Meghan: Hi, Alma. Thanks for joining us here on Meghan’s House of Books for our annual Halloween Extravaganza. It is a pleasure meeting you. Let’s get started: What is your favorite part of Halloween?
Alma: Seeing what the kids in the neighborhood are wearing. It’s always fun to see them get so excited. However, now that we’ve moved to a mountain in a remote area, we get absolutely NO trick-or-treaters.
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween tradition?
Alma: I used to love watching a cheesy horror movie late at night while eating a terrible frozen pizza (when I was a kid, there wasn’t a lot of frozen foods, so even a bad one was a treat.) Not to be a downer, but these days I tend to be doing events on Halloween so that’s another tradition out the window.
Meghan: If Halloween is your favorite holiday (or even second favorite holiday), why?
Alma: It is my favorite holiday, probably because it was one day that kids could do what they wanted to do—decide what they would dress up as, which neighbors they were going to. Maybe kids had a lot more autonomy back then. Parents didn’t worry much about anything bad happening to us.
Meghan: What are you superstitious about?
Alma: I was somewhat superstitious as a kid, maybe because I was raised Roman Catholic, perhaps the spookiest of all religions, but I’m not superstitious anymore.
Meghan: What/who is your favorite horror monster or villain?
Alma: Vampires, for sure, because they’re so sexy. Frankenstein’s monster is certainly interesting, lots of emotions and drama there. I’ve never been able to get into zombies or werewolves for some reason.
Meghan: Which unsolved murder fascinates you the most?
Alma: The really sad thing is that unsolved murders have become so mundane in our culture. Murders happen all the time and so frequently that there aren’t enough police resources to keep up with it. Still, there is something that fascinates the public—maybe the “it could happen to you” aspect of it. It’s said that the audience for true crime stories is disproportionately female, probably because females make up a disproportionate number of the victims.
Meghan: Which urban legend scares you the most?
Alma: I find stories around abandoned towns and cities the most interesting. Even though the truth is probably a bit more prosaic—changing economies drawing people out of town, or construction of a highway away from city limits—seeing those empty, decaying buildings always makes me wonder. There are a lot of abandoned farms where I currently live, so maybe that’s why it’s on my mind a lot lately.
Meghan: Who is your favorite serial killer and why?
Alma: Jeffrey Dahmer, for obvious reasons (see The Hunger).
Meghan: How old were you when you saw your first horror movie? How old were you when you read your first horror book?
Alma: So long ago for both book and movie that I can’t remember exact titles. I was probably inappropriately young, as in those days parents didn’t oversee children’s activities quite so much. Like, maybe 7 or 8? I remember reading Edgar Allan Poe at 8, and it was probably the beginning of my fascination with the Gothic, horror, and speculative fiction.
Meghan: Which horror novel unsettled you the most?
Alma: The book that made the biggest impression was probably The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. I can’t say it unsettled me, but it opened my eyes to what a horror novel could be.
Meghan: Which horror movie scarred you for life?
Alma: Not a movie but an episode of the original Twilight Zone, the one with the ventriloquist’s dummy. I was eight years old and in the hospital, and wandered into the common room (there weren’t televisions in individual patient rooms at the time). Young and alone and scared in the hospital. Yipes!
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween costume?
Alma: I wish I’d dressed as a pirate at some point…
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween-themed song?
Alma: Probably the Monster Mash (again, dating myself…)
Meghan: What is your favorite Halloween candy or treat? What is your most disappointing?
Alma: Snickers or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups. Anything with peanut butter. The worst? Candy corn or circus peanut-type things. Pure sugar, ugh.
Alma Katsu is the award-winning author of six novels, most recently Red Widow, The Deep, and The Hunger. 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 in West Virginia with her husband.
Red Widow –
An exhilarating spy thriller about two women CIA agents who become intertwined around a threat to the Russia Division–one that’s coming from inside the agency.
Lyndsey Duncan worries her career with the CIA might be over. After lines are crossed with another intelligence agent during her most recent assignment, she is sent home to Washington on administrative leave. So when a former colleague, now Chief of the Russia Division, recruits her for an internal investigation, she jumps at the chance to prove herself once more. Lyndsey was once a top handler in the Moscow Field Station, known as the “human lie detector” and praised for recruiting some of the most senior Russian officials. But now, three Russian assets have been discovered–including one of her own–and the CIA is convinced there’s a mole in the department. With years of work in question, and lives on the line, Lyndsey is thrown back into life at the agency, only this time tracing the steps of those closest to her.
Meanwhile, fellow agent Theresa Warner can’t avoid the spotlight. She is the infamous “Red Widow,” the wife of a former director killed in the field under mysterious circumstances. With her husband’s legacy shadowing her every move, Theresa is a fixture of the Russia Division, and as she and Lyndsey strike up an unusual friendship, her knowledge proves invaluable. But as Lyndsey uncovers a surprising connection to Theresa that could answer all of her questions, she exposes a terrifying web of secrets within the department, if only she is willing to unravel it…
The Deep –
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…
The Hunger –
Evil is invisible, and it is everywhere.
Tamsen Donner must be a witch. That is the only way to explain the series of misfortunes that have plagued the wagon train known as the Donner Party. Depleted rations, bitter quarrels, and the mysterious death of a little boy have driven the pioneers to the brink of madness. They cannot escape the feeling that someone–or something–is stalking them. Whether it was a curse from the beautiful Tamsen, the choice to follow a disastrous experimental route West, or just plain bad luck–the 90 men, women, and children of the Donner Party are at the brink of one of the deadliest and most disastrous western adventures in American history.
While the ill-fated group struggles to survive in the treacherous mountain conditions–searing heat that turns the sand into bubbling stew; snows that freeze the oxen where they stand–evil begins to grow around them, and within them. As members of the party begin to disappear, they must ask themselves “What if there is something waiting in the mountains? Something disturbing and diseased… and very hungry?”