Book Nerd Interview
Alma Katsu lives outside of Washington, DC with her husband, musician Bruce Katsu. Her debut, The Taker, a Gothic novel of suspense, has been compared to the early work of Anne Rice and Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian. The novel was named a Top Ten Debut Novel of 2011 by the American Library Association and has developed an international following. The Reckoning, the second book in the trilogy, is coming out in June 2012. The Taker Trilogy is published by Gallery Books/Simon and Schuster.
Ms. Katsu is a graduate of the Master's writing program at the Johns Hopkins University and received her bachelor's degree from Brandeis University, where she studied with John Irving. She also attended the Squaw Valley Community of Writers.
As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
A writer! Somehow I took this thirty-year detour working in intelligence, for CIA and other places. I wrote during that time, just not the kind of writing I would prefer to do.
Who or what has influenced your writing, and in what way?
There are so many influences, but looking back since The Taker was published, I’ve been struck by how strongly I was influenced by fairy tales. They’re full of adventure and romance, things we often don’t get much of in everyday life, and teach us life lessons. They’re the first stories most of us hear—no wonder so many of us persist in magical thinking!
When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
Very young, under thirteen, I think. I was sort of a child prodigy in art from the age of ten and there were expectations that I would become an artist. I started writing around thirteen and never looked back.
For those who are unfamiliar with your novel; The Taker, how would you introduce it?
It’s a dark cautionary love story, as opposed to a happily-ever-after love story. It’s the story of a girl who falls in love with someone she’s not meant to have and does everything in her power to get her way, with tragic consequences.
Why do you feel you had to tell this story?
The Taker came out of a short story I wrote a long time ago. Because of my job—intelligence agencies generally don’t like their employees to write and get your name out there—I stopped writing fiction for many years, but I kept thinking about the characters in the short story, and what happened to them after the story ended. When I decided to return to fiction, I knew I had to finish writing their story.
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about Lanny?
Probably nothing, at this point! She’s a pretty headstrong girl without too many secrets. It’s probably no surprise that she wants to have children, although she can’t.
Do you have plans for a new book? Is this book part of a series?
Yes! The RECKONING is the next book and it comes out June 2012. It picks up where The TAKER left off (hint hint, for those who have read the first book.) The third book in the trilogy is The DESCENT, which I’m writing now. And, fingers crossed, there will be a fourth book (in a trilogy?) It’s more like a spin-off, based on something that happens in The Reckoning.
If you could introduce Luke to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
That’s a really interesting question! It would probably be someone who needs to see a doctor, since Luke likes to feel useful. Maybe Madame Bovary, since she died of consumption.
What’s the most interesting comment you have received about your books?
One interesting thing that’s happened is that it’s prompted a few folks to confess their sexual peculiarities to me. It’s been just a couple people… and I’m glad they found someone to tell about it, if it’s been on their mind. As long as they don’t mind if it ends up in a future book. (Kidding, of course.)
Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why?
It’s so hard to pick just one favorite book, don’t you think? Right now it’s CASANOVA IN BOLSANO by Sandor Marai, because it was such a great influence on The Taker, with its infinitely dense take on love, all aspects of love, the good, bad and painful.
what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
Well, first of all I’m not sure I have a genre, because I read all over the map. Mostly I like books that are unusual, and play around with narrative form.
Do you ever come up with anything so wild that you scare yourself, that leaves you wondering where that came from?
All the time.
Do you have a book trailer?
There are two: the US one (Simon & Schuster)
And the UK one (Random House UK), which was translated into a couple other languages, too:
Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I’m working on the third book in the trilogy, The DESCENT, and it’s in such a raw form that I can’t give an excerpt here, but I will say that it answers all the questions in the first two books, such as where does Adair’s power come from anyway, and why does everything always work out for Jonathan no matter what a t**l he is, and will Lanny ever have the love she deserves?
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
That’s a great question. I try not to lie, however, after nearly 30 years in intelligence because you have to tell so many little white lies on the job (deception is part of the business, after all) I’m really sick of it.
Who was your first boyfriend?
I think it was pre-kindergarten. I recall a little boy in the neighborhood and we had crushes on one another. Does that count?
[Jean] - Yes, that counts!
What is your most memorable travel experience?
Sorry, but that’s classified. But it was amazing.
What's the loveliest thing you have ever seen?
Yipes, I wish I knew! Probably a view of the Alps from an airplane, as the mountaintops broke through the clouds and they were caught in that brilliant yellow-pink, Maxfield Parrish kind of light.
What do you normally eat for breakfast?
Yogurt with sunflower seeds.
Where can readers stalk you?
Yes, please stalk me! In particular, readers may want to join the mailing list as I have a monthly drawing for goodies—sometimes jewelry!—and once you’re on the list, you’re eligible every month.
True love can last an eternity . . . but immortality comes at a price.
On the midnight shift at a hospital in rural St. Andrew, Maine, Dr. Luke Findley is expecting a quiet evening. Until a mysterious woman arrives in his ER, escorted by police—Lanore McIlvrae is a murder suspect—and Luke is inexplicably drawn to her. As Lanny tells him her story, an impassioned account of love and betrayal that transcends time and mortality, she changes his life forever. . . . At the turn of the nineteenth century, when St. Andrew was a Puritan settlement, Lanny was consumed as a child by her love for the son of the town’s founder, and she will do anything to be with him forever. But the price she pays is steep—an immortal bond that chains her to a terrible fate for eternity.
The Taker is an addictive story that revolves around perpetual love and tragedy. Alma Katsu’s narration is totally hypnotizing that I found myself reading the pages and getting lost within the puzzling and horrifying events that envelop Lanny’s past.
Katsu brilliantly alternates the story between the past and present. She combines modern and historical fiction and puts a full twist on immortality. The origins of the characters are unique, fresh and completely captivating. Even with a cast of strange individuals, Katsu manages to keep the story flowing beautifully. It is truly unique and unlike anything I have ever read.
This dark fairy tale will fetch many emotions. I found myself completely invested in Lanny’s fascinating story and her mystical past. It was hard to put the book down because curiosity just would not let me. I extremely wanted to know how Luke would come into her life and what it would do for Lanny.
The book is stuffed with romance, action, and violence. Each line is written skillfully and carefully. The plot and characters are truly magnificent. Katsu’s debut novel is the start of her career and we have the pleasure of consuming all of her future works. I cannot wait for the next installment and it’s for certain that it will be more powerful, twisted, and dark.
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