Alma Katsu is a writer living in the Washington, DC area with her husband, musician Bruce Katsu. She was born in Fairbanks, Alaska but spent most of her childhood in Massachusetts, in the middle of the area where colonial history was made. She started writing as a stringer for local newspapers while still in high school and continued as a freelance writer through her college years at Brandeis University, mainly in music journalism. She moved to Washington, DC to take a job with the federal government and stopped writing fiction for about twelve years to concentrate on her career. She returned to writing fiction at age forty and was accepted into the writing program at Johns Hopkins. The Taker is her first novel and is published by Gallery Books/Simon and Schuster. She's not much for writing short stories but has had a few published, most recently in Enhanced Gravity, an anthology of work by Washington DC women writers, published by Paycock Press.
Find her online at her website, her blog Endpaper Notes, on facebook, and twitter.
Alma was gracious enough to take the time to do a Q&A, so here you go!
drey: Hello Alma! Thank you for taking the time to visit drey's library and do this Q&A.
When did you know you wanted to write?
Alma: When I was very young, I was an artist. I actually sold my first work commercially when I was 10 years old. Everyone expected me to be an artist when I grew up, but I discovered that I enjoyed writing more. It was more of a challenge. I figured whatever career I chose, it would have something to do with writing, although not necessarily fiction. I never expected to be able to make a living as a novelist.
drey: What was the first story you wrote, and what happened to it?
Alma: The first story I remember writing was in the fifth grade. It was about a Victorian-era detective who lived with his sister and had to wear gloves all the time because he’d ruined his hands with acid while conducting an experiment. An obvious Sherlock Holmes rip-off. My teacher liked it, though, and encouraged me to continue writing.
drey: How did you celebrate the UK release of The Taker? Any plans for the US release?
Alma: I held my breath when The Taker was released in the UK, not knowing what to expect. It came out right after the London Book Fair. The Taker got a few nice mentions in the press, from Cosmo UK and Marie Claire, and good support from bloggers. But since I was a debut author and no one knew me, there were no plans to tour and it was hard to get much attention from the press.
I’m very lucky in that the US publisher is very supportive of the novel. They’ve already had a day of events for The Taker during BEA this past May, and sent me to Comic-con in San Diego, and we have appearances lined up for two months following the release. We’re having the launch party in Arlington VA at a friend’s independent bookstore, One More Page Books, with a special wine (Marietta Cellars Angeli Cuvee, in case you want to drink along at home) picked out specially for The Taker, and my husband’s band is going to play. It should be a great party and anyone in the DC area is welcome to join us.
drey: I'm wishing I lived in DC, I'd love to join you guys!
I loved Adair--he's so villainous, and yet can be so charming. Where did you find the inspiration for his character?
Alma: Adair is getting quite the fan club—I was just on a panel on crafting the villain at The Writing Show, the monthly meeting for the James River Writers in Richmond, VA and the moderator confessed that she loved Adair. He has a huge personality and he believes his own PR, if you know what I mean.
I drew partly on what I learned from analyzing genocides and mass atrocities on the job. (I used to be an intelligence analyst.) You see really horrible people involved in what usually amounts to people killing their neighbors. You have a charismatic leader and followers (whose buttons the leader knows how to push), all of these people feel justified in doing something that they must know, on some level, is wrong. Most people can rationalize just about anything to themselves, if not to others. So that’s part of why Adair is such a convincing villain—he believes he has the right to do what he does.
The other inspiration for Adair is Bill Sykes, from Oliver Twist. Sykes had such simmering menace.
drey: In your opinion, what's his most redeeming quality?
Alma: I don’t know if it’s redeeming or not, but the thing about Adair that doesn’t make me completely throw up my hands is that he believes he considers all sides to a situation before he makes his decision. That is, he thinks he’s open-minded. You actually might be able to talk him out of doing something, but you’d have to make a really strong argument. He is so lacking in self-awareness that it’s almost endearing.
drey: Lanore's love for Jonathan spanned centuries, even if (in my opinion) he wasn't deserving of such devotion. Were Jonathan's flaws a conscious decision, or just how he ended up getting written?
Alma: One thing I noticed about some of the handsome men I’ve known is that they can be very passive. They know when a woman is drawn to them. If that woman wants to act on her attraction, they won’t stop something from happening, but they’re not going to make any commitments, either.
I agree that Jonathan didn’t deserve Lanny, but you know how it is: you can’t tell your best friend that she’s involved with the wrong fella. And everyone has flaws. The characters in The Taker are like most people, in that they act in their own self-interest most of the time. The question is what line won’t they cross? At what point do they realize they’re lying to themselves in order to justify doing something they know is wrong?
drey: How true. And I loved how Lanny's character did not seem to want to think that she could be wrong in loving Jonathan...
