‘Nightbitch’ author Rachel Yoder to speak at Prairie Lights

In an interview with The Daily Iowan, Rachel Yoder, author of “Nightbitch,” discussed the inspiration behind her work, gaining popularity as an author, and her upcoming reading and conversation at Prairie Lights.


Daniel McGregor-Huyer

Author Rachel Yoder poses for a portrait in front of Prairie Lights in Downtown Iowa City on July 12, 2022.

Jami Martin-Trainor, Arts Reporter

The mundane mingling with the bizarre — that is the idea author Rachel Yoder aimed for in her debut novel “Nightbitch.”

A graduate from the Iowa Nonfiction Writing Program, Yoder is celebrating the release of the paperback copy of “Nightbitch” at Prairie Lights in Iowa City. The book reading and conversation is on July 13 and starts at 7 p.m.

“Nightbitch” is a story that follows a stay-at-home mother that was once an ambitious artist. Yet, the monotonous life that this mother once lived turns into something a bit more mysterious as she starts to believe she is turning into a dog. 

The title itself comes from an inside joke between Yoder and her husband. In an interview with The Daily Iowan, Yoder said that when her child was around 3 years old, Yoder was getting very little sleep and would become feral if someone disrupted her while she was trying to rest.

The idea of a “Nightbitch” was simply something that she and her husband would laugh about, and Yoder even commented that she thought a book where a mother turned into a dog was a terrible idea. 

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Then, as she continued to think it over, the idea became more interesting to her. Yoder eventually took on the challenge of turning what started as a joke into a fully-fledged novel. 

Yoder said Carmen Maria Machado’s “Her Body and Other Parties” played a role in the inspiration for this idea. She said the imaginative concepts with complex and compelling storylines in “Her Body and Other Parties” paved the way for a similar theme in her own work. 

“That book really gave me permission to lean into something as imaginative and bizarre as a mom turning into a dog,” Yoder said. “It also arose out of my own frustrations and contemplations as a stay-at-home mom.”

Yoder said she does lean into her own personal experiences when writing. While it may not align in its entirety when writing fiction, she said all of her writing has some element of personal connection. 

“I think all of my writing is deeply personal and true to my life, and how true my writing ends up being varies to a great extent. So, there was definitely a very personal impulse and emotion that was the impetus for this book,” Yoder said. “But then, of course, I never thought I was turning into a dog.”

The foundation of the book is built upon a very traditional experience, as Yoder discussed the commonality of being a stay-at-home mother, and even touched on her own experience as a parent. 

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As the story progressed, Yoder said she aimed to rely on the more dramatic and artful elements to heighten the relatable concepts in the novel. She said that in part, the dog transformation was to heighten that expression and make the emotion transcend beyond reality. 

“These are really sort of prosaic daily details that are then set against this supernatural happening that hopefully makes the book feel balanced and make it feel like it’s actually meaningful to real people,” Yoder said. 

After gaining a great deal of public recognition for her work, Yoder said she is looking forward to the future. While she cannot yet release any information about what is in progress, she said that she has been sitting at a table in her sunroom figuring out what comes next. 

“I’m totally thrilled that it’s gotten the attention that it has, but then I’m also really interested in what comes next,” she said. “How do I continue to make books and art that I find interesting, and other people find interesting, too?”

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