Please welcome Katherine Harbour to the blog! Her debut novel THORN JACK just came out last week, and she stopped by to answer a few of my questions about the book, her writing, and more!
Congrats on the new book! You wrote THORN JACK when you were just 17. What made you decide to revisit and polish it up?
Thank you! I decided to rewrite THORN JACK two years ago, after reading Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland by Lady Gregory. It’s a collection of fairy folklore and it reminded me of THORN JACK, which I wrote when I was seventeen. So I took apart the THORN JACK manuscript, keeping the original plot based on the ballad ‘Tam Lin’, and made it more of a ghost story with faery folk.
What did you enjoy most about writing Thorn Jack, and why do you think readers will connect with Finn and Jack?
I enjoyed conveying the autumn atmosphere and the sense of the uncanny—just when the Fatas (who are faeries) seem human, something happens, like a glitch, to reveal that they are the children of night and nothing. I think readers will connect to Finn and Jack because, even though their relationship begins as an attempted enchantment, it blossoms into friendship and love. Because of their chemistry, the conversations between them came naturally and, I think, reveal their character.
Why fairies? Will you tell us a little more about the world of Thorn Jack?
In Celtic mythology, fairies were spirits who could either help or harm on a whim. They’re also strongly identified with the dead. Their ability to shapechange, to trick and seduce mortals would, I thought, make them fascinating antagonists.
THORN JACK is set in upstate New York, in a town called Fair Hollow. It’s an old town that’s become a quaint getaway for actors, the creative, and the wealthy. It’s also a college town, with HallowHeart, a liberal arts school, and St. John’s University, a newer college. Although most of the older residents are unaware of the mysterious events and places in the town—like the abandoned buildings that are never purchased—a small clique of HallowHeart professors do know what the Fatas are. And the children of six of the most prominent families in Fair Hollow absolutely know what the Fatas are. The Fata world is one of abandoned mansions that become majestic as the sun sets, of primitive rituals, glamorous revels after dark, and deals with the dead.
Speaking of worlds…what are a few of your favorite literary “worlds”?
A few of my favorite literary worlds are John Crowley’s City and Edgewood in Little, Big; the Dark-haunted medieval/Renaissance world in Barbara Hambly’s The Time of the Dark; Bordertown, which lies between the real world and Elfland in Terri Windling’s and Mark Alan Arnold’s Bordertown series; Francesca Lia Block’s ethereal Los Angeles in Witch Baby; Tanith Lee’s terrifying and fantastical world in her Flat Earth series; and Neverland, in Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie.
You list quite a few of your favorite writers on your website, but if you could experience one book again, which one would it be?
That would have to be a tie between John Crowley’s Little, Big and Charles de Lint’s MoonHeart. I remember reading them and being completely immersed in the stories.
If Thorn Jack were to be made into a film, how would you cast it?
A few people have made some suggestions that almost match the characters in my head: Adelaide Kane as Reiko Fata; Chloe Grace Moretz for Finn; Ezra Miller for Jack; Emma Watson as Phouka. I don’t know who might play Sylvie, Christie, Sean Sullivan, or Caliban. Or tricky Absalom Askew.
I have to ask…how did you celebrate when you found out that Thorn Jack would be published?
I celebrated by going on vacation! Which I haven’t done in years. Since I live in a beach town, my three best friends came down from New York and we rented out a seaside cottage.
What’s next for you?
I’m revising the second book in the THORN JACK trilogy and writing the third. I’ve also outlined a steampunk novel set in a Victorian era-inspired world, about an impoverished young aristocrat who solves occult mysteries for a living. I’d also eventually like to write a spin-off of the THORN JACK trilogy, with Anna Weaver as the main character. And a haunted house novel.
About THORN JACK:
Combining the sorcery of The Night Circus with the malefic suspense of A Secret History, Thorn Jack is a spectacular, modern retelling of the ancient Scottish ballad, Tam Lin—a beguiling fusion of love, fantasy, and myth that echoes the imaginative artistry of the works of Neil Gaiman, Cassandra Clare, and Melissa Marr.
In the wake of her older sister’s suicide, Finn Sullivan and her father move to a quaint town in upstate New York. Populated with socialites, hippies, and dramatic artists, every corner of this new place holds bright possibilities—and dark enigmas, including the devastatingly attractive Jack Fata, scion of one of the town’s most powerful families.
As she begins to settle in, Finn discovers that beneath its pretty, placid surface, the town and its denizens—especially the Fata family—wield an irresistible charm and dangerous power, a tempting and terrifying blend of good and evil, magic and mystery, that holds dangerous consequences for an innocent and curious girl like Finn.
To free herself and save her beloved Jack, Finn must confront the fearsome Fata family . . . a battle that will lead to shocking secrets about her sister’s death.