What, in your opinion, is Jonathan's worst trait?
Alma: He’s selfish, but not actively selfish. He’s not only handsome but he’s used to people doing things for him because of his family. It’s easy to see where he might come to believe that it’s not his fault if people want to please him. He’s not encouraging it—but he’s not refusing their favors, either.
drey: Where are Luke and Lanore headed next?
Alma: You’ll find out about that in the next book, The Reckoning. At the end of The Taker, we see that they’re living together in Paris, thinking they’re going to start this life together but you know we can’t make it as easy as that for them.
drey: Lanore is so introspective at the end of the book. What is her greatest regret?
Alma: I think she regrets having put her life on hold for Jonathan, wandering aimlessly while hoping for his return. But if you knew everything that happened to her during those years—and you’ll hear a little about them in The Reckoning and in the last book, The Descent—you’ll see that she had a wonderful full life and many adventures, and she finds someone who loves her as completely and fully as she deserves.
drey: That's good to hear! I can't wait to read the next books! *grin*
The Taker hits the big screen--Who do you see in the roles of Lanore, Luke, Jonathan, and Adair?
Alma: I’m really bad at this question because I don’t watch movies very often and so I don’t know many young actors and actresses. (drey: that's ok, I don't either!) Several people have said Jonathan Rhys Meyers for Adair but lately I’m thinking Jason Momoa wouldn’t be a bad choice. He’s a bit muscly but he’s got that hot & sweaty thing going. All my choices for Jonathan are dated, I’m afraid. A few people have mentioned Mia Wasikowska for Lanny.
drey: What's next? Is there a sequel (or two)?
drey: Thank you so very much for doing thsi Q&A! I can't wait for The Reckoning!
True love can last an eternity . . . but immortality comes at a price. . . .
On the midnight shift at a hospital in rural Maine, Dr. Luke Findley is expecting another quiet evening of frostbite and the occasional domestic dispute. But the minute Lanore McIlvrae—Lanny—walks into his ER, she changes his life forever. A mysterious woman with a past and plenty of dark secrets, Lanny is unlike anyone Luke has ever met. He is inexplicably drawn to her . . . despite the fact that she is a murder suspect with a police escort. And as she begins to tell her story, a story of enduring love and consummate betrayal that transcends time and mortality, Luke finds himself utterly captivated.
Her impassioned account begins at the turn of the nineteenth century in the same small town of St. Andrew, Maine, back when it was a Puritan settlement. Consumed as a child by her love for the son of the town’s founder, Lanny 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 all eternity. And now, two centuries later, the key to her healing and her salvation lies with Dr. Luke Findley.
Part historical novel, part supernatural page-turner, The Taker is an unforgettable tale about the power of unrequited love not only to elevate and sustain, but also to blind and ultimately destroy, and how each of us is responsible for finding our own path to redemption.
Title: The Taker
Author: Alma Katsu
Hardcover: 436 pages
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Pocket Books
Alma Katsu's The Taker is a surprisingly mesmerizing tale of childhood fancies and grown-up realities. We start with a childhood infatuation that grows into so much more. Love? Well, Lanore is certain it is. Who knows what Jonathan thinks... Especially when he's got all the girls vying for his attention already.
But Lanore is convinced that she's the one for him, that they're meant to be together, and it's all going to work out. Until the day she's sent to Boston in shame, heartbroken because he's betrothed to another.
Lanore meets up with Adair and his group in Boston, and winds up staying with them. Smart? Maybe not. But it's not like she had much choice. Destitute women rarely do. As she tries to make the most of her opportunities though, she finds that her new friends have a darker side. And is drawn irrevocably into their web when she tries to run away... Now they want Jonathan too. Can she give him up, even after he broke her heart?
The Taker is a dark story, set in a time when women don't have options other than do as you're told, or take to the streets. And Alma Katsu makes it even darker with Jonathan's callousness, and Adair's motives and inclinations. Luke is a refreshing change from the other characters, but he seems to pale in comparison to the rest--maybe because he isn't just like them? In any case, there's something for everybody here, whether you like mysteries or the paranormal or just plain fiction.
drey's rating: Excellent!
Have you read The Taker? What did you think? And if you haven't, here's your chance...
Thanks to the publisher, I have two (yes, TWO) copies of Alma Katsu's The Taker for you, if you live in the US (no PO Boxes, please). To enter, just fill out the form below. Remember you can come back and tweet this daily! Good luck!