Author Alma Katsu’s third book intertwines romance with historical fiction.
By Ethan McLeod
Reston author Alma Katsu’s newest book, “The Descent,” published by Simon & Schuster’s Gallery Books division, hit bookstore shelves on Jan. 7. The book is the third installment in “The Taker” trilogy, a series of paranormal fantasy novels set in both 19th century and modern New England.
Katsu lives in Reston and splits her time between being an award-winning fantasy novelist and a senior analyst for the defense policy think tank RAND Corporation. She started working on her first book in the series, “The Taker,” 10 years ago while she was still working for the CIA. Katsu first began considering a second career as a fiction writer in 2003, around the same time that she and her husband, a musician, moved to Reston from Columbia, Md.
“I tried to pour as much energy into these books as I did into my career,” says Katsu, reflecting on her decision to begin writing fiction novels after 21 years of working for the National Security Agency (NSA).
Katsu enrolled at the Johns Hopkins University graduate program in writing, where instructors taught her to approach developing her craft with a high level of seriousness and dedication.
“I talk to a lot of writers, a lot of whom are around 40, who think, ‘There is this long-held dream that I’ve had that if I don’t do it now then I never will’ – and I try to impress upon them that it’s a lot of work, you must be dedicated, and it probably won’t come to you in the first six months.”
During the months between when she finished writing The Taker and when it was published by Gallery Books in 2011, Katsu came up with additional ideas for two other installments and successfully pitched them to her publisher. Meanwhile The Taker was named a “Top Ten Debut Novel” by the American Library Association’s Booklist Magazine, and developed a solid following of readers, as well as its own fan club.
Katsu, who grew up in Maynard, Mass., says that a lot of the details, right down to the very houses she includes in the book, came from her own experiences and knowledge of American History. The saga begins in modern times in a fictional Maine town, where the immortal main character, Lanore, seeks the help of an emergency room doctor after she is accused of murder.
Katsu describes the first book as dark and historical, and the second installment, The Reckoning, as a “chase story with breakneck pacing.” The Descent, she says, plays on the notion of the Underworld myth, but also reads like a fantastical fairytale.
Northern Virginia book blogger Jennifer Lawrence called “The Descent” a “perfect conclusion to a truly stunning trilogy.” She wrote in her online review that the tone of the third book is very different from the first two, and was impressed with the imagery used to describe the journey of Lanore, the book’s main character.
“Lanore’s journey through the Underworld, her encounters with those from her past, are absolutely mesmerizing,” said Lawrence.
After launching her book at One More Page Books in Arlington on Tuesday, Jan. 14, Alma Katsu will also speak and sign copies of her books at George Mason Public Library in Annandale on Wednesday, Jan. 29.