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Monday, July 30, 2012

GUEST POST: The Literary Odyssey of Ilona Andrews by Andrew Gordon

Read FBC's Review of "Gunmetal Magic" & "Magic Gifts" (releasing tomorrow)

So, we are often asked how we got started as writers. Surprisingly, or not, we both started as readers. I can honestly remember first learning to read or deciding to learn because I wanted to read the comic strip in the Sunday paper for myself. Ilona can't recall being unable to read, only the school trying to re-teach her, and her mother "going ballistic." Her parents were Russian intelligentsia and her father pushed her toward authors like Arthur C. Clark, Robert Sheckley and Isaac Asimov when she was all of eight years old.

One particular Sheckley story sticks out in her mind. It was about an excavation on Mars and the release of a creature who devoured its creators. The story was called the Last Weapon, and it deeply disturbed her. She remembers having nightmares but admits it started her lifelong love affair with Mars.

For me it was more like Edgar Rice Burroughs' John Carter of Mars. There were comics of it when I was a kid and of course I read the books when I could find them. I was familiar with Ray Bradbury's Martian Chronicles, but they were too dark and disturbing for me. I know that they are brilliant but I preferred Sword and Planet to hard SF. Still do. My choices were also different, because I was mostly raised by my Aunt and Uncle, who were and remain, devoted "born again" Christians. Anything magic was taboo, and as Clark himself famously said "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Science fiction was looked upon with suspicion at best, while fantasy was strictly verboten.

When I could, I snuck comics and book into the house on the sly. I have one particular memory that stands out. It was during a cold North Carolina winter in 1986 or '87. The house was heated then by a single wood-burning stove in the living room. I was upstairs hiding and shivering with a borrowed copy of Margret Weiss and Terry Hickman's Dragons of Winter's Night. It was cold as heck upstairs and I was freezing in my room , but it was the only way to get some privacy. From the local library I was allowed to check out detective novels. Robert B. Parker's Spenser was a favorite, and my Uncle, a retired Marine and Sherriff's deputy had no objection to the violent nature of the genre, in fact, I think he even approved.

 Later as an exchange student in Japan, I read whatever English book I could find in the local bookstore. The Kanji for bookstore was one of the first I learned. Often enough they were novelizations of popular films. Did you know Die Hard was book before it was a movie? A nice neighbor lady loaned me a copy of Ian Fleming's Dr. No; it was my first James Bond book. Also, the library in the school I attended had a collection of Classic Literature in English. This was where I first read King Solomon's Mines, Around the World in Eighty Days, and my favorite Gulliver's Travels. Additionally I read more recent works like Alex Hailey's Roots and Shogun by James Clavell, it seemed appropriate that I read about Japan's history as well as my own.

Upon my return to the States, I quickly enlisted in the U.S. Navy. In basic training, all you can read are manuals and the Bible. Once on the ship, I spent most of my money on comics and paperbacks, in fact one of my two lockers, the one most people use for civilian clothes, was filled with Casca and Conan. While we were in the Persian Gulf, people back home sent us books and I read everything from romance to westerns. It was also during this time that I first read Dune and Stranger in a Strange Land, and my all time favorite A Clockwork Orange, books most people probably read when they are much younger.

After getting out, I went back home to the mountains for college. There I met a pretty girl with a funny accent. She was just barely eighteen, I know because I checked, and the smartest girl in our English class. After a disastrous first date, I started hanging out in her room and napping while she did her homework. She was taking as many classes as a freshman was allowed, most of it upper level science. This was when we started swapping books, I let her read my cherished Conan and Spenser books, while she convinced me to give David Eddings a try. I started with the Diamond Throne and quickly finished the series. We didn't have any money, so when we were able to buy books, we wrapped the covers in clear plastic shelving paper. Mostly we checked stuff out of the Jackson County library in Sylva. She always said the Belgariad was better and it took a long time for me to try and of course admit that she was right. This ended up being a pattern for us. She was the first to read and then pass along the Anita Blake books by Laurel K. Hamilton. I had never really read anything like that before. Vamps were real and people knew about it. Here was a tough as nails heroine who killed the Undead. It was amazing.

When I was in the Army, after basic but a student for almost 5 months in Signal School, she bought me the complete adventures of Hawk and Fisher by Simon R. Green. Hands down the best present ever. School was boring and I hid the books and read them whenever they left us alone for any length of time. Again we were only supposed to be reading Army books. Sometime later I remember her handing me a book with what looked like Sean Connery in black leather and holding a sword. She claimed I would love it. I was dubious. When I asked her what it was about, she said, "It's an old hero, who is good with an axe and goes to save a fort from barbarian invaders."   
"Does he win?" I wanted to know.  
"Well, sort of, but he dies."

So she wanted me to read about an old man who goes to a fort and gets killed. For me it was a dubious endorsement at best. Of course, I eventually read it, and as usual, she was right. It was Legend by David Gemmell and within a few years I had read everything he published, he and Robert B . Parker are my all time favorite authors and both sadly have passed. I don't read her romance books and she doesn't read the Sookie books, of which I have all, but we still share. She's trying to get me to read Quarter Share by Nathan Lowell. She says it has that almost Jack London young man making his way in the world, or outer space in this case, feel to it. She says I would like it. I'm dubious.

The point of this long rambling post is to sort of explain why we write what we write. Just as you are what you eat, I believe you tend to write what you read. So read widely and often.

AUTHOR INFORMATION: Andrew Gordon is one half of Ilona Andrews, the pseudonymous husband-and-wife writing team along with Ilona Gordon. Together, Andrew and Ilona are the co-authors of the New York Times bestselling Kate Daniels urban fantasy series and the romantic urban fantasy novels of The Edge. They live in Texas with their children.

Order Gunmetal Magic HERE
Read An Excerpt HERE
Read FBC’s Review of “Magic Bites” & “Magic Burns
Read FBC’s Review of “Magic Strikes” & “Magic Mourns
Read FBC’s Review of “Magic Bleeds” & “A Questionable Client
Read FBC’s Review of “Magic Slays” & “Magic Dreams
Read FBC's Review of "Gunmetal Magic" & "Magic Gifts"
Read FBC's Review of "Retribution Clause" & "Magic Tests"
Read FBC’s Interview with Ilona Andrews

Note: Dragons of Winter Night cover art courtesy of Larry Elmore and Dragonlance[Tower of High Sorcery], A Clockwork Orange cover art courtesy of Starduster26.


Nayan said...

Its quite interesting to read something so original and get to know the authors responsible for writing the Kate Daniels series.

Thanks for this wonderful post!!

The Reader said...

Hi Nayan

I thought this would be a good peek into the minds that have given us such a wonderful series. Hope all is well with you :)


Anonymous said...

It's always fascinating getting more of a glimpse into your roots, whether it's from Ilona's or from your viewpoint.
When I started reading English fantasy, David Eddings and early Raymond Feist were easiest available as imports, so I started with the Belgariad and the follow-up, too. And while I think the overall development is better in the Belgariad, Sparhawk is my favourite Eddings hero ^^ - and his goddess my favourite female character, even including Polgara and Velvet.
And then of course, it turned out eventually that the books should have said David and Leigh Eddings all along ^^.

e_booklover said...

I love this post :D. It brought back all sorts of memories from sneaking books, to hours in the library, to being annoyed at teachers because they were interrupting my reading time :).

Melissa (My words and pages) said...

Great combo here, and great mix of books to get to one of our favorite series. :) Thank you!

Austin Lehman Bike Tours said...

I haven’t looked into this series but you definitely have my interest. I will have to check it out. Always looking for a good set of books to dive into. Off to the library I go :) -Daniella

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