Elizabeth Kostova and The Historian

Posted on June 16, 2005

Associated Press journalist Sarah Karush provides an interesting interview with Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian (Little, Brown). Kostova talks about her shock at receiving a $2 million+ advance for the book that took her 10 years to write and why she decided to tackle the legend of Dracula.

"It was really a shock to make some money writing a book," Kostova said during an interview in her Ann Arbor home -- a yellow bungalow with pansies out front and a blue yard sign urging "Peace." "When you're a literary writer, you don't write to make money, and you understand that probably there will be very little money ever in it," said the 40-year-old author, who speaks in a gentle voice and chooses her words deliberately.

In 1972 -- the year in which the novel opens -- Kostova's father won a grant to teach in Slovenia in what was then Yugoslavia. He took the family with him. They spent much of those five months traveling. Against backdrops overflowing with history and beauty, he told his girls Dracula stories loosely based on Bram Stoker's classic novel and Hollywood depictions. "These tales weren't at all horrible. They were pleasantly creepy, watered-down for children," Kostova said. "Once I heard one, I wanted to hear more."

Fast-forward 20 years, and Kostova -- at that point a published author of short fiction, essays and poetry -- is standing on a mountain in North Carolina on a hike with her husband and their dog. Suddenly, she has a vision of a father telling Dracula stories to his daughter. "And then I thought, but what if at the end of each of those tales, she suddenly realizes that Dracula is listening as well," Kostova, 40, recalled. "I was creeped out and ran to my knapsack and got my notebook and started writing notes."

Sony Pictures has snapped up the movie rights and the book is being printed in 28 languages. We're reading it right now; our review will appear in the July issue of The Internet Writing Journal. It's a mesmerizing read that lives up the hype.

Update: You can read our book review here. Kostova says she won't be writing a sequel.

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