Inside Drops of Crimson


Inside Drops of Crimson


Ilona Andrews - Author Interview


lona Andrews is an urban fantasy novelist. She was born in Russia (English is her second language) and came to the United States as a teenager. She attended Western Carolina University, where she majored in biochemistry and met her husband Gordon, who helped her write and submit her first novel, Magic Bites. Its sequel, Magic Burns, reached #32 on the New York Times extended bestseller list in April 2008 and her third book, Magic Strikes, is due out shortly. Ilona and Gordon currently live in Georgia. (Wikipedia and Websites are a great thing)

DoC: First off, thank you very much for letting me interview you for Drops of Crimson. It's a pleasure to have you as our first featured author of the magazine and thank you for taking the time to speak to DoC. Since Drops of Crimson is not only about reading quality genre but also the genre's writers, I'd like to ask a few questions dealing with the writing process and/or your thoughts on where you stand now as a writer compared to where you started.

Watching your career as a writer grow, you've been a fairly well selling author for a few years now. Most of us as readers see the "outside" of the growth but how do you as an author look at your constructed world and what are your thoughts about its evolution?

IlonaOnly two years actually.  :)  The first book in Kate Daniels series came out in 2006, so I'm still a bit of unproven commodity.  To answer your question, I have a large chunk of the plot arch planned out, so in terms of plot, I know where I'm going.  What changes is how exactly I get there. 

The first book was a test of sorts.  By the second, my husband and I realized that we needed to streamline.  Certain things could be dropped without any harm to the narrative.  And now, by the third, we know which characters are finding fans among readers and which don't. 

As a writer, I always strive to write to please myself.  But at the same time, I try to pay attention to the readers' feedback.  For example, Jim, the werejaguar, turned out to be an intriguing character and we received a lot of emails asking us about who he was and requesting more "screen time" for him.  Before Gordon and I sat down to plot the third book, we knew Jim had to play a prominent role in it. 

Just as well, the original plan was to structure the books somewhat in a PI series fashion: Kate would go about solving random cases.  But because of reader expectations, that original plan had to mutate a bit.  Now the series is more about Kate forging friendships and trying her best to protect people in her life from her own legacy.

DoC: In your first established series, you dealt with magic and technology coming to blows and to the world adapting to the rise and fall of magic for prolonged lengths of time. What difficulties have you had in creating the "chimera" adaptations and have you ever had to re-engineer something to make it work in a later book?

IlonaOne of the problems in the books was transportation.  Kate works in Atlanta but she has a second house in Savannah.  Originally most of her transportation occurred by car, or, in times of magic by a leyline.  Leylines consist of a dense magic current which grabs things and drags them forward.  Nothing living can enter a leyline without support, because the current would cut its legs right below the knees. 

The more we wrote, the more inconvenient it became for leylines to disappear during tech.  Not only it was impractical, it made no sense geographically.  So now leylines have been sped up to 100 miles per hour and they are active continuously. 

DoC: In developing Kate's character in the series, do you feel that you've been able to explore her personality prior to writing each book or are you winging it as you go?

IlonaWinging it.  Because the books are written in a first person, getting into Kate's voice is almost like slipping on a leather jacket.  I'm afraid there is no plan.  I just try to get the voice pitch-perfect and write what I think sounds funny. 

DoC: At the start of the series, Kate's only visible relationship was with her mentor, Greg. As the books progress, her relationships are developing exponentially, which is a major underlying theme. Do you feel that her character has changed in your eyes so that she's able to form these relationships or were these relationships not available to her because of her personal circumstances?

The first book was written in 2002, while the second came about in 2007.  A lot happened in those four years and I'm afraid the writing reflects that.  The 2002 manuscript opens with Kate who is unwise and rash.  She is a borderline alcoholic and she is satisfied with her role as a merc.  In a sense, Kate remained in stasis since the point of her step-father's death, when she was fifteen.  Voron was such a constant in her life, that when he died, she simply continued to exist by his rules.  She became a bit wiser, a bit less feral, but essentially, she didn't progress as a human being.  Unfortunately her guardian Greg only reinforced the rules by which Voron structured Kate's life: trust no one, keep to yourself, never commit to a friendship, never permit yourself to love someone.  Stay safe.

It took the huge trauma of Greg's death to snap Kate out of that emotional coma.  She was forced into situations where she had to rely on other people, where she had to take responsibility for her own actions and actions of her allies.  She had to act independently and her hard rules didn't always work.

In 2002 I felt that this aspect of the narrative was secondary to butt kicking, but by 2007 I wanted to explore this theme further.   Human beings are not designed to exist in a vacuum.  We love, we seek companionship, we pick fights.  That's what makes us human.  I wanted to bring Kate to the point where she had to deal with having friends, perhaps lovers, and both suffering and rejoicing because of it. 

If I could wave a magic wand and rewriter the first book to make this theme even more prominent, I would.  Unfortunately, magic wands seem to be in short supply.

DoC: Curran, which you knew I would touch on, is a dominant alpha male… a were-lion. As Kate's connection with him grows stronger, how do you envision his character achieving a balance with Kate's own dominance?

