Here is a picture of its dramatic cover:
And here is a picture of me, Alma, and Steph from Fangs, Wands, and Fairy Dust at the Maine Festival of the Book:
We had a great time that day -- Alma and I chose to interview each other in front of the crowd, which led to a lively discussion during the q&a portion of the panel. Steph wrote about it here.
But there were a few questions I didn't get to ask that day. So I caught up with Alma via email to talk about action sequences, romance, and spy novels. As usual, she offered thoughtful and interesting responses. Enjoy!
EM: THE RECKONING, your follow-up to THE TAKER, comes out this June (I am *so* excited!). It sounds like this book has even more action and suspense than the first one. Do you enjoy writing such high-tension scenes? How do you get yourself pumped up to write them?Thanks, Alma! Always great to see you in person and to host you on the blog. Looking forward to June 19th!!
Alma: No, I don’t enjoy them. As you know, they’re really hard to write, especially given the unlikely situations in which my characters often find themselves. I remember sitting in my hotel room in Italy last year while I was there for a conference for work, reworking one particular scene over & over until I wanted to burst into tears. And it ended up being rewritten about five more times before the manuscript finally went to the typesetters.
The only saving grace is that I’ve spent so much time with these characters—ten years to write The Taker and two years have passed since the first book was sold to Simon & Schuster, the publisher—that I know them really well, and no matter how preposterous the situation, I know how they’re likely to react. It’s like I’ve been babysitting crazy people for a long time. [E says: Love that comparison!]
EM: THE TAKER offered, among other things, some very complicated takes on love. I'm sure THE RECKONING delves even further into the messy affairs of the heart. Did you set out to write a romance? Are these books love stories?
Alma: I thought I was writing an anti-romance, to be honest. It was a reaction to how, when I was young, so many girls I knew were in relationships that weren’t working, but they wouldn’t leave because they didn’t want to be without a man. I felt society put a lot of pressure on women to be matched up, and we often repressed our own desires in order to be more appealing to a man. That is the problem of Lanny, the heroine in the story: at the outset, she’s a girl in a rush to grow up. For her era, that meant being married. Your life wasn’t your own until you were wed. She wanted to settle that, thinking that once she married Jonathan her life would fall into place.
As I got older, I came to understand more about relationships. I watched my friends and neighbors go through very trying personal times. I went through some myself. It makes you wonder how any love relationship can survive. The odds are certainly stacked against us, given that we change as we age. I feel the Taker books are love stories in the truest sense, in that they examine love in all its aspects, it heights and its depths. But it’s not a romance. It’s not just about the courtship and then assuming the couple lives happily-ever-after. Any two people can fall in love. It’s staying true to each other that’s the hard part.
EM: You've dropped some hints about other projects you're working on...Care to divulge some secrets and pique our interest even more?
Alma: I’m working on a few other projects but it’s all in the preliminary stages. People keep telling me that they’re intrigued by my past experience working for CIA and NSA, so I hope to sell a spy novel soon. And I started working on a screenplay for a spy movie, too.
Melissa Marr, a writer of both YA and adult paranormal fiction, recently advised me to consider writing a YA thriller: not paranormal, more along the lines of a conventional adult thriller. I’d never thought about writing YA until Melissa brought it up (she can be very persuasive) and now I can’t stop thinking about it. Just this weekend I’ve gotten seized with an idea for a YA novel but the subject is really, really controversial and I’m afraid my agent will think I’ve lost my mind for even considering it. I can’t seem to stop thinking about it, though—I wrote 50 pages today in one long session, which is not like me. [E says: I would definitely read an Alma Katsu YA book.]
And of course I’m supposed to be writing the last book of the trilogy, The Descent, which is due soon to my editor. (Maybe we should scrap what I wrote about the YA novel...)