Growing up in Haiti, writer Katia Ulysse was transfixed with the mountain range near her home. She’d spend her days daydreaming about the people who could live in the mountains, escaping into her imagination and concocting tales to scare her sister.
When she came to the United States as a teen, that penchant for storytelling found its way to the page. The catalyst? Daphne du Maurier’s classic novel, Rebecca. Ulysse says she fell in love with the the flow of the prose and couldn’t help but to try her hand.
“I had to write,” she says simply, citing Edwidge Danticat and her Montclair, New Jersey high school teachers as further inspiration. Edgar Allen Poe, too, was a huge influence.
“I remember writing stories and showing them to a woman I used to work for,” Ulysse recalls. “She thought they were so scary! She would say, ‘Did this really happen?’ I loved her reactions!”
Her most recent novel, however, tackles more realistic horrors. Though published in 2014, its themes ring truer than ever in the current political climate.
“Drifting is about the victimization of young immigrants and the threats of predators,” she says. “Those who do not speak English are ripe to be victimized. They’re scared to death to call the police. They’re afraid that if they come, the first (thing) they’ll be asked for is identification, and they’re afraid of deportation so they don’t ask for help.”
She hopes the book will continue to raise awareness of the immigrant’s struggle, both concretely and with more esoteric matters like identity.
“[Drifting] is about a person trying to form a new identity here in the States, but ultimately it doesn’t matter,” she says. “You are who you are. You can’t sever your ties to your home.”
Keep an eye out for Ulysse’s next novel, Mouths Don’t Speak, coming out in January 2018.