You probably know Krysten Ritter best as Jessica Jones: the ass-kicking Marvel superhero whose superhuman strength is matched only by her razor-sharp wit. But on November 7, the world was introduced to yet another side of the actress behind the powerhouse character with the release of her first novel, Bonfire ($26).
In fact, when she calls us to chat about the psychological thriller, she’s in Long Island, en route to her very first book signing… ever. “It’s so exciting,” she tells Brit + Co. “I’ve been working on Bonfire for so many years!”
She isn’t kidding. It’s been four or five years at least since The Defenders star first began kicking around the idea of having “some sh*t go down” in a small town where “everyone is working to cover it up.”
The setting is a place not unlike the one Ritter herself grew up in, in Schickskinny, Pennsylvania, where hanging out at a bonfire was the thing to do. “I brought a lot of the setting of where I’m from to the book,” she shares.
She brought a lot of herself to the novel’s heroine, Abby Williams, as well. An environmental lawyer living in Chicago, Abby is called back to her rural hometown in Indiana after a 10-year absence to investigate a civil lawsuit against a powerful plastic corporation that’s wreaking havoc on the local environment. But going home will mean facing her own inner demons, including an abusive father and a clique of mean girls who bulled her during her teenage years before their ringleader, Kaycee Mitchell, mysteriously got sick and ran away.
“I thought a lot about my protagonist,” Ritter explains. “I sort of created Abby as a role for myself.”
While she admittedly didn’t encounter the same extent of bullying that her character did growing up — it IS a work of fiction, after all — the author says she can, at the very least, relate to her feelings. “I relate to the feelings — I think we all do — of maybe being an outcast, a loner, [of] falling through the cracks,” she says. ‘Maybe you’re the center of gossip,” she muses. “That can feel like the absolute end of the world.”
She doesn’t cite specifics, but she doesn’t need to: As one of Hollywood’s own, the public at large is certain to have dissected every aspect of the producer’s own life more times than she cares to count. From her appearance and personal life to her professional credits, no stone is left unanalyzed, with a widely held belief that *nothing* is off limits when it comes to those living their lives in the public eye.
That’s not to say she’s out of touch with the real world, either, however. Ritter is as down-to-Earth as they come, and in pursuit of nailing the teenage angst in her work, she’s also tapped into a source that’s relatively close to home: her little sister. “When I would hear her talk about [things or] tell a story, it would take me back,” she says.
It’s that very sort of character development that the Webby Awards Actress of the Year says ties her writing into her acting. “My favorite thing to do is character development,” she shares. “That plays a huge role in a few things I do… There’s so much work that happens before I’m even on set or in front [of a camera].”
The same goes for her other projects, which, to date, have included production (her company, Silent Machine, has a deal with Universal TV), music (Ritter is one half of indie band Ex Vivian, and you should do yourself a favor and download “Ledges” immediately), and modeling (the business she got her start in). And don’t forget all the stellar acting performances she’s been involved in, including her stint as Jane Margolis in Breaking Bad, DeAnn in Tim Burton’s Big Eyes, and Chloe in Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23. In fact, we’re STILL fangirling Robin-style over her portrayal as head B in charge , and we’re not the only ones: “Every day I pray we will do a Don’t Trust the B reunion,” she says.
Up next however? Season two of Jessica Jones, slated for release in 2018. “I think that the fans will be pleased,” she tells us. “We’re peeling back the layers of Jess even more [and] learning why she is the way she is.”
She also somehow makes time for her two great passions: her dog, Mikey, and her creative outlet of knitting. “It’s something I did when I was little,” she shares. “My grammy taught me how to knit purl (or, as Ritter’s grammy would say, knit PEARL, she recalls with a laugh. [She also] taught me how to crochet.”
While she’s learned a new stitch or two from her Aunt Sharon since then, the 35-year-old says she’s largely self-taught. “I just Google it or YouTube,” she says. “My Instagram [is almost exclusively] knitting stuff.
Clearly, it’s paid off: She’ll actually be launching a line of knitting kits with We Are Knitters come November 20! “It’s basically stuff I’ve made and posted,” she shares. “I make a sweater, I give it away, I write down the pattern. Knitting is getting cool,” she muses of her pastime. “I like to participate in making it cool. Something about making something with your hands for a gift [gives you] a real sense of accomplishment.”
Ritter would certainly know.
Are you excited to read Krysten’s first novel? Tell us over @BritandCo.
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(Photos via Bailey Taylor + Crown Archetype)