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?
Ilona: Only 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?
Ilona: One 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?
Ilona: Winging 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
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.
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?
Ilona: Curran 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
DoC: On to a lighter note; Other
than Kate or Curran, which character is the easiest for you
to write for?
Ilona: Andrea. 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
Ilona: Umm. 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?
Ilona: Actually 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
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
DoC: If you has any advice to
give to that younger Ilona, what would it be?
Ilona: Concentrate 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?
Ilona: Well, 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
What is your least favorite word?
Unfortunately. I seem to say it a
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
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
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: