You don’t have to get too far into my novel, The Taker, before you start to wonder about the author’s issues. It’s a dark book because I have a fairly dark outlook on life, which I’ve come by honestly.
My childhood was rough. I won’t go into the reasons to spare my family. Let’s just say my father had an addictive personality. His father had been an alcoholic and my father had been appalled by this, so there was very little drinking in our house. Growing up, I didn’t see people out-of-control drunk. It was all a mystery to me, and like many mysteries, a little bit glamorous to the uninitiated.
When I was in my twenties, I had a boyfriend who was a bad alcoholic. His father had been an alcoholic and had hanged himself in the family’s home. It’s hard to have a happily-ever-after life when something like that happens; his mother was left with three young children to raise and no resources. The boyfriend had a rough life growing up and seemed hell-bent to repeat his father’s fate.
I had no idea what I had gotten into. I kept trying to help him, to fix him, to save him. My mother had been an enabler my whole life so this was my example, this is what I thought you did if you loved someone. When he and I broke up, he did things that pretty much guaranteed the relationship was over, burnt to the ground. Luckily, some friends who understood alcoholism (they were mutual friends and alcoholics who decided to try sobriety) explained the complex emotional dynamics at work. Thanks to them, I saw that it wasn’t within my power to ‘save’ this guy. There was nothing I could do. I had to let go.
One morning, ten years later, I opened the newspaper and read that the former boyfriend had died from a gunshot wound to the head. He’d been playing Russian roulette in a garage with friends. I remember being angry: how typical of him to leave others to clean up the mess, to leave it to his mother to bury him. And I was angry that he hadn’t been able to get his life together and save himself. But that’s when I learned that not everybody is going to be saved.
Don’t take this story to mean that I’m against drinking. I’m not much of a drinker but I enjoy it when I do imbibe. I am very wary of people who seem to lack self-control, however. It’s probably the one character trait of which I can’t help being a bit judgmental.
Alma Katsu is a writer living in the Washington, DC area with her husband, musician Bruce Katsu. She graduated from Brandeis University, where she studied writing with novelist John Irving and children’s book author Margaret Rey, and received her MA in Fiction from the Johns Hopkins University. The Taker is her first novel and will be released on September 6 by Gallery Books/Simon and Schuster.