Wednesday, January 8, 2014

**TOURWIDE GIVEAWAY** Author Interview Alma Katsu- The Descent + Review

Did you ever pick up a book that changed the way you looked at a certain genre? That's how I felt when I read Alma Katsu's The Taker. Her un-heroic stars, her vivid imaginative storytelling, and the most unique worldbuilding ever is what I experienced between the pages of the first two novels in her epic trilogy. The Descent affected me no less as she finishes her legend.

I'm so pleased to welcome Alma to The Reading Frenzy as she enlightens us a bit about her novel, her writing, her life and what's next.
And there's also an epic contest to go with it. Without further ado here's my interview with Alma and my review of The Descent. 

The details for the contest are below as well.


Read an excerpt:

The Descent ONE
The sunlight glinting off the Mediterranean that afternoon was bright enough to blind, and the boat bounced hard off the waves like a broken-down carnival ride. I’d come halfway around the world to find someone who was very important to me, and I wouldn’t let a little rough weather keep me from finishing my journey. I squinted against the headwind to the horizon, trying to will a rocky shoreline to appear out of nowhere.
“Is it much farther?” I asked the captain.
“Signorina, until I met you this morning, I never knew this island even existed, and I have lived on Sardegna my entire life.” He was in his fifties if he was a day. “We must wait until we get to the coordinates, and then we will see what we shall see.”
My stomach floated unsteadily, due to nerves and not the waves. I had to trust that the island would be where it was supposed to be. I’d seen strange things in my lifetime—my long lifetime—many of them stranger than the sudden appearance of an island that heretofore had not existed. That would be a relatively minor miracle, on the scale of such things, considering I’d already lived over two hundred years and was destined to live forever. But I was a mere babe compared to the man I was going to see, Adair, the man who had given me—or burdened me, depending on your point of view—with eternal life. His age was inestimable. He could’ve been a thousand years old, or older. He’d given differing stories every time we met, including the occasion of our last parting four years ago. Had he been a student of medicine in medieval times, devoted to science and caught in the thrall of alchemy, intent on discovering new worlds? Or was he a heartless manipulator of lives and souls, a man without a conscience who was interested only in extending his life for the pursuit of pleasure? I didn’t think I’d gotten the truth yet.
We had a tangled history, Adair and I. He had been my lover and my teacher, master to my slave. We had literally been prisoner to each other. Somewhere along the way he fell in love with me, but I was too afraid to love him in return. Afraid of his unexplainable powers, and his furious temper. Afraid of what I knew he was capable of and afraid to learn he was already guilty of committing far worse. I ran away to follow a safer path with a man I could understand. I always knew, however, that my path would one day lead back to Adair.
Which is how I came to be in a small fishing boat, far off the Italian coast. I wrapped my sweater more tightly around my shoulders and rode along with the ship’s rocking, and closed my eyes for a moment’s rest from the glare. I had shown up at the harbor in Olbia looking to hire a boat to take me to an island everyone said didn’t exist. “Name your price,” I said when I’d gotten tired of being ridiculed. Of the boat owners who were suddenly interested, he seemed the kindest.
“Have you been to this area before? Corsica, perhaps?” he asked, trying either to make small talk or to figure out what I expected to find at this empty spot in the Mediterranean Sea.
“Never,” I answered. The wind tossed my blond curls into my face.
“And your friend?” He meant Adair. Whether he was my friend or not, I didn’t know. We’d parted on good terms, but he could be mercurial. There was no telling what mood he’d be in the next time we met.
“I think he’s lived here for a few years,” I answered.
Even though it appeared that I’d piqued the captain’s interest, there was nothing more to say, and so the captain busied himself with the GPS and the ship’s controls, and I went back to staring over the water. We had cleared La Maddalena Island and now faced open sea.
