The Kept by James Scott comes out today. It’s the vivid, often bloody tale of Elspeth Howell, a midwife in late-1800s New York state, and her son, Caleb. They’re the only survivors of a bloody massacre perpetrated against their family by a band of unknown men in red scarves. As they flee the ashes of their home and settle in a new town, Caleb has to decide whether to take revenge, and Elspeth has to come to terms with her work as a midwife, which is a lot more shady than it seems. The Kept is a compulsive read—as harrowing as a Cormac McCarthy novel and as earthy as a Federico García Lorca play.
We asked the author one question.
How are you celebrating the publication of The Kept?
James Scott: Outside of donning a disguise and waiting in a dark corner of a bookstore while biting my nails to the quick for the first person to buy a copy, and outside of the anxiety and expectation and night terrors, I think the book’s release itself will be a pretty quiet night. I’ll be glad to have it out at last, because the way my emotions flip from confident to shaken, positive to depressed, thrilled to terrified, is exhausting. People who know tell me that’s normal. I’m trying to enjoy it when I can.
There are a lot of things along the way that provide moments of celebration—finishing a draft, finishing edits, getting interest in the manuscript—and my wife has been good about encouraging me to do so, and I’m glad she does, because I would probably let them go by and once everything calms down, I’d regret it. For publication day, we’ll probably go have a nice dinner somewhere, but I think by and large things will—at first—be pretty much the same, if a touch more relaxed.
Once the readings and events start, however, I think that will really feel like the book has met the world. It’s kind of like Parents’ Weekend at college—I’ll get to see what my book has been up to, see what kind of riff raff it’s hanging out with, and make sure it’s doing its laundry. Maybe I’ll give it fifty bucks when its mother isn’t looking to spend on something fun.
The event I’m most looking forward to (and this is saying a lot, as some of the bookstores I’m going to be fortunate enough to visit—Square! Lemuria! Harvard! Malaprop’s! Parnassus!—are like cathedrals to me, and should be to all writers) is at Newtonville Books on January 16. I lived down the street from this store for a handful of years and saw hundreds of readings there (and bought hundreds of books). I became good friends with the owners, and it feels like home to me. So to continue to stretch this college metaphor, this will be like homecoming weekend, and like the homecoming game, it will be in front of a friendly crowd. I would assume many of them will paint their chests and faces and there will be hilarious banners featuring puns on my name and others using the E from James and the S from Scott and then something like “Rapturous Reading” for the P and the N.
Now I’m trying to be funny, and realizing it, which makes things painfully unfunny, and my emotions are swinging back the other way, and it’s all covering the anxiety and excitement and expectation and my night terrors are bleeding into the day and I just want to get this book out there and shut my eyes for a while before opening them to see what’s happened.
– Brian Hurley