Klause, Annette Curtis 1953–
Klause, Annette Curtis 1953–
Born June 20, 1953, in Bristol, England; immigrated to United States, 1968; daughter of Graham Trevor (a radiologist) and Mary Frances Curtis; married Mark Jeffrey Klause (a library assistant), August 11, 1979. Education: University of Maryland, B.A., 1976, M.L.S., 1978. Hobbies and other interests: Reading science fiction, fantasy, and horror; collecting first editions, limited editions, and chapbooks of science fiction, fantasy, and horror; attending science-fiction conventions.
Fiction writer and librarian. Montgomery County, MD, Department of Public Libraries, worked variously for library contracting companies, 1981—, substitute librarian, 1981-82; Silver Spring Community Libraries Department of Public Libraries, Silver Spring, MD, children's librarian I, 1981; Kensington Park Community Library, Kensington Park, MD, part-time children's librarian I, 1982-84; Bethesda Regional Library, Bethesda, MD, full-time children's librarian I, 1984-89; Olney Community Library, Olney, MD, head of children's services, 1989-91; Kensington Park Community Library, head of children's services, 1991-92; Aspen Hill Community Library, Rockville, MD, head of children's services, beginning 1992.
American Library Association, Association of Library Services to Children, Young Adult Library Services Association.
American Library Association (ALA) Best Book for Young Adults, and Best Book for Reluctant Readers designations, School Library Journal Best Book designation, Booklist Best Book and Editor's Choice designations, and Best Book of the Year Honor Book, Michigan Library Association Young-Adult Division, all 1990, Maryland Library Association Black-Eyed Susan award for grades six through nine, 1992-93, California Young Reader Medal in young-adult category, and Sequoyah Young-Adult Book Award, Oklahoma Library Association, both 1993, and South Carolina Library Association Young Adult Award, all for The Silver Kiss; ALA Notable Book for Children designation, Booklist Editor's Choice designation, School Library Journal Best Books designation, and New York Public Library's 100 Best Children's Books designation, all 1993, all for Alien Secrets.
The Silver Kiss, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1990.
Alien Secrets, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1993.
Blood and Chocolate, Delacorte (New York, NY), 1997.
Freaks: Alive, on the Inside!, Margaret K. McElderry Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Short fiction included in anthologies, such as Short Circuits, edited by Donald Gallo, Delacorte, 1992. Poetry published in Takoma Park Writers 1981, Downcounty Press, 1981; Cat's magazine; Aurora; Visions; and others. Contributor of articles to professional journals; contributor of book reviews to School Library Journal, 1982-94.
Klause's novels have been adapted as audiobooks by Recorded Books, including Blood and Chocolate, 2005, and Freaks, Recorded Books, 2006. Blood and Chocolate was adapted for film by Ehren Kruger, released by Sony, 2007.
A professional librarian, Annette Curtis Klause broke new ground in young-adult literature with The Silver Kiss, a book described as "sexy, scaring, and moving," by Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books critic Roger Sutton. A vampire love story, Klause's first novel was praised as a darkly seductive thriller with heart and a message; it has been followed by several other novels, including Alien Secrets, Blood and Chocolate, and Freaks: Alive, on the Inside! Discussing her work, which has caused some measure of controversy due to its violence and sexual content, Klaus once commented: "What I really want to do with my books is change the way readers look at themselves and the world around them. To confirm the right to be different." Indeed, the outsider theme takes center stage in each of Klause's novels.
Born in Bristol, England, in 1953, Klause developed a fascination with all things grisly at an early age. "My mother read and sang to me," the writer explained. "But my daddy used to sit me on his lap and tell me the plots to gangster and monster movies. I knew all about Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Jimmy Cagney, and Edward G. Robinson before I ever saw any of their movies." Klause's father encouraged his daughter's off-beat imagination still further by letting her speak to "Willoughby," a little boy who, the man pretended, lived down his throat.
