Alma Katsu

"The bond between author and reader has always fascinated me. Without the reader's imagination, an author's words are dead in the dark. Only when you open their book do you make them come alive. It's like a spell. And you spread that magic because you talk about the book, post about it, or give it away to someone." - Thomas Olde Heuvelt, Hex & Echo.

Our next author featured in our series is Alma Katsu. I thought I'd leave it to a writer to explain why I am doing this series of author interviews and I couldn't have said it better than Thomas Olde Heuvelt above. I'm looking forward to reading and discussing The Fervor for one of our upcoming Virtual Horror Book Club and diving deeper into Katsu's historical horror stories.

You can preorder Alma's upcoming release The Fervor HERE via our website (support indies). I hope you all enjoy this interview as much as I did.   

 Stephanie Rose: Your books tend to have a theme where you intertwine the terror of historical events with elements of horror. What made you decide to focus on this in your writing?

Alma Katsu: I grew up in the Concord, Massachusetts area, which is incredibly steeped in American colonial history. While I wasn’t a huge fan of history in school, I noticed that the stories I wanted to write all had some historic context to them. The combination of horror and history probably came from growing up in a spooky old Victorian house in a small, creepy New England town. Too, it’s fun
to speculate, isn’t it, how things might’ve changed if there’d been other forces at play? The ‘what if’ question?

SR: You’ve mentioned in previous interviews enjoying how the past resonates with the present when writing historical fiction. What do you feel in The Fervor particularly parallels life in the twenty-first century?

AK: One thing I’ve learned writing these books is that what we learn about an event in school is usually just a soundbite, but if you dig deeper you usually find the truth is more interesting. This is the case with The Fervor. My husband’s family had been interned, so for over 30 years I’ve heard first-hand accounts, watched documentaries, and learned quite a bit about it, so I knew that the situation was much more complicated that appeared on the surface.

For instance, the public supported interning Japanese after Pearl Harbor because of a fear of sabotage or spying, but this belief was the result of decades of propaganda from Western white nationalist groups. These groups were chiefly motivated by fear of economic competition from Chinese and Japanese farmers and laborers. (Incidentally, several studies conducted by the War
Department prior to Pearl Harbor all came to the conclusion that there was little threat from the Japanese population on the West Coast. The government knew this but caved to public pressure—fanned by several grandstanding politicians.) An investigation after WWII showed that there was not one case of espionage in the US where a person of Japanese descent was involved.

SR: What made you decide to intertwine Japanese American internment camps and the Japanese yokai and the jorogumo spider demon in The Fervor? Is it challenging to combine supernatural elements with historical ones?

AK: Very challenging. The story came together easily for this novel, but the “horror” element was a difficult fit. It seemed natural to have it be based in Japanese folklore. It was also a way to introduce something a little different and cultural into the storytelling: not another story about ghosts or werewolves (though there’s nothing wrong with those!)

SR: Do you listen to any particular type of music when writing? Any favorites?

AK: I used to listen to music in my early days, but now I tend to write in silence.

SR: If you could only choose one of your books to recommend to a reader which would it be and why?

AK: I would recommend they start with The Hunger, as it’s the most popular and probably the best example of my work in this field.

SR: Can you tell us about your upcoming horror projects? Any other adaptations in the works? In a previous interview you mentioned working on a few contemporary horror ideas.

AK: I have stories in a few anthologies: Dark Stars, coming out on May 10th, and Other Terrors, out in July. Both stories are contemporaries. I’ve been working on a secret project, too, and hope to be able to say something about it soon.

We’re in the process of pitching a TV series for The Hunger.

I had a long career in intelligence, which is the basis for my spy novel Red Widow. It’s in development for a TV series and has been nominated for Best Novel by International Thriller Writers. The second book in the series will be coming out in 2023.

SR: Any horror specific books, films, shows, or podcasts you want to recommend to our readers?

AK: Books: there are some great books coming out this summer, including The Pallbearers’ Club by Paul Tremblay and The Devil Takes You Home by Gabino Iglegias. My friend Jennifer McMahon has a book coming out the same day as mine: The Children on the Hill, a great cozy, creepy read.

I’m terrible with recommendations for TV and movies, I’m afraid, as I’m swamped with work. And there’s so much to choose from now. Horror is huge on TV right now.

Lightning Round | Altered and Borrowed from James Lipton

What is your favorite word? Donut
What is your least favorite word? No donut
What is your favorite scary movie? The Shining
What is your favorite horror book? The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
What sound or noise do you love? Rainfall
What sound or noise do you hate? Thunder
What is your favorite curse word? Not much of a curser
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? I’m ready for retirement
What profession would you not like to do? Lawyer
What is your favorite fall/spooky activity to do? Walk in the woods
What author dead or alive would you want to spend the night in a haunted house with? Josh Malerman


About Alma Katsu
Alma Katsu’s books have received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal, been featured in the NY Times and Washington Post, been nominated and won multiple prestigous awards. Ms. Katsu also writes novels that combine historical fiction with supernatural and horror elements. THE HUNGER (2018), a reimagining of the story of the Donner Party, was named one of NPR’s 100 favorite horror stories, was on numerous Best Books of the Year lists, and continues to be honored as a new classic in horror. Her first book, THE TAKER (2011), was named one of the top ten debut novels of 2011 by Booklist. Ms. Katsu has relocated from the Washington, DC area to the mountains of West Virginia, where she lives with her musician husband Bruce and their two dogs, Nick and Ash. (READ MORE).