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A Story That Seeps To The Bone — Alma Katsu Interview

Careful what you wish for. That’s what Alma Katsu’s book THE TAKER whispers long after the cover has been closed. You’ll hear it, a small voice on a breeze. A cool warning to check your motives and expect them to find you out. Think twice about obsessions that lead you down winding paths. Inspect the lessons in your life and see if they hold true. And most of all, take courage. True love can overcome our greatest fears. Perhaps even conquer death. If you’re willing to pay the price…

Alma’s dark and lascivious story may not be for everyone — and folks, it will turn some hairs white and make some skin crawl, and probably offend the gentler souls among us. But the writing will transport you. It will make you look over your shoulder. And like all genius storytellers, Alma’s gift to the reader is a story that seeps into the bone and becomes your own. Like it or not.

I’m honored to have you here today, Alma. Welcome!

“Alma Katsu takes the reader by surprise in the first chapter of her mesmerizing debut and never stops delivering. What a wonderful book! A dark, gothic, epic worth savoring. A sweeping story that transcends time as it moves effortless from the tempestuous past to the frightening present. Enchanting and enthralling! No question—I was taken!”
—M.J. Rose, international bestselling author

“Alchemy and love prove a volatile mix in Katsu’s vividly imagined first novel, which toggles between the present and the past… Katsu shows considerable skill in rendering a world where Adair’s unspeakable evilness and Lanny’s wild passion make the supernatural seem possible. The result is a novel full of surprises and a powerful evocation of the dark side of romantic love.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Alma Katsu’s THE TAKER is a frighteningly compelling story about those most human monsters—desire and obsession. It will curl your hair and keep you up late at night.”
—Keith Donohue, NYT bestselling author of The Stolen Child

What is your favorite quality in a person?

I don’t think I have a favorite quality. I don’t mean for this to sound flip, but I try now to appreciate people for who they are. I’ve had to work at this. For many years, I was shaped by my career, where I had to manage teams working under very high pressure, and tended to view the people in terms of what I needed from them (which was the ability to work under high pressure!) Now I realize that just about everyone has something interesting and unique to share with the world if we slow down & pay attention. I don’t mean to sounds Pollyannish. I realize there are some people who don’t deserve your attention, but you have to at least give them a chance. I also try to learn something from everyone I meet.

What is your least?

Close-mindedness. The world is a big place, full of things you haven’t even begun to imagine. I don’t understand people who think they have the answer to everything.

As a child, did you dream of becoming a writer?

Oh yes, from elementary school. I had no idea how to do this, though, no role model. The only job I saw (at the time) that paid you to write was as a newspaper reporter, so that was how I started. It was helpful in that I got to be around writers. But making the jump to fiction seemed like an impossibility.

Who/what influenced you to pursue your dreams?

I grew up in a very practical family, so I wasn’t encouraged to be a writer. I’m from the generation that was told not to take risks and to get a safe job. I’m not saying I got me bad advice: my father lived through the Depression, my mother was a child in Japan during WWII. They knew firsthand that life could be tough and uncertain. I ended up following their advice and as a result, had a long government career. Luckily, it turned out well.

But at a certain point in my life, I wanted to try again to write fiction. I didn’t think I’d get published; I just wanted to see if I could master a craft that was so complex and unquantifiable.

What is your greatest love?

Wow, that’s a tough one. I’d have to say my husband. We’ve been together over twenty years and I’ve learned a lot about life from this relationship. But if you asked what my purest love was, I’d say my dogs. Especially the one I raised from a pup. That’s probably the closest thing I’ve felt to unconditional love, because it’s impossible for them to hurt me.

What is your greatest fear?

I try really hard not to be afraid of things. What’s the worst that could happen? You experience pain, maybe you die. You’re going to die anyway. I’ve had to face some terrible fears in my life and luckily, I was young & strong enough to deal with them. I know I probably won’t be so lucky when I’m older.

What is your favorite place?

Lying on the couch in my office where I write, preferably with my dogs. It’s so comfortable.

If you could give a bit of sage advice to novice writers, what would it be?

It’s about the journey, not the destination. Trite but true. You’ll have the most fun figuring out how to write your story, so try to concentrate on that and not let yourself get anxious over finding an agent and selling your book.

October 25, 2011 - 4:00 am

Sheila Deeth - What a great interview–good questions and good answers. I’m intriged by the book now.

October 23, 2011 - 4:59 pm

Jessica McCann (@JMcCannWriter) - Wow, Kim, your description of The Taker has me quite intrigued (and a little scared, but mostly intrigued). I may have to work up my courage a bit, but this sounds like something I will definitely read. Alma, thanks for sharing such personal insights. I was especially affected by your observation that “just about everyone has something interesting and unique to share with the world if we slow down & pay attention.” It’s a wonderful outlook to have in life.

October 21, 2011 - 4:52 pm

C. Hope Clark - Kimberly

Your introduction along makes me want to read this book. Girl, I adore your writing. But the author sounds so genuine and grounded that I expect to find a smart story. This sounds like a must-have. Thanks for the great post.

Hope Clark
FundsforWriters.com

October 21, 2011 - 2:45 pm

Melissa Crytzer Fry - I love everything about this post … First, Kimberly, your intro is so rich with description, I KNOW I have to go out and buy this book (though I’m not sure I can afford much more white hair)!

And, Alma, I love so much of what you have to say. I agree that everyone has something interesting and unique to share with the world; I think I learned that, also, as a result of my newspaper and magazine reporting. I, also, am not fond of people who have the answer to everything; there are some things that just aren’t so black and white.

October 21, 2011 - 2:25 pm

Julia Munroe Martin - Thank you for such a great interview, Kimberly! What a great post…. fascinating to read about Alma’s writing dream. And I love her advice that it’s about the journey not the destination (I’ve been working to embrace this philosophy so it’s nice to get encouragement in this direction). And I agree about closed-mindedness, very frustrating!

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