The Price by Alexandra Sokoloff ISBN: 9780312357511
Boston District Attorney Will Sullivan dreams of becoming the next great governor of Massachusetts. He has a beautiful wife, Joanna, an adorable daughter, Sydney, and a name that the citizens of Massachusetts respect. But Will's plans are shattered the night Joanna discovers a malignant tumor growing in Sydney's stomach. At that devastating moment, both parents resolve to do anything to save their daughter's life.
But in the twilight world of Briarwood Medical Center, nothing is as it seems. Patients on the brink of death are not only surviving, but thriving, while others are withering away. The more time Will spends in the labyrinthine hospital, the more he fears he's losing his grip on reality. When a mysterious, charismatic counselor appears and starts talking to Joanna, she grows more and more distant, until she hardly resembles the woman that Will married. Yet suddenly, miraculously, Sydney is improving.
As winter closes in around the hospital and his dark suspicions build, Will must gather the strength to confront the evil at hand before he loses his family, his political aspirations, his sanity, and possibly his life.
Welcome to the preview of my book, THE PRICE. I hope you enjoy reading it each day and look forward to any comments or questions you may have. At the end of this week, I have 5 copies of THE PRICE and 5 copies of my ghost story, THE HARROWING to give away. Make sure to join in the discussion and you could be a lucky winner! -- Alexandra
This is probably the question authors get most often: “Where did that story come from?”
But you tend to forget how you started your last book (and pretty much everything else about it) when you’re tearing your hair out over the new one. So when I did my first interview on THE PRICE and I got this question, I had a moment of, “What the hell?” And my mind was scrambling for some intelligent thing to say about my thematic obsession with the secret deals that we make with ourselves about the things we want… but what came out of my mouth instead was, “I dreamed it.”
Which shocked me speechless for a second, and then I remembered. That’s right. It did start with a dream. A series of dreams, actually.
I love that about interviews… they teach you so much about what you’ve written and why you wrote it.
I didn’t dream the whole book, or even the whole idea of the book, which I understand happens to authors all the time – and I believe it. But certainly I dreamed the seed that grew into the book.
This is an extremely sad story, but this is what happened (in real life). A friend of mine and his wife had just had their first child, and she was born with a hole in her heart. She lived the whole of her two months of life in the children’s ward of a Boston hospital, and her parents moved into the hospital to be with her. When she died, her parents were too distraught to come home to all the unused baby furniture and clothes, so a bunch of their friends packed everything up for them, and because I have a huge attic, we put it all upstairs in my house.
That night I started having dreams of a beautiful little five-year old girl who was not alive but not dead, either – somewhere in between. And that was the beginning of THE PRICE – that little girl haunting me in my dreams.
Now, who’s to say why it was that little dream girl who crystallized all the rest of that heartbreaking real-life situation into a book? No one would ever read the dreams I had and wrote down and recognize them as the book that came out of that, which really isn’t about that little girl at all, important though she is in it. Maybe I needed to feel the girl first because I don’t have a child of my own and I needed to put myself in the position of her parents to write the book I was going to write.
But there are certain dreams you have that are just so vivid that you KNOW they’re the start of a book. I don’t know if this is true of all authors or artists but it is true of many of the writers, musicians and painters I know: your dreams do as much work on your ideas as you do at your desk in waking life. I always tell the students in my writing workshops that if they’re not writing down the dreams they have, every morning, they’re working way too hard.
And particularly as a writer of the supernatural, I depend on those dream images to give a certain unreality to real-life situations – and to give a certain inevitability to my unreal situations.
I meet a lot of people who say they don’t dream. Well, that’s impossible – dreaming is a vital life function. What they mean is they don’t remember their dreams. Since dreams are so elusive, you need to actively court them to keep them on the surface long enough for you to remember.
