Monday, July 18, 2022

Natalka Burian Interview - The Night Shift

Photo Credit: Sylvie Rosokoff

Natalka Burian is the co-owner of two bars, Elsa and Ramona, as well as the co-founder of The Freya Project, a non-profit reading series that supports community-based activism and annually awards five unrestricted grants to further the work of women and non-binary writers. She received an MA from Columbia University where she studied Eastern European literature. Natalka is the author of the young adult novel, Welcome to the Slipstream, the cocktail cookbook, A Woman’s Drink, and two novels, Daughters of the Wild and The Night Shift. Natalka, her bars and books have been featured in The New Yorker, Elle, Vogue, The New York Times, and elsewhere. She grew up on a farm, but now lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two daughters.


Greatest thing you learned in school.
I know this isn’t very original, but English was my favorite subject. I was so grateful and excited to read every single assigned book, essay and poem. My teachers were all wonderful and instilled in my young brain an appreciation for all genres.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Seeing my books on shelves and in social media posts out in the world is always a thrill.

Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
I honestly didn’t think I could be a writer until I was in my thirties. I just didn’t have the confidence.

What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
Read a lot and widely, and don’t be too hard on yourself—don’t make the perfect the enemy of the good.

What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I am the co-organizer of a fundraising reading series called the Freya Project. We’ve held events all over the country, in NYC, LA, Chicago, San Francisco, Washington DC and hopefully elsewhere!

In your newest book; THE NIGHT SHIFT, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it.
The Night Shift takes place in early 2000s NYC. It follows the story of Jean, a young bartender, through the backrooms of the city late at night where she discovers short cuts, secret passages through space and time. There is a mystery at the heart of the book (the origin of the short cuts) but the Night Shift is also about found family and healing wounds from the past.

  • 1. I wrote this book in the lockdown days of the pandemic while I was basically in the same room as my entire family.
  • 2. The character of Alan Grudge is based on one of my favorite New Yorkers of all time, Joey Ramone.
  • 3. I drew from firsthand experience as a bartender in NYC in the early 2000’s.
  • 4. It’s a dream of mine to lead a Night Shift walking tour through the city.
  • 5. The NYC food and drink staples that Jean subsists on were also 90% of my diet at the time—bagels with cream cheese, egg and cheese sandwiches, and pizza. I sure wish I had taken a multivitamin back then!
  • 6. Jean is named after my husband’s great aunt (which is also the middle name of my youngest daughter.)
  • 7. Jean’s experience working in a therapist’s office was based on my own experience doing the same job.
  • 8. The music venue down the street from Jean’s bar is based on the iconic Irving Plaza.
  • 9. I consulted Lizzy Goodman’s comprehensive Meet Me In the Bathroom to confirm and refresh my early 2000s NYC memories.
  • 10. The idea for this book came from a conversation my husband and I were having about a song.
What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I hope that readers will connect with Jean but also feel transported into the bright lights of late night NYC.

What part of Jean did you enjoy writing the most?
I loved exploring Jean’s vulnerability – I really felt like we were on that journey together.

What was your unforgettable moment while writing THE NIGHT SHIFT?
I listened to so much great music while writing this book! All of those playlists and songs felt like miniature time machines themselves.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
This is such a fun question. I think I would introduce Alan Grudge from the Night Shift to Cello from Daughters of the Wild. Alan’s faded Rockstar glamour and kind heart would be such a north star for Cello who is a little bit lost.

What is the craziest thing you have ever done?
I’ve done too many crazy things to pick just one!

If you could be born into history as any famous person, who would it be and why?
Joe Strummer, because he was talented, smart, had a brilliant moral compass, and was always in the right place at the right time.

What were you doing at midnight last night?

Only by traveling into the past can Jean discover a happy future…

Hidden behind back doors of bars and restaurants and theaters and shops all over New York City are shortcuts—secret passageways that allow you to jump through time and space to emerge in different parts of the city. No one knows where they came from, but there are rules—you can only travel through them one way and only at night.

When Jean’s work friend Iggy introduces her to the shortcuts, it’s to help shorten her commute between her night shifts bartending and her work at an upscale bakery. Jean is intrigued but has a hard time shaking the side effects—the shortcuts make her more talkative, more open to discussing her past and recalling memories she’s tried hard to forget.

When Iggy goes missing, Jean believes it’s related to the shortcuts and his growing obsession with them. But as she starts digging into their origins, she comes to find a strange connection between herself and the shortcuts. A shimmering, propulsive novel set in New York City during the early aughts and across time, The Night Shift shows that by confronting the past can we reshape our future.

You can purchase The Night Shift at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you NATALKA BURIAN for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of The Night Shift by Natalka Burian.