Alma Katsu: “I used to joke that The Taker trilogy was a Rorshach test for love.”
The Taker was one of my favorite reads of 2013, reminiscent of the best Anne Rice novels. Now, the trilogy that began with The Taker concludes with The Descent. And Alma is with us to answer a few questions about the love story that had all of us talking:
LB: Out of the three love interests in Lanore’s life – Jonathan, Adair, and Luke, did you find yourself choosing favorites along the way?
AK: It was hard to choose because I’m the kind of girl who falls for the bad boys. And because in the beginning I was writing this book for myself, it was about the kind of men I like to read about: a real heartbreaker (Jonathan), the absolutely terrible one (Adair) and the good one (Luke, though he has his flaws, too). If you like your men bad, these books are like all your favorite desserts rolled into one. I’ve known men like Jonathan—I was a music critic a long time ago and got to hang around rock stars—and so I knew he was a long shot. It would be nearly impossible for Lanny to end up with him. I’ve never met anyone with Adair’s pure animal magnetism but I could picture a man like this being tamed by love. The whole Beauty-and-the-Beast thing. That’s the story beneath The Taker story.
I used to joke that The Taker trilogy was a Rorshach test for love . If you fell for either Jonathan or Adair, it meant you were messed up, though in different ways. If you went for Luke, it meant you had your head on straight. (But what fun is it having your head on straight?)
LB: No spoilers, but at what point in writing this trilogy did you know who Lanore would end up with?
AK: Right after I finished the first book. It took a long time to write The Taker, most of the time being spent trying to figure out what these characters were trying to tell me. (Who was it that said writing a novel is like rearranging the furniture in the dark?) When it started out, I thought the love story was between Lanny and Jonathan and that it would end with her heart being broken because Jonathan is incapable of change. After the manuscript was turned in to the editor, I saw there was another love story there, a bigger one, with a man who was willing to change if she gave him the chance. Only he’s a terrible man and she would have to be very brave to be willing to take that chance on him. (I made him really, really bad because I like to turn things up to eleven, as Spinal Tap would say. Things only get interesting when you push it to the limit: what if you could have the most amazing love ever, but with this guy who’s done some pretty horrible things. Could you ever trust him? Would it be worth the risk?) Because Lanny matured quite a bit over the course of the three books, by the end she knew she was strong enough to handle him. She was willing to take the chance not only because she felt he had proved himself to her, but because she knew that no matter what happened, she would survive.
LB: Lanore seems to wrestle with the idea of her “punishment” in The Descent – and as a heroine, she definitely falls on the side of moral ambiguity. Do you believe our sins in love and life come back to us in some way?
AK: Lanny had the misfortune of growing up in a small town only one or two generations removed from its Puritan past. While she’s better able to judge the morality of her actions later in the story, in the beginning she’s really at the mercy of the mores of the time. For instance, she feels she’s damned for giving herself to Jonathan (though thrilled at the same time) and is the sluttiest girl in town, only to be shocked later when she realizes that many of the girls she knows have done the same thing. She was wracked by guilt for nothing.
As for my personal feelings, I was raised Catholic: I believed I was responsible for every bad thing that happened, even if it had nothing to do with me (kidding). I now think that the only thing we have to answer to is our own conscience. A moral person can’t outrun her conscience, and that’s the conclusion that Lanny comes to, so I would say that she’s a moral person.
LB: A character in this book tells Lanore that “We’re rarely attracted for the reasons we think; it’s the subconscious at work.” Do you think attraction is more psychological or more physical?
AK: There’s the physical part—thank goodness—but I think that’s only what initially attracts us to a person. It’s how this person behaves that cements the deal but that happens on the subconscious level. Which is why we’re blind as to why a relationship works or doesn’t and you end up frustrated and unhappy. It takes us an entire lifetime to work out why we make the same mistakes over and over, which sometimes includes being attracted to someone who is no good for you.
LB: Erica Jong once wrote that she thinks it’s more practical to have a lover for each decade rather than try to make one relationship work for an entire lifetime. Lanore has wrestle with love through centuries. Do you think it’s possible to find a one true soul mate?
AK: Smart woman, that Erica Jong! Still, speaking as a woman who has been married for 24 years, I do think it’s possible to find your soul mate. Just because he’s your soul mate doesn’t mean the whole relationship thing is going to be any easier, though. You’re still going to fight; terrible, cataclysmic things can happen. You’ll just have this really strong bond that makes it harder to walk away. At least, that’s been my experience.
LB: Who would you cast in a TV series made from these novels?
AK: I would love to see The Taker turned into a TV series—I guess that’s every novelist’s dream these days, the big networks are doing such a wonderful job bringing stories to life. I am terrible at picking actors, though, because I don’t watch a lot of movies. I could see Henry Cavill as Jonathan. Btw, I have Pinterest boards where readers can nominate their favorite actors [http://www.pinterest.com/almakatsu/]. Joseph Morgan and Jonathan Rhys Myers have gotten multiple votes for Adair. Amanda Siefried seems to be the fan favorite for Lanny. See which other actors were picked. Everyone is welcome to join in the fun!
LB: Are you working on a new novel?
AK: I’m finishing up revisions to a new standalone novel called The Lost Gods. It has a lot of the same elements that The Taker books have—an intense love story, lots of historical backstory, unexplained supernatural goings on—but new characters and a very different style and tone. After that I’m working on a historical—no supernatural stuff at all!
LB: What’s on your TBR?
AK: Right now I’m listening to Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch on audio. After that, I have The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton, also on audio. I just picked up Jeanette Winterson’s The Daylight Gate, a novel about a witchcraft case in England in 1612. Behind that is a stack of novels that have been waiting patiently for the past couple years. Can I give a shout out for a couple great books I got to blurb: an anthology of erotic Gothic stories, Darker Edge of Desire, edited by Mimi Szereto (Cleis Press) and While Beauty Slept by Elizabeth Blackwell (Amy Einhorn Books). Elizabeth’s novel is a retelling of the Sleeping Beauty myth—but no erotica!
Alma Katsu is the author of The Taker Trilogy, a highly acclaimed epic supernatural love story. The first book, The Taker, has been published in over a dozen languages and the third book, The Descent, has just been released by Gallery Books. She has an MA in fiction from Johns Hopkins. She is former career intelligence officer and currently works for a think tank. www.almakatsu.com