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Core: a Romance

“This intense and compact novel crackles with obsession, betrayal and madness. As the narrator becomes fixated on his best friend's girlfriend, his precarious hold on sanity rapidly deteriorates into delusion and violence. Alonso skillfully uses language to imitate memory and psychosis, and deliberate misuse of standard punctuation blurs the distinction between the narrator's internal and external worlds. This story can be read as the classic myth of Hades and Persephone (Core) rewritten for a twenty-first-century audience as well as a dark, foreboding tale of unrequited love and loneliness. A sense of alienation and Faulknerian grotesquerie permeates this landscape, where desire is borne in the bloom of a daffodil and sanity lies toppled like an applecart in the mud.”

SENTENCES SPUTTER AND FRACTURE. Nothing is linear. But the story progresses, through repetitions of words and phrases, and occasional clear windows in the kaleidoscope of narration, constructing a crazy quilt of a story of love gone terribly wrong, and bad things that happen because of it.


A GORGEOUS, FRACTURED NOVEL about a homicidal sculptor of stones and ceramics.


A TRUE CRAFTSMAN, Alonso controls his form – portraying the internal madness of the main character without sacrificing clarity of style or plot orientation. Further, what in lesser hands could have easily lapsed into tedious stream of consciousness becomes a sublime landscape of mental anguish and crazed logic.


KASSTEN ALONSO'S DEBUT NOVEL IS STARK AND AFFECTING. Juxtaposing the sweet and the macabre, Alonso heightens the reader's perceptions of each. Alonso's prose is exquisite and artistic. He's able to reflect the narrator's instability amazingly well through a sort of stream of consciousness prose, while never losing the descriptiveness and lyrical quality that captures and holds the reader's attention from the first to the last page. Alonso's modern gothic tale-- think windswept American corn fields rather than dark English moors-- is absolutely arresting. Core: A Romance is the demonstration of a writer with great skill and precision. Highly recommended.


"Romance is too limiting a word to describe the content of this book, which is the manifestation of some more powerful and tangled compulsions, more reckless ambitions."

—Michael Ray, Editor, Zoetrope: All Story

I had two previous endings for Core, before I settled on the book’s final chapter. In “Necrophilia,” Hades preps Persephone’s dead body to make a plaster cast. My idea was he was going to make a “coffin” of her cast to lie in, sublimate or be assimiliated by (as per the Narcissus myth). Fade out. The chapter as I envisioned it then altered, and rather than him reclining in the cast, he has sex with her dead body. I decided this was too heavy an ending for an already heavy book, and although I had a “rational” explanation that fit the story, it seemed gratuitous; I didn’t need to make this character any less sympathetic to the reader.

Daffodils Ending (129 KB)

“Daffodils” was my second attempt at a final chapter. This ending was an alteration of a short story with both related and unrelated imagery. It also contains a rather contrived three-word incantatory refrain—“ Cantabricus, Caracas, Chanterelle” for example—which I’d employed throughout the novel, then decided to remove for any number of reasons: too precious, too poetic, to repetitive, too obscure, too self-conscious on Hades’ part (or perhaps mine). At any rate, Hades encounters Persephone (her ghost?) in town, and they chat somewhat shyly before she refuses his offer of a drink, implying she is no longer of this—or rather his—world, and rides off on her bicycle into the cityscape. The chapter seemed too bittersweet, or just too much of a dream or the wrong kind of delusion…he killed her, why should she be shy or nice or even polite? The adherence to the Persephone myth seemed too pat or literal, perhaps. And too pat as an ending, giving an odd sense that everything ended up alright after all, which makes no sense. But mostly, it was appropriating this story for the book when it almost but didn’t quite fit simply because it would’ve made my job easier. In other words, as the necrophilia ending was gratuitous, this ending was dishonest. Back to the drawing board.

A bibliography (468 KB)

Like a lot of writers, I did a ton of research in order to create this world. Included here is a pretty good list of the texts I used. Also, a compilation of the music I listened to, setting the mood while I wrote and revised. Kinda fun.