Author Interview : Ilona Andrews

Today I’m absolutely thrilled to post an interview with Ilona Andrews.  I recently read Blood Heir  (the first in the Aurelia Ryder series) and loved it and in fact took part in the blog tour that took place pre-release.  My review can be found here – spoiler alert – there may be an abundance of enthusiasm.

BloodHeir

Blood Heir is a new novel, set in the incredibly popular Kate Daniel’s world that focuses on one of the other characters.  The book was so good that I was left with burning questions so I requested an interview.  Just imagine my surprise and joy when the answer came back as a yes!  So, without further ado let’s get to the Q&A:

Firstly, my thanks to Ilona and Gordon and a heart felt welcome to my blog 😀

Q. For readers who haven’t read from this world yet – can you give me a quick description that captures the essence of Blood Heir?

A. Blood Heir is about coming home after a long absence.  Things have changed.  People you knew are different. Your childhood friend is now aiming at the throne of Beast Lord, Uncle Stupidhead, otherwise known as Knight Protector of Atlanta, is having an affair with someone you would never imagine in a million years, and your surrogate uncles had a child and didn’t tell you.

(Well, Uncle Stupidhead is a new keeper)

Q. I’m curious about writing as a team (*readers – I’m sure you all already know but just in case, Ilona Andrews is a pseudonym for husband and wife writing team). I’m sure you will have answered similar questions before but how do you keep everything so streamlined. Do you decide ahead who will write individual scenes or are you responsible for individual characters? Tricky question – who has the final say??

A. We write together, meaning that one of us is at the keyboard and the other one is dictating. So everything that goes into the file is a compromise. Gordon has the final say over male characters.  I have the final say over female ones.

Q. In terms of the above, being married and working together how do you manage to take a real break without reverting back to ’talking shop’?

A. Why would we not talk shop? What is this thing you speak of? On a serious note, there are moments when something occurs and one of us will turn around in some random place, like a car service center, and tell the other, “We should just kill him. We can disembowel him and hang him off a pole.  It would be a good shock moment.”  But mostly we try to respect our time off. Writing eats up so much time and emotional energy and we have many other things to talk about like books, movies, games, politics, and our kids.

(NGL – right now I’m imagining the expressions on the faces of the car service centre staff if they overheard that conversation).

homer

Q. I have a particular love of covers – it may seem fickle to some but the cover is the first thing to draw the eye. I love the cover that Luisa Preissler created for Blood Heir.  It’s stunning.  How did you discover the artist and how much input did you have in the process.

A. You know, I don’t remember. I tried to look through my email and it seems that the first time we worked together was on the collector edition of Kinsmen from Subterranean in 2018. Luisa is an incredible artist to work with and she reads our books, so our input is very light.  We describe the character, provide a few relevant paragraphs from text and some reference images for specific things like the type of hair, for example, and she does the rest. Covers are vital to the book’s success. They are what grabs the reader, so I feel very fortunate to work with Luisa.

Feast your eyes on this beauty people:

BH

(Also, for more information about Luisa Preissler check out her site here for some stunning artwork)

Q.Seeing a long series coming to an end must be emotional for both you and your readers?   Blood Heir is a new start but also a return to a ready established world and old friends.  Can you tell me about where the idea came from for the Aurelia Ryder series and more importantly how did you decide which character to use? Also, how did you decide which other characters would make a return (and how does fan/reader pressure play into these decisions, if at all)?

JulieA. We planned for a continuation of Julie’s story before we finished Magic Triumphs, because we knew that a lot of plot threads would be left dangling. We tied up most of them to deliver a conclusion our readers found satisfying, but there was no time to resolve Julie and Derek’s relationship for example or Erra’s future.

The plans for this book stalled when we were hit by a surprising amount of Julie hate from the fanbase. There is a small but loud group of fans who hate Julie. Julie is written as an authentic teenager, with a will of her own and snark, and some women in particular really wanted her to be a “perfect” child who always does what Kate says, never talks back or takes initiative, and fits into the mold of that wide-eyed teenage protagonist who is nice to everyone and beloved by everyone. I’ve given up on figuring out why that is. The vitriol was loud and proud and we tabled the book.

Writing in the age of social media and email is a double-edged sword. People are extremely quick to offer their opinions on fiction and characters to authors who created them, and they often do so in a less than tactful manner. At the core, writing is an attempt to communicate with the world and when you get too much feedback – negative or positive, that communication falters. You become overloaded.  It’s especially bad when a fictional world has many books in it.  I’ve had people scream at me through email in all caps that I’ve ruined their life because of something minor a character did. This gets old very quickly.

