Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Alma Katsu guest post

Today I have Alma Katsu with a guest post.
About Alma
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.

Prior to publication of her first novel, Ms. Katsu had a long career as a senior intelligence analyst for several US agencies. Additional information on Ms. Katsu can be found in this interview:

Find Alma
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Alma's Books



The Taker: What Makes Us Human?

I wanted my first novel, The Taker, to be the kind of book I enjoyed reading. That meant it had to be big and sweeping, with dark characters that—despite your better instincts—could make you shiver with delight. It would be set in the past, when women wore long skirts and men wore frock coats, and would be full of period details and flourishes. It would be magical, scary and sexy, one part old-fashioned fairy tale to two parts early Anne Rice.
The Taker opens in the early 1800s, in the Maine territory. In that time, childhood lasted until around age six, after which children are treated as little adults and given a share of household duties. Lanore is a young girl from a poor family. In her rush to grow up and start a life of her own, she falls in love with Jonathan, the son of the town’s founder and the most desirable boy in town. He is drawn to her, too, but they both know his family would never let him marry her. He believes she understands this as they act on their feelings, but eventually it leads to Lanny’s disgrace and banishment from town.
In Boston, Lanore meets Adair, a man with otherworldly powers, and under Adair’s tutelage, Lanore is introduced to the mysteries of adulthood, which includes the pleasure and power of sex. No longer subject to her parents’ rules, she experiences independence for the first time and takes her first steps toward adulthood—though perhaps on the wrong path.
When Adair offers Lanore the power to keep Jonathan with her forever, she faces a moral dilemma. The life she can give Jonathan is one he would enjoy—filled with pleasure, and it would enable him to escape his responsibilities at home—but it comes at a price. She could argue too, that Jonathan is in her debt since he had a role in her downfall. The question facing Lanore is whether she will put her own wishes before those of Jonathan, whether she has made the transition to adulthood, or if she still is as selfish as a child.
If the story seems a bit familiar, it’s because it’s loosely based on the folktale of Pinocchio. Lanore wants to become a woman, just as Pinocchio wanted to become a real boy, but in order to schieve her goal, she must deal with temptation. The stakes are higher in The Taker than in Pinocchio, however, and the characters’ guilt or innocence is not easy to determine. Nor is there a Blue Fairy ready to set everything right: Lanore must fix any wrongs she commits. And it’s not just Lanore who is tested: all the characters are challenged to take responsibility for things they did in their past and for their current wicked ways. The selfish and wicked aren’t turned into donkeys: they’re given the ‘gift’ of immortality, only to learn that immortality is not what they’d imagined.
When I started working on The Taker, I didn’t realize it was based on Pinocchio. Since novels come from the writer’s subconscious, I suppose this means that the themes from Pinocchio are stuck in the back of my mind. But I hope it also means that The Taker explores the same universal anxieties addressed by fairy tales and folk tales: what makes us human? Am I worthy of love? If I do bad things, does that make me a bad person? These are the questions I tried to explore in The Taker, albeit wrapped up in a lush, dark, mystical story, and I hope that if this sounds like your kind of novel, you will give The Taker a try.

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