The B&N Podcast: Kristen Roupenian on Laughing in the Dark

Every author has a story beyond the one that they put down on paper. The Barnes & Noble Podcast goes between the lines with today’s most interesting writers, exploring what inspires them, what confounds them, and what they were thinking when they wrote the books we’re talking about.

In this episode we’re joined by the writer Kristen Roupenian for a conversation about her haunting, scary, funny, and incisive collection of short stories You Know You Want This. In a dozen potent tales, Roupenian conjures both visceral horror and the laughter of revelation in works which often walk the line between wickedly dark fantasy– and clear-eyed examinations of sexuality, gender, power and obsession in a world that is unmistakably and often uncomfortably our own. The result is an absolutely thrilling debut and the arrival of a dynamic new voice in fiction. Many readers were first introduced to Roupenian through her story “Cat Person” which appeared in the New Yorker in  2017 and immediately became a viral sensation. That story now takes its place among the twelve in this collection, where it feels entirely and freshly at home. The author spoke to Bill Tipper by phone about her inspirations, the connection between humor and horror, and what it was like to have her fiction light up the Internet.


A compulsively readable collection of short stories that explore the complex—and often darkly funny—connections between gender, sex, and power across genres.

You Know You Want This brilliantly explores the ways in which women are horrifying as much as it captures the horrors that are done to them. Among its pages are a couple who becomes obsessed with their friend hearing them have sex, then seeing them have sex…until they can’t have sex without him; a ten-year-old whose birthday party takes a sinister turn when she wishes for “something mean”; a woman who finds a book of spells half hidden at the library and summons her heart’s desire: a nameless, naked man; and a self-proclaimed “biter” who dreams of sneaking up behind and sinking her teeth into a green-eyed, long-haired, pink-cheeked coworker.

Spanning a range of genres and topics—from the mundane to the murderous and supernatural—these are stories about sex and punishment, guilt and anger, the pleasure and terror of inflicting and experiencing pain. These stories fascinate and repel, revolt and arouse, scare and delight in equal measure. And, as a collection, they point a finger at you, daring you to feel uncomfortable—or worse, understood—as if to say, “You want this, right? You know you want this.”

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Author photo of Kristen Roupenian (c) Elisa Roupenian Toha.