Honestly, the Kate World was on a permanent hiatus and would’ve remained there but then COVID happened. People started reaching out, and we realized that everyone desperately needed a distraction. So we threw out some scenes with Julie, because it was easy to write.  We had thought out the novel and we know the world. From there we moved on to weekly installments and then the novel grew into a full-length book.

Wow – that was a close call, we nearly missed out on all the Aurelie Ryder goodness (by the way, the above is a picture of Julie pictured with her Princess of Shinar ‘hat’ on)

Q. What are the pros and cons of working in an already very well established world.  How do you balance what to include for new readers while at the same time not retreading old ground for established readers?  And how do you keep track of everything?

A. We have a series bible which our copyeditor put together. As to the recap, Blood Heir was a very careful balancing act because we had to refresh the series in the minds of long-term readers, who want to know everything, but not overwhelm the new readers. The reception has been overwhelmingly positive, so we must’ve done something right, but if you hand me that book right now, I would still likely tinker with what we chose to include.

(Oh yes, you definitely did a lot of somethings right)

(Here are the covers for the KD series just to give you an idea of exactly why that ‘bible’ is needed:

Q. In Blood Heir we get the entire story via Aurelia and are able to see how she thinks.  I’m curious as to whether her physical and magical transformation has also affected her consciousness (more precisely, is the eye altering her thoughts without her knowledge)?

A. I don’t think that the eye altered her thoughts. I think that intense education in Shinar customs and royal duties had more to do with it.

Kate is not very good with organized environment; she prefers to be a free agent.  She chooses her own cases and sees them to the end, but as the series showed, when she is forced into a structured environment, like the Order or the Pack, she bucks. Kate’s childhood was extremely structured.  She had very little personal freedom and growing up was a series of challenges and tests she had to overcome.

Julie grew up on the streets in chaos.  She craves structure, and she desperately wants a family to belong to and a clarity of purpose. She found that family with Kate.  She knows her general purpose – she wants to save as many people as possible as the world falls apart.  But it took Erra’s guidance to really lay down the framework of how exactly Julie would go about saving everyone. Erra gave her a set of conditions: this is what a princess of Shinar does and doesn’t do, and in a sense, she saved Julie from herself.  Instead of trying to right every individual wrong she sees, Julie now focuses on wider issues, which in the long run will help a lot more people.

Q. For Blood Heir you made the decision to self publish.  I have been reading your blog so I’ll try not to go over old ground.  How difficult a decision was this?  What has your experience of self publishing been? Also, were there any issues regarding character and world rights due to the Kate Daniels series being traditionally published vs the Aurelia Ryder books being self published?

A. Once your contract with the publisher ends, you become a free agent and have the luxury of publishing whatever you want. Ace doesn’t really have any dibs on our future work, even though they published the original series.  We can write a novel with Kate as a protagonist right now, and self-pub it without any legal issues.

So the question really was, do we sell the novel or do we release it ourselves?  We chose to self-publish for three reasons: first, selling the novel would mean the readers would have to wait about 18 months for its release; second, self-publishing allows us to keep a larger percentage of the proceeds, and third, we really wanted to retain control over our auxiliary rights, such as audio.  It is almost impossible to sell a novel currently without giving up audio, foreign, and film rights, and it was important for us to keep those.

We are waiting for our first month’s sales to land in our account – should be any day now – but according to our agent, we did quite well, so we are likely to continue.

Q. I’m curious in particular about New Shinar.  Aurelia has a foot in two camps.  Will she return to New Shinar in future novels?

A. She would have to, wouldn’t she?  Just to see her grandmother.  😊

(Ooh, interesting ^^!!)

Q.There are hints that there is much more to Derek than meets the eye and he has himself undergone change. Will Derek be making a return in books 2 and 3?

A. Absolutely.  ::rubs hands:: There will be stuff!  Exciting stuff!

Be still my beating heart *faints*

Q. After the resounding success of Blood Heir’s release you are now planning two further books.  Is your plan to complete Aurelia’s story during those two books or will you be reassessing in the future with the possibility of more instalments? (hope so)

A. We don’t know yet.  Our plate is a bit full.  We need to get the second Iron Covenant book out. That will mean two books in KD’s world close together. Once we get that and the next Aurelia done, we will reassess how the plotline develops. I am not trying to be vague, I just don’t know exactly how many books it will take to wrap this up.  Right now we are aiming for two more.

Q. Can you share anything with readers about where you see the series heading next.

A. Well, the battle for the Pack is the obvious next thing for Aurelia.  For Hugh and Elara, there is the struggle with Elara’s heritage. So we’ll see what happens. 😊

Finally, thank you so much for answering all my questions.  I’m so excited for the next book – and I can’t deny I wouldn’t mind reading a bit more about Derek *waggles eyebrows*.

