Today, I’d like to welcome Alma Katsu, the author of a terrific novel called The Taker that was named a Top Ten Debut Novel of 2011 by the American Library Association. The book was released in trade paperback on Tuesday (3/27) and is the first in a trilogy (the second book, The Reckoning, comes out in June). I think you’ll enjoy both the book and getting to know Alma. She lives in the Washington, D.C., area. You can learn more about her on her website.
Want a copy of The Taker for yourself? This is an international contest. Read on…
ABOUT THE TAKER 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
Now, let’s hear from Alma. Welcome!
Give us the “elevator pitch” for The Taker:
It’s the story of a young woman, from New England in the early 1800s, who makes a Faustian bargain to keep the love of her life with her forever, with frightening and tragic consequences.
What was your inspiration for the book?
I wanted to see if I could come up with a story that you couldn’t forget. One that would haunt the reader. Yup, it was as straightforward as that: I wanted to write a great big tragic story that would rip your heart out. I didn’t think I’d actually succeed but it seemed like a good way to develop my writing skills.
In chapter 15. Lanny’s decided she’s not going to the convent to have her baby and so when her ship arrives in Boston, she runs away. She’s walking aimlessly, it’s getting late and she has nowhere to go… when a fine carriage pulls up and three aristocrats offer to give her a place to stay for the night. The scene is a riff on the scene in Pinocchiowhen the puppet is tempted by Mr. Fox and Mr. Cat. It was a lot of fun to write.
Hardest scene to write:
You’d think it would’ve been one of the more brutal physical scenes but no, it was the scene that happens after Jonathan has met Adair for the first time, and he see how vicious Adair is and understands the mess Lanny has gotten him into. Lanny apologizes to Jonathan the next morning and explains what drove her to betray him, and that scene was incredibly hard to write because it was so emotionally complex. She’s done a terrible thing to someone she loves but she’s also a victim, Jonathan feels betrayed and yet he knows the position she’s in—plus he’s wronged her in the past and feels guilty about that.
What’s on your nightstand or top of your TBR pile:
Fiction has been put on hold while I’m doing some research, so I’m looking forward to getting back to The Magician King by Lev Grossman.
Favorite book when you were a child:
A giant book of fairy tales. It had well-known fairy tales but also more obscure ones, and these versions were close to the originals so they were dark and violent. The illustrations were gorgeous and quite fantastical. The overall effect was that magical worlds seemed much more interesting than the real one and I really, really wanted to believe they existed.
Your five favorite authors:
This is a dynamic list. I tend to read widely and not to read everything an author’s written so if I’ve read more than one of an author’s works that usually means something. Going by that criteria, I’d say my favorite authors are David Mitchell, Adam Haslett, Tana French, Audrey Niffenegger, and Sandor Marai. And Thomas Pynchon.
Book you’ve faked reading:
Not to be a prig but I can’t recall doing this. It was probably something I was supposed to read for a class.
Book you’re an evangelist for:
Casanova in Bolzano by the Hungarian author Sandor Marai. Or anything by Marai.
Book you’ve bought for the cover:
The Girl With Glass Feet by Ali Shaw. And the hardcover of The Gargoyle.
Book that changed your life:
Interview With The Vampire by Anne Rice.
Favorite line from a book:
A question like this can stop me dead in my tracks for a week while I try to find the perfect line, so I’m going to just pick a line somewhat at random from The Solitudes by John Crowley: “They both laughed them, heads close together; her eyes—maybe it was the moon, which had come overhead and gone small and white but brighter than ever—her eyes glittered with moisture but didn’t seem soft; it was as though they were coated thinly and finely with ice or crystal.” Ah. You can’t go wrong with John Crowley.
Book you most want to read again for the first time:
Possibly The Echo Maker by Richard Powers.
Most horrifying moment while reading a book:
So here’s the thing: I’m really hard to scare. This is because I studied genocides and mass atrocities and horrible natural disasters as an analyst for the US government, and got to see, up close and personal, the terrible things that humans do to one another up. I didn’t think I’d ever be revolted or horrified by something fictional ever again, but it actually happened the other day and damn but I can’t remember what it was.
Favorite book about books or writing:
The Writing Life by Annie Dilliard though Bird by Bird, by Anne LaMott is also a favorite.
The second book in the Taker Trilogy is coming out June 19th. I’m writing the third and final book, The Descent, right now. There’s a book that’s sort of a spin-off but doesn’t have the same characters, and I’m hoping that if the Taker books do well enough, this one will see the light of day.
Many thanks, Alma! I was trying to remember my most horrifying book moment, and that’s a really hard question! The first one that comes to mind for me was not a scene that frightened me but one that simply horrified me. It’s in Kim Harrison’s Hollows series and I can sum it up in one word that will say all it needs to say if you’ve read this series: KISTEN.
Do you have a horrifying book moment to share? You know the drill to win a copy of The Taker. One entry for comment, another for blog follow, a third for a Twitter follow @Suzanne_Johnson, and a fourth for a Tweet or Retweet. Be sure to include your email. Now…Go forth and comment!