As it began, so shall it end. *cue the evil laugh*
I mean, what better way to acknowledge the end of the inaugural month of the Evil League of Evil Writers than with an evil interview AND giveaway, just as we did for the start of it?
And honestly…it’s a spectacular ending to our first month.
Today we have a very special guest in the hallowed halls of our evil lair. TWO special guests, in reality. Author Ilona Andrews is actually two people – amazing
crime-fighting duo spousal unit writing team, Ilona and Gordon.
Thank you very much to our illustrious (I love using that word…really) guests for taking time out of their very busy schedule to
bring us this information join us here today!
Now, without further ado, here is the Evil Interview with Ilona Andrews!
1) Let’s start things off right: What’s your zombie survival plan?
Gordon: My plan involves relocating to somewhere very cold or very hot. Zombies would either freeze or decay very rapidly in the heat. Think the research station in Carpenter’s 1982 classic “The Thing” or a bad ass jungle like the one in “Predator.” Also the thick bush might impede their shambling movement.
2) If your zombie survival plan could involve taking one of your characters for help, who would you choose to fight zombies with?
Gordon: If we lived somewhere cold, I would take Saiman, since his true form could come in quite handy. Anywhere else I would take Ghastek, since he would be able to pilot the undead or failing that, use his vamps against them. I don’t think that shapeshifters can become zombies, but still it is better to be careful.
3) You’ve given some brilliant advice to aspiring authors, and as this website is dedicated to keeping writers from being douchebags, I’d like to ask you what you feel would be the requisites for a successful writer’s group/beta reader/crit partner?
Ilona: Beta readers are different from critique partners. A beta reader is typically someone who frequently reads and likes books by a particular author. When a writer asks for beta readers, they are usually requesting feedback to make sure the work they are doing appeals to the core audience. They are mostly looking for reader reactions. They want to know how a reader reacts to a particular scene or character. A bad pairing with a beta reader can cripple author’s confidence, so it’s really up to author to make sure his beta readers are trustworthy and reliable. To be a successful beta, you have to resist the urge to rewrite the narrative, you have to be honest, and you have to accept that an author might go, “Grrr!” in response. (Hint: when author requests a beta for an incomplete draft, something isn’t going well.) Being beta is hard and I personally wouldn’t do it.
A critique partner is another writer. This is a person who understands the narrative structure and the needs of the audience and offers solutions when you’re stuck. For example, one of our critique partners once called to ask if a torture scene was too severe. It was. Another time I asked for feedback on a particular scene, wondering if the audience would react very badly to something a character did. Sometimes when you are knee-deep in writing something, asking for a friendly critique gives you perspective. A successful critique partner is considerate and isn’t bossy. Even when I am comfortable with someone, I still take pains to be polite in my suggestions and preface them with explanations of why I think a change is necessary.
Successful writer’s group is tricky to nail down. Inevitably within the group you will have people with different skill sets. Some are published, some are about to be published, some are learning, and some are just starting out. The biggest barrier to the group’s success is ego of the participants. We once participated in the workshop where several writers who still haven’t managed to break in critiqued a story form a writer with several published short stories under his belt. They were clearly intimidated and all of the reviews were glowing, even though the story had obvious flaws. Everyone was so concerned with not hurting each other’s feelings, that the critique wasn’t very useful. In the long run, this sort of thing is very damaging, because it tampers with the writer’s ability to objectively evaluate his own work.
Writer groups are such a nice crutch, especially if you have supportive friends, who will take care not to hurt your feelings. You have a sucky day and your work has been rejected again, and then you sit down with a group of friends, drink coffee, talk about fiction. Everyone read you story and they think you are great. Yay! It makes you feel better. Pretty soon that feeling of “yay” begins to overshadow the actual point of having your work out there: to be examined for flaws. Being examined for flaws sucks. It’s painful and humbling, but getting a “yay” is fun and rewarding. I know people who spent years in the workshops and writing groups. They got in and they will never get out. They’re addicted to the “yay.”
4) Writers tend to be a little on the physically unhealthy side, what with the constant sitting, and the mentally unhealthy side, what with the suffering for their art. What are your top writer self-care tips?
Gordon: Get up and move a little bit. Go for a walk or jog. Join a nearby gym and throw some weight around. Figure out what you enjoy: running, swimming or lifting. Have a set routine and try to stick to it. We like to get up early and workout, that way we feel like we accomplished something. Seriously, I am not one to diet but if I work out in the morning I feel like later I could smoke crack and it would be ok.