Before long, a black speck appeared on the horizon. “Santa Maria,” the captain muttered under his breath as he checked the GPS again. “I tell you, signorina, I sail through this area every day and I have never seen that”—he pointed at the landmass, growing in size as we approached—“before in my life.”
As we got closer, the island took shape, forming a square rock that jutted up out of the sea like a pedestal. Waves crashed against it on all sides. From the distance, there didn’t appear to be a house on the island, nor any people.
“Where is the dock?” the captain asked me, as though I’d know. “There is no way to put you ashore if there is no dock.”
“Sail all the way around,” I suggested. “Perhaps there’s something on the other side.”
He brought his little boat around and we circled slowly. On the second side was another cliff, and on the third, a steep slope dropped precipitously to a stony and unwelcoming beach. On the fourth side, however, there was a tiny floating dock tethered to a rock outcropping, and a rickety set of sunburnt stairs leading to a stone house.
“Can you get close to the dock?” I shouted into the captain’s ear to be heard above the wind. He gave me an incredulous look, as though only a crazy person would consider climbing onto the floating platform.
“Would you like me to wait for you?” he asked as I prepared to climb over the side of the boat. When I shook my head, he protested, “Signorina, I cannot leave you here! We don’t know if it is safe. The island could be deserted . . .”
“I have faith in my . . . friend. I’ll be fine. Thank you, Captain,” I said, and leapt onto the weatherworn wooden dock, which bucked against the waves. He looked absolutely apoplectic, his eyes bulging as I climbed the staircase, gripping the railing as I struggled against the wind. When I got to the top, I waved to him, signaling that he should go, and watched as his boat turned back the way we had come.
The island was exactly as it had appeared from the sea. It seemed carved from one lump of black stone that had emerged directly from the ocean floor. It had no vegetation except for a stand of scraggy pines and a bright chartreuse carpet of moss spread at their roots. A few goats ran by and seemed to regard me with an amused, knowing air before they scampered out of sight. They had long, silky coats of many colors and one had a frightening pair of twisted horns, wicked-looking enough to be worn by the devil.
I turned to the house, so ancient and solid that it seemed to have grown straight from the bedrock of the island. The house was a curious thing, its stone walls so sandblasted by weather that it was impossible to tell much about it, including when it might’ve been built, though it resembled a fortress—small and compact yet just as imposing. The front door was a big slab of wood that had been thoroughly dried and bleached by the sun. It had elaborate ironwork hinges and was decorated with iron studs in the Moorish style, and gave the impression that it could withstand anything, even a battering ram. I lifted the knocker and brought it down once, twice, three times.
When I heard nothing from the other side of the door, however, I started to wonder if maybe I’d made a mistake. What if the captain had misread his charts and left me on the wrong island—what if Adair had moved back to civilization on the mainland by now? I’d tracked him down through a man named Pendleton who’d acted as Adair’s servant until Adair chose to go into seclusion. While Pendleton wasn’t sure what had caused Adair to withdraw from the world, he gave me coordinates to the island, which he admitted was so small that it appeared on no maps. He warned me there was no easy way to get in touch with Adair, as he didn’t use email and didn’t seem to have a phone. I had no intention of alerting him to my arrival anyway—force of habit made me wary of Adair still, but I also didn’t want to risk being put off or dissuaded from coming.
I knew Adair was somewhere in the area, though, because I felt his presence, the unceasing signal that connected him to each of the people he’d gifted with eternal life. The presence felt like an electronic droning in my consciousness that wouldn’t stop. It would fall off when he was far away—as it had the last four years—or grow stronger when he was close. This was the strongest it had been in a while—and was competing with the butterflies in my stomach in anticipation of seeing him again.
