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[katsu anime]Q&A: Alma Katsu, Author of ‘Red Widow’ | The Nerd Daily

Update time:2021-08-06 00:03Tag:

  Red Widow is an exhilarating spy thriller written by an intelligence veteran about two women CIA agents whose paths become intertwined around a threat to the Russia Division–one that’s coming from inside the agency.

  We had the pleasure of chatting to author Alma Katsu about her new release?Red Widow, writing, book recommendations, and more!

  Hi, Alma! Tell our readers a bit about yourself!

  I’m the author of five novels, all historical fiction with some supernatural, horror, or fantasy element, probably best known for THE HUNGER, a reimagining of the story of the Donner Party with a horror twist. But my secret identity for the past 30+ years has been as an intelligence analyst with CIA and NSA, which led me to write RED WIDOW, my first spy novel, which comes out March 23.?

  After the chaos that was 2020, have you set any goals for this year? If so, how are they going so far?

  I’m one of the lucky ones for whom 2020, while a terrible year in many ways, was also a good year in terms of goals. I’d been trying to break into TV/film and voila, RED WIDOW got optioned this year by Fox for a TV series, and it looks like another of my books is soon to be pitched for TV. And I’ve been talked into writing a script for a short story of mine, one that will be in an anthology coming out at the end of the year. So far, this sucky time has been really good for me. Go figure.

  Quick lightning round! Tell us the first book you ever remember reading, the one that made you want to become an author, and one that you can’t stop thinking about!

  The specific book? That’s probably lost to time. Like most writers, I was a voracious reader as a kid and I’m sure one of the many books I devoured back then gave me the bug. Probably one that was about an underdog kid who discovers something magical that gives her hope. It might’ve been Half Magic by Edward Eager, or Octagon Magic by Andre Norton.

  When did you first discover your love for writing?

  This is embarrassing, but when I was in elementary school I was taken with the TV show “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father”. The main character was a magazine editor, and the show made it look like so much fun that it made me want to publish a magazine, too. I took to writing my own version at school, which the teachers thought was cute, I suppose, and made a fuss over, and that’s the beginning of the end, isn’t it? Once people notice your writing, it’s all over.

  Your new novel, Red Widow, is out March 23rd 2021! If you could only describe it in five words, what would they be?

  “Betrayal of trust in highest places” – can I have six? Or “Everything is a lie” in four?

  What can readers expect?

  Lyndsey Duncan is a case officer at CIA tasked with finding the mole who is handing over the Agency’s best assets to Russia. Theresa Warner is the Red Widow, wife of a CIA officer who died during an operation inside Russia. The two officers’ lives become entwined over the mole hunt, ultimately causing both women to question what it means to work at CIA, what you owe to your country, and what you owe to yourself.

  Where did the inspiration for Red Widow come from?

  In the beginning, I thought I should write a spy novel since I was working in the field. It seemed like a no-brainer, yes? But my natural tendency was to write dark and fantastical. It wasn’t until just a few years ago that my editor at Putnam encouraged me to try a spy thriller. By then I was getting to the end of my intelligence career and I knew there was a lot about the job that didn’t make it into books and movies that people would find interesting, or surprising, or infuriating. I decided it was time someone wrote that book and I would be that someone.

  Can you tell us about any challenges you faced while writing and how you were able to overcome them?

  It’s harder to “write what you know” than some might lead you to believe. For one thing, many people in the intelligence business find spy books and films and such kind of silly. There’s a lot in them that’s unrealistic, though as a writer I understand why. Modern readers have certain expectations, particularly in terms of suspense and action. But when I sat down to write a spy novel, I was very conscious of what my former coworkers would think. I had to learn to be realistic but also deliver thrills and twists.

  If it’s not too spoilery, were there any favourite moments you really enjoyed writing or exploring?

  Here’s the thing: RED WIDOW is based on an actual case. It’s been changed A LOT so that you’d never recognize the case that serves as the inspiration. So that was fun, writing openly about a secret. Also, one of the characters is based on a real person, a friend and former coworker I hadn’t seen in a while. I told him about it after the fact, worried that he would hate the character and find the whole thing rather silly, but to my relief he liked it. He’s looking forward to seeing who they cast as him in the TV series.

  What’s the best and the worst writing advice you have received?

  In graduate school you have to take critique classes, you know, where your classmates take apart your work, and there was some awful advice there, let me tell you. Not all of it, of course, but some was actually damaging. I’m sure I gave some pretty bad advice, too, by the way.

  See alsoWriters Corner

  The best advice I often don’t recognize except in hindsight. I heard Janet Evanovich say on a panel that a writer should put everything into the pages and not save anything for the next book. I didn’t realize at the time how hard it is to write a book that’s going to be good enough, that’s going to grab readers by the throat and not let go until they get to the last page. When I feel like a scene is too tepid or just not working, I ask myself what’s the worst thing that could happen, and then I write that scene. I don’t always use it, but it often results in some great stuff I wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.

  What’s next for you?

  I got started in my writing career later than most, so I feel like I have to make up for lost time (I heard Don Winslow said something similar, so at least I’m in good company). There should another historical horror, THE FERVOR, coming out in the next year or two, and hopefully a second book for Lyndsey Duncan. I’m working on a set of linked stories that are neither horror nor espionage and so will probably never see the light of day.

  Lastly, do you have any book recommendations for our readers?

  I’m finishing up Stephen Graham Jones’ MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW and it’s quite a revelation for someone who wouldn’t describe herself as a slasher fan. Stephen’s writing is so full of compassion. His books are both entertaining and heartbreaking at the same time.

  For readers who like history and a gentler kind of horror, Jennifer McMahon’s THE DROWNING KIND comes out in early April. The book delivers twists and thrills, but I say ‘gentler’ because Jennifer draws her characters with such tenderness that they’re the kind of books you embrace, not hold at arm’s length like some horror stories.

  For true crime fans, Richard Chizmar’s CHASING THE BOOGEYMAN isn’t coming out until August but it will be worth the wait. It’s a different kind of true crime: I can’t say anything more without giving away the secret but trust me, you’ll want to read this.

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