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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Interview with Ilona and Andrew Gordon - well known as Ilona Andrews (Interview by Mihir Wanchoo)

Read FBC Review of Magic Bites and Magic Burns
Read FBC Review of Magic Strikes and Magic Mourns

We would like to welcome Ilona Gordon & Andrew Gordon, the maverick writing couple who go under the name of Ilona Andrews.[There might be mild spoilers for the series in the interview ahead]

1] Welcome to Fantasy Book Critic, so to begin with for someone who hasn't read any of your novels, how would you describe the type of stories that you write?

A) We write what is commonly called Urban Fantasy or UF, well the Kate Daniels series is at least, the Edge series might be more Paranormal Romance.

2] I have heard that your 1st book [Magic Bites] was originally written in 2002, who's idea was it originally [amongst the 2 of you] & what made both of you t0 decide to write it together.

A) It was totally Ilona's idea, I helped because we are a team and while individually we may be pretty good, together we are great. Well, at least I think so.

3] Your 2nd book [Magic Burns] was dedicated to David Gemmell in a very sweet and considerate way. Which one amongst you is a Gemmell fan or are you both fans? What was, in your opinion, in his books that make them such unequivocally addictive reads? Lastly which amongst his books is your favorite?

A) Ilona read his books first and when we were in the Army convinced me to read Legend. I was reluctant at first because the copy she had showed what looked to be Sean Connery with a sword on the cover. She was like read this it's great, this old guy goes to this fort and then dies. I was skeptical but since then I have read most or all of his books, usually multiple times. I think his formula of flawed but principled heroes, facing overwhelming odds and finding redemption, is what really intrigued me. Plus the sieges and the swordplay! For me it is a tie between Winter Warriors and The Quest for Lost Heroes. I love both of those somewhat similar books.

3] In your books the central antagonist is someone named Roland & it has been mentioned of his intentions/likes to build Towers over most places, it this a fleeting wink towards Stephen King's Dark Tower series or just something which I'm reading too much into?

A) Actually while we are fans of King, Roland's tower building has more to do with underlying mythology and his origins.

4] What are the books which both of you read & enjoy and also could you tell us about the books and authors who have captured your imagination & inspired you to become wordsmiths in your own rights? Similarly any current authors whom you would like to give a shout out to?

A) While Ilona turned me on to Laurel K. Hamilton and David Gemmell, I got her into Robert B. Parker's Spenser and Jessie Stone books. Ilona likes to read romances sometimes, while I enjoy mysteries and military fiction. One of my favorite series was Barry Sadler's Casca books.

5] Your journey towards publication is very forthrightly given on your blog, could you tell our readers enlighten our readers by giving us the Cliff notes version.

A) Sure, first we wrote the original Kate story but it was called Lost Dog, and submitted to several publishers, only to have it soundly rejected by all. Next we started sending it to agents, most of whom also passed. Finally, Jack Byrne took a chance on us, for which we will always be grateful. Anne Sowards looked at our stuff, and basically made us change everything but she was right. She is an excellent editor. Sometimes I think it is better to be lucky than good.

6] You currently have two vastly different series ongoing, how do you go about writing them[do you delineate different time periods for writing them or do you write depending on how you feel each day] could you tell our readers about your writing methods? And particularly about the discipline required to produce 2 books an year [roughly]

A) It really has nothing to do with how we feel, it is more like what is due next and what we have taken money to deliver. This is pretty much our job, how we keep a roof over our heads and how we feed our kids. We try and comply with the deadlines that our publisher and our afore-mentioned editor give us. It is nice to write something different from Kate once in a while. As far as our methods go, we sit next to each other on separate computers and usually if Ilona does a scene I will read and edit it. We plot stuff out, and argue over things until we agree. I guess as far a character go, I tend to work more on the male dialogue, while Kate and Rose really come from Ilona's head.

7] Your first three books have had elements of East European, Celtic & Hindu mythology utilized in the main plots so how do you go about choosing these various mythologies & enmesh them within your central plot structure. Do you pick these myths and then try to fit them within your plots or do your structure your plots around these mythical aspects?

A) Ilona is Russian and so naturally very familiar with the old Slavic myths, and my father was Irish and I have studied the Celtic myths and legends as an attempt to connect with my roots. I guess we wanted to use myths that we did not see a lot of in other books. While we are both great fans of Greek mythology, there are so other many cultures who have a rich history and amazing myths. The Hindu myths for instance are remarkable and the ancient Hindu art is beautiful. We usually will think of something we want to put into the books and then try to find a way to work a god or monster from that culture into the plot. For Magic Burns we wanted Celtic so the Morrigan was a perfect fit. Also a bit of an homage to Gemmell who used her in the Rigante series. For Magic Strikes we used Rakshasas because they seemed such good villains. You really do not see them a lot in popular culture, so we thought people might like them.

8] This is just something which I noticed about your blogging activities, Ilona's posts are tagged with a Wolf/Dog picture & Gordon's posts are tagged with a Panda… any particular reason for this choice[Besides being Cute J]

A) We actually don't remember that well. I think we were looking for "smiles'" to indicate the mood of the post and she asked me what animal I wanted to be. I like pandas and she likes wolves, so I ended up as "Lord Panda" with the our daughters sometimes called "the traitor panda children" when they side with me over her. Ilona loves wolves, so it makes sense for her.

