I first found Jennifer McKissack on Facebook, and after reading the gothic novel Rebecca, the premise of SANCTUARY was too compelling to resist. Even better, SANCTUARY debuted just yesterday!
After the untimely death of her aunt Laura, Cecilia Cross is forced to return to Sanctuary, a rambling, old French-Gothic mansion that crowns a remote island off the coast of Maine. Cecilia is both drawn to and repulsed by Sanctuary. The scent of the ocean intoxicates her, but she’s also haunted by the ghosts of her past–of her father who died at Sanctuary five years ago, and of her mother who was committed soon after. The memories leave Cecilia feeling shaken, desperate to run away and forget her terrible family history.
But then a mysterious guest arrives at Sanctuary: Eli Bauer, a professor sent to examine Sanctuary’s library. Cecilia is intrigued by this strange young man who seems so interested in her — even more interested in her than in the books he is meant to be studying. Who is he and what does he want? Can Cecilia possibly trust her growing feelings for him? And can he help her make peace with her haunted, tragic past?
Jennifer also answered some interview questions!
According to your Twitter bio, you are represented by Tricia Lawrence at Erin Murphy Literary. How did you know that Tricia was the right agent for you, and can you tell us more about your journey toward publication?
Trish and I bonded immediately over REBECCA. Before I even prompted her, she mentioned in our first phone call that REBECCA was one of her favorite books and SANCTUARY reminded her of it. I knew then she was the agent for me. Trish is a gifted agent. She immediately came up with ways to make SANCTUARY a stronger book (also giving it the new title!), and I revised before she submitted.
Being newer to REBECCA, (I read it last year) I can only imagine the complexity it can reveal when you sit with it for an extended period of time. In what ways was SANCTUARY influenced by the Gothic, and what do you want readers to take away when they’re done with the story?
I’ve read REBECCA again and again. I first read the book as a teen and fell in love with it. With SANCTUARY, I wanted to capture that same sense of place and of mood, and romance too, and also the way the past can haunt and seduce. I wanted to create a vulnerable heroine, but one with courage. SANCTUARY isn’t a retelling; it was a way for me – as a writer – to explore those things I enjoyed so much about Daphne du Maurier’s classic.
SANCTUARY definitely has its own voice! I also love the cover art. In what ways do you feel it represents the story and what Cecelia faces?
One of the themes of SANCTUARY is the complicated longing we can feel for the home of childhood. Was it as I remember? Why do I long for something that also brought sadness? Do I want to return to it? It’s what Cecilia wants and feels. I think the cover captures her longing and hesitation really well.
Definitely a feeling I can relate to, having just returned to my home state for the first time in ten years! What are some of your current projects?
I’m working on two more novels: another YA Gothic, this one set in Scotland, and a YA high fantasy.
Sounds amazing–especially the one based in Scotland! Thanks Jennifer, for such great answers.