Continuing on from where we left off last time, here are more questions for the fabulous Alma Katsu!
IFB: There was so much soul in this novel; in Lanny, in Adair and in the writing. After years of avoiding the idea of heaven and hell, the characters begin to contemplate the presence of their own soul. For many of them, this is a terrifying thought. Can you tell us about the process of writing such a delicate aspect of the book?
AK: When you don’t have to worry about the body aging and breaking down, as is the case for the characters in the books, I imagine you’d spend a lot more time thinking about your consciousness. Plus, you’ve been chosen for this extraordinary experience, one that is completely different from what you were brought up to expect. I think it would leave you curious about the origin and nature of the soul, and the soul’s relationship to the rest of creation.
I spend probably altogether too much time thinking about these types of questions. Like many people, I’m really curious about the afterlife and whether we’ll finally see the big picture when we cross over. That’s where the story is headed: what if there was magic in the world? What if it was just like the other side of a coin—the world we see on one side, and the hidden magical world on the other? I think it would have to mean something, it wouldn’t just exist for the sake of whimsy. I tried to think of the reason why this magic would exist, what it would be tied to in our world, and where would it lead. The books are an attempt to answer the question: is the life we experience all there is? And my answer is no.
IFB: Your writing is so majestic, so I have to ask: where do you actually sit to write? What about this place allows you to be transported into the miraculous, haunting world of your characters?
AK: This is going to be a bit embarrassing to answer and should destroy any remaining illusions you may have about me. First, my house has no insulation, so in order to work I move around my house to wherever the temperature is most bearable on any given day. Winters I tend to work upstairs where it catches the sun, summers in the sunken living room, where it stays cool. I have a lovely little office but only get to use it in spring and fall. As for where I sit, I am sorry to report that I don’t even sit properly in a chair when I write. I tend to recline on whatever piece of upholstery is available, though my favorite is the big white couch in my office. This way my two whippets can cozy up next to me while I work.
IFB: There has been a change in covers for the series. Both covers of The Taker are equally stunning, but very different. How do you feel about the changes to The Taker and the corresponding cover for The Reckoning?
AK: First, I should say that I’ve been very lucky in that all the covers for the books so far have been stunning, albeit in different ways. Because the story doesn’t fall neatly in one genre or another, the publishers have had wider leeway in designing the cover, and this has been a good thing in that we’ve had some really original and beautiful designs. At the same time, however, it makes it a little harder to connect with readers when you have a cover that doesn’t telegraph a particular genre to readers (if you know what I mean. Thrillers tend to look a certain way with huge letters and foil, for instance, while a women’s fiction cover might be in softer colors and the woman’s face will definitely be missing, LOL).
The cover for The Reckoning has these glamorous blue eyes staring out, somewhat challengingly, from behind a fan of red feathers. The first job of a cover is to get readers to notice the book, and I think this one is up to the challenge of enticing readers from across a crowded bookstore. So far, it’s gotten a great reaction. I held it up at a big book festival recently and got a hushed “ooh!” from the crowd.
IFB: Thank you so much for speaking with us – it was an honour. We wish you the best of luck with the release of The Reckoning and greatly look forward to the third and final installment in the trilogy, The Descent.
For the Simon & Schuster Reading Group Guide and more conversations with Alma, visit this link!
A special thank you to Alma Katsu for this interview and to Simon & Schuster Canada for their help!