A perfect Sunday with... J.R. Dawson

Mickey D's, Legends and Lattees and Disney deep dives!

A perfect Sunday with... J.R. Dawson

Every week, a top writer, artist or creator reveals how they’d fill their perfect Sunday, sharing their favourite comfort reads, movies, food… anything that would make their weekend great.

Today, it’s the turn of The First Bright Thing author, J.R. Dawson.

J.R.’s perfect Sunday… brunch

My comfort food is weird. Because every Saturday afternoon as a kid, we'd grab a Happy Meal and go to Gramma's, I'm gonna say some McDonald's, right when they open for lunch late Sunday morning.

Double cheeseburger, no pickles, no onions; a medium french fry and a Diet Coke!

J.R.’s perfect Sunday… read

I just finished Never Ever Getting Back Together by Sophie Gonzales, and it was wonderful. We stayed in all day all last Sunday binging it, passing the book back and forth to read out loud. It's a wonderful queer story about reality television, how young people are exploited on television, and the importance of letting some things go for better things.

I also really really enjoyed Legends and Lattes by Travis Baldree, and I was lucky enough to read an early copy of Bookshops and Bonedust, which is very good, and the ending made me screech in joy.

And finally, (I know, I read a lot), I just finished A Marvellous Light by Freya Marske, and her characters and world and magic system are so amazing, I cannot wait to finish her sequels. So yeah, three queer romances. I guess I have a favorite genre.

J.R.’s perfect Sunday… comic

My gramma grew up during the Depression where every year for her birthday, her uncle would give her the only present anyone could afford: all the Funny Pages from the local paper that he collected the whole year before. He'd bundle them up and bind them and then hand them to her. So growing up, she would read me Garfield, Peanuts, Luann, Zits, all of them. I have to say that even after all this time, I'm gonna go with Peanuts.

But branching out into more contemporary stuff? I am a massive fan of Lore Olympus. I also really love the Avatar the Last Airbender graphic novels. (Can you tell I have a hard time just picking one thing?)

J.R.’s perfect Sunday… movie

Hands down, my comfort movie is and always will be Little Miss Sunshine. I first saw it after my family pooled everything together to get me to college. Sitting in the AMC in Chicago by myself, 500 miles away from home for the first time, completely full of nerves and doubt that I could do this ... Paul Dano's speech hit hard. "If I wanna fly, I'll find a way to fly." And as I've grown older, Uncle Frank hits home, the family becomes a massive reflection of family dynamics in my own life, and it also has a gorgeous soundtrack. Whenever I watch Little Miss Sunshine, I am immediately back in my parents' conversion van chugging along to college, listening to Sufjan Stevens in my headphones.

J.R.’s perfect Sunday… TV binge

All of my TV shows as a kid were on Saturday mornings. Now that I'm an adult and streaming exists, we can decide when to watch things. So I would say that I would love to have a Sunday to just binge the hell out of Centaurworld. I need to do a rewatch and see Season One and Two together, and Sunday with a nice Mickey D's and no other plans? Heck yeah, bring the llama drama! It's so weird and so heartfelt and every single song is a bop.

J.R.’s perfect Sunday… podcast

I am still searching for the perfect Disney Parks Podcast. In the meantime, I really have to expand my podcast listening world. I do listen to a lot of audiobooks, and I love listening to Youtubers in the background like Defunctland and Jenny Nicholson.

Jenny just had a great video about Evermore in Utah that I super recommend for anyone who's into theme parks and fantasy. Defunctland set the bar for investigative Youtube videos with his deep dive into who wrote the Disney Channel theme song.

J.R.’s perfect Sunday… album

My favorite album is Radical Face's Family Tree: The Branches. My book was partially inspired by his music, because I super wanted to write about the farms where my grandparents had grown up, and I wanted to capture that feeling of the middle of America like Radical Face did. There are two other albums in the Family Tree cycle: The Roots and The Leaves. But The Branches is my absolute favorite. Put it on, play it through in order, no stops, and enjoy the historically accurate instruments.

J.R.’s perfect Sunday… treat

I love to take my three dogs for a walk on a beautiful spring day. We live in a city park, and so that means as soon as we step off our property, we are surrounded by fields and winding roads through trees, and further beyond are playgrounds and basketball courts and gazebos and a very nice lake. Walking around our neighborhood with them, I love that. They are very good boys. And they're so good, they're characters in my second book. Don't tell them, they'll get even bigger heads and demand even more treats.

The First Bright Thing by J.R. Dawson is out now from Tor UK.

Welcome to the Circus of the Fantasticals. Ringmaster – Rin, to those who know her best – can jump to different moments in time as easily as her wife, Odette, soars from bar to bar on the trapeze. With the scars of World War I feeling more distant as the years pass, Rin is focusing on the brighter things in life. Like the circus she’s built and the magical misfits and outcasts – known as Sparks – who’ve made it their home. Every night, Rin and the Fantasticals enchant a Big Top packed full with audiences who need to see the impossible.

But while the present is bright, threats come at Rin from the past and the future. The future holds an impending war that the Sparks can see barrelling toward their Big Top and everyone in it. And Rin's past creeps closer every day, a malevolent shadow Rin can’t fully escape. It takes the form of another Spark circus, with tents as black as midnight and a ringmaster who rules over his troupe with a dangerous power. Rin’s circus has something he wants, and he won't stop until it’s his.

If you knew how dark tomorrow would be, what would you do with today?

J. R. Dawson (she/they) is a writer and educator who has published shorter works in places such as F&SF, The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy, and Lightspeed. She lives in Omaha with a loving spouse and three dogs. Having earned a BFA from The Theatre School at DePaul, and an MFA in Creative Writing from Stonecoast, Dawson works as a teaching artist. Her clients include assorted Midwestern non-profits that teach kids the power of performance and storytelling.