Ruth Madievsky’s debut novel All-Night Pharmacy has everything I want from a book: a toxic sister relationship, countless nights at a seedy LA nightclub, and an unexpected sapphic romance. After her domineering older sister disappears, the unnamed narrator gets sober and starts working the late shift at an emergency room. There, a mystical woman named Sasha appears, claiming to be her “amulet” and taking her on a spiritual journey and sexual awakening. A poet, Madievsky’s prose is dreamy and atmospheric, rendering the world haunting and a bit magical. All-Night Pharmacy is hypnotic. I inhaled it.
Over text, Ruth and I discussed David Lynch, nightclubs, and giving birth (to ideas, human life, etc.).
Hi Ruth! It’s Anna - is this still a good time to talk?
Hi!! Yes it is
I might not always respond immediately because ~baby~ but yes!
Omg obvi the baby comes first! So I loved All-Night Pharmacy so much! Can you start by telling me about how you conceived of this beautiful novel?
Thank you!! I loved Exalted so the admiration is very mutual.
Aww thank you ❤️
The book was originally a linked short story collection, by which I mean I had a word doc with 48 double spaced pages of stories copy pasted into it.
I had tuned into the voice of this unnamed narrator — funny, bitchy, judgmental and deeply unsure of how to be a person — and decided to let her keep talking
But the collection wasn’t really more than the sum of its parts. And when an agent suggested it would work better as a novel, I was resistant but ultimately ended up agreeing!!
I don’t outline before I write so it’s all organic and vibe-based haha
Fully same. What made you decide not to name the narrator?
She says early on that her sister Debbie is the artist and that she’s canvas. It felt kind of impossible to settle on a name for someone who’s so consumed with how a person should be and is struggling to claim agency for herself
I still don’t know her name tbh
She’s not a Leighton that’s for sure
Def not, maybe a Ruth!
So speaking of conceiving of ideas, names, conception generally… you recently gave birth! (Congrats btw :). What was it like giving birth to a debut novel and human life in such a short period?
Thank you! It’s so chaotic Anna haha
Soul-crushingly meaningful. I cry all the time lmao
And also so hard logistically
I’m pumping while talking to you and bouncing my girl on her bouncer with my left foot
And shoveling food in my mouth
I’ll still be on mat leave though for book tour, which is making that travel possible
I’m bringing my baby lol. pray for us
I can’t imagine and I will be praying lol. You’re a star!
So for a hard pivot, I want to talk nightclubs. In the first part of All-Night Pharmacy, the sisters are always at this dive called Salvation — can you tell me about the inspiration behind this fictional nightclub?
As I’m sure you know, LA has quite the nightlife scene, much of which is unhinged and a little depraved and full of the most colorful weirdos you’ll ever meet
I was into the idea that Salvation is this space almost outside of society for people who feel there’s something incurably wrong with them and don’t want to know what that is.
Of course as the narrator learns it’s not exactly outside of society and society’s forces do make their way in
I love that… what does the narrator think is incurably wrong with her?
She doesn’t know who she is and is afraid to find out
So the novel features a toxic sister relationship. I live for a sister novel. Do you have a favorite sister novel? Did any sister novels inspire this one?
Hmmm I was more inspired by books about intense semi-toxic friendships between young women
Like Black Light by Kimberly King Parsons, Marlena by Julie Buntin
I loveee Marlena and I definitely see how All-Night Pharmacy has Marlena vibes, I’m just now realizing that!
I’ve seen comparisons online between your book and David Lynch and Brett Easton Ellis—did they inspire All-Night Pharmacy at all?
I haven’t actually read BEE before! I’m a Lynch fan but not a connoisseur haha. I loved Blue Velvet, Mulholland drive, and Lost Highway. I love an erotic thriller. I would say Lynch’s moody sexy suspenseful LA vibes were on the All-Night Pharmacy mood board
Hell yes! Speaking of the erotic, I loved the narrator’s spiritual-turned-romantic relationship with Sasha, her “amulet.” Can you talk a little bit about creating Sasha?
Sasha started out as a total cipher and took the most time to flesh out
I was less interested in whether she is a “real” psychic (and whether real psychics exist) than in writing about someone who identifies as psychic (and sees that identity tied to her queerness)
She was so mysterious initially that she almost seemed like she could have been a figment of the narrator’s imagination. But she’s not haha
I could see Sasha being a dream, which would be very Mulholland Drive.
So your first book is a poetry collection. Can you talk about transitioning from publishing poetry to publishing fiction?
I’ve always written poetry and fiction simultaneously and never expected to write a novel. It sounded too hard tbh
It wasn’t until I had a reason to do it (an agent asking for it) that I actually tried
I wrote the novel the same way I write poems though
I obsessed over every word
And approached each blank page with the sense that anything could happen
Turns out you CAN write a whole novel like a poem
But then you have to revise it like a novel hahaha
So you’re still writing poetry? Are you working on a new novel?
Still writing poems! I have a new collection I’m finalizing
I have some ideas for a new novel too but haven’t quite committed yet
It’s hard to let a new voice in my head after being stuck on this one since 2014
God bless. It’s a great voice. Thanks so much Ruth! I love this book so much and can’t wait for it to take the world by storm!
Thank you so much, Anna!!! Such a thrill to be your contemporary
The feeling is mutual!!!