For those of you looking for the dark side of the Thanksgiving holiday because all the sentimental mush makes you gag, then you’ll like what I’ve got on the menu for today!
The Harrowing by Alexandra Sokoloff is a horror story that takes place over Robin Stone’s Thanksgiving weekend. Of course, she isn’t one of Them, the Normal Ones who go home to be with family and friends. Oh, no, not freshman Robin. To Robin, staying alone in the Gothic buildings was a more appealing concept than trying to have a conversation with her lunatic mother who, even at the best of times, barely has a hold on reality. It also beat having the constant reminder that, even though he did his duty and paid for her to come to Baird College, her father wanted nothing to do with her and preferred his new family.
What did it matter to her if she had nothing to do for Thanksgiving? It’s not like she was anything special. Oh no, she was nothing.
Robin’s outlook is pretty bleak, huh? Yeah, and Alex does a great job of painting that picture. The only thing that worries me is that the slow start might be enough to turn heads away.
Some of you familiar with the story might be going, huh?
Well, in truth, I had a difficult time getting into the story. The first five pages made it feel like I was wading through something heavy. While I know we’re taught to set the setting, there’s something to be said for the story that goes to hook you into the characters and then real you in and set the scene.
Seriously, I honestly would have preferred if the story went from the Prologue to this part found on page 7 because this is where I was hooked, where I asked, “What’s going to happen to this girl?” and where I felt I wanted to read on:
“In the two months she’d been at Baird, she’d made exactly zero friends. It wasn’t that she was a monster…”
Call me crazy, but all of the stuff written before this point could not hold my attention, but this did. Then, by the next page, you read her thoughts about herself, understand why she hasn’t made any friends, and it makes you care about her and very curious about what will happen when she’s left alone.
Yes, I do suggest this book because it looks to be a great read once you get into it. I think if I wasn’t so distracted by Rachel Caine’s Carpe Corpus, I would have been able to take the time and sink my teeth into this book. But I will do that after I finish with Book 6 of the Morganville Vampire Series because Book 7 isn’t quite available to me just yet.
Let’s get on to the interview!
Let’s start with some trivia about Alex:
Q. Do you have any favorite Thanksgiving movie or program that you enjoy watching every year? If more than one, tell us all of them!
A. Oh, for sure: Holiday Inn. Good for so many holidays! And I’ll watch Philadelphia Story on any holiday, too. And Holiday. My family is also very into doing the Fawlty Towers and/or Absolutely Fabulous marathon on Thanksgiving weekend.
Q. What, if any, Thanksgiving traditions (decorating, gathering with friends and family for a meal, etc.) do you have?
A. Besides the above entertainment, my family is big on reading tabloids during food prep and clean up. Weekly World News was the best! Bat Boy! Alien Abductions! Bigfoot!
Q. What was your most memorable Thanksgiving and why?
A. I’d have to say one of the biggest was my freshman year at Berkeley when I stayed by myself in my dorm for the holiday weekend and realized only once it got dark that I was all alone in that huge building, with a storm outside, and the bathroom all the way down the hall. It was so memorably terrifying that I based The Harrowing partly on that experience.
Q. Which do you choose: white or dark turkey, white potatoes or yams, green beans or corn, bread rolls or crescent rolls?
A. Dark turkey on a whole wheat sandwich with avocado. Lots of avocado. Yams, green beans and no extra bread.
Q. What, in your opinion, was the oddest food served at a Thanksgiving dinner you’ve attended?
A. I think it was the Thanksgiving in college that my sister and brother and I went out to an oyster bar. I highly recommend it!
Q. Tell us 3 things you are thankful for this year, please.
A. Just three? I have a great family, great friends, and my dream job. It’s ALL good.
Q. Just for fun, if you could be among any of the original members of that first Thanksgiving, who would it be, the Pilgrims or the Wampanoag (Native Americans)? Why?
A. Oh, I would have to do both. As a writer you have to have the entire experience, from all sides. But I would love to live Native American spirituality from the inside.
Q. Considering that feast, what do you think that first harvest celebration meal would be?
A. Trust me, you don’t want me giving anyone any advice on cooking.
Now, let’s get to your writing:
Q. Your father was instrumental in cultivating your love of horror and the paranormal, but why choose to focus on college student fiction over other age groups? What’s the draw?
A. Well, I don’t do colleges every time! But I guess I feature college-age characters in a lot of what I write because I’ve taught teenagers and college age students and so have a lot of characters to draw on. Plus that age tends to attract a lot of the paranormal – at that age you are open to just about everything, hauntings included. You tend to experiment with the dark side and that can open some doors that aren’t so easy to close.
Q. If you could describe your writing with a word or phrase, what would it be? What do you want readers to take with them when they've finished reading your story?
I hope they take with them the mystery and wonder of the paranormal, the feeling that there’s more out there than we’ll ever truly understand. And the sense that good does triumph over evil.
Q. Have you ever written Thanksgiving into your stories other than The Harrowing? Why or why not?
A. Not so far. For a long time it was my least favorite holiday, the most ripe for family dysfunction in my opinion, so that was my take on it in The Harrowing.
Q. Who decides what you write about, you or your muse? What kind of influence do you have over your story, or is the muse always the one basting the turkey?
A. Oh, ideas come from the Universe. But I think I’m fed certain stories and characters because I have a natural propensity for certain themes. I would say I believe that all writing prep work is really honing your craft so you have the chops to execute what the Muse presents you.
Q. You’ve said that you’ve based some of your stories on real-life events that happened to people you’ve met or heard about. So, have any of your characters, outside of The Price, been based on a real-life person? If so, who and why? Was it simply to immortalize them or was there more to it than that? If you can, tell us the name of that person, please! We’re all curious here!
A. Oh, lots of characters. In a novella I recently finished, I took great pleasure in detailing a sociopathic producer I worked with and then bashing his brainless head in. No names there, sorry. I don’t think I’m trying to immortalize anyone; sometimes someone just naturally fits into a story.
Q. What character did you have the most fun creating and why?
A. In The Harrowing I’m particularly fond of Lisa, because she has so much energy. She would come into a scene and agitate the other characters on purpose, which made everyone else try to top her, and it gave the whole group a fun dynamic.
Q. If you had the opportunity to meet just one of your characters in real life, who would it be and why? Which of your characters would you never want to meet under any circumstance and why?
A. Well, since you mention it, I wouldn’t mind spending some quality time with the smoking hot shapeshifter in the book that I’m writing now, part of The Keepers trilogy for Harlequin Nocturne.