I was distressed to hear that Adair was living by himself, particularly because it was such a remote location. Now that I saw the island, I was more worried still. The house looked as though it had no electricity or running water, not unlike where he might’ve lived in the eighteenth century. I wondered if this return to a way of life that was familiar to him could be a sign that he was overwhelmed by the present and couldn’t cope with the never-ending onslaught of the new. And for our kind, retreating into the past was never good.
I sought out Adair now after four years apart only because I’d been seized by an idea that I wanted to put into action, and I needed his help to make it work. I had no notion, however, if he still cared for me enough to help me, or if his love had dried up when it went unreciprocated.
I knocked again, louder. If worse came to worst, I could find a way into his house and wait for Adair to return. It seemed an arduous trip to make for nothing. Given my immortal condition, it wasn’t as though I needed anything to live on, food or water, or that I couldn’t deal with the cold (though there was split wood stacked against the side of the house and three chimneys, each with multiple lots, visible on the roof). If he didn’t return after a reasonable length of time, I had my cell phone and the harbormaster’s number, though the captain had warned me that reception was nearly impossible to get this far off the coast. If I was lucky, however, I might be able to flag down a passing boat . . .
The door flung back at that instant, and to my surprise, a thin woman with brassy blond hair stood before me. She was in her late twenties, I would guess, and though pretty, she was worn around the edges in a way that made me think she’d worked hard at enjoying life. She had on a wrinkled sundress and sandals, and hoop earrings that were big enough to wear as bracelets. Unsurprisingly, she regarded me with suspicion.
“Oh! I’m sorry—I hope I’m not on the wrong island,” I said, regaining my wits in time to remember to be charming, all the while thinking: In seclusion, my ass, Pendleton. “I’m looking for a man by the name of Adair. I don’t suppose there’s anyone here by that name?”
She cut me off so sharply that I almost didn’t get the last word out. “Is he expecting you?” She spoke with a working-class British accent. Over her shoulder, a second woman stepped into view at the other end of the hall, a full-figured woman with long dark-brown hair. Her skirt came down to her ankles and she wore embroidered Turkish slippers on her feet. Aside from their shared displeasure at seeing me, the pair of young women was physically as dissimilar as two women could be.
“No, he doesn’t know I was coming, but we’re old friends and—”
The two of them crowded the doorway now, shoulder to shoulder, a barricade of crossed arms and frowns set on lipsticked mouths. Up close like this, I could see that they were very pretty. The blonde was like a model, thin and boyish, while the brunette was lush and womanly, and a picture of them in bed with Adair came to my mind unbidden, the three in a tangle of bare arms and legs, heavy breasts and silken flanks. Their lips on his chest and groin, and his head thrown back in pleasure. A wave of hurt passed over me, tinged with that particular sense of belittlement rarely felt out of adolescence. I fought the urge to turn around and flee.
Had I been wrong to come here? No, knowing Adair hadn’t changed and had returned to his sybaritic ways made my task easier. There would be no strings, no possibility of reconciliation. I could forget about everything except asking for Adair’s help.
“Look, girls,” I started, shifting the weight of the knapsack in my hands. “Would you mind if I came inside to get out of this wind before I’m blown off a cliff? And if one of you would be so kind as to let Adair know that he has a visitor? My name is—”
“Lanore.” His voice rang in my ear, rushing to fill a space left empty. And then he appeared at the end of the hall, a shadowy figure backlit by the sun. My heart raced, being in his presence once again. Adair, the man who’d hurt and deceived me, loved and exalted me, brought a man back from the dead for me, given me all of time in the hope I would share it with him. Did he still love me enough to help me?
As I stood in Adair’s magnetic presence, everything that had happened between us rushed back to me in a tumult, all that passion and anger and hurt. The chaos of the strange world I had known when I’d lived with him tugged at me. I stood at his door ready to ask him to take a journey with me—a journey that wasn’t without risk. The bond between us might be ruined forever. Still, I had no choice. No one else could help me.
A new chapter in our history was about to begin.

