Elisabeth Thomas has just released her debut novel Catherine House. This suspenseful thriller has been called a “dark, delicious read” by Forbes and “spellbinding” by Publishers Weekly. Perfect for fans of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, this dark, spellbinding story is definitely part of our #TBR pile. We sat down with Elisabeth to get to know a bit more about her and her inspiration. Read on!
What was the inspiration behind Catherine House?
The idea actually first came to me when I was visiting the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. I was entranced, so mesmerized by the idea that Gardner had this fantastically gorgeous home, so beautiful that she wanted to freeze it in time forever. The visit happened during a very difficult, unhappy time in my life, and in my unhappiness, I’d also been thinking a lot about my college years—yearning for them, really. When I got home from the museum, I jotted down a note that said, “a girl who falls in love with a house (a school)—base it on the Bluebeard fairy tale.” And that note became Catherine House.
Did you always know you wanted to write books?
Yes, absolutely! And even when I was a little girl writing meandering epics about unicorns and magic amulets, I took “my craft” very seriously. I don’t know how I knew that this was what I needed to do with my life, but I did, and the desire was always very powerful and very disciplined. I consider creative writing to be the great love of my life.
Which authors are you most inspired by?
In terms of influence on my writing, I would say classic gothic novelists like Charlotte Brontë and Daphne Du Maurier, and contemporary writers like Sarah Waters and Donna Tartt. But in a larger sense, I’d say authors who’ve fought through oppression to share their stories.
If you had to choose 5 of your favorite books of all time, what would they be and why?
That’s impossible, of course! but I’ll say these for the moment:
Chéri by Colette — It’s such a lush, decadent story. The words feel like silk, perfume, and velvet. come back to it again and again.
Member of the Wedding by Carson McCullers — A short, beautiful book that captures a particular emotion, a particular time in one’s life, with a specificity unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
Thick by Tressie Macmillan Cottom — These essays completely changed about I think about race, class, and beauty. Brilliant beyond words.
The Road to Los Angeles by John Fante — This was my favorite book in high school, and it still reminds me that time in a way that makes my heart ache.
Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto — Another short, heartbreaking book, so lovely and sweet and just enchanting.
Which books are you most looking forward to reading next?
I have The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton sitting right here on my desk. I’ve never read it, and for some reason I feel like now is the time!