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.

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ILONA ANDREWS’S BLOG

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

Blood Heir (Aurelia Ryder #1) by Ilona Andrews : Blog Tour #BloodHeirKD

Today I’m very excited to be kicking off the blog tour (more details below) for the latest, hotly anticipated series by Ilona Andrews. Blood Heir is the first book in the Aurelia Ryder series and having almost inhaled this in one sitting, I can easily imagine this capturing the attention of new fans along with those already familiar with the world in which this is set.  Be excited people.

Now, before I start this review, I would point out two things.  Firstly, I have read the first of the Kate Daniels books but unfortunately, and much to my own regret (*hangs head with shame*) I was so far behind that I simply stopped reading.  I know, it sounds crazy and I’m loathe to mention it – in fact the simple reason I point this out is that I recognise that like me, a lot of my fellow bloggers will often become overwhelmed when they’re so far behind with a series – so take heart and also take note that this is a completely fresh start. It’s set in the Kate Daniels world but things have moved on considerably and the character populating these pages has changed almost beyond recognition.  Plus, the author does a fantastic job of providing enough back story that new readers will feel comfortably onboard immediately and with ease.  So, do yourself a favour and jump on board with this new series as early as possible *you’re welcome*. The second thing I would broach, is that if you’re intending to pick up the Kate Daniels series then you might want to avoid this review in case spoilers are lurking (although I try very hard to avoid spoilers).  You have been warned.

*beware all ye who enter here*

BH Tour art

bloodheir coverEight years ago Julie Lennart-Olsen left Atlanta.  She was 18 years old and needed time and space to find herself.  She was away much longer than anticipated and when she finally returned it was not in quite the way she wanted or expected.  New face, new body, new magic, new name and returning under something of a dark cloud.  As much as Aurelia Ryder (aka Julie) would love to be reunited with her family that particular reunion would lead to certain death for those she loves and so Aurelia returns to the place of her youth in the early hours of the morning hoping to keep a low profile and, well, failing miserably.

In brief, Aurelia has returned to Atlanta to prevent a prophecy from being fulfilled in which her adopted mother dies.  Kate Daniels is the lynchpin that holds all the different factions of Atlanta together and in peace.  If she dies, well, things could go to hell in a handcart in fairly swift order and it seems that a reborn deity known as Moloch the Child Eater (sounds simply delightful doesn’t he) is intent on her death.  The prophecy has begun, a pastor called Nathan Haywood has been murdered and Moloch’s minions are infiltrating the City.  Aurelia needs to solve the murder and stay one step ahead, whilst remaining incognito.  What could possibly go wrong?  Well, the return of an old flame could upset the plan, particularly as it appears that Aurelia isn’t quite as blaise about their split as she thinks, and neither is he and they both have a vested interest in this murder mystery.

The setting.  This is a world set a little in the future where magic and technology war with each other.  Basically, an apocalyptic event known as the Shift occurred.  Magic flooded the world creating havoc, aeroplanes fell out of the sky, technology crashed, electricity was sapped and monsters raged into existence.  At the same time, necessity being the mother of creation, protectors such as The Order of Merciful Aid grew, fashioned upon the knight orders of old they are a deadly mission that provide aid to those with magical problems. On top of this, let’s call it urban side to things, there was also an old Kingdom, now resurrected and  known as New Shinar.  I don’t really want to give away too much about this other than Aurelia seems to have left Atlanta with Erra, an ancient princess and aunt to Kate – all will be revealed during the course of the story.  Also, by way of a little more background there are also ‘the People’, necromancers, now known as the Eastern Institute of Necromancy (EIN) who can control (or pilot if you wish to be polite about it ) vampires through mind control and to top it off shapeshifters and witches (and much much more).  For the sake of brevity I won’t go into any more detail.

Characters. I’m not going to talk about everyone here.  Just the real standout characters.  Obviously Aurelia is a fascinating character and one that I feel we’ve only just scratched the surface of.  She is intelligent, capable but at the same time decent and more than that I like her point of view, the way she thinks and the way she narrates and this is so fundamental to staying on board for a series.  Aurelia is a lot more than at first meets the eye, no trembling damsel in distress, she has a LOT of tricks up her sleeve and can look after herself thank you very much.  We also have a young street kid, a girl called Marten, who Aurelia takes under her wing and who is also very interesting at this stage. We then have Ascanio Ferara, handsome (and doesn’t he know it) beta of the Bouda clan – I actually found his interactions with Aurelia, or more to the point the way she keeps him at arms length very amusing, And, yes, finally, Derek. Derek was Julie’s love interest (pre Aurelia). The two went their separate ways – too proud to make amends.  Now they come face to face again, and although they barely recognise each other they eventually come to an uneasy alliance.  MMm, there is some sizzling going on around here.  The chemistry is real people and I want a little more of that please.  What can I say, I’m totally shameless and I love some on page chemistry.  But, for the avoidance of doubt, this is not a book with romance, more the potential for a lovely long simmer (at least I’m hoping for that).

Finally, the conclusion.  It was brilliant.  I can’t possibly tell you why of course, you’ll have to read this yourself to find out.  But, can I just say – metal wolf anyone? I loved that.

Also, I do feel like I should give a special shout out to Tulip – because that is a horse with a difference.  And Knight Ryder – really?  I love it.

There’s a lot going on here.  Lots taking place in the world.  Not just between the packs and different factions of Atlanta but in the wider world with the rising of a new civilisation that seems to have arisen in answer to the Shift and the problems that arose as a result.  This is a world that is well known to many readers already and yet it feels like there is much change on the horizon to keep new and olders readers equally enthralled.  On top of that the MC is a complex character that I look forward to learning more about.  Clearly this is a world that the author(s) love and that’s something that really stood out when I was reading this.  There are plenty of characters thrown into the mix, the potential for some romance and the birth of some new threads that promise much in future instalments.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

Now, for the rest of the blog tour:

Look out for, and make sure to go and check out, forthcoming posts from the following excellent blogs which will be posting their thoughts during the next few days:

Fantasy Book Review  (review here)

Carole’s Random Life – (review here)

Way Too Fantasy – (review here)

Fantasy Literature – review here)

Novel Notions

Fantasy Book Critic

Further Info:

Publication : January 12th 2021

Absolutely stunning artwork by Luisa Preissler.   Check out the link (you won’t regret it) and also just feast your eyes on this beauty:

BH

Author Info:

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