Interview with Dawn Kurtagich
Author of The Dead House

What inspired you to write The Dead House?

A series of unfortunate events. Seriously! In 2011, I went into unexplained liver failure. One of the symptoms of this horrible condition is that you experience “inversion syndrome”, which means you’re awake all night and sleep during the day. So there I was, facing an endless series of night-times, never seeing sunlight or blue skies. This is where Kaitlyn, the “girl of nowhere” was born. Her sister, Carly, was born out of the question: If Kaitlyn is the dark half to this equation, who is the Light? From this I got the two sisters, in the same body, one getting the day, and the other enduring the night.

The Dissociative Identity Disorder side of the book came out of my own experiences with a family member who has this condition. When I was sick, the slips into their alternate personalities were becoming out of control. Because there seemed to be a pretty obvious theme of “Losing Control” in my life at that point, this also fed into the novel, with Kaitlyn being called “a symptom of trauma”, rather than anyone real.

When you started writing The Dead House did you know how it was going to end or did the characters development change the ending?

Usually I know the endings of my books. I know the beginning and the end. The Dead House was different. I had no real idea where the book was taking me until I finally did reach the end. It’s a broken, chaotic, mysterious book, and writing it was pretty much like reading it. I was discovering the story just as much as anyone was.

Kaitlyn or Carly? Who was your favourite personality?

Kaitlyn. Controversial to prefer one character over another, I know, but t’s true. Kaitlyn was the personification of how lost and lonely I felt when I was sick during those 13 months I spent waiting for the gift of life—a liver transplant. She was the fragile, protective, slightly morbid version of myself that emerged during a very tough time. I love Kaitlyn. She’s not as tough as she makes herself seem.

How much research went into the writing of the book?

A fair amount, particularly for the DID side. I was, however, able to take liberties on that side to play with the truth of Kaitlyn’s condition. Anyone who knows anything about D.I.D will know that Kaitlyn’s case is . . . odd, to say the least.

Where did your love of writing come from?

It came later in childhood. A love of storytelling came first. I hated words growing up. I had a mild form of dyslexia, which made reading very hard. Writing too. So I resisted that for a while. I would draw comic strips instead, full of groups of friends bitten by vampires and turning  “evil” to the dismay of their sisters and all of the horrible repercussions that followed (lots of dramatic weeping and murder). I was a flowery child, can you tell? ;)

My mother though, she forced me to read to her every night when she got home from work. I was sure this was a form of torture. And she bought me all these books that I DID. NOT. WANT. But then, one book came along, called Animorphs, and the rest is history. That summer she came from from Boston with a leather-bound notebook and I started my first novel inside it and learned how powerful and wonderful words can be. I was 12.

Who was your favourite and least favourite character to write and why?

Honestly, I loved writing them all! Even Dr. Lansing, our supposed villain. Villains are fun to write, mad protagonists are fun to write, and demonic serpents are even more fun to write! But I really enjoyed writing Naida. She was a lot of fun.

Are you working on anything at the moment?

Top secret scary, surreal stuff. But that’s all I can say. :)    


The lovely people at Hachette Children's Group have set aside 3 copies of this awesome book for me to give away to you lot. It's UK only, but there are 3 up for grabs so that means more of you get to read my favourite book of the year (if not ever).

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  1. Really interesting interview, keep hearing so much great stuff about this book!
    I reckon my alter-ego would probably be called Blondie the Giant, on the basis of me being a ginger hobbit!

  2. My alter ego is Lizzie McBusy. I just wish she'd turn up and clean my house a bit more often than she currently does :-/

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