Elizabeth Kostova: kos-TOE-va
Elizabeth Kostova (née Johnson) was born
in New London, Connecticut in 1964, and now lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
She graduated from Yale and holds an MFA from the University of Michigan where
she won the Hopwood Award for the Novel-in-Progress. The Historian
took her ten years to write, and was inspired by the vampire stories told to her
by her father, a professor of urban planning, during the year they spent in
Ljubljana, capital of Slovenia (where her father taught at the university) when
she was seven, and as they traveled through Europe.
Later, she says, "I wondered whether this would make a good structure for a novel .... At the end of each of these tales, the young listener realizes that Dracula himself is listening to the story. Then I got the chills and immediately began working on the book." When asked about her personal beliefs she confirms that she does not believe in vampires and has a very scientific outlook on life, However, she does believe in the power of myth in the human psyche.
She says that she based much of the book in Bulgaria because her husband, Georgi Kostov, is Bulgarian. She met Georgi in 1989 while on a fellowship from Yale to study village music in Eastern Europe. She arrived in Bulgaria at a time of great change - only seven days after Communist dictator Todor Zhivkov had been placed under house arrest; Georgi was one of the first 100 Bulgarians to be granted a passport. She traveled to isolated villages in Bulgaria, Bosnia and south-west Russia, not only recording traditional music but also witnessing rituals dating back to the Middle Ages.
She says "Those journeys gave me a sense of a world that's closer to a European past and was preserved by the creation of the Iron Curtain. It preserved the mystery of Eastern Europe for the rest of us. I tried to express that as a love story, the bridging of these two worlds, east and west. I've realized that there is, of course, a certain autobiographical flavor to it."
Another inspiration for her were the lectures she attended at Yale by Professor, Vincent Scully, "one of the great professors of the twentieth century". Kostova, who traveled extensively in Eastern and Western Europe before starting to write The Historian and speaks Bulgarian "pretty well", and used to speak French "quite well, but has got rusty", says "his ardor up on the stage about some of the great architectural and art sights of Western Europe made me go to those places as soon as I could save money from my bookstore job or mowing lawns or whatever I was doing."
The USA book rights for The Historian were sold for $2 million, and it has been or will be published in at least 37 different languages. Movie rights sold for $1.5 million - the movie, produced by Douglas Wick (Memoirs of a Geisha, Gladiator etc) is currently in production and scheduled for release in 2007.
Her second novel, The Swan Thieves, was published in 2010.
Her favorite books include Middlemarch, and books by Henry James, Thomas Hardy and Wilkie Collins.
This biography was last updated on 02/17/2010.
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Elizabeth Kostova reads from The Swan Thieves and answers questions in a 45 minute podcast at the Los Angeles Central Library, presented by the Library Foundation of Los Angeles.
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