I’ve kept a dream journal since I was fifteen or sixteen. The more you write them down – even just a word or a feeling that you remember - the more they will start to stay with you. And this sounds strange, but it really works - if you wake up from a dream that you can’t remember, but you know you were just dreaming - try rolling gently back into the position you were actually sleeping in. Many times the entire dream will pop right back into your head, like magic. I don’t know how that happens, but it works like a charm.
And I swear, if you don’t keep that pad and pen, or tape recorder if you prefer, right next to your bed, you will not remember as much. Your dreams seem to need to KNOW that you are committed to remembering them, or they won't let you remember.
In fact, if I get on a kick of writing every dream I remember down, then I remember pages and pages of dreams, six or seven a night – so many it would start to cut into my work time if I wrote them down.
So you have to find a balance. Or maybe I could get my dreams to do entire books for me if I wrote all that stuff down. Who knows? I wouldn't be at all surprised.
So how about you, readers? Do you remember your dreams? If you’re a writer yourself, have you ever dreamed a story, or the idea of a story? And for bonus points - have you ever had precognitive dreams?
And of course, I’m here to answer ANY questions you have about THE PRICE, or about writing in general.
It's interesting that you got the idea for this novel from a dream.
I'm also a writer of Horror/Thrillers. Though I have yet to receive an idea for a novel from a dream, I have received short story ideas from dreams, but not my own.
My wife is a writer as well. Once in a while in the morning, she'll tell me about a dream she had, or should I say more like nightmares. Now, being the good husband that I am, I grab a note pad and pen and ask her to describe her dreams.
I know that may seem a bit cold hearted, but she doesn't mind, at least I don't think so. She always gives me great details about her dreams and I've turned several of them into pretty good stoies.
You may be asking why she doesn't write them and I've asked her the same question (she writes horror as well) and her response is that she believes that if she were to write them, then they may come true. And since most of them are about me in some way, she refuses.
AW, you're so lucky your wife dreams for you, I love that! Interesting that she doesn't want to use her own dreams. That's pretty much a story in itself.
I have to admit I did steal a dream image from one of my boyfriend's dreams that I used in my short story "The Edge of Seventeen", which is in the new noir superhero anthology THE DARKER MASK. The whole story is about precognitive dreaming, so I can totally relate to your wife's concerns.
Yes, you are indeed psychic! And thank you for the compliment. :)
I think that's very interesting, indeed. Dreams are very good triggers for stories - especially such haunting ones. Your story is very sad, and I'm quite sorry for that loss.
I like to write myself as well - I believe writing to be a very passionate art. I'm also a constant dreamer, and I have vivid nightmares that I usually recall a few days later in an inappropriate place. The forcefulness knocks the wind out of me. They're usually dreams of falling, and I'm always the one falling.
I actually started a story quite some time ago, and it's disappointing I never finished it. I started with the theme of falling from grace, and it developed. My friend, who is a fantastic artist, drew a picture of an angel being shot down from Heaven and I thought it was quite ironic! So I started to write that story, but in my dreams, after I start to fall, I never hit the ground. There's never an ending, because I always wake up. I never new the ending to that story, so it's trailing off in grey.
Precognitive dreams? Occasionally, but I'm more of a clairvoyant while I'm awake. Still, I've had dreams of very trivial things, like getting hurt or my friends doing something absurd, and the next day, something happens.
Dreams are a fascinating thing to experience and I do feel sorry for those who rarely dream or remember. It's the best and worst feeling in the world, combined. I can understand the theme of dreams in The Price as well now that I think of it. I just finished reading the 2nd excerpt and it all feels a little surreal to Will (or that's the vibe I'm getting) just like a dream is.
Wonderful theme integrated there, I adore it! Can't wait for more.
Nadia, that sounds like a haunting story. You know, sometimes you go back to things years later and it's perfectly obvious how to finish them... I have a feeling that's what's going to happen with you, especially since falling is one of your dream-themes.