When she was seven years old, Klause and her family moved north to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. As she recalled, her first experience with creative writing occurred a year or so later, when she was incapacitated with a twisted ankle. Bedridden, the girl wrote a poem about her mother ironing and decided from then on to save all her poetry in a notebook. Soon she was writing and illustrating her own books, mostly about a cat and its kittens. At age ten Klause and a neighborhood friend began making up plays and performing them on a tape recorder. "The plays usually involved some kind of humorous mistake," Klause recalled, "like a woman calling up a plant nursery instead of a nursery school for her child."
In addition to plays and poetry, Klause also began experimenting with horror fiction, penning a work she titled The Blood Ridden Pool of Solen Goom. Each of the chapters of this fantabulous work ended with "… and more blood flowed into the blood ridden pool of Solen Goom." Through middle school she read fantasy and science-fiction books, in addition to the works of Mark Twain and, as she got older, the beatnik books of Jack Kerouac. "I wanted desperately to be a beatnik," Klause remembered. She discovered her first vampire novel at age fourteen, Jane Gaskell's The Shiny Narrow Grin, and this book would inspire her first novel many years later. "I was smitten by the pale young man who appeared in a few suspenseful scenes," Klause recalled, "and became mesmerized with the whole concept of vampires."
Initially, Klause responded to her fascination with vampires by writing "a pretentious, over-written, dreadful sequence of poems interspersed with prose called The Saga of the Vampire," as she later admitted. While pretentious, these early writings proved invaluable for Klause when she finally sat down to write her first novel.
Relocating to Washington, DC, during middle school and high school, Klause continued writing poetry. In college she studied toward a profession as a librarian, taking poetry workshops but moving to short stories once she graduated and started working as a librarian. When Klause finally began sending her work out to magazines, she collected numerous rejection letters. As she began to develop her voice and her audience, several of her poems and a short story were published in anthologies and small magazine reviews.
Ultimately, a writing workshop with children's writer Larry Callen turned Klause's focus to young adults. "I knew I wanted to write for young people," she recalled. Klause soon graduated from short stories and, with the help and encouragement of Callen, set to work on a novel. "I wanted to write for teenagers, so I thought back to what I liked to read at that age. In a way, I stole from myself with The Silver Kiss, because I looked at my old writing notebooks and found the vampire poem I had written as a teenager, and I realized I had some good ideas in that poem. So I just borrowed them." Although the main characters were lifted from Klause's own adolescent poems, the plot of the novel is contemporary and, according to some critics, is daring for a young-adult title.
The story of a seventeen-year-old girl named Zoe whose world is in turmoil, The Silver Kiss blends horror, suspense, and romantic longing. Zoe's mother is dying of cancer, her father is too upset to provide consolation to his daughter, and her best friend is moving away. A series of murders have also rocked Zoe's town; women have been found with their throats slashed and their bodies drained of blood. However, she still goes to her favorite park at night to think and dream, and there Zoe meets the eerily handsome, silver-haired boy who will change her life. Simon, as Zoe comes to learn, is a vampire. Alive for centuries, he is trailing his brother, a fellow vampire who, in addition to being responsible for the town's current rash of murders, also brutally killed the brothers' mother three centuries ago. Simon has tracked his brother through the ages, seeking vengeance. Drawn to Zoe, he feels a glimmer of life because of this attraction and his friendship helps the girl better understand her own feelings about her mother's imminent death. In the process, Zoe learns to cope with her own loneliness and fears. Helping Simon locate his brother, Zoe also aids her supernatural friend in ending his own tormented existence. The pull between Zoe and Simon is strongly sensual, full of the dark passions of the vampire legend.
The Silver Kiss "was a couple of years in the writing," Klause acknowledged. "Then another two for rewriting and marketing. A couple of editors liked it early on, but told me that the vampire was much more convincing than Zoe. Which is understandable: I sympathize more with the Simon character, the outsider." Finally, a former editor of School Library Journal, for whom Klause had written reviews and who had since moved into an editorial position at New York City publisher Delacorte, read the manuscript and decided to publish it. "He called me at work," the novelist/librarian recalled, "and I figured here was another rejection. When he said Delacorte wanted to publish it, I thought I would float away."
Even before its 1990 release, Klause's novel caused a stir. Molly Kinney, a contributor to School Library Journal, called the work "a well-drawn, powerful, and seductive novel," adding that its "climax is a rollercoaster ride in reality, the macabre, death, and love."
Klause blends science fiction and mystery in her second book, Alien Secrets. "With The Silver Kiss I needed to do some preliminary research into vampire lore, but I had read so much of it already that I was fairly well steeped in it," the writer explained. "With Alien Secrets it was completely different. I had to create an entire new world. I had to extrapolate what life would be like when the story takes place—what events had occurred on Earth and how people would think and act in my new world. I had to do astronomical research to find out how people would travel through space, in what sequence and through which galaxies. And I had to track down a likely star that might have habitable planets around it." Unlike some hard-science fiction, Klause's novel does not contain a lot of complex, scientific jargon or data; at heart, it is a mystery and another outsider story. "That is the trick," Klause explained. "To do all this research so that I am completely immersed in my make-believe world to the point where the reader believes in it as well. You don't use all the research. It's like an iceberg. It's the stuff below the surface that makes the setting real."
Alien Secrets follows the adventures of Puck, a thirteen-year-old Earthling who is on her way to visit her parents on the planet Shoon. Expelled from a private school in England, Puck is carrying plenty of emotional luggage with her. Aboard the space ship taking her back to her parents she meets Hush, a native of Shoon. Hush has problems as well: someone has pilfered the precious statue Hush was entrusted with returning to his planet. Together the two teens search the spaceship to find the statue, become caught up in all sorts of intrigues involving murder and smuggling, and finally learn how to work through their emotional problems, helping each other reach greater self-understanding in the process. "It's Murder on the Orient Express, space style," deemed Roger Sutton in a review of the novel for the Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books.
"Alien Secrets demonstrates Klause's versatility and affirms her talent," Donna L. Scanlon wrote in the Voice of Youth Advocates, adding that the author "assembles a sympathetic and well rounded cast of characters." Susan L. Rogers, reviewing the book for School Library Journal, cited the story's multicultural themes, noting that Puck's "experiences with alien friends and enemies provide lessons applicable to the changing relationships between races and ethnic groups here on Earth as well." Similarly, Maeve Visser Knoth maintained in Horn Book that Klause "uses her setting to explore themes of imperialism and oppression of native peoples" in her "rich, exciting story."
Characteristically, Klause began her third novel, Blood and Chocolate, by researching her subject—werewolves—in depth, as a sort of psychic preparation. "I like to howl for a few minutes before starting to write it," she admitted, "just to get in the mood. I am asked to speak at schools quite frequently, to talk about my books and writing. At one assembly, I had the entire student body start to howl with me. It was very therapeutic."
In Blood and Chocolate the main character, Vivian Gandillon, is a teenager in a family of werewolves, part of a pack that secretly live among humans in a Maryland suburb. Competitive, vain, and totally unimpressed with the other werewolves her own age, she falls for Aiden, a human teen at her high school. As Vivian wrestles with the decision of whether or not to tell Aiden what she is, a brutal murder threatens her pack's secrecy. Caught between two worlds and pressured by pack leader Gabriel to become his consort, Vivian is forced to deal with her divided sense of loyalty, her story related in what a Publishers Weekly contributor deemed "darkly sexy prose and suspenseful storytelling." Reviewing the novel for Booklist, Stephanie Zvirin wrote that Blood and Chocolate "can be read as feminist fiction, as smoldering romance, as a rites of passage novel, or as a piercing reflection on human nature," while Horn Book writer Lauren Adams remarked that Klause imbues her werewolf characters with "all the unbounded heat and urgency of prime adolescence."
