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Wednesday, March 7, 2018

BLOG TOUR / REVIEW / Q&A: The Hunger by Alma Katsu @glasstownent @almakatsu

The Hunger 
by Alma Katsu

Thrilled to be today's stop on the Blog Tour for THE HUNGER by Alma Katsu.
Read below for a synopsis, my review, about the author and a Q&A!

Publisher:  G.P. Putnam's Sons
Published: March 6, 2018
400 Pages
Genres: Historical Fiction, Horror

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?"

My Review:

An unsettling, eerie and atmospheric tale of survival. 

Do you know anything about the history of the Donner Party?  I remembered some of it so I did a little research on it before I read Alma's fictionalized version.  She does an OUTSTANDING job and I loved reading the end where she explained some of the differentiation.

Let me just say that I'm glad I was not living through the pioneering era of the world.  Granted, had I lived during that time I wouldn't have known any different but..... Also, as a person who is not the biggest fan of historical fiction, when you lean it towards a horror setting, in which case even the true story was horrific, then somehow my demented mind MUST READ IT.

Divided by months, with eerie looking divider pages that add to the feel of the book, we get the point of views of a variety of people along with letters written back and forth.  Read or not? We'll never really know!  Each month builds on the suspense of the novel as we see people start to descent into madness, the horrors waiting around them and the mindset of knowing they will probably die... and doing anything they can to survive.

How long can you watch your food supply dwindle... how long can you starve... how long do you stay sane knowing something is out there and YOU are THEIR food?  Follow these pioneers to the brink of madness and feel their terror. 


About the Author:

Before she started writing novels, Alma Katsu was both a music journalist and an analyst for the likes of CIA and RAND. She has pounded the halls of the Pentagon, been in the West Wing of the White House, and interviewed rock stars. Her novels—The Taker, The Reckoning, and The Descent (which, oddly enough, have nothing to do with music or national security)—have been published in more than a dozen languages. 


-           What was the most difficult part of writing from a true event? What was the easiest?

I love writing historical fiction. The facts provide some constraints, and they say art requires constraints (I think the quote is “Art lives from constraints and dies from freedom”, credited to Leonardo da Vinci.) Even though THE HUNGER is a reimagining of the story of the Donner Party, I knew I couldn’t take liberties with any major elements like the timeline or locations. Having to respect the facts, but instead work within them to create something new was both difficult and very rewarding. Without those limitations, anything would’ve been possible—and probably would’ve been an incoherent mess.

The research was actually pretty easy because there is so much material on the Donner Party. One book in particular was a godsend: The Donner Party Chronicles by Frank Mullen provides a day-by-day account, which made it much easier to know where they were in both space and time every mile of the way. 

-          THE HUNGER is a big departure from your previous books (the TAKER series). How did you decide to do something so different? What inspired this new direction?

I’d always been intrigued by the story of the Donner Party. Like most people, I didn’t know a lot of the details but once I started digging into the research, I knew there was the making of a second great story in there. There were these great characters, not only the major characters but a big cast of secondary ones as well. A ton of crazy things happened along the way. The story for THE HUNGER bubbled up from the history. THE TAKER books were almost the opposite: I’d gotten the idea for the characters and the premise, this big sweeping love story, and then I figured out the historical parts to support that story.

-          What was your favorite passage to write in THE HUNGER? Your favorite character?

My favorite scenes are always the ones that were the toughest to write, because it gives me such a sense of accomplishment. The chapter about the Forlorn Hope party snowshoeing out of Truckee Lake is a favorite because of the end, a particularly intense scene and action scenes are always challenging to write. But I don’t want to give anything away so I won’t say any more.

Favorite character? That’s easy: Elitha Donner. Her voice came to me right away. She’s so honest and good-hearted that I enjoyed writing from her POV. It’s not always a pleasure being in a character’s head!

-          What’s your number one piece of advice for aspiring authors?

The basics: write and read. Write every day if you can. Read to study how others write, not necessarily for pleasure. Read widely, outside of your favorite genre. Work at your craft.

-          What is your writing routine like? What’s your favorite place to write?

I am lucky to have a big office at home that looks into the woods. It’s very quiet and sunny. I’d work for hours straight for most of the day, sometimes into the night. But then I got a new puppy. Now I write whenever and wherever I can because the puppy requires a crazy amount of attention. He is a perpetual motion machine.

-          What are some of the scariest books you’ve ever read? What’s your favorite type of horror in novels?

This is where I admit that I’m a bit of a wet blanket when it comes to horror. I am really hard to scare. It’s because as an analyst, I covered genocides and mass atrocities for many years. It exposed me to some pretty terrible stuff committed by actual people and dulled me to fictional terror. That said, I still find The Shining (the movie) can still give me pause, bits of it. (I liked the novel but didn’t find it scary.)

With horror novels, I’m drawn to good writing and invention. I love ghost stories though they’re almost impossible to pull off satisfactorily, I think. For this reason, I’ve loved The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters and reread it every few years. The Terror by Dan Simmons, while not a ghost story, is another great horror read.

-          Do you read while you are working on a manuscript? What books helped to inspire you while writing THE HUNGER? What books do you find inspire you most creatively?

I do read fiction while I’m working on a story. I’m not one of those people who worries it will affect my voice. I find I write better if I have words rolling around in my brain. I delight in good writing and clever ways with narrative. Plus, I’m always curious as to how other writers have handled a tricky situation. I’m an analyst by trade and find I need something to analyze the way border collies need something to herd. Otherwise I’d overanalyze my husband and he wouldn’t like that.

I don’t go back to any books in particular, I just try to keep up with the new books that people are talking about. I’ve learned to stop reading if a book doesn’t grab me. I used to feel that I had to finish a book once I started it, but now I’ll just stop. Life is short and there are too many unread books.

-          If you could time travel and observe any historical event, what would you choose?

That’s a tough question! It wouldn’t be the Donner Party, I can tell you that!

Maybe the drafting of the US Constitution, so I could ask them what they really meant in a couple places and suggest some alternate wordings to avoid problems down the road.

-          What’s next on the horizon for you as a writer?

I’m working on a new novel that takes place during the Gilded Age, an interesting time of robber barons and class divides and women’s suffrage and other great issues. It’s got an interesting supernatural element and again is centered on a famous historical event. I don’t want to give away too much but I think readers will find it haunting.

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