Wagons roll! The Hunger author Alma Katsu talks to Kendall Reviews.

Alma Katsu’s debut, The Taker, has been compared to the early works of Anne Rice and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander for combining historical, the supernatural, and fantasy into one story. The Taker was named a Top Ten Debut Novel of 2011 by Booklist and has been published in over 10 languages.

Ms. Katsu lives outside of Washington DC with her husband, musician Bruce Katsu. In addition to her novels, she has been a signature reviewer for Publishers Weekly, and a contributor to the Huffington Post. She is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins Writing Program and Brandeis University, where she studied with novelist John Irving. She also is an alumni of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. 

Prior to publication of her first novel, Ms. Katsu had a long career in intelligence, working for several US agencies and a think tank. She currently is a consultant on emerging technologies. Additional information can be found on Wikipedia


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KR: Could you tell me a little about yourself please?

You know it’s a bad day when a question like that makes you go all existential. Who am I? How did I get to this point in my life? How did life get to be so complicated? The short answer is that I’m a novelist, most recently of THE HUNGER (GP Putnam’s Sons), a reimagining of the story of the Donner Party with a horror twist, and before that THE TAKER Trilogy, a very dark, sort of cautionary love story with fantasy elements.

KR: What do you like to do when not writing?

There’s rarely a time when that happens, but when I’m not writing I’m doing something with my dogs: Nick, a 9-month old Saluki, and Ash, a 5-month old Borzoi cross.

KR: What is your favourite childhood book?

Probably Shirley Jackson’s Life Among the Savages. No, not your typical book from childhood.

KR: What is your favourite album, and does music play any role in your writing?

I don’t know that I have a favorite album. I’m very partial to the first Sisters of Mercy album, and that will probably make some of your readers hate me.

KR: What are you reading now?

The Outsider by Stephen King, finishing up Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. There are several books waiting in the on deck circle but I can’t remember the titles just now.

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KR: Who were the authors that inspired you to write?

All of them? I knew very young, like 8 years old, that I wanted to write. I also wanted a pony very badly. I got both; the writing career took over 40 years, though.

KR: Do you work to an outline or plot or do you prefer to just see where an idea takes you?

I started as one of those writers who let the story grow organically but got tired of walking into walls, so I learned to outline. But I love it when surprising twists pop into your writing.

KR: What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

THE HUNGER is based on a famous historical event that happened to be fairly well documented, so yes, I did a ton of research before and during writing the book. I’m a researcher by trade—35 years!—and so am comfortable jumping into projects that require a huge amount of digging and sorting.

KR: Describe your usual writing day?

Bursts of writing interrupted by walking dogs, making lunch, checking social media, worrying why I haven’t heard from my agent, and feeling guilty for not exercising more.

KR: Do you have a favourite story/short that you’ve written (published or not)?

I have a short story with a radical feminist monkey narrator that I’m peeved hasn’t been published yet. It’s been admired by editors, but no one has bit the bullet. I don’t write a lot of short stories so I hate to see one go to waste.

KR: Do you read your book reviews?

Some, not all. I’ve learned to respect that there are all kinds of taste out there and you can’t expect everyone to love your book. Also, there’s no sense getting yourself riled up over something everyone else will forget except you.

KR: Any advice for a fledgling author?

It’s a tough business. Success in this business doesn’t necessarily equate to quality of the writing but it’s hard not to see it that way.

KR: What scares you?

Not much. For many years, as an analyst for a well-known intelligence agency I followed war crimes and mass atrocities. After you live through that, you find that most things don’t frighten you anymore.

KR: E-Book, Paperback or Hardback?

I love a beautiful book, hardback or paper, but I’m reading more ebooks these days because it’s just so damn easy. Instantaneous gratification.

KR: Can you tell me about your latest release please?

THE HUNGER is a reimagining of the Donner Party story with a horror twist. I don’t want to be explicit about the horror element because finding that out is part of the fun. Luckily, the book has been really well received. It’s been compared a lot to Dan Simmons’ THE TERROR and you can’t go wrong with that. Stephen King was very kind to give it a thumbs up, and Ridley Scott picked up the film rights.

KR: Find out what Kendall Reviews thought of The Hunger by reading our review here

KR: What are you working on now?

THE DEEP, the next book in this vein, another standalone, is in revisions. It has to do with the Titanic and its sister ship, the Britannic, which also sank, and it’s sort of a ghost story. I love ghost stories but I think it’s hard to write one that’s convincing or brings something new to the table, so I’m enjoying the challenge.

KR: You find yourself stranded on a desert island, who would you want to be with you?

I think I would like to be stranded with Thor Heyerdahl (Kon-Tiki Expedition) or someone else who could get me off the island.

KR: Thank you very much Alma.

You can follow Alma on Twitter @almakatsu

To find out more about Alma please visit her official website www.almakatsubooks.com

You can check out Alma’s author page here

A tense and gripping reimagining of one of America’s most fascinating historical moments: the Donner Party with a supernatural twist.

Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere. 

That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party. Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the isolated travelers to the brink of madness. Though they dream of what awaits them in the West, long-buried secrets begin to emerge, and dissent among them escalates to the point of murder and chaos. They cannot seem to escape tragedy…or the feelings that someone–or something–is stalking them. Whether it’s a curse from the beautiful Tamsen Donner (who some think might be a witch), their ill-advised choice of route through uncharted terrain, or just plain bad luck, the ninety men, women, and children of the Donner Party are heading into one of one of the deadliest and most disastrous Western adventures in American history. 

As members of the group begin to disappear, the survivors start to wonder if there really is something disturbing, and hungry, waiting for them in the mountains…and whether the evil that has unfolded around them may have in fact been growing within them all along.

Effortlessly combining the supernatural and the historical, The Hunger is an eerie, thrilling look at the volatility of human nature, pushed to its breaking point.

You can buy The Hunger from Amazon US & Amazon UK

In the tradition of Anne Rice and Elizabeth Kostova comes a hauntingly atmospheric tale spanning several lifetimes—a love story featuring alchemy, lust, and betrayal. 

True love can last an eternity . . . but immortality comes at a price. 

On the midnight shift at a hospital in rural St. Andrew, Maine, Dr. Luke Findley is expecting a quiet evening. Until a mysterious woman arrives in his ER, escorted by police—Lanore McIlvrae is a murder suspect—and Luke is inexplicably drawn to her. As Lanny tells him her story, an impassioned account of love and betrayal that transcends time and mortality, she changes his life forever. . . . At the turn of the nineteenth century, when St. Andrew was a Puritan settlement, Lanny was consumed as a child by her love for the son of the town’s founder, and she 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 eternity.

You can buy The Taker from Amazon US & Amazon UK

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