I don't dream about falling... but I do have a recurring dream of climbing up a wall or a ladder or staircase that becomes increasingly rickety until I have to stop, and it's too dangerous to go ahead OR back.
Ugh, I hate that dream!
I have no doubt your daytime clairvoyance has to do with your being so in touch with your dreams. I just love hearing stories about all this - thanks for sharing yours!
My name is Nadia and I just started to read the first excerpt of your novel. I just came home from school and I'm quite enraptured with teh story!
I do believe it's one of the best horror pieces in quite some time, and I have merely withdrawn this judgement from the blurb of your book. This hospital sounds quite haunting in itself, and Will is a character I would very much like to interact with. Normally, none of the stories that I read generally interest me very much, but it's guaranteed that I'll look into this.
Asides from being the sycophant, may I asked - what inspired you to write this story?
Hey Nadia - you have one of my favorite names. Beautiful!
As you can see, I'm psychic - I posted the answer to your question at the same time you were posting it. ;)
I think what happened was that that situation with my friends' child triggered the dream, and it somehow incorporated several themes that I'm obsessed with into the same story idea: the deal with the devil, and the question of what we really are willing to do for those we love (we always say - "I'd do anything" - but what does that really mean? And is it really a good idea to be willing to do ANYTHING?
I'm very glad you're responding to the premise. And I hope the hospital lives up to expectation - the real one in Boston is certainly one of the spookiest places I've ever been!
It seems to me anyway that fewer and fewer medical thrillers (my favorites) are being published. I can't wait to read this weeks preview and am sure I will definitely read the rest of the book to conclusion. I'm also looking for "new to me" authors that I cna read and share the name with friends. I believe you will become one of these authors. Thanks
Gary, it's true - there are still successful medical thrillers on TV but many novels these days. I'm a big fan of COMA and especially F. Paul Wilson's THE SELECT. Do you have any recommendations for me?
It was always in the back of my mind that a hospital is a particularly good setting for a psychological/supernatural thriller because the stress levels are so high for everyone, constantly, and a hospital is also a portal - that doorway to the other side is constantly being opened.
Oh, and I wanted to let anyone who's interested know that there are book trailers for both THE PRICE and my ghost story, THE HARROWING, on my website, here.
Hi. I just read installment 1 of Price and I am ready for more. It is a story written in a way that keeps the reader wanting to read it without sitting it down. It is kind of reminiscent of King's Kingdom Hospital and I think it will be a very popular read.
Writing what I do, I often get the question, "What's a nice girl like you doing writing stuff like THAT?"
Well, first of all, "nice"? Um...
Still, much as I may disagree with the word choice, I know what these nice people are trying to ask.
I mean, on the simplest level I write what I like to read. But there's no question that there are life experiences that have drawn me toward exploring the dark side.
For instance, I realized after seeing the movie ZODIAC recently that the Zodiac killer was a huge early – influence? Inspiration? Impression? What I mean is, I grew up in California and even years after this guy had dropped off the map, we kids were scaring ourselves senseless by telling ourselves Zodiac stories around the fire at Girl Scout camp. He was our Boogey Man.
My dad grew up in Mexico and he had a passel of ghost stories that he’d pull out around the campfire to scare us with.
Also, since Dad is a scientist and Russian, and attended a lot of scientific conferences that got turned into family road trips, I have early memories of us in the family station wagon being followed by the CIA because, you know, Russians were out to destroy the world at the time. All that ever happened was that they followed us around but naturally I’d spice the whole thing up in my imagination – my first attempts at thrillers.
And it’s only recently occurred to me that perhaps I write ghosts because I went to a haunted high school – specifically, the grand and decrepit old auditorium where I spent most of my high school, rehearsing choir programs and plays, was supposedly haunted by a girl named Vicki who died the night of her prom back in the 20’s. Yes, yes, I know that’s a classic urban legend, but we all believed in Vicki, and there were parts of that auditorium where you just didn’t want to go, alone or with others. Cold spots. Strange noises. Disappearing props.
