Alma Katsu is the author of the highly acclaimed Taker Trilogy. The Taker, the first book, was named one of the ten best debut novels of 2011 by Booklist and has been published in over a dozen languages. The third book, The Descent, was published January 2014 (Gallery Books). She is a contributor to the Huffington Post, has been a signature reviewer for Publishers Weekly, and has an MA in fiction from Johns Hopkins. She is former career intelligence officer and currently is a senior researcher for a major US think tank.
Alma will be teaching a three-day workshop entitled “Upping the Ante: Creating and Sustaining Conflict. She will help define what conflict is, describe the four different types of conflict and how to layer them in your novel, and show you how to analyze your own writing. She will provide advice on how to create more suspense and tension that can be applied to all kinds of writing, not just mysteries and thrillers.
We asked Alma to share some of her insight on the writing world. Here is what she had to say:
PWC: How has your personal writing community influenced and assisted you?
AK: While writing may be a solitary task, it’s really important to have a network of other writers. You’ll always need other writers to turn to for support and inspiration for your writing, but this network becomes even more important once you’re published. I turn to my author friends all the time for professional advice. And where do you the writers who will become part of your network—at conferences just like PWC.
PWC: Where do you draw your inspiration?
AK: The initial inspiration comes from the outside world but I find the deeper story always tends to come from someplace within, a problem that I’ve been turning over in my mind that I’ve yet to solve.
PWC: How important are conferences and conventions to a writer?
AK: I think they’re essential. You need to keep in touch with what’s going on in your field, regardless of your profession. Even after you’ve been published, you need to continue to widen your circle. Conferences give you the opportunity to meet editors and agents you’ve never met before, authors you’ve always wanted to get to know, and of course to meet potential readers. Substantive sessions give you the chance to deepen your tradecraft, refresh your skills and reconnect with your art.
PWC: What are some hints for getting your butt in the seat and your hands on the keyboard (or notepad)?
AK: I find different things inspire me at different times. Sometimes it’s being exposed to someone else’s work of art—a great story, an arresting movie, a photograph—that moves me to want to create something of my own. Often times it’s just the reminder that no one else can write your story for you. It’s an incredibly long journey, writing a novel, and there’s no solution for it but to roll up your sleeves and do it.
PWC: How do you balance your writing time with the rest of your life’s responsibilities?
AK: I have a full-time job in addition to my writing. Aside from that, though, I’m lucky enough to be in the position where my writing can take precedence over just about everything else. That and my house is always a terrible mess. And my husband and I don’t go out much!
PWC: How did you first realize you were a writer?
AK: I think of myself as a writer because I’m always writing, and reading. Yet at the same time I have a hard time realizing that I’m an author—you know, the woman with published books to her name. That part still seems unreal to me. I don’t associate myself with the name of the book jacket. But I identify vividly with the story contained on the pages.
PWC: What are you most looking forward to at the 2014 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference
AK: I’m looking forward most to meeting the attendees. I haven’t spent much time in Philadelphia and so I haven’t had the opportunity to get to know the writers community. It’s always nice to spend a few days in the company of people who are into the same thing you are: reading and writing.
Want to meet Alma and hear what she has to share about conflict and perfecting your art? Register for the 2014 Philadelphia Writers’ Conference HERE.