Written by Jess Peacock
(This is the second time The Crawlspace has had the fortune of featuring Alexandra Sokoloff. Click here for the previous article.)
“I am staggered at how lucky I am,” exclaims Alexandra Sokoloff, author of the newly released novel Book of Shadows. “I’m making a living writing exactly what I want to write, and getting everything I write published. That’s a delirious kind of success!” Where she sees luck, however, others might see a boundlessly creative and deserving writer dedicated to her craft.
No longer a fresh face to the scene, Sokoloff has happily transitioned from her role as frustrated screenwriter to bestselling author, producing four well-received works of fiction since 2006. “Writing novels is a slower, deeper rhythm, and I love that. Publishing is worlds different from Hollywood. You get to complete every project you start, which is so incredibly satisfying. It’s fantastic!” In addition to her novels, Sokoloff is involved in several side projects, such as her non-fiction workbook Screenwriting Tricks For Authors (and Screenwriters!), as well as numerous other upcoming ventures. “I am extremely excited about a novel I have just finished with Sarah Langan, Sarah Pinborough, and Rhodi Hawk, [entitled] Apocalypse. It’s actually four novellas that are intricately interwoven into a single book. [And] I’ve written a paranormal for Harlequin… called The Shifters. Not quite as scary as my others, but lots of sex to make up for it.”
Since leaving Hollywood to focus on her Bram Stoker award winning debut novel The Harrowing, Sokoloff has found that her particular blend of eroticism, horror, spiritualism and mystery has conjured a devoted audience. “I am very aware of my mandate to scare people,” she explains. “But it’s a nail-biting, hair-raising, psychological kind of chill that I’m going for. I think The Price is my only true horror novel, but it’s so psychological that the horror creeps up on you.”
“I’m proudly writing in a long Gothic horror tradition,” expounds Sokoloff. “I think what distinguishes my stories from a lot of obvious horror is that I always ground everything that happens in reality, which means that there could be a psychological or criminal interpretation to the supernatural occurrences that are going on.”
This subjective approach to Sokoloff’s fiction claws its way to the forefront of her recently published novel Book of Shadows. The story unfolds initially as a James Patterson-ish police procedural, following Boston detectives investigating the violent and apparently ritualistic murder of a young college student. Not surprisingly, things run askew for the authorities when bewildering evidence and the sudden emergence of a mysterious woman threaten to rupture the unassailable case against their swiftly apprehended suspect. “It’s my most realistic book. I wanted to write a [story] that would pit a very outwardly rational, logic-driven man against a very otherworldly, psychic, subconsciously driven woman, and play with the line between what is real and what is supernatural.”
“I thought I could create some great chemistry and distrust between the characters there,” she explains. “A paranormal noir, if you will.”
Another reoccurring theme in Sokoloff’s work is the decidedly pronounced focus on strong, yet considerably troubled, female characters. “I write…from a specifically feminine point of view, and that’s a very conscious effort. Women know a lot about horror.” Robin from The Harrowing, Laurel from The Unseen, and now Tanith from Book of Shadows adorn Sokoloff’s hall of heroines possessing dark pasts filled with secrets, hidden agendas and raw trauma. “You don’t live in this world as a woman without becoming troubled in some way. We know what it is to be raped, battered, prostituted, enslaved, disenfranchised, underpaid, demeaned, harassed; we live horror on a much more intimate basis than most men ever do.”
While a serviceable and solid police thriller, Book of Shadows falls well short of the standard set by Sokoloff’s superlative novel The Price. Slightly uneven in tone, her newest seems unable to decide exactly what kind of story it aspires to be. Garrett, the detective caught up in the middle of an is-it-real-or-not journey into the paranormal, seems to waver every other chapter despite mounting evidence that not only have they arrested the wrong killer, but that the source of the danger is unquestionably not of this world.
Despite these issues, Book of Shadows moves along at an exciting clip, dragging the reader into a wholly satisfying hallucinogenic whirlwind of criminal investigations, witchcraft, and suppressed sexual desires. With her latest, Sokoloff has established herself as one of the more exhilarating writers working in the industry today, churning out dark and often erotic adventures that both stimulate and thrill.
“I have vast distances to go on this whole journey,” the author observes. “But the way I’m writing now, I can easily write one or two books a year. That is a lot of stories to write, a lot of worlds to explore, a lot of lives to live.”