(But somehow it never once crossed my mind while I was writing THE HARROWING that I was writing about a haunted school because I went to a haunted school).
I also had some pretty scary experiences early on in life that made me realize that there was evil out there. A child molester who’d been trolling the streets around my elementary school tried to grab me one afternoon when I was walking home from school. He was a small and creepy man, and even though I didn’t have any sense of what child molesting was at the time, I knew there was something just wrong with him and I ran. That was my first full-on experience of what evil looks and feels like, and it’s not something you forget or let go.
And I had friends, as we all do, who were not so lucky about escaping predators, and the anger about that has fueled a lot of my writing.
There’s more, of course, and once you start thinking of influences, it’s pretty fascinating how much you uncover about your motivations.
Most of all, though, for me horror is the genre in which you can blatantly depict the everyday battle between good and evil. In that way it's really the most spiritual of the genres, when authors treat it with respect. And for me, living vicariously through that battle and seeing good triumph over evil, even in a small way, is a huge catharsis, and I seek out that satisfaction in the books that I read and write.
I first want to start by saying my heart goes out to your friends.
I have just finished reading today's excerpt and I must tell you I'm hooked. The hospital is creepy along with the stranger which just adds to the mystery. I especially like your writing style, you put the reader into the story, you bring your characters to life. I was holding my breath and my heart was racing when I read the part of the novel where Joanna is bathing Sydney and finds a mass and with Joanna standing in front of Will with a dripping Joanna in her arms. I could feel Joanna's anguish and Will's fear as a parent your children are your world and you would go to the end's of the earth for them.
I will continue to read your novel to the end no matter how emotional it becomes. I will also be checking out your first novel The Harrowing. I have found a new author!
As an oncology nurse for years I know that your discription of the children and their parents are spot on. I have hoped and prayed with many of them. We can only sympathise and hope for the impossible at whatever cost. This book is very real life to me. I will read it.
Susan, you're an ideal audience! I'm so glad you're responding to the book. I think real life situations like this are much more terrifying than anything we could make up as authors, and parents are uniquely vulnerable when their children are threatened. I found it terrifying to experience even vicariously, while writing the book.
I think you'll find THE HARROWING is more overtly scary, in a thriller sense, but far less psychologically - uh, harrowing - than THE PRICE.
I love the dreamlike, otherworldly quality of "The Price" and was pleased to see that there are those like me (including the author and other posters) who tap into their dreams. I don't write; my dreams, usually nightmares, are purely for my own entertainment.
That unwordly aura together with the rather unique hospital setting (they don't make a florescent bulb bright enough to remove the fear from a hospital) make for a deliciously creepy book!
Alison, thank you, and I am so with you on the dream front. My favorite authors are the ones who can capture that dreamlike quality - Shirley Jackson, Daphne DuMaurier, Ira Levin, Stephen King, Barbara Kingsolver, early Anne Rice.
And I can't understand people who think sleeping is a waste of time. I have a great daytime life but my dreams are really something I look forward to. No end of surprises!
It's interesting that you seem to like your nightmares - I've never heard anyone say that before. I've had some amazing nightmares, though - not so much fun while they're happening, but really entertaining to look back on when I'm awake, so I guess I know what you mean!
What a great start!!! I am a fan of horror books, but I prefer the ones with not so much gore...and I think The Price will deliver. I just finished the first two parts, and am ready to read the rest of the book.
My daughter is alot like you. She is young yet, but enjoys writing stories. Her ideas come mostly in her dreams. I am a fan of Stephen King and Bentley Little....looks like I will be adding you to my list!!
Thank you so much for sharing your talent with us all.
I've found that a lot of people believe deeply in what they write. This way, passion allows the recount to be more intellectual as well as believable, I've found.
