I’m having so much fun connecting with all the smart authors and bloggers I’ve met online. This is the latest entry in my series of conversations with other romance authors, who join us to share about their creative process, their habits, their inspiration, and more. Our guest today is Ilona Andrews who is a New York Times best selling author and is actually two people: Ilona and Gordon—a husband & wife team. They will be joining me on the panel of the Gender Feminism, Sexuality, and the Romance Novel Symposium in February.
1. Ilona Andrews is a pseudonym that represents your husband and wife team: Ilona and Gordon. Can you describe how writing as a team works for you two?
So far, it works well actually. We’ve been doing this since our college days at Western Carolina University, so we have a lot of practice. We started as competing students in a freshman English class and discovered that we worked well together. We edited each other’s papers, and it quickly became evident that together we were more than the sum of our parts, so to speak. Twenty odd years later our desks in the office are quite close and even when we’re not working, i.e. driving or loading the dishwasher, we discuss the plots of books we are working on or just ideas in our heads. Day to day it works as Ilona writing a scene then saving it in our shared drop box for me to go over. I add the male voice or dialogue and send it back. By the time it’s done, the manuscript has gone back and forth between us dozens of times. We’ve said before that it’s a lot like being married. If you’re luck your partner’s strengths mitigate your weaknesses and vice versa.
2. Why do you love about romance/urban fantasy as a genre?
Ilona is the big romance reader, while I prefer mystery or epic fantasy. I think she likes romance because it’s so different than what we write. It’s hard to read UF while you’re writing UF; it starts to feel like homework, if that makes sense. Romance is a wonderful escape from the real-life pressures of kids, our pack of animals and deadlines. As far as UF itself, we have been fans since Anne Rice and the early Anita Blake Vampire Hunter series by LKH. Even before that, as children we loved cartoons like He-Man, Thundarr the Barbarian and Flash Gordon which combined magic with advanced technology in a way that made them UF before that was even a thing. To get to do that as an adult, create a world where science and magic coexist is, honestly a dream job come true for us.
3. You are a New York Times bestselling author. Do you feel like this status puts a different type of pressure on you when you write?
I wish we could say no, but we do feel like each book has to be better or do better than the previous one. It’s an easy trap to fall into, each battle must be more epic than the last, the stakes always have to be higher, it has to place higher on the list. I like to think that we’ve decided instead to write the best story we can, at that time. The plus side is that once we make the list, NYT or USA Today, that is an achievement that no one can take away from you. Magic Rises hit # 1 on the NYT, by some miracle, and we have the cover and a printed copy of the list framed and hung on the wall in our office. It helps sometimes to remind of that we’re not completely terrible at our job.
4. Where do you typically find your story inspirations and what is the most unusual way a story idea came to you?
We read as much as we can, novels, comics, manga. We watch movies and all sorts of television, comedies, reality, historical drama and even cartoons. Some things come from our life. Aunt B, Mahon and Ted Monahan are based on family members. Our two daughters are also the basis for some characters, though they are largely unaware of it since they don’t read our books. The Edge was probably a result of being quite poor and living in the South when we were young. I will always remember her telling me that she was going to “write a romance book and make a ton of money.” It didn’t quite work out that way, but we had fun with our Rural or Redneck Romance series. One book we plotted out while drinking beer in the pool and vowing not to come out until we had something good. I don’t remember much after that but I assume it turned out alright. The worst was when we had to completely scrap the entire plot of Magic Slays after turning it into our editor. It just didn’t work, so we sat on the bed and brainstormed until we had something, then turned around and re-wrote in record time. I don’t recommend that method.
5. Romance as a genre can be slammed by critics as not being literary enough, and you have spoken up about this on your blog and website. What can the average romance reader and new writer say to those who chastise the genre?
We will never understand criticizing a person for reading something because you don’t feel it’s literary or worthy of merit. We think you should read and write what you like and enjoy. Should you occasionally try something out of your preferred genre, sure. But it’s not high school anymore, and you should be free to read what makes you happy or what makes you feel and think, not what someone else thinks is worthwhile or important. Romance books are an amazing escape from the mundane and many of them are very well written with solid plots and fun characters. Further, if you like reading romance, why would you not write one? UF had the same stigma, I think, when we started but we wrote what we liked and what was in our heads. Like Flogging Molly said in Float,” It’s all you can. It’s all you can… do.”
Special thanks to Ilona Andrews for participating in this series! To find out more, visit her website. You can also follow them on Twitter (@ilona_andrews) and Facebook. Their next book Seven Minutes in Heaven will be released on January 31, 2017. You can get Ilona Andrew’s latest release One Fell Sweep on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and Kobo.