The title of Freaks describes the central protagonists of Klause's 2006 novel, which follows the quest of seventeen-year-old Abel Dandy to escape his life in a traveling sideshow, as well as the attentions of fellow "freak" Phoebe the Dog-Faced Girl. An outsider in the carnival world of 1899 due to the fact that he lacks a physical abnormality, Abel is led on his adventurous quest by a strange Egyptian woman who appears in his dreams, pleading to be rescued. Traveling the freakshow circuit as part of Dr. Mink's Monster Menagerie, with Phoebe's hairy-faced younger brother, Apollo, in tow, Abel discovers the cruelty with which many disabled and deformed children are treated, and learns that, in the broader spectrum of society, his family and friends have been living one step away from the asylum.
While remarking on the sexually suggestive language in Freaks, Booklist contributor Gillian Engberg wrote that Klause's "vibrant, affectionately drawn cast of characters (including a seductive mummy); and the exuberant, often bawdy language" are sure to attract teen readers. In Kirkus Reviews a writer noted that because the story's "unusual setting … is treated with respect and affection," the book serves readers as an "unexpectedly comfortable coming-of-age tale." Also praising the novel's coming-of-age theme, School Library Journal contributor Sharon Rawlins noted that Klause's "gripping and sensual, but never explicitly sexual, tale is a fascinating mixture of fantasy and reality." "The fascination of human oddities will draw readers to this novel," predicted an equally enthusiastic Kliatt reviewer, the critic adding that "intrepid Abel's varied adventures will keep them turning the pages."
Regarding the thematic content of her novels, Klause explained that she does not start out with a theme or message; instead, she allows them to grow naturally out of the story. "I always felt like an outsider growing up," she once noted. "I was the one with red hair, the one always staring out the window. I am interested in outsiders and what we can all learn from them. In my vampire book, Simon is definitely the outsider, but Zoe learns from him. It's the same with Puck and Hush. The alien helps Puck to come to terms with herself. I call it my outsider-as-catalyst theory." "You can't force the theme," the writer continued. "It has to come naturally. Because of my background as the odd kid out in England and a foreigner in the United States, I find I often deal with the positive aspects of difference. Different is good. People contribute to life and society in different ways, but everybody has something to contribute."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Twentieth-Century Young Adult Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1994.
Booklist, June 1, 1997, Stephanie Zvirin, review of Blood and Chocolate, p. 1694; February 1, 2006, Gillian Engberg, review of Freaks: Alive, on the Inside!, p. 49.
Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books, September, 1990, review of The Silver Kiss, p. 10; September, 1993, review of Alien Secrets, p. 15; January, 2006, April Spisak, review of Freaks, p. 235.
Horn Book, September-October, 1993, review of Alien Secrets, pp. 599-600; July-August, 1997, Lauren Adams, review of Blood and Chocolate, p. 59.
Kliatt, January, 2006, Paula Rohrlick, review of Freaks, p. 9.
Kirkus Reviews, December 1, 2005, review of Freaks, p. 1276.
New York Times Book Review, April 21, 1991, p. 33.
Publishers Weekly, July 27, 1990, review of The Silver Kiss, p. 236; July 5, 1993, review of Alien Secrets, p. 74; May 26, 1997, review of Blood and Chocolate, p. 86; January 2, 2006, review of Freaks, p. 64.
School Library Journal, September, 1988, pp. 120-123; September, 1990, review of The Silver Kiss, p. 255; September, 1993, review of Alien Secrets, p. 233; January, 2006, Sharon Rawlins, review of Freaks, p. 136.
Voice of Youth Advocates, April, 1993, review of Alien Secrets, p. 20; August, 1993, pp. 165-166; April, 1998, review of Blood and Chocolate, p. 37.