The Rise of The Descent

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Looking for a good read? Get ready to hear about a time-transcending page turner. Two years ago, having just finished The Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice and The Twilight Series by Stephanie Meyer, I was still hungry for more of the supernatural. My only hesitation was that I wanted something a little more plausible than blood-sucking vampires. As fate would have it, I stumbled upon The Taker by Alma Katsu. Dutifully, I checked reviews before purchasing the book. How I hadn’t heard of it prior to then is beyond me, as the book was insanely well-received and only growing in popularity. I took the novel home and was blown away by the captivating story of an impressionable young woman, the “Adonis” who she falls in love with and the “monster” who falls in love with her. Lanore, Jonathan and Adair had me spellbound like no other characters have. The Taker satiated my need for the supernatural, but was unique in it’s portrayal of everlasting love and unrelenting obsession, both of which know no boundaries for these characters. The second installment, The Reckoning, was equally fascinating—the never-ending love chase propelling the jump between several different time periods and beautiful locations all over the world. Finally, the end of this twisted tale will come to an end with Katsu’s final installment, The Descent. In light of the book’s upcoming release on January 7th, 2013, we spoke with the insanely talented author to learn a little bit more about her. Alma also talks about the motivation behind the trilogy and what to expect as this incredible journey (sadly) comes to a close.

Cliché: The Taker Trilogy takes place over the course of many different time periods, which is something that would look incredible on the big screen. Can fans expect movie versions any time soon?

alma-new-color-pressAlma Katsu: A girl can hope! It’s something that’s been brought up a lot when people talk about the books, the combination of moving around in time and—especially in the middle book—moving around the world, from Paris to St. Petersburg to the Hindu Kush. There had been a tantalizing amount of interest when the first book, The Taker, came out. It’s been quiet recently, but I’ve been told that once the series in finished, we might see interest pick up again. Wish me luck and if there’s anyone with HBO reading this, please feel free to contact my agent.

Where did the idea for the storyline come from? Are any of the characters based on real people?

I wanted to write the story of a woman whose love is so strong that it would literally transcend time, but who ends up making a terrible mistake and paying for it for eternity. I’d say there are a lot of inspirations for the story: great tragic love stories, such as Tess of the D’Urbervilles (I’m a big Thomas Hardy fan); Gothics such as Dracula. Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire was a big inspiration for The Taker, but mostly for the structure: a character who has lived a long time and under unusual circumstances looks back on her tragic life.

As far as real people go, a few real people pop up in the books—the heroine, Lanny, gets to meet Lord Byron, for instance. The only fictional character who is based on a real person is Jude, the charismatic preacher who ends up being a minion of the villain. He’s based on a traveling preacher who lived in the Maine territory in the early 1800s who was guilty of preaching “spiritual wifery”—basically getting women to sleep with him without the benefit of marriage. You often uncover the most interesting things while doing research.

One of the amazing aspects of the trilogy is how believable you make the supernatural elements feel. Do you, personally, believe that things like immortality can exist?

The reason the magic in the story feels real, I think, is because unlike a conventional fantasy where you enter a world that’s already fully formed—for instance, in a vampire novel, you more or less know what the “rules” are—in The Taker Trilogy the secret behind the magic isn’t revealed until the very end of the story. The reader is presented with these mysteries and has to make sense of them, just as you would in real life. As a child, I was fascinated by the idea of magic. Children often feel helpless to change their lives and magic can be very appealing in that respect. It certainly was for me! I often wished magic would just happen—poof—and make things better; I learned eventually to make things better for myself.

We essentially get to know the immortal characters their whole lives. Still, the “villain” Adair is easily the most captivating and complex of them all. We’ve seen him be murderous, loving, merciless and sympathetic; it’s hard to know whether or not we should consider him the token bad guy. Is he?

He undergoes a complete transformation over the course of the trilogy, all brought about by the power of love. The story of Beauty and the Beast runs through the entire story though faintly, not overtly. I think it’s very romantic for a man to be willing to change for the woman he loves. Of course, there are certain things we’re drawn to in our man that we don’t want to change, and in Adair’s case there’s a savage charm that some women find irresistible. But as fearsome as he is, he is willing to be vulnerable for love. What woman can resist that?

Alchemy is at the heart of the “magic” that occurs throughout the centuries in the storyline. It was once considered a “science”. Do you think it is more of one or the other?

I don’t think alchemy can be defined as either science or magic as its practice was quite diverse. Alchemy was practiced and studied for centuries over many continents. It was only very recently that man stopped seeing everything through the filter of religion. Man looked for the influence of god in everything he did, and so it was only natural that this should happen in alchemy, too. Many alchemists were interested in “occult philosophy” which, they believed, would enable them to tap into the supernatural world, meaning the world beyond the one they could see. That sounds like magic to me. Of course, one of science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke’s laws is that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”

Did you know how you would end the series before you began writing it?

Not at all! As a matter of fact, The Taker was originally written as a standalone novel. I blame Adair for the next two books. He ran away with the first book, the way Lestat ran away with Interview With the Vampire (one book blogger has called him “a 21st century Lestat”) and I started to wonder how his story would end. Considering he’s truly immortal, providing an “ending” for him would seem a bit of a conundrum.

What can we expect in the third and final installment of The Taker series, The Descent? Are we getting a happy ending?

The reviews for The Descent are starting to come in and they’re exactly what I hoped for. So far, reviewers have said that the ending takes the reader completely by surprise and yet feels exactly the way it should be; the mysteries are explained; and yes, there is a happy ending.

Do you have any plans for a future trilogy?

Not at the moment, but after The Taker Trilogy I’ve learned never to say never. I’m currently working on a standalone  book in the same vein as The Taker books, with lots of jumping around in history and unexplained supernatural comings and goings, and an intense love story. After that I hope to write a straight historical with no supernatural element. We’ll see if I can manage to play it completely straight!

You can preorder your copy of The Descent here.

Feature image courtesy of Alma Katsu.

Photo courtesy of AlmaKatsu.com, credit Tim Coburn.

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