Saint Catastrophe by Sarah Jilek

What Do You Do When a Cult Kicks You Out?

All Beth Riddle wanted was a family, but having failed to rescue her childhood friend from the clutches of a dangerous cult leader, the twenty-something graduate student must gather her own legion of devotees to take revenge. Beth’s return to her childhood home sparks a war between the cult, a powerful local family, and a violent biker gang. When she flees, the armed conflict only follows, luring her back to her own destructive destiny. A darkly hallucinogenic modern noir romp through sex, crime, and comedy.

Saint Catastrophe is available now from SFK Press.
Order your copy now.

In advance of the release of her book, Sarah Jilek sat down with Laura Thiessen for an exclusive and atypical interview.


What is your writing kryptonite?

Any time I try to write about what a potential audience would like instead of what I’m fascinated by, I end up hating it. Similarly, whenever I ask myself too many questions about what I’m writing instead of just doing the work, it comes out bad.


As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?

My spirit animal (especially my writing spirit animal) is a filthy raccoon scraping the congealed grease off of a dumpster pizza box. The raccoon can clean itself up and put on makeup and a nice turtleneck, but we all know what it really is.


What did you edit out of this book?

There was a scene where Beth had a sexual fantasy about Saddam Hussein that I trimmed down a bit—he’s still mentioned in the book, but things don’t get quite so graphic. I actually didn’t cut much stuff at all; in fact, I added a few scenes and expanded on others in the editing process.


Do you hide any secrets in your book that only a few people will find?

Oh, man. I love secrets. Everything is a secret. The meaning of people’s names; the little Catholic symbols everywhere; even the titles of certain scenes have hidden meanings. I love a book that can be absorbed at face value but that also rewards you for paying close attention.


What is your favorite childhood book?

I absolutely devoured The Lord of the Rings when I was in middle school. Another one I loved was The Two Princesses of Bamarre by Gail Carson Levine. It’s a criminally underrated book about a girl who saves her sister and the kingdom from a plague. I still read it every now and then.


Do you Google yourself?

Yes—anyone who says they don’t is a liar.


If you had to give up either snacks, drinks, or music during writing sessions, which would you find more difficult to say goodbye to?

Depends on the day, but I find music to be a bit distracting unless it’s Gregorian chant or something equally hypnotic.


Which is your favorite season to write in?

Winter, after the holidays. No one’s doing anything fun so there’s no FOMO, and no reason to feel guilty about not going outside, because the weather’s awful.


If you had the opportunity to live anywhere in the world for a year, while writing a book that took place in that same setting, where would you choose?

That’s a hard question. Maybe an old medieval convent or village in Europe or something like that. A spooky place with a lot of history, like the Sedlec Ossuary in the Czech Republic, a medieval chapel decorated with like 50,000 bones or something.

Do you like audio books, physical books or e-books better?

I like physical books, but I think audiobooks are having an interesting moment, especially (I’m not biased at all) Blanket Fort Radio Theater’s audiobooks:

What is your preferred font to write in?

Times New Roman is obviously standard, but sometimes I’ll switch it up with a random cursive font or write in 72-point font for awhile if I feel stuck

What is the funniest typo you’ve ever written?

Once, in a short story, I wrote “Lacy Macbeth” instead of “Lady Macbeth.” And thus, my stripper name was born

What are two of your favorite book covers (besides your own) of all time?

I love the cover of Alissa Nutting’s Tampa—the one with the buttonhole that looks like a vagina. It’s so simple and striking. I love a book cover that you feel compelled to hide from other people because if they see it, they’ll think you’re some kind of weirdo.

What is your favorite word?

Hmm… I like pretty words like “ethereal” and “iridescent,” but I also like ugly words like “ooze” and “seep.” It’s all about balance.

Saint Catastrophe is available now from SFK Press. Order your copy now.

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