Please welcome Alma Katsu to The Reading Frenzy

Alma Hi Welcome. I absolutely loved this trilogy and am so sorry that it’s over.

Tell my readers about The Descent
The Descent is the finale to The Taker Trilogy. The trilogy starts with Lanore McIlvrae using magic—magic she doesn’t understand—to try to a bind a faithless lover to her, only to find that she’s damned them both to an eternity with a mysterious man with otherworldly powers, and it’s up to her to free them. That’s the pocket description but it doesn’t begin to cover it. The one thing most readers say about the books is that they’re unlike anything they’d read before. So while it’s been compared to Interview With the Vampire and Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander, and The Historian it’s not exactly like any of those books. It’s got elements of historicals, fantasy, paranormal, romance and suspense but it doesn’t belong in any of those genres. I think that ultimately readers find it a pretty satisfying experience, though.

I think the trilogy like all fairytales a morality tale.
Am I right?
Was it always meant to be?
I will blame my Catholic school upbringing for that! You’re right, fairy tales are morality tales and the story is strongly influenced by fairy tales. It also started out as a tragedy, not a happily-ever-after (though the trilogy ends on a happy note) and all tragedies are morality tales, too, I think.  Lanore, the heroine, comes to understand that she’s done some selfish things and spends the rest of her life trying to redeem herself.

You mentioned that The Taker was going to be a stand-alone novel and that it wasn’t until you sold it that you came up with the rest of the trilogy.
Did any of the contents of The Taker change because of this?
No—the idea came from where the first book ended. It wasn’t exactly a cliffhanger but was pretty dramatic and had the potential to kick off one heck of a story. I won’t go into detail so as not to spoil it for anyone who hasn’t read the books, but it’s like that old Chekhov saying: if you show a gun in act one, it had better go off in act three.

I read your series by accident because my editor at LibraryJournal thought it would be right up my dark fantasy, adult fairytale alley. Boy was she right.
Tell us what has surprised you most about reaction to this trilogy?
I’m glad you ended up getting The Taker—what a fortunate bit of serendipity! A lot of things have surprised me, but two things in particular stand out: first, The Taker is doing really well overseas which really surprises me, given that it’s mostly set in America in the early 1800s. I didn’t think foreign audiences would be interested in American history (though the historical aspect is not especially strong). Secondly, these are dark books but no darker than say, your average episode of True Blood or Game of Thrones and so I was surprised by the bloggers who thought it was too dark and violent. To be fair, I think a lot of the early readers expected that it was YA and so were taken by surprise. I hear from many readers who have enjoyed them just the way they are. 

In a previous interview you stated that The Taker took ten years to write.
How long did it take you to write The Reckoning?
The Descent?
Yes, The Taker took a long time to write mostly because it’s kind of tricky for a first novel. It dips in and out of time, jumping back and forth between the present day and different historical periods. Also getting the voice for the historical sections was difficult, a lot of trial and error.
I had two years to write The Reckoning, and I think it took just about every one of those 730 days to get the version that ended up going to the printer. A lot of writers say the second book is harder than the first, because you don’t really know how to write a novel yet and then there’s the added pressure of your editor’s and your readers’ expectations. It was nerve-wracking.
The Descent went through an extensive rewrite, which is why the publication date was pushed back. The book was written in two six-month chunks, but for a number of reasons there was a long break between those two chunks.

You also mentioned the publishing world is a “business” and not about great writing.
And being an experienced reviewer for PW and Huffington I’m sure you’ve seen this first hand.
Do you think this is why many established authors have jumped the brick and mortar publishing ship for self-publishing?
Is this a good thing?
What I meant by that statement was before I sold a book, I thought the publishing business was about the beauty of the writing, not necessarily for pure entertainment value. I was an idealist, an unrealistic idealist. Publishers love great books, but they also want books that sell—well. Readers want great stories but not necessarily great literature. Of course, what makes a story great is completely subjective. But it was kind of disappointing to realize that there are many books that are great feats of writing that get absolutely no audience whatsoever while some pretty unremarkable books find great followings.
As for self-publishing, well, it’s a fast moving market. In the three years I’ve been in the book business it’s changed dramatically and who knows what the future holds? Digital Book World ran a series of articles on perceptions toward self-publishing based on a survey. Here’s the link to part one (
I think every writer’s goal should be to write as well as they possibly can, not to be published. Easy for me to say because I’ve been lucky enough to be published, sure, but I’m not sure self-publishing helps you to become a better writer. It’s hard to judge your own writing and to know when it’s ready for the public. It takes a lot of discipline to keep working on your story when the technology makes it so easy to push a button and get it out there.