Ilona: You will put on weight. Almost inevitable. I am the worst example of this – I stress out and gain weight, sometimes it seems by merely smelling food. You have to do something. Go to the gym, go for a walk, go and get the stress out. We work out at least three times a week at the gym and despite the fact that I occasionally glimpse the afterlife when I battle the treadmill, I keep going for both mental and physical benefits.
5) I’m not going to ask you the typical “how did you get published” question. What I will ask you is “how did you know you wanted to write?” Was it always something you wanted to do?
Gordon: I used to make up back stories for my action figures, and I can’t remember being unable to read. We worked on papers together in college and found that collectively we were a strong writer, or at least better than we were individually.
Ilona: I don’t know that I ever knew that I wanted to be a writer. I think when we finished our first manuscript and it was rejected, I really became focused on it. It was so much work and now I felt like I wasted all this time and energy. Why weren’t we good enough? I sort of became determined to be better.
6) Which character of yours speaks to you the loudest? This can be either the most insistent character or the one that just wants things their own way all the time. Answer can be the same for both!
Ilona: Our characters do not speak to us. They are not separate entities. They are a product of our minds and we are always conscious of that. Some characters are easier to write than others. Aunt B is easy for me, for example.
7) When discussing our own evil idols, the name Lilith Saintcrow popped up as one we universally agreed is a writer of the evillest kind. Our Bad Horse, if you will. Who is the evillest writer you can think of, one whose evil you aspire to yourself?
Ilona: I want to be Nora Roberts. I think she is Evil Writer Queen. Also Rachel Caine is of the evilest kind – she writes awesome books and makes 5,000 words a day.
8) What is the evillest thing you feel you’ve done in one of your books? What is the evillest thing others have claimed you’ve done?
Ilona: Gluing Kate’s butt to the chair seems to be a good contender for the Evilest Moment Ever.
(Dina comment: OMG I LOL’D SO HARD AT THAT! GO CURRAN!)
9) You’ve had a bad day and head to YouTube to watch adorable animal videos. Kittens, puppies, pandas, or other: which do you pick first? This has absolutely zero effect on your evilness, of course, unless you pick human babies.
Gordon: Ilona is partial to baby bunnies. I really like the two babies talking next to the fridge video. My favourite is when they subbed it with Bronx zoo cobra references.
10) We’re all tempted at some point to snoflake out and act speshul when we shouldn’t. Have you ever given in? Can you share with us your own embarrassing speshul snoflake moment? We’ll kill the witnesses afterward, if you like.
Ilona: Yes. Yes I did have a special snowflake moment the other day. A couple of days ago we got an email from a fan who stated that she never got tired of rereading our Series X. (Hint: Series X is written by Another UF Author.) The fan sent a follow up email almost immediately, apologizing about the first email and stating that while writing to us she was thinking about her favourite series, Series X, and did we read Another UF Author, because she is totally supercool?
This was seriously messed up. You open a fan email telling you that you are awesome, and then realize that no, you are not; in fact, you are so not awesome that this fan a) can’t remember the name of your series b) is thinking of the other series while writing to you, and c) sends an apology which consists of stating that this other series is just too awesome and that’s why the first email was okay.
It makes you feel about two inches tall. My feelings were hurt. So there you go, my honest speshual snoflake moment.
(I’m friends with Another UF Author, btw, and I think she is a wonderful writer. We trade ARCs. So it’s not in any way reflection on her or her fans.)
11) Have you ever shot a man in Reno just to watch him die?
Gordon: No, despite being a huge Johnny Cash fan, I have not. I beat up a guy in a bar in Catalina, CA though. In my defence, a local punched our Chief Engineer, so they started it. Ilona hit a bully across the back with a chair in school.
12) We’re going to give a random commenter an Ilona Andrews book of their choice. Pretending they’re an IA virgin, which book would you recommend for them?
Gordon: Tough question, definitely not the first book, maybe Bayou Moon cause it is my favourite, or Magic Strikes as it has a ton of fighting and underground tournament action.
Ilona: Magic Burns is an okay start.
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Wasn’t that awesome? Thank you again to both Ilona and Gordon for this brilliant evil interview!
Want to read an Ilona Andrews book? Of course you do. We’re going to buy YOUR CHOICE of a paperback copy of any of her books from the Book Depository and send it your way. To enter, include the words “Ilona is Evil” in your comment, and you’ll go in a random draw. Winner will be chosen on Monday and announced with ELEW blog post.
We also have more interviews coming up–stay tuned for more evil!