Ilona: I can't answer this question.  That would be spoilery :::sticks out tongue:::

DoC: Fair enough. How about…Is the "natural" female alpha role in a lion pride applicable to Kate in Curran's behaviour? How much of Curran's behaviour is ruled by the lion and/or the man?

IlonaCurran is very much a lion: he's patient, single-minded, at times cruel, and always dominant.  But I tried to make sure that in our books, the human part of the shapeshifters controls the bestial half.  So most of Curran's behavior comes from his human side.  This will probably be a bit spoilery as well, but a lot of Curran's personality was shaped by his role as Beast Lord.  He became Beast Lord at fifteen.  His life is essentially that of service.  Yes he roars and everyone scrambles to obey, but he always carries the ultimate responsibility for the Pack.  Every death is his fault.  Every significant enemy is his burden to eliminate.  He views it as a job and he simply tries to do the best job possible.

DoC: On to a lighter note; Other than Kate or Curran, which character is the easiest for you to write for?

IlonaAndrea.  I make Gordon help me with Curran parts. 

DoC: You were contracted out for four books, I believe, in the Magic series. Would you say yes to additional books if you were asked? Have you been asked?

IlonaUmm.  Actually it's more like seven now...  I'm contracted out to 2013, with one book a year. :)  I'm not going to guess that far ahead.

DoC: Moving on to upcoming releases, Border Rose is being released in October 2009. How was writing in a different world for you? Did you find yourself inserting the flavour of the Magic books into the piece or was it reasonably easy to separate the two?

IlonaActually Border Rose is now called the "First Book" in Edge series. Between our wonderful editor Anne Sowards, Ace's marketing department, and Gordon and I, we still haven't come up with a title. 

Rose is completely different world from Kate's.  Kate Daniels series is an urban fantasy with a sword-and-sorcery flavor.  The Edge series is a rustic fantasy with strong romantic element: it still takes place in the modern world, but this place is at once more rural and more magic.  People in the Edge shop at Wal-Mart and say things like, "Kenny Jo, get off that damn tree and help your mom untie Grandma Elsie from her rocking chair before the invisible demons get her." It's a very odd place, but it's so much fun.   It lets me crack jokes that can't happen in Kate's world and it also let me write what is basically a regency rake in a modern setting.  Can’t get better than that.     

DoC: Now that we've look forward, let's look back. What was the very first thing that you wrote as a so-called serious piece? How old were you and what was it about?

Ilona: I was fifteen, it was a YA SF novel, and it was awful. I had watched the Neverending Story and was heavily influenced by it.   Let's see, oh boy, it was sat on post-Apocalyptic earth, where most of population had died.   Mutant jungle reclaimed most of the world with certain areas remaining too "hot" to enter.  The infrastructure failed and every city is sort of a country onto itself.  Also some people obtained superhuman powers and formed an order of sheriffs.  The sheriffs protected the towns with their crazy mutant powers.

There was this boy who was about eighteen.  His father was a pilot, a man of a dying breed, and he made his living transporting food back and forth between isolated cities in the jungle.  His flyer went down in one of the hot areas and nobody offered to go and rescue him, so his son went on his own.  He met this very odd girl in the jungle and she sort of followed him. 

Unfortunately, the pilot was carrying a particular cargo besides food – something a very powerful sheriff very much wanted and had to retrieve at any cost.  So the sheriff followed the boy and the girl.  Ehh, this is all coming out to be a lot more coherent than it was written.

DoC: If you has any advice to give to that younger Ilona, what would it be?

IlonaConcentrate more on character relationships and less on monster spit.

DoC: Can you recall that moment when you said to yourself… Oh God, I'm a writer? When did it strike you as a reality and how did you feel?

IlonaWell, doctor, it felt sore and tingly...   ::laughs:::.  When I quit my job this February, I thought, "Wow, I'm a writer."  And then I thought, "You stupid fool, you've lost your mind." 

DoC: And lastly, is there anything you'd like to share with the readers of DoC? Any words of advice about writing or anything up and coming that you'd like us to know?

Ilona: If you're going to jump into this business, do it because you love it.

DoC: And now, because I feel that I must ask these… The Lipton Questions.

What is your favorite word?

Unfortunately.  I seem to say it a lot lately.

What is your least favorite word?

Unfortunately.  I seem to say it a lot lately.

What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Adequate amount of sleep + hot tea + good book/good anime/good movie the night before.

What turns you off creatively, spiritually or emotionally?

Lack of sleep.  I can skip meals but skipping sleep just kills me.

What sound or noise do you love?

I like to hear the cats purr.

What sound or noise do you hate?

Oh god, my laptop is making this annoying very high-pitched buzz, like one of those ringtones adults supposedly can't hear.  It is driving me completely nuts.

What is your favorite curse word?

Fucktard.  It is a very weighty curse word and it must be reserved for special morons only.

What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?

Graphic designer.  I think I'd love to design web content and book covers.

What profession would you not like to do?

Legal Secretary

If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?


DoC: Thank you very much for your time. I wish you the best with your upcoming releases and look forward to reading them. I hope to see you on the Best Sellers' List again!

Ilona Andrews can be found at:

Copyright (c) 2008 Drops of Crimson. All rights reserved.