ILLUMINAE BLOG TOUR Day 1 | An Interview with Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

It’s day 1 of the Illuminae blog tour, and authors Jay and Amie do some Q&A with us

When Jay Kristoff, a science fiction/fantasy writer who wrote The Lotus War trilogy, and Amie Kaufman, a science fiction/fantasy writer who wrote the Starbound trilogy, decided write a book together, they created a unique, mesmerizing, complex, and visually enchanting story.

For this first day of the Illuminae blog tour, we got a chance to ask these two Australians a few questions about the book, the storytelling process, and the characters involved.  Read about it, and then pre-order the book using one of the links on!

What brought you two to collaborate on Illuminae?
Fate! Destiny! A quest over river and mountain, through valley and dale, a truth forged through the hardships of battle! A vision in a dream! A… actually, it was that last one. Amie had a dream we were writing a book together, and in the dream she couldn’t remember what it was about. We both laughed about it, then went …hey, hold on. That’s not such a bad idea…

What was your process for writing a book as a team?
We get together (at the pub, truth be told) and brainstorm for hours at a time, until slowly the story we’re going to go with starts to take shape. To some degree we divide the work up by character, but we both have our fingerprints all over every part of it—everything’s stronger when we both work on it.

Where did you get the inspiration for the book?
We’re both longtime nerds, and we drew inspiration from all the science fiction we grew up with, from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Battlestar Galactica to Firefly and more. We were talking from the start about alternate formats we might use to tell the story—ways to do it without traditional narrative—and in that we were inspired by lots of things outside the book world, from art to advertising!

What was the most appealing element about setting a story in space?
For a start, literally everything is cooler when you add the words “in space” to the end of it. Homework… in space. Laundry day… in space. Getting dumped… in space. (That last one more or less happens at the start of the book.) We’re both drawn to stories told on an epic scale, and space, well. It doesn’t get much more epic than that. One of the things science fiction does best is hold a mirror up to our own world, and often that’s done best by taking the issues we’re facing today, and playing them out on a far larger stage, on a far larger scale—while still holding onto the small moments of humanity that never change, no matter the setting, or the scale.

Illuminae-POB600pxWhat kind of challenges did you face, if any, in telling the story through email correspondence, messaging, documents, etc?
The story came very naturally, once we’d decided on the format we wanted to use. The main challenge was actually to make sure that we didn’t use the awesome format options at our disposal as a crutch—we wanted the narrative itself to stand up, so that if you told this story to a friend without any of the visuals, it would still grab them by the throat and refuse to let go. As we geared up to head into the design stage we knew we were facing a challenge in getting all the incredible details in our heads into a book, but the team at our publisher were awesome, and just as dedicated as we were—they really outdid themselves.

You used words for imagery as well.  What was the inspiration of creating certain scenes visually thrilling?
One of the turning moments in the creation of the book was when we decided that AIDAN, the ship’s artificial intelligence (which took missile damage and is now… a little unstable) was going to be recording a lot of what happens in the book. And AIDAN’s state of mind (so to speak) influences the way it does that. If it’s watching a battle, the words fly around the page just as the ships and missiles do. Once we knew we were going down that road, it unfolded very naturally. Not sure what it says that we found it easy to narrate the ramblings of an insane artificial intelligence…

As of right now, do you plan for the rest of the books in the series be presented in a similar fashion?
Yes, they will be! Each book will be a little different, because different situations will require different types of documents and word art, but you can look forward to more of the same, plus some stuff you’ve never seen before!

What three words would you use to describe Kady? What about Ezra?  
Ooh, tricky! Okay, here goes…

Kady: Sassy, snarky, courageous.

Ezra: Loyal, funny, haaaandsome. (Oops, Amie took control of the keyboard there for a mo.)

Aside from the two main characters, another major character is presented to us in the form of an A.I. named A.I.D.A.N.  What was the challenge of creating such a character without having it feel like an overused concept?
Both having grown up with plenty of science fiction, we’re familiar with artificial intelligences as characters, but neither of us felt this was a trope we see overused at the moment, particularly in young adult fiction. In fact, that was one of the things we had in mind as we set out to write this trilogy—we wanted to take the thought-provoking questions we grew up with, and write them in our own way for a new wave of readers. And there’s never been a time we needed to think harder about where we’re heading with artificial intelligence.

Which one of you is more like Kady and which is more like Ezra? Or are you both more like one than the other?
Jay’s a Kady for sure. Antisocial. Nerdy. Wears black. Oblivious to romantic cues from interested parties. He is, however, even taller than Ezra.

Amie definitely has some Kady in her too—Kady’s sass contains a lot of Amie’s usually-silent inner dialogue. She would like to be more like Ezra, given he’s super athletic, and she’s one of the klutziest humans who ever lived, but she is neither as tall nor as charming as him.

If you were an elite hacker, how would you use those skills?
We would use said skills to secure: the new season of Game of Thrones, the KFC secret ingredient, riches beyond imagining, and the return of Firefly.

About Illuminae:

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do.

This afternoon, her planet was invaded.

The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.

Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, schematics, military files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping, high-octane trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

The Aussie writers will be touring the U.S. in the month of November.  To find out if they’ll be in your area, you can see their list of cities and dates here.

Pre-order your copy:

Barnes & Noble
Allen & Unwin


By Kait

Kait is a New Englander, a YA book and adaptation lover, and a Slythindor, as well as a red velvet and red wine enthusiast. She likes to like things. Catch her on Twitter: @kaitmary

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