Since this is a horror story... Alex, do you believe in ghosts? Or anything spiritual or of the supernatural theme? I just get the feeling you might, but i don't know for sure. If so, did this aid your writing in any way?
Nadia, that's a good question. My first impulse when someone asks me if I believe in ghosts is to say that I believe in yoga. That is, even though I love to write about hauntings, I think that there are many dimensions of reality and the plane in which spirits would be trapped on earth is a low and simplistic level of what reality really is.
It does make sense to me that the imprint of a violent emotion or even can remain as an echo in a place, like Gettysburg. I believe that the spirit of a loved one - even if that spirit is only your own memory - can visit you in dreams.
Because of this book I’m writing I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently – the moments when we get a glimpse into a bigger, deeper reality. You read enough about psychic events experienced by ordinary people, as I’ve been doing, and they’re all so very similar.
- The crisis apparitions, where a loved one is hurt or dying and appears in some way to a relative or mate at the moment of death, either as a full-fledged apparition or a signal, like a mirror shattering.
- The precognitive dreams: A young mother has a nightmare that her new baby is crushed to death when the light fixture above the crib falls – she wakes up screaming and runs in to the nursery where she finds the baby perfectly fine, sleeping soundly, but she takes the baby into bed with her and her husband – and two hours later they’re awakened by a crash from inside the nursery.
- The visitations from dead loved ones who have something to say about where your mother’s bracelet is or where the new will was filed.
- And of course the ordinary psychic things that happen all the time – the wife who dreams that there is another woman in bed with her and her husband – and discovers that he is, indeed, having an affair. The teenager who decides at the last second to take the left turn instead of the right, even though it will mean an extra five minutes getting to his friend’s house – and as he makes the turn he hears the screeching of brakes and a grinding of metal back there at that very corner.
Yes, yes – all these things can be explained as simple, ordinary perception. The young mother noticed subconsciously that the plaster around the light fixture was cracked and her dream warned her about a very real danger. The woman whose dead husband visits her in a dream to tell her where the bonds is remembering that her husband made that stop at a certain bank one day and her dream makes it her dead husband telling her so so that she’ll pay attention. The teenager registered that a car was driving too fast on that side street out of the corner of his eye. (I can’t as blithely explain how people see their loved ones at the EXACT moment of death, which is how so many people report it, but I’m sure there’s someone out there who can debunk that one, too.)
But I think – reality is a lot more mutable than skeptics want to admit. And I’m not just talking about our perceptions and instincts and intuitions. I mean the whole of the universe gives us signs all the time.
The morning my grandmother died, I woke up and walked outside and the sunrise was just – surreal. The whole sky was flaming orange and red and pink – much more like deep sunset than the pallid pink of LA sunrises. The pecan tree in my back yard towered against that sky, and in the tree were hundreds, hundreds of cawing birds. It was earsplitting, mindblowing.
A half hour later I got the call.
I don't know if you'd call that a ghost, or precognition, or synchronicity, or just a lot of birds.
But when I look back at those moments that I knew something more than I realistically should have known, there is a heaviness to them, an import, a hyper-clarity – even a time-slowing-down quality. And so it seems to me – and it’s said by spiritual teachers - that if we all paid more attention all the time to these insights, synchronicities, we’d be able to see the signs all the time.
Corinne, I completely agree about the gore in horror stories - most my favorites are the ones that don't have any at all, like ROSEMARY'S BABY and THE STEPFORD WIVES. I much prefer psychological chills.
What's BEHIND the door is much scarier to me.
There are a few violent/disturbing images in THE PRICE, but my primary intent is to let you scare yourself with your own imaginings.
