Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Alma Katsu

Alma Katsu is the author of The Taker Trilogy, an acclaimed epic supernatural love story that’s been published in over a dozen languages. The third book, The Descent, was published January 7, 2014 (Gallery Books). She has an MA in fiction from Johns Hopkins. She is former career intelligence officer and currently works for a think tank.

Early this month I asked the author about what she was reading. Katsu's reply:
My reading is usually a mix of research for the next novel and something for pleasure.

My work-in-progress is a historical novel set in England in the Georgian period, so I’m deep in research mode right now, juggling four reference books. I’ll spare you the details on those, but thought you might be interested in the novel I’m rereading specifically to inform my writing of the WIP, and that is The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber. I was lucky enough to interview Faber when the book came out and we had a long discussion about how he handled point-of-view in it, and it’s stuck with me ever since. He did this interesting thing with multiple third person within a single passage—not quite omniscient and very tricky, like a narrative high-wire act and something I’d love to try my hand at. Take a look at The Crimson Petal if you don’t believe me.

The book I was reading for pleasure is Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. To say I was “reading” it is a stretch because I listened to it on audiobook. If you had told me I’d enjoy a book about the life of a young boy after he steals a painting from a museum I wouldn’t have believed you. Tartt really is, oh I don’t know, an alchemist with words or the Rumpelstiltskin of the novel, making gold out of clay or straw or whatever’s at hand. Everyone is raving over it for good reason.

I’m going to digress a bit to go back to the previous point about research. The book of mine that’s just come out, The Descent, is a take on underworld myths and, as such, involves characters going into the next world and confronting entities that are larger than themselves, e.g. “gods”. The novel that I turned to for inspiration for a fresh way to handle this was John Banville’s The Infinities. I just wanted to go on record as saying this. If you’re looking for a smart way to think about forces greater than ourselves (or maybe not so great) you couldn’t do better than this novel.
Learn more about the book and author at Alma Katsu's website and blog.

Writers Read: Alma Katsu (October 2011).

The Page 69 Test: The Taker.

Writers Read: Alma Katsu (August 2012).

--Marshal Zeringue