Author Spotlight: Elizabeth Kostova

I’m going to put a disclaimer here: I have nothing to do with her publishing company, or her marketing strategy, or any of that.  The content featured here on my blog is my opinion alone, with no prompting or compensation for my time.  Although, if you’d like to pay me, there’s a contact button on my home menu.

This will be the case with all of my author and book reviews – I’m not getting paid to give them publicity, and please don’t sue me for taking my own photos of the book covers.

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Alright, now for what you’ve come here for.  For my first real blog post, I thought it might be neat to introduce you guys to … well, something of my personality, something that will give you the slightest idea of who this weird Jen person is that you’re going to be dealing with.  You don’t always get deep into the mind of Jen when you work with her, you see public Jen, and inside Jen is, well, a bit more.

Jen is a person who loves books.  She loves well-written books, and any books that can take her on an adventure and let her leave behind her life for even a brief moment by stepping into someone else’s shoes.  Jen is also a writer, but we can get to that at a later date (or you can just check out the “about” link above).

That being said, Jen can, and I am very well aware of this, be long-winded, opinionated, and sometimes a little too picky about what she reads.  It has to entertain the Jen, in other words.  The Jen abides.

Enough third-person crap.

I am in a job position (working at a bookstore) that affords me the luxury of occasionally knowing privileged information and receiving advanced reader versions of my favorite author’s newest books.  Let me explain how this works for a second – I don’t get to choose what publishers send us.  Publishers send book stores advanced, often unedited proofs of novels which are then available for employees to take or borrow (yeah right, who gives them back?) as they please.  This is all in the hopes that the book sellers will read them and recommend this new and shiny thing to their customers.  Every once in a while, it happens to be an advanced proof by an author I know and love.

Case in point, Elizabeth Kostova.

You may have heard of her.  She wrote The Historian, a thrilling adventure that goes across generations throughout Europe, making the reader search for answers within her elegant prose.  It was kind of a BIG DEAL on a little publication called the New York Times back in 2009/2010.

Alright, here’s the confessional part.  It’s twofold.

Part the first: I have not actually finished reading The Historian.  I know, I know, bad Jen. But hear me out.  It’s so freaking gorgeous I don’t want it to end.  Once a week I pick up the book and go through a chapter.  Then I lay awake at night imagining endings and possibilities, because it just gives my crazy busy mind so much to go off of.

That being said, even not having actually finished the book, I already consider Kostova one of my favorite authors….probably ever.  Like up there with H.G. Wells and Robert Louis Stevenson.  Which, if any of you have ever heard me wax on about Wells and Stevenson, you’ll know how high of a compliment that is to my mind.  I mean Wells is kind of the father of sci-fi, my favorite thing ever, and Stevenson, well…bloody pirate.  I mean I bought myself a leather-bound edition of Stevenson stories for Valentine’s day (it’s so pretty!).

Alright, confession part deux.  The one I really am not sure how you all are going to take, because it’s a little weird, but hey…if you’re not here to get a little weird, then why the hell are you reading MY blog?  A few of you already know and probably most of you don’t, but there are certain things, certain story archetypes that I sort of … latch onto.  I’m always up for a good pirate story, for example.  But perhaps one of my deepest, darkest secrets is that I’m ….well, to be brutally honest with myself, I’m absolutely obsessed with vampires.  There, I said it.  I research Vlad the Impaler, I pick up history magazines on Romania in the 1400’s, I think I actually have had, at the most, four copies of Dracula in my house at one time.  I’m down to one copy right now, but I keep eyeing the leather-bound that matches my Stevenson, I’m not even going to lie about that.  And it’s hideous; it’s bright freaking candy-apple red with gold lettering and horrible to look at, but it’s Dracula.

Maybe it was my obsession with Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a kid, maybe that’s what started it.  No…. I read Dracula before that became an obsession, even before that was on television.  Crap, it was before that.  I can’t even blame the TV show.  I can only blame the library…

I know what you’re asking yourself right now – Jen, what the f@%k does this have to do with Kostova?