IASo, a little information to conclude:

Regarding the Kate Daniel’s series (you know you want to) look here.

For the Aurelia Ryder series check out this link.

Author Info :

Ilona Andrews is the pseudonym for a husband-and-wife writing team. Ilona is a native-born Russian and Gordon is a former communications sergeant in the U.S. Army. Contrary to popular belief, Gordon was never an intelligence officer with a license to kill, and Ilona was never the mysterious Russian spy who seduced him. They met in college, in English Composition 101, where Ilona got a better grade. (Gordon is still sore about that.)

Gordon and Ilona currently reside in Texas. They have co-authored two series, the best selling urban fantasy of Kate Daniels and romantic urban fantasy of The Edge.

Website
Twitter

ILONA ANDREWS’S BLOG

Credits to Luisa Preissler for the Blood Heir/Aurelia artwork used in this piece.

18 Responses to “Author Interview : Ilona Andrews”

  1. maddalena@spaceandsorcery

    Very interesting, thanks for sharing!
    And I’m still laughing about the conversation in the car service center! 😀

  2. cupcakesandmachetes

    Awesome interview! Questions were great and the authors had really fun answers. 🙂 I really liked the beginning of this series so I can’t wait to see where they go with it.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Me too – about both the interview and the book. Kind of kicking myself for not asking about their anticipated timeline for book 2.
      Lynn 😀

      • cupcakesandmachetes

        Oh yes that would have been good but I’m not holding it against you. 😉

  3. Andy

    Great interview. Thank you so much for doing it.

  4. Tammy

    Awesome interview, Lynn. I didn’t realize they had self published this book, I just assumed it was a traditional deal. Its fun to hear about how one of them types and one dictates, that was really surprising to me!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, I thought that was an unusual choice but when they explain their reasonings it actually makes perfect sense. They have such a strong fanbase that self publishing shouldn’t be a problem for them at all. And, I love the way they write together and it clearly works very well for them.
      Lynn 😀

  5. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Wow, that’s awesome! I’ve always wondered at their process of writing as a team!

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, I’m always fascinated about how team writing works but this does sound like a great way to figure things out.
      Lynn 😀

  6. Lexlingua

    Wow, those are some fabulous questions. Thanks for thinking of these and arranging the interview! Always great to hear the duo talk about their writing process, book recs, etc.

    Can’t say I remember or like Julie sufficiently to read a book about her independent spin-off adventures, but the active hate issue on social media was unfathomable. Hope the series catches up!

    “Gordon has the final say over male characters. I have the final say over female ones.” Well, this one made me smile a lot in particular, because I am a huge fan of the Kate Curran series and the Max Nevada series. :):)

    ~ Lex

    • @lynnsbooks

      Yes, I can totally see that Julie might not appeal to everyone given her actions in the previous series – but the whole ‘hate’ thing sounded really intense. As it happens Julie has grown up a lot and worked out her ‘teenage’ years. And, yes, quite a few of the answers really made me smile. It sounds like they have a good time as a writing team which is why the books work so well.
      Lynn 😀

  7. waytoofantasy

    Fantastic interview, Lynn! I’m a huge fan of their writing so this was a treat to read.

    • @lynnsbooks

      I loved their answers and the sense of ‘fun’ they manage to inject. Can’t wait for No.2
      Lynn 😀

  8. Booking Ahead/Weekly Wrap Up | Books and travelling with Lynn

    […] Haha – still playing catch up.  I’m doing quite a bit of visiting blogs but still have updating on my own blog to get round to.  I’ve read one book this week, The Fall of Koli and also made a good start on The Drowned City by KJ Maitland which is proving good so far.  I’m about 60% in to my SPFBO book and by the end of today should be around 50% into my buddy read, A Darker Shade of Magic. I also posted an interview with husband and wife writing team Ilona Andrews this week which focused on their latest release from the Kate Daniel’s world.  Blood Heir is the first in the Aurelia Ryder series and got off to an excellent start.  My review is here and the interview is here. […]

  9. sjhigbee

    What a wonderful interview, Lynn! You asked some brilliant questions and they gave really good answers:)). It’s a bit sobering to have encountered so much hate for a character online… Glad that they took the decision to for it after all, though!

  10. Sunday Post – 4th April, 2021 #Brainfluffbookblog #SundayPost | Brainfluff

    […] Interview: Ilona Andrews https://lynns-books.com/2021/03/22/author-interview-ilona-andrews/ I am a huge fan of the Innkeeper Chronicles and have always been fascinated to discover how this […]

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