship and you would like resources, we will have links to those in our show notes as well. If you are enjoying this podcast, please be sure to rate, review, and subscribe. And if you are looking for tips on growing your self-publishing business, you can find us at kobowritinglife.com and on all of the socials. We are @KoboWritingLife on Facebook and Twitter and @kobo.writing.life on Instagram.

Joni: This episode was produced by Joni Di Placido and Rachel Warden, editing is by Kelly Robotham. Our theme music is composed by Tear Jerker, and a big thank you to Rachel Krantz for being our guest today. If you’re ready to start your self-publishing journey, sign up for free at kobo.com/writinglife. Until next time, happy writing.

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