Saturday Spotlight- Alma Katsu

Posted March 29, 2020 by stuckint in Features, Saturday Spotlight / 0 Comments

Hello every and welcome back to another Saturday Spotlight! Every month we host a handful of author spotlights where we feature an author and their upcoming release in a series of posts. For our second spotlight of March we feel so privileged to welcome Alma Katsu to Stuck in Stacks to discuss her recent novel: The Deep.

About the Book

The Deep by Alma Katsu
on March 10, 2020

Someone, or something, is haunting the Titanic.
This is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the passengers of the ship from the moment they set sail: mysterious disappearances, sudden deaths. Now suspended in an eerie, unsettling twilight zone during the four days of the liner's illustrious maiden voyage, a number of the passengers - including millionaires Madeleine Astor and Benjamin Guggenheim, the maid Annie Hebbley and Mark Fletcher - are convinced that something sinister is going on . . . And then, as the world knows, disaster strikes.
Years later and the world is at war. And a survivor of that fateful night, Annie, is working as a nurse on the sixth voyage of the Titanic's sister ship, the Britannic, now refitted as a hospital ship. Plagued by the demons of her doomed first and near fatal journey across the Atlantic, Annie comes across an unconscious soldier she recognises while doing her rounds. It is the young man Mark. And she is convinced that he did not - could not - have survived the sinking of the Titanic . . . Brilliantly combining fact and fiction, the historical and the horrific, The Deep reveals a chilling truth in an unputdownable narrative full of unnerving moments and with a growing, inexorable sense of foreboding.

About the Author

Alma Katsu is the author of The HungerThe TakerThe Reckoning, and The Descent. She has been a signature reviewer for Publishers Weekly and a contributor to The Huffington Post. She is a graduate of the master’s writing program at the Johns Hopkins University and received her bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. Prior to the publication of her first novel, Katsu had a long career as a senior intelligence analyst for several U.S. agencies. She lives outside of Washington, D.C., with her husband.


You have written a handful of historical horror novels. How do you settle on a particular historical event to focus on in your books? 

Alma: It usually has to do with what interests me. For The Deep, the idea came after watching a documentary on a dive to the wreckage of HMHS Britannic. I didn’t know the Titanic had a sister ship, let alone that it also sank. When they mentioned there was a woman who had survived both sinkings, I knew there was a story in there!

I know you mentioned this some in your acknowledgements but we would love to hear more about your decision to write two timelines, one following the Titanic and the other the Britannic

Alma: The fact that these two “related” ships both sank seems like too much of a coincedence to pass up. It would be like finding out two siblings both died of broken hearts! Plus, there are plenty of stories about the Titanic—I think having both ships in one story makes it extra interesting, don’t you?

Were there any scenes cut from the book that you wish you could have made it in the final draft? 

Alma: Writing novels—especially thrillers, which have to keep up the suspense—are tricky things. Cutting scenes doesn’t necessarily mean they were “bad”. Often you have to cut things out of a book because it slowed down the pace, or added too many complications (readers of my books will already know that they tend to have a number of sub-plots that all get twined together, like an overgrown garden). It’s a little like editing a film, I think—a lot gets left on the cutting room floor that would change your understanding of the piece. For The Deep, what got cut was backstory on some of the characters, stuff that would’ve given readers a deeper sense of the characters but, at the end of the day, wouldn’t change the story.

Can you share anything about your current writing projects? Are there any historical events you would love to dive into and give horror spin to?

Alma: Now that I’ve established this niche, I’m pressed to come up with historical disasters, which is a little tricky. I appreciate any and all suggestions! A lot of factors go into which ones ultimately get the green light from my publisher, however. They have to capture the popular imagination.

Right now, I’m working on a story that’s set during World War II. It has to do with a little known incident that occurred on US soil.

Did you always love horror? Can you share the book or movie that hooked you on the genre?

Alma: I don’t remember if there was one book that hooked me on the genre but more an overall pattern of reading. I think I was about 8 years old when I read Edgar Allan Poe (you can see echoes of his themes in my work—the ending of The Taker is straight from The Cask of Amontillado). I grew up during the era of Hammer horror films and Dark Shadows on TV in the afternoon. There was no escaping it.

We are always looking to read more horror novels by women. Do you have any favorites you would recommend? 

Alma: One of my absolute favorites is The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. Also historical, it’s a whole new way to look at ghost stories. I’m looking forward to The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni (author of Angelology). It starts out like a class horror story—echoes of Dracula—but then about halfway through goes in an unexpected way. Also, we’re seeing novels that sit in the space between horror and psychological suspense, like The Return by Rachel Harrison and The Dead Girls Club by Damien Angelica Walters.

Which living author (s) most influence your writing? Anyone you would love to co-author a book with?

Alma: I’m a big Audrey Niffennegger fan. Emma Donahue, too. I’ve never thought of co-writing: it would be fun to do a novel-in-chapters kind of thing with Josh Malerman. He is one of the most imaginative, artistic writers out there.

Do you have any reading or writing quirks? 

Alma: I don’t think I’m a very quirky person. I was trained by my day job to be very no-nonsense and to power through, and that’s carried through to my writing. Meet deadlines, including reading for research or when I’m asked to do blurbs.

What is your writing process like? 

Alma: It starts with an intense sprint of research, where I do the main reading that provides a thorough understanding of the historical event. Lots and lots of note-taking. I usually pull out the key societal issues of the time and try to build a plot around that. For instance, during the period of The Deep, the two biggest societal issues were women’s suffrage and disaparity between classes—certainly two issues that resonate today! Once I have a good sense of what the story is and the main characters, I dive in and start writing, doing tons of spot research along the way.

Did you always want to be an author? Can you share some of your experience getting your books published? 

Alma: I did, but when I was young, I had no idea how you become a novelist, what the path was, so I worked towards the one way I could see to make money writing: newspapers. I was a stringer for a local paper when I was 16 and by the time I got out of college, had regular columns in a couple newspapers. But then I took a job with the government and that interrupted my fiction writing for 15 years. It took 10 years to get The Taker to a point where publishers were interested. Basically, writing is a lot of determination and a willingness to learn and improve. Writing is for yourself, but publishing is a business and you’re trying to write a book that other people will want to read.

Rapid Fire Questions

Coffee or Tea?

Alma: Both. Coffee in the morning and tea throughout the day.

Dogs or Cats?

Alma: Dogs, definitely.

Favorite place to read?

Alma: It doesn’t matter as long as I can lie down.

What kind of books are in your reading wheelhouse?

Alma: Character-driven stories of any kind, really.

What are some 2020 releases you are excited about?

Alma: The Ancestor by Danielle Trussoni.

Lastly, where can our readers learn more about you and your work?


Leave a Reply

(Enter your URL then click here to include a link to one of your blog posts.)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.