9] As an Indian, it was amazing to find aspects of Hindu mythology used in your 3rd book [Magic Strikes] & what was especially even more rewarding was that you had gotten the tiny details correct as well. How did you go about your research & any chance you'll be exploring more of it in the future?

A) Glad you liked it. We have a bunch of books on mythology and one of them is Form of Beauty The Krishna Art of B.G. Sharma. The illustrations are breathtaking, another is Demons, Gods and Holy Men, from Indian Myths and Legends. We also used the Ramayana, which is really the source. I guess we just found books and studied the popular stories.

10] You had a very frank and illuminating take on the question of e-books and their future, have your thoughts changed with the recent Amazon & Penguin tussle[over pricing issues] and the different pricing issues caused by various companies.

A) We got a fair amount of hate mail when Amazon took Magic Bleeds off of the Kindle. We tried, repeatedly, to explain to people that it was not us, we did not make that decision. We are very glad that Penguin and Amazon kissed and made up. While both parties had a legitimate argument, their fight was bad for customers and may have sent a lot of people out to buy other electronic readers.

11] David Gemmell had a certain take on his beloved characters like Druss or Waylander, etc. he called them as "Rick's Bar characters" and described them in the following way:

"When authors talk of great characters, what they really mean is easy. Some characters are tough to write. The author has to constantly stop and work out what they will say or do. With the great characters, this problem disappears. Their dialogue flows instantly, their actions likewise. A friend of mine calls them "Ricks Bar characters," from the film Casablanca. Some characters you have to build, like a sculptor carving them from rock. Others just walk out of Rick's bar fully formed and needing no work at all."

What is your opinion about it & was this the case for you with any of your character/s?

A) For Ilona it would be Aunt B, and for me probably Nick from the Kate books, and William from the Edge. We always know what they are going to say.

12] When you started out did you have an overall plan for the books, as throughout the books there are hints given about Kate's origins and her possible climatic fight so now with the series set to run for seven books, will the series end after book 7? What are your plans for this series & how much can you reveal about them at this point?

A) When we started out our plan was to have a book published, to go into a store and see it there. That's it! Am I allowed to say that we sort of made it up as we went along? I don't know that the series will end at book 7 but I think Kate's story will. If the fans want more books, we may do sort of a spin-off with other characters. Maybe Derek and Julie for example or Andrea and Raphael as main characters.

13] You have continued to have a very active online presence via your blog & official Forums, also you are writing 2 different series. Could you share some light on the chaotic nature of these tasks which entails an author's life nowadays?

A) Well, the writing is like a job, the blog and the forum I think we do for fun and for the fans. Some authors blog very little or not at all, and that is cool, but we enjoy sharing some things about our life with the readers. Like funny stuff the kids or our giant dogs do. Writers are just normal folks, we work, we have kids and pets. We do fun stuff sometimes and struggle with other things that are all a part of life and have nothing to do with being an author.

14] How did you come up with the Magical apocalypse settings of your world? I quite loved the pendulum theory & the way you combined a post apocalyptic world with a magical [UF-ish) one.

A) We are both big fans of Post Apocalyptic settings, like in Fallout or Mad Max, but obviously it has been done, so we thought, "What if magic came back, what if throughout the history of mankind, magic and tech had usurped each other?" We are both huge fans of the old (80's) He-Man and Thundarr cartoons where magic and technology co-exist. We wanted to do something like that with the Kate books but more gritty and grim.

15] Kate is obviously the protagonist of your series, but you do a pretty good job with the supporting characters as well [Saiman, Derek, Andrea]. Which ones have surprised you the most and who should readers pay attention to in future volumes?

A) I was surprised how much people like Saiman. I happen to share Curran's opinion that he is a scumbag but some people really like him. Also, we got some comments on how little Derek was in Magic Burns, so we fixed that for Kate 5.

16] In closing, are there any final thoughts or comments that you'd like to share with your readers? What can we look forward to you both in the future?

A) Thanks for having us, we would both also like to thank our fans, who have been so loyal and have made the books a success, without you there would never have been a Kate series, and thanks to those who took a chance on the Edge series, the next one, Bayou Moon is really good, I promise. For the future, hmmm… Well, we are writing what will be third series based on the Alpha Menz, stories. It is a bit darker than anything we have done before, so that may be good or bad.


Bastard said...

Nice, planning on checking out the Kate Daniels series soon. Already tried On the Edge, and it was OK in my opinion. It's a romance/love story so it's not something that appeals to me, and the mystery/thriller aspect of it didn't do it for me, but I thought the world was quite interesting and will give the sequel a try to see where it's heading.

But looking forward to trying Kate Daniels since that's more of my thing. And that Alpha Menz series looks interesting.

Bea said...

Awesome interview, thanks so much. I really like seeing the different mythologies that are in the Kate books and how well they are synthesized into the story.

Jana Oliver said...

@ Bastard - you will not be disappointed by the Kate Daniels series. It just keeps getting better with each book. The characters, the plots and the world building are top notch.

Anonymous said...

thanks for this wonderful interview!!!

Vickey R said...

I love ur books n this interview was great. Thank you 2 for sharing:). I can't wait till bayou moon n Alpha Menz will be great to! Well let's face it wat ever u two write is amazing n very entertaining :)

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