Day Twenty Three: 5 Questions with debut author Alma Katsu
One of the books I was really excited about this fall when I still worked for Borders was Alma Katsu’s The Taker. When a sales rep brought me a debut they were excited about, it was very important for me to read it. So, when The Taker was sold in, I took it home that night and immediately dug right in. I then found reasons to keep reading. I think I took about a two hour bath that night. A day later, I was done with The Taker and craving more. I then gave my copy to my wife to read, and as expected, the same thing happened. I’m not sure where my copy is any longer, because I know it’s been passed on again. With how much I loved the book, I just had to share it with the world. The rep sent me more copies and I passed them out to everyone I could. I even did some giveaways on the old Borders Sci-Fi blog, Babel Clash. So, it’s safe to say that I’m a huge advocate for this book. It looks like I was right too because Booklist has named The Taker as one of the best debuts of the year. That’s why I’m so excited Alma has agreed to spend some time on my blog during my 31 Days of Halloween Hijinks.
The Taker is equal parts tragic love story, epic historical fiction, and supernatural horror. Katsu has blended all of these elements together to form one of the best debuts I’ve ever read. The novel starts off during the night shift in a small Maine hospital. Luke Findley was prepping for another boring night in the ER, but this all changes as Lanny, a murder suspect who is being escorted by the local police, enters the hospital for medical care. She asks Luke to help her escape, and the decision he makes will change his life forever because Lanny is not quite what he expected.
Below, find Alma’s answers to my five questions!
1) Your debut novel is such a wonderful blend of historical fiction, tragic love story, and horror. What inspired you to take on such a layered project?
Looking back, The Taker seems to be the sum of my subconscious projected through a variety of stories, writers, and some films, that made an impression on me as I was growing up. I didn’t know it while I was writing it, though. I was most conscious of the influence of Interview With The Vampire because I used a similar present-day frame: in The Taker, Lanny, the protagonist, tells her story to a doctor, just as Interview starts with Louis telling his story to a reporter, but in both cases the majority of the book is set in the past.
The Taker is the story of a young woman—a girl at the beginning of the book—who is in a rush to grow up and become a woman, and mostly to be in an adult love relationship, before she really knows what that means. For most of us, the transition from child to adult was sort of mysterious, and very personal. Lanny tries to find the answers but being an independent sort, charges ahead and ends up making some mistakes, which have dire consequences. To some extent, I was influenced by books such as Moll Flanders and Fanny Hill, or modern counterparts Slammerkin by Emma Donahue or Fanny by Erica Jong, which are all historical novels, stories of women who are forced into prostitution or compromising situations in order to survive (or in the case of Slammerkin, leads to the heroine’s ultimate downfall.)
Lastly, a friend swears that she sees a heavy Dark Shadows influence (I should point out that there are no vampires in The Taker, despite the comparisons to vampire stories.) I watched Dark Shadows as a kid but have no memory of any of the plot lines, so if there is a similarity, I’m pleading amnesia.
2) Describe the feeling you had as a debut author when you finally saw your work in print and read all the wonderful reviews coming in.
I’ve been very lucky, from getting a wonderful agent, to selling at auction, the overseas sales and yes, some really nice reviews. Especially after working on The Taker for ten years, after all those times you think it’s never going to go anywhere. But like every author, I’ve gotten my share of bad reviews, too, and just as everyone says, those are the ones you remember.
The book came out in the UK first, in the spring, and so it was a bit surreal at first, with everything happening thousands of miles away. I remember when the UK proofs first arrived; I wanted to show it to everyone I met! Now there are boxes of the different editions all over the house, the Spanish, Polish, US hardcover, audiobook—the UK paperback edition just arrived today! And we’re starting to put together the second book, The Reckoning. It’s hard to believe so much has happened in less than a year.
3) While reading the book, I became pretty invested in the relationship between Luke and Lanny. Can you give us a preview of what’s next for them?
The Reckoning picks up where The Taker left off, so if you’ve read the first book you probably have a good idea what this means. Lanny will soon be in a situation that puts her relationship with Luke under quite a bit of stress and will force her to confront her motives for enticing Luke to run away with her. Luke will have to ask himself how far he’s willing to go to be with her.
4) Since this is appearing in my “31 Days of Halloween Hijinks” blog series, I have to ask one Halloween-themed question – what was your favorite costume as a kid?
Halloween was a makeshift holiday when I was a kid. When you were really little, your parents would get you these cheap costumes from Woolworth’s with the masks you couldn’t see out of. Once you graduated from these, costumes tended to be improvised, usually on Halloween day. Consequently, I don’t remember dressing up except as a witch one year.
What I do remember is the candy! This was before candy manufacturers came up with these “fun size” portions. Also, I grew up in a small but dense town, where everyone knew everyone else, and so parents felt safe letting their children roam all night, unescorted. We’d come home with a pillowcase filled—and I mean filled—with candy. It was like we’d robbed a candy store.
5) What’s next for you?
I’m working with my editor to put the finishing touches on The Reckoning, the second book in the Taker trilogy. The third book, The Descent, has been started and I’m looking forward to getting back to it. Meanwhile, I’ve got a few short stories coming out that are sort-of outtakes from a previous version of The Taker that was written in multiple POVs. The Wedding Party, which is in the November edition of Portland magazine, is from Jonathan’s POV, and I hope to have a Kindle Single out soon which has Lanny crossing paths with Edgar Allan Poe. There are some projects on the horizon that are not related to The Taker, too, but the way things are going it will be a few years before I can get to them.