You mentioned also that you used to work in the “intelligence community” and that’s one of the reasons The Taker took 10 years to write.
Alma are you a full time writer?
I was for one year, but I’m back working full-time again. I find I like the stability, not having to worry so much about the future. The publishing business is very, very tough and you’d need nerves of iron to try to make your livelihood from it.
Have you started work on another novel?
Yes, I’m finishing revisions on a new standalone novel, The Lost Gods. It hasn’t been sold yet, so keep your fingers crossed for me! It’s similar to The Taker books in that it mixes historical and fantasy, different in that it’s more set in the modern day and is more up-tempo and thrillerish.

Alma, where and when do you write?
I have a small office at home. I’m either sitting on the couch in the office or on the bed in the guest room with my laptop, and there’s usually two whippets (Abby and Beau) leaning against me. They keep me company.

Alma, thank you so much for answering these few questions and letting my audience know you a bit better.
Will you be attending any signing/author events for the release of The Descent?
The publisher is still lining up events but I don’t think there will be many. Once they’re set, they’ll be posted on my website ( The time of year has something to do with it—the book comes out on January 7th so people are tired of going to stores. Also the winter weather makes travel precarious. But also, book events are really becoming a thing of the past except for celebrity authors. People just don’t come out to them like they used to. I tend to do more book festivals and writers conferences.

Good luck with this novel and all your future endeavors!
Thank you!

My Review of The Descent

Lanore Mcllvrae’s feelings for Adair have changed throughout the tumultuous centuries she’s known him.  She’s feared him, loved him, been in awe of him, betrayed him and felt his powerful wrath.  Now after 4 years apart she’s counting on him to help her rescue her first love and his adversary Jonathan who is trapped and being tortured in the Underworld. She’s rightfully wary of his reaction even though she’s promised to return to him, even though the last time they were together Adair professed his love for her and his promise to redeem himself in her eyes.
Adair’s long existence has come with many costs but it wasn’t until he fell in love with Lanny that he felt them all, felt the immoral and self-indulgence of his unworthy life and against all odds he will prove his merit. Now here she stands in front of him after 4 years absence and is begging him to aid her in helping his rival for her heart Jonathan. He really has no choice but to assist her to prove that he is a changed man.
Can love persevere the powerful unseen forces set against them?

Alma Katu’s epic, imaginative, dark adult fantasy love story is as calamitous at its end as it was in the beginning. Her visual and detailed narrative beautifully beckons of a formal time gone by and exquisitely tells the final chapters of her unmatched tale. Her characters continue to rule the pages with their debased and moral antics and its not just her stars that are unequaled, Adair for his immense presence and Lanny, for her power over him but also her co-stars who complete the story. The love scenes are more tender but no less intense and no less sensual. The novel relates enough past information to make it stand well on it’s own but to get full enjoyment and especially full understanding read the novels in order.
Alma thank you for this legendary journey I’m a better person for experiencing it and I can’t wait to see where you lead me to next time.

Alma Katsu
 was born in Alaska and raised near Concord, Massachusetts. She has a B.A. in Writing from Brandeis University and an M.A. from the Johns Hopkins Writing Program. She lives with her husband in Virginia. Visit her online at or follow her on Twitter.

Connect with Alma - Website - Facebook - Twitter- Blog

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  1. Well you know from my review yesterday that I adore Alma and her beautiful writing style. I loved this series. Thank you for sharing your interview, the fangirl in me loves learning all about my favorite authors!

  2. I just read it Kim, great!
    thanks for the comment

  3. There are very few paranormal series/ books that I enjoy and this one could make my favorites list. I enjoyed the interview and your review. I think I may fall in love with this one! Sigh... ♥

  4. LOL Debbie you are killing my tbr pile! That's awesome how you stumbled on them. And congrats to Alma for the trilogy. Must be amazing to see it come into being.