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Alma Katsu, the author behind historical horror novels The Hunger and The Deep, is traveling to the World War II era for her next book.
G.P. Putnam’s Sons will publish Katsu’s The Fervor, which puts a psychological and supernatural twist on the horrors of the Japanese American internment camps during World War II, which saw 112,000 people of Japanese descent forced to relocate due to racist fears that they posed a threat to national security. Around 70,000 American citizens were among those forced into camps.
The book is inspired by the Japanese Yōkai and the Jorōgumo spider demon. It centers on Meiko Briggs and her daughter, Aiko, who await the return of husband and father Jamie, an air force pilot stationed in the Pacific. Meiko and Aiko were taken from their home in Seattle and forced into an internment camp in Ohio while they await Jamie. A mysterious disease spreads among those in the camp, with minor colds becoming fits of violence, aggression and even death. After a group of menacing doctors arrives, Meiko and her daughter team up with a newspaper reporter and widowed missionary to investigate, and soon they learn a demon from childhood stories is hell-bent on infiltrating this world.
Katsu has family connections to Japanese internment. Her husband has family who were put in camps, as well as relatives born in internment. Katsu’s mother was a teenager in Japan during the war as well.
“I always look for the relevance. ‘Why should anyone care about the story today?'” Katsu tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s kind of sad that we seem to not be learning the lessons of history so we have to go through very similar episodes over and over again.”
During the writing process, the story came to have new relevance during a year that saw hate crimes against Asian Americans and xenophobia on the rise.
“The earlier draft didn’t lean quite so much on the divisiveness of what was going on racially. Maybe I kind of held back a little bit because you are taught to not be too aggressive, don’t be in the reader’s face too much. Don’t be so political. But with what started happening in the country, it was like, ‘Forget that.’ Luckily my publisher agreed.”
Katsu, who previously worked as a U.S. intelligence analyst, found success The Hunger (2018), a horror take on the Donner Party that was praised by Stephen King, and followed it up with The Deep (2020), a horror reimagining of the sinking of the Titanic. Katsu is developing her spy novel Red Widow (2021) into a TV show at Fox.
Inkwell Management brokered the deal on behalf of Glasstown Entertainment and Katsu. The Fervor is due out in April 2022, timed to AAPI heritage month.
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