The Historian is a book that I found while going out of my way to seek out books about vampires.  There you have it.  It’s not just Dracula.  Alright, so in The Historian, Kostova takes us across at least three generations (that’s all I’m up to so far) of people who this mysterious journal is found by and passed down to.  Everyone who picks up this journal ends up magically drained of blood eventually, once someone else has been sucked in by it.  It’s not vulgar and it’s not gory at all – no, it’s in her poetic finding out of things through the characters eyes that makes this whole entire story more real and more accessible to the readers.  There are shadows around here and there before it happens, and then you see things through the eyes of the next pour soul doomed to dig far too deeply into the contents of this journal that aims its readers towards the area known as Transylvania.

In with her prose and fictitious storytelling, she weaves historical facts about all of Eastern Europe seamlessly throughout the story, and in such detail that you really can feel like you’re there if you just let yourself.  Soon, you’ll be on the hunt for clues about the real Vlad the Impaler, and vampires, and all these weird happenings and things that go on that people who know about the journal go through, and…. well, that’s as far as I’ve gotten so far.  It’s just so thrilling.  And it keeps jumping around.  Sometimes you’re in the narrator’s mind and you’re the daughter of a historian, who is also a historian.  Then you’re in her father’s mind, recalling events that took place leading up to his …inheritance… of the journal.  And there’s more.  So. Much. More.  Seriously, if you like very well-written historical fiction, you NEED this book.

And I’m not the only person who thinks that.  Ever since I picked it up, I’ve been seeing more and more reviews of it online and offline, from other book sellers, stores, newspapers, websites, and whatnot.  It’s a favorite of many, many bookish people.

So there I was, sitting in the break room at work the other day, minding my own business and avoiding looking at the ARC’s (Advanced Reader Copy = ARC) someone had just dumped haphazardly over the lunch table, and all of a sudden, a familiar name jumped out at me.


Yeah.  That just happened.  Um … I totally did a fangirl squeal right there in the break room.  No shame.  I snatched this book off the table and it is NOT going back, I don’t care who else wants to read it, and even if my store manager asks for me to return it, I’m just going to say my bird ate it and it’s unreadable now (sorry guys, not sorry).  So, it’s sitting beside my bed, just begging to be read, which probably means I’m going to have to work on finishing The Historian first and fast, otherwise I’ll never forgive myself.

Being on a FaceBook page for other bookstore employees, I’ve already seen several of my confederates from other stores raving about this new one, and it’s not even technically out yet.  This one promises an exciting adventure across Eastern Europe, starting in Sofia, Bulgaria, and a missing keepsake that turns out to be something more than our narrator bargained for.  It leads to chasing down the owners, learning more about people in their past, and a dangerous secret.  The editor even included a note inside the book saying the following:

“Even more exciting, it was to be an utterly fresh and distinctive story, distinguished by some of the elements so many had loved about her previous book: a story that weaves together layers of past and present, an incredibly rich East European setting, and a mysterious artistic object that propels a quest for the truth.”

The Senior V.P., Editor-in-Chief, & Associate Publisher who wrote those comments went on to absolutely rave about Kostova’s amazing growth as a writer and how well this next novel of hers addresses some of life’s most disturbing and profound questions.

Needless to say, I will be recommending this book to other book sellers (since I’m never on the book floor) by the time it comes out in print (right there on the cover, you suckers have to wait until April.  Oh yeah, I really do feel special now).

So this is my essential Elizabeth Kostova – believable blending of fact and fiction, wonderful insights in multi-generational fiction, epic quests for truth and the answers to questions of life.  Add to that a fabulous ability to blend storytelling and multiple voices and narratives into one big cohesive unite that manages to dazzle and entertain at all times … I mean, this is what I want to be when I grow up to be a writer.  But, you know, more me (and a little more on the sci-fi side, let’s be honest).

Go pick up The Historian – try not to drool on it too much – and in April, don’t forget to pick up your copy of The Shadow Land.  I have to go read….


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