Elizabeth Johnson was born in New London, Connecticut, raised in Knoxville, Tennessee and is a graduate of Yale University. Kostova holds a MFA from the University of Michigan, where she won the Hopwood Award for the Novel-in-Progress. Her first novel, The Historian, was published in 2005, and it has become a best-seller.
Set in four time periods - 1930s, the 1950s, around 1973, and the author's "present day", 2005 - this intriguing book tells the interweaving stories of a young girl in a quest over many parts of Europe to find out about her father's travels in the 1950s and beyond, in addition to those of his mentor, Professor Rossi, in the 1930s; to unravel the secrets her father and Professor Rossi has discovered; and, in the 1970s, to find her father who has disappeared ostensibly searching for her missing mother, about whom she knows almost nothing.
She wrote The Historian over the course of ten years. The initial flame was sparked by stories told to her by her father, a professor, who used to regale her with stories of the vampiric kind while travelling Europe. Kostova was inspired to base much of the book in Bulgaria by her Bulgarian husband Georgi Kostov.
The rights to publish The Historian were purchased by Little, Brown and Co. for $2 million. Sony has since purchased the movie rights for $1.5 million. Douglas Wick, producer of Memoirs of a Geisha and Gladiator has signed on to produce the film.
In late 2006, Kostova went on an international book tour for The Historian's paperback version. It has been published in 28 languages.
Elizabeth Kostova first went to Bulgaria in 1989 when she was engaged in a university study of the East European folklore. That trip influenced The Historian by providing it with a setting (one third of the novel takes place in Bulgaria in the very period of her visit) and because it is very close to Transylvania - the birthplace of Dracula. Also during this trip she met her husband - Georgi Kostov. She now often travels to Bulgaria with him.
In May 2007, the Elizabeth Kostova Foundation for Creative Writing was founded. The Foundation helps support Bulgarian creative writing, the translation of contemporary Bulgarian literature into English, and friendship between Bulgarian authors and American and British authors.