I fell in love with Ilona Andrews' voice last year when I read Magic Bites. After reading Magic Burns (releasing April 1st), I have a feeling this will be an enduring affair. I'm delighted to present an interview with the authors behind the books! (Ilona's also agreed to swing by and answer any reader questions, so put your thinking caps on!)
Who is Ilona Andrews?
Ilona: Ilona Andrews is an international woman of mystery. Actually most of our fiction is written by my husband Gordon and I. His first name is actually Andrew.
Gordon: Gordon is the name I chose to be called when I became an adult. I was in the Navy for four years and nobody there actually called me by my first name. And when I met Ilona, she called me Gordon as well.
Ilona: A Southern Russian woman habit. For Kate Daniels series the publisher suggested a female pseudonym, so we glued our two first names together.
For those of you unfamiliar with your work, how about a quick summary of what these books are about?
Ilona: The books are set in alternative Atlanta. The world is battered by magic waves: they come and go as they please. When magic is up, cars stall, guns don't work, and mythical creatures rampage through downtown. When magic is down, magic users lose their power and defensive spells vanish. Magic hates tall buildings and chews them to rubble, so the world is in ruins, but people are resilient and they work around it.
In this world lives Kate Daniels. Kate likes her sword a little too much and has hard time controlling her mouth. But she also has some interesting abilities that frequently make her a target.
In the first book, MAGIC BITES, Kate's guardian is murdered, and she must choose to hide or to pursue his preternatural killer. Hiding is easy, but the right choice is rarely easy. In the sequel, MAGIC BURNS, out this April, Kate is trying to protect a little girl during a magic wave of catastrophic proportions.
Do you plan to write a specific number of Kate Daniels books?
Gordon: It depends on whether or not ACE decides to continue the series.
Ilona: We're under contract for four and have it thought out to five, but like Gordon said, it's mostly up to the publisher at this point.
How does the whole writing with another person work? Do you have a system, or do you duke it out until one of you wins?
Gordon: I don't think it's all that confrontational. We discuss it but it's a collaboration, not a contest of wills. I always thought it was very similar to a marriage. It's about compromises, figuring out who is good at what, and compensating for each other's weakness.
Ilona: We have occasional arguments, but we've been together for a while and we generally think along the same lines. Gordon typically is better with plot resolution than I am and I'm better with setting, for example.
Talking about duking it out - there are several awesome fight scenes in Magic Burns. Did you choreograph those or did it just come out as you were writing? Who's the fight-scene expert?
Gordon: We always choreograph fight scenes to make sure they make sense.
Ilona: Gordon studied judo while in Japan. We're both familiar with firearms and some basic sword fighting. Mostly choreographing fight scenes requires a lot of research. But yes we do actually get in the middle of the floor and try to figure out the most likely move or the easiest target. One of the things I hope people will keep in mind is that these fights are there for entertainment purposes only. We do take artistic liberties in the name of coolness.
Gordon: In practice it's very difficult to decapitate a person, for example. Pulling a sword out of the body takes a lot of strength, because of the suction involved.
Kate has an interesting history, which we get more info on in this book - did you work all that out way in advance? Or has some of it come as a surprise to you, too?
Ilona: No, we have it all planned out. We are so sad.
Soooooo, you have this uber-sexy/scary as heck shapeshifter, Curran, in your books. Why do you think so many readers react so strongly to him?
Gordon: He's a strong dependable guy who has responsibilities. He takes care of his people and he'll do what he says he will do. That's what a man supposed to do. Both he and Kate are autonomous. They have their own lives and histories, but even though they started from different places, they arrived to a somewhat similar world view. Unfortunately, they disagree on their methods and it's interesting to see them interact.
Ilona: Curran's an interesting character. He's not a bad boy or an anti-hero in a strict sense of the word. He's powerful and dangerous, but he isn't unreasonable despite what Kate might say. I think that if you were his friend and you were in trouble, he'd drop everything and come to rescue you no matter how dangerous the situation might be. He is Beast Lord, however, and has been one for quite some time. When one commands a thousand shapeshifters, one tends to develop certain arrogance.
The whole magic wave vs tech wave stuff is really interesting. Any background on how you came up with the concept?
Gordon: I think as humans, it would probably very difficult for us to have both magic and technology. When I was younger, I read a book (sorry, don't recall the name now), where there was a god Tech. He was a very small god, who started out when the first bow was made. Other gods made fun of him. But the more humans developed, the stronger he grew until he finally became incredibly powerful. On the funny side, when he appeared, he always looked like Clark Kent. And magic and technology mix makes such a cool world.
Ilona: There are so many stories where the magic is going out of the world. Tolkien's work, for example, explores that theme. And it always made me so sad to read about it. I mean, we yearn for magic. Look at the film industry – we basically use cutting edge technology to create magic on screen. It's an integral part of being human: to want a touch of something mystical and unexplained. It seemed natural to bring about "reverse" apocalypse: magic is back with a vengeance. There are some cartoons that played with that theme and we both really enjoyed them.
Gordon: Thundarr the Barbarian.
Ilona: Heman. Guys on mechanical eagles with swords.
Gordon: Magic that never was and technology that never will be.
Ilona: We've officially outed ourselves as total geeks.
I hear you're in an anthology next year with some very kewl people - can you give us hints about what your story's going to be?
Ilona: I heard Nalini Singh is going to be in that anthology. How cool is that? Our story will be about Kate and hellhounds.
Follow up question - do you think readers unfamiliar with your world will be able to dive into the novella and understand it?
Gordon: We'll try to write it so they can.
Getting back to Kate and Curran (not that I'm obsessed or anything), are these two ever going to get up close and personal? (I'm torn whether I want this to happen or not. The push/pull between them is just so fascinating.)
Ilona: I'm sorry, you'll just have to read it. Thank you so much for having us over!
Gordon: Thank you! We enjoyed it.
A huge thank you to Ilona and Gordon for the interview! Here's the link to their website if you'd like to read excerpts and find out more about the series.
And now, feel free to grill Ilona! (Maybe if we work together, she'll let something slip...)