Question: Let’s start with a little icebreaker. You can have dinner or a drink with any fictional character, who do you choose and what are you eating or drinking with them?
Ali Seay: This is an impossible question because there are so many possible answers. I guess I’ll have to go with the first person who sprang to mind—Jud Crandall from Pet Sematary. He was always one of my favorite characters from the time when I first discovered horror. I can picture sitting on the porch drinking Arnold Palmers and talking with Jud who reminded me very much of my grandfather. Much like my grandfather, I bet he could spin a tale that has very little to do with anything and yet is still utterly entertaining.
Tiffany Morris: The three witches from Macbeth! Or any one of them, I suppose, if we’re being strict about interpretation. We could do divination out in Scottish forests and drink strange potions and punish people for their hubris via semi-cryptic prophecy.
Bindia Persaud: It might be fun to spend some time with Merricat Blackwood from We Have Always Lived in the Castle. It’s probably wise to refrain from eating or drinking anything when she’s around, though.
Nu Yang: I’m having dinner with my favorite Avenger—Steve Rogers! I would probably introduce him to sushi (my guess is he has never tried it), and then a round of karaoke and sake afterward.
Chelsea Pumpkins: Of course I get stumped by the ice breaker—Tough one! I’m much more apt to become infatuated with subjects of non-fiction, and most of my favorite books feature miserable or unscrupulous characters. Teenage me would never forgive me for not choosing a romantic dinner with Legolas, but I’m going to go out with Joe Goldberg from Caroline Kepnes’ You series.
We’ll get some apps and beers at a bar that’s not too fancy, but not too hipster (Joe would hate that). I’ll probably order a fresh pale ale, and I think Joe will go for a simple, clean lager. Given his history, I’ll need to take some precautions. First off, he’ll need to be crystal clear that this is not a date. Then I’ll carry a burner phone and lock my real phone and credit cards in a safe; I’ll wear a couple different tracking devices; and a friend will post up in a hidden corner of the bar to keep tabs on me.
Once my safety is secured, I look forward to getting drunk and talking shit with Joe. I think we’d have compatible senses of humor. We’ll chat about books and movies, and judge the local bar patrons.
Sonora Taylor: I’d love to share a bourbon or a fine brandy with Hobbes from “Calvin & Hobbes.” It’d be fun to talk philosophy and current affairs with him.
Pippa Bailey: I would have dinner with Death. I’d suggest pizza, but she’d prefer afternoon tea. So we’d get dressed up and go to a disgustingly posh restaurant, all bells and whistles, switching out the Earl Grey tea for flutes of champagne. We’d scoff the cakes and sandwiches and drink far too much bubbly, cackling over the state of the world. Death and I would stumble, a little worse for wear out of the restaurant, accompanied by disgusted looks from the upper echelon of class, or as we’d call them under our breath, wankers, and into some dive bar, collapse into a couple of comfy chairs and guzzle tankards of pain, sorrow, and despair until the world melted around us and nothing remained but the warmth in our bellies, the saccharine smell of sweat on old leather seats, and the sea of time stretched out before us, waves of darkness soon to follow.
Christine Makepeace: I would love to have tea with Eleanor from The Haunting of Hill House.
Christa Wojciechowski: I think every writer most wants to meet their own characters in real life, but I will not bore you with that. If I could choose another author’s character, Anne Rice’s Pandora jumps to mind. I revisited that book in 2020 while in lockdown and enjoyed it immensely. Pandora lived through fascinating times, from Ancient Rome to modern day, and used her strength, intelligence, and resourcefulness to navigate a man’s world like a boss. I’d love to ask her about all she’d seen and done, make her my BFF, and then convince to her to give me eternal life. I’m still so sad Anne Rice is no longer with us.
EV Knight: I gave this a lot of thought. And a theme came out pretty quickly. Norman Bates? Hannibal Lecter? Patrick Bateman? Obviously, I want to chat with a killer, I want to get inside their head. But who?
Jeff Lindsay’s Dexter Morgan. That’s my answer. He’s safe–at least for me, I don’t meet his criteria but he is an emotionless psychopath/sociopath. He wants to tell someone; he wants someone to try to understand him. I want to get inside the head of a killer. We’re perfect for each other. Obviously, we’d have Cuban sandwiches and maybe a blood orange mimosa.
Geneve Flynn: The Ghostbusters is one of my all-time favorite movies, so I’d have to say Peter Venkman, Ray Stantz, Egon Spengler, and Winston Zeddemore. I love to read and write horror, but when I hang out with folks, I also like to laugh, and those guys would be so much fun. Can you imagine the stories that would go around the table?
I’d order in Chinese takeaway in those white cardboard boxes. We only have clear plastic containers in Australia, and eating out of a white cardboard box with little fold-out flaps seems like such a New York thing to do. And we’d drink boba tea, just because little black goo balls seems like something Egon would appreciate as a collector of “spores, molds, and fungus.”
G.G. Silverman: I would invite Sethe from Toni Morrison’s Beloved to put her feet up and rest awhile. I’d make biscuits and we’d slather them with butter, and we’d sip warm, sweet milk.
KC Grifant: If we’re going with a relatively modern literary fictional character, I’d have to pick Sherlock Holmes. Ever since I was a kid I was fascinated with this iconic character – I even visited his “house” at 221B Baker Street on a trip to London many years ago. It’d be awesome to have the chance to pick his brain as an adult, maybe learn a few observation tips over dinner, and hopefully hear him play the violin. Plus, the selfie would be epic.
If we’re going with any fictional character, I’d select Athena because Greek mythology had a hugely formative influence on me as a second-generation Greek American. I’d ask her if she has any advice for our current global crises and who in the pantheon is her ride-or-die.
Frances Lu-Pai Ippolito: Great question. I’ve always been fascinated with Lady Meng in Chinese Mythology. She’s an immortal who waits for the souls of the dead to cross over the Bridge of Forgetfulness. On the bridge, she brews the Tea of Oblivion. Once you drink it, you forget the joys and pain of your mortal life and re-enter the cycle for reincarnation. So, she’s basically a barista for the deceased.
I probably wouldn’t drink anything she made for me, but it’d be interesting to see what other drinks she mixes up for dinner.
Jeanne E. Bush: What a fun question! Do we have to choose only one? I always enjoy strong female characters in the stories I read. In my younger days I might have said Elizabeth Bennett from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice because Elizabeth was so smart, bold, and clever. Today I’d likely choose someone with plenty of adventures who had great tales to tell. One that comes to mind is Annie Hebley from The Deep by Alma Katsu. She worked on the Titanic and interacted with so many famous people. It seems as if she’d have very interesting stories to share. Since Annie was born in Ireland, maybe we’d enjoy some delicious Irish stew with a good single malt whiskey.
Jess Koch: It would have to be the main character from Fleabag and I have to assume we would be drinking canned gin & tonics.
Kathryn E. McGee: Annie Wilkes from Misery, so she can motivate me to quickly finish my next novel. I’m sure she’d want me to drink coffee to keep up the productivity, but I think I’d ask for a cocktail or glass of Dom to take the edge off any anxiety and keep the creative juices flowing.
Jo Kaplan: Hannibal Lecter. I’ll be eating whatever gourmet feast he cooks up… perhaps with a nice chianti.
K.P. Kulski: Is it too easy for me to say Tyrion Lannister? I would greatly enjoy an evening of alcohol and conversation with my dear complex friend who has already kept me company many an hour. I’m sure there would be wine… lots of wine in a palace somewhere. We will probably have a meal made with rare and expensive ingredients.
Next, Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel. Absolutely going to be in a bar, probably while traveling world. We will drink excellent beer, dance to music, and laugh our asses off. Food will be from a late-night restaurant that specializes in quick meals for folks drinking until the wee hours.
J. B. Lamping: I’d love to drink champagne with Jay Gatsby. He’s such a beautifully tragic character. He made so many bad choices but somehow remains so hopeful.
Lauren C. Teffeau: Philip Marlowe. I’ve always had a thing for film noir and the hardboiled detective fiction that inspired it, so it would be a hoot to sit down with him over a bottle of bourbon and talk about how he sizes up characters and criminals as well as the nuances to the moral code he follows in his work as a private eye. Since writers and detectives often explore the human condition from opposite directions, we can learn a lot from each other—assuming he’d have the patience to shoot the shit with a wisecracking dame like myself.
Lillah Lawson: My first thought was Pennywise, but I suppose I’d be on the menu if I did that!
I’m going to take it back super old-school and have dinner with Roderick Usher and the narrator from Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher. Usher is your typical sort of brooding, Byronic hero, with a dash of Munchausen-by-proxy – he’d be insufferable, but also incredibly entertaining. I suspect he’d have really, really good wine. And maybe I could figure out what one earth was going on with that house!
Red Lagoe: Stephen King’s Carrie. Maybe we’d go grab some pizza and soda after school, or some forbidden dish her mother wouldn’t allow. Sometimes, all it takes is one friend, one positive person, one point of light in a person’s life to keep them from breaking. Maybe Carrie wouldn’t have snapped if there was just one person to go grab a bite and vent with after school. Plus, if I can’t have telekinetic powers, then I may as well have a friend who does.