Last week I had the pleasure of seeing Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff at an author event at my local Barnes & Noble. They were visiting the States from Australia to promote their new book, Illuminae which came out a few weeks ago. They talked about the book and the process in which it was created. Claire Legrand made a surprise appearance (she wasn’t scheduled to come according to the B&N website) to act as the moderator.
Note: This recap is probably going to be a little messed up since my memory isn’t the best. So sorry if some of it isn’t 100% accurate or doesn’t make sense. Also there were a lot of spoilers and I have not read Illuninae yet so I have no idea how spoilery things are.
What I Learned:
How They Met
Appearantly Amie and Jay met through the IRS. Jay said they had to fill out some tax forms? or something in order to get the money they make in America since they are Australians. They had trouble filling out the form individually. The IRS was not very helpful with filling out the forms correctly (probably because it cost money to fill them out each time). Jay was successful after some time while Amie still struggled. She was complaining to a mutual friend who mentioned that Jay had the same problems but had succeeded so she called him up and offered to buy him brunch if he would help her fill out the form correctly. And that is how their friendship (and weekly? brunch) was born.
How Illuminae Got Started
Amie said that Illuminae was the product of one of her anxiety dreams. She dreamed that she and Jay were writing a book together and she had forgotten what they were writing about. The dream consisted of her trying to get him to describe their book as he would to someone who didn’t know anything about it to attempt to remember the plot because she couldn’t admit she had no idea what they were working on. So the next time they got together for brunch she told him about it and they decided to write a book together.
The Process of Writing Illuminae
They used a lot of spreadsheets to keep track of all the characters mentioned in the book. They looked up most common names for each specific region/country of the world to add diversity and then decided what gender each one would be. They set the story in outer space because “everything is cooler in outer space”. As for the plot, they tried to think of the worst thing that could happen and then they made it happen. That’s apparently what Amie and Meagan Spooner did in These Broken Stars. View Spoiler »You know, the part where Lilac dies. « Hide Spoiler They also mentioned that they purposefully made some of the characters in charge female to defy gender stereotypes.
Amie and Jay found a way to squeeze some of the people that helped them along into Illuninae. They added authors like Lori M. Lee and I think Claire Legrand was included as well. Amie said that Claire scared her since she looks sweet but writes some dark stuff.
Illuminae takes a detour from the way your traditional story is told. Instead of being told in the points of views of one or more characters, Illunimae is told through emails, classified documents, texts, maps, security reports, etc. Jay described the book as Battlestar Galactica meets Ten Things I Hate About You.
Amie and Jay worked with a graphic designer named Heather on a lot of the pages in the book. They designed the pages in a way that the typography would reflect the state of mind of the ship’s AI. Jay said that he used to work in advertising and was in charge of speaking to the designers to reach a desired out so he knew how to “speak designer” and that really helped with the process. Amie added that she was no help. She kept saying things like “make that more swirly”. Jay also said that since he was familiar with design, he actually designed some of the spreads himself on Photoshop since it was easier than communicating their vision to someone else.
The Copy Editors
Both of them said they felt bad for their copy editors. They mentioned that usually a book has one copy editor, a person who acts like a human spell/grammar check and has to go through the whole novel finding mistakes. Apparently Illuninae needed five? They felt bad for their copyeditors because they misspelled a lot of words on purpose (in texts and other stuff like that and because teenagers aren’t the best at spelling) but the copy editors still had to find all of them and point it out.
Other Fun Tibits
Amie mentioned how it was funny that Jay’s favorite scene is the almost kissing scene. And this is coming from the guy “who writes all the gore” according to Amie. Also, they mentioned that in the book, they made the choice to black out all the curse words so no one can read them. And at their first tour stop in the US they found out that the words weren’t blacked on the ebook version. Since then, that boo-boo has been fixed but they said that news almost gave them a heart attack. They also found out on the tour that their cover designer included a little extra secret on the back of the dust jacket. If you take off the jacket and hold it up to the light, a secret message will appear.
More About Illuninae
AUTHOR: Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
SERIES: The Illuminae Files #1
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
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.