Your daughter sounds totally doomed to be a writer! ;)
I am soooo thankful to Suzanne for bringing you to me! Only a true friend would introduce you to such great books. I have read the first three installments of The Price (somehow the horror ones come the night before they are due- like I need to be reading horror stories right before I go to bed!) and I am so hooked! I have been hard to please lately, so I was quite pleasantly shocked. I looked up The Harrowing and read the excerpt on the B&N website amd oh my, I can't wait to find out what happens to Robin, and what part the guy from her class will play in the book!! My stinkin library doesn't carry either of these books (I had to pick an out-of-town library just to join the book club, shhh), but thankfully I have a birthday coming up in November so if I don't win one here, I can get one then. Hey if I win one here, I can get the other for my b'day, and I'll have them both!!! Anyway, I hope your books end as well as they start, and I'll have a new author to follow!!!
Oh and I am not a writer, but I do write down my dreams. My husband has told me that I should write them into books, at least a short story compilation, but that's just not my cup of tea. I'd just as soon not to have folks knowing what I dream about, just in case someone really comes up with a way to know what dreams really mean, and send someone to lock me up. I'll leave the writing to the professionals, like you.
Thanks, Lisa! It's always great to get a thumbs up from a medical professional. It really helped that my cousin was doing his surgical residency in the hospital I was depicting. That was some fantastic help from the universe.
No, Will isn't the type to use profanity. There's a little more in THE HARROWING, because I'm writing about college students, but the last thing I want to do is turn people off with overkill.
I have just finished reading the first three excepts. This is the kind of book I truly enjoy, a great psychological thriller that puts you right in the action and makes you feel as if you are right there!!! The detailed descriptions are great. I have not read a good thriller for awhile now and it seems as if I have found a new author. Keep up the great work and cannot wait to read more.
Connie, I'm very happy to please a genre fan. Psychological thrillers are my favorites - I find myself reading a lot more British authors than American because the Brits do that dark side of human nature so well.
Oh dear! I just got the last excerpt, and I'm terribly upset about not having something to read after I come back from school. For good measure, I checked my local libraries and bookstores and sadly enough, they haven't got the price!
I think the last excerpt I read was indeed very powerful. I would just like to applause Alex for the wonderful imagery you've conjured throughout the story. My English teacher constantly tells us that playwrights, authors, auteurs and directors never do something on a whim - it's all deliberate. Especially words. Every single word made a difference to the story, and I could feel the power of the linguistics pulling me through the tale, mesmerising me. I must find this extremely soon, the tale cannot stop!
Thankyou very much, for writing this. It's the best thing I've read in so long and it's strengthened my views in the supernatural. I believe in the tales from my childhoods, more so in vampires and werewolves, but this is a reality check on ghosts and other unknowns. my perception of reality has widened thanks to this. Really.
I would also like to comment on what a kind and intelligent person you are. Yes, I do sound like a sycophant (it's one of my special qualities) but I truly mean this. I've read many interviews from other authors and they are very demeaning to the rest of the human race, because they think of themselves as the excelled individuals. Some others are frankly boring and unimaginative to talk to, despite what they may have written. However, neither of these cases apply to you. You approach everything with a wonderful sense of realism and you give that extra dimension to the book - because you believe in it (to what extent though I don't know). You're very... normal, in the sense that you make the supernatural feel like just another part of life, which I really like. When I talk to my friends about those things, I usually get weird looks, but here, it's just like breathing. Your responses are also very inspirational. I've decided to keep a dream journal now!
This is the most I've ever conversed with an author and enjoyed it. It was simply thrilling to talk to you, so thankyou very much for the opportunity. I'll keep an eye out for anything else you'll release and make sure I read them - they will not go unnoticed by me.
P.S. You're the nicest Alex I've ever talked to. :)
I didn't get a chance to read this selection until this week as I have been too busy.
Looks interesting so far. Actually I was interested since the first read. What a page turner, very suspensful. The characters well developed.
I don't like many horror books. I am picky with books as I have a huge pile of books waiting to be read.
I am happy to have found another author I like. Unfortunately my library has neither of your books, will have to buy them. Do you have another book in the works? I will keep looking for your next book, in the meantime I will read The Price and The Harrowing.