One of our absolutely favourite books of 2015 was the excellent SciFi YA novel Illuminae, co-written by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. The follow-up novel, Gemina, is out this week and we are delighted to post this exclusive Q&A with the authors.
The Book Smugglers: Gemina is the sequel to Illuminae but it doesn’t follow the same characters from that first novel. WHO do we get to meet in Gemina and what will they be doing?
Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff: In Illuminae, our characters were on ships making a desperate break for Jump Station: Heimdall, where they hoped they’d be able to make a jump through the wormhole to the core systems, and safety. But despite all their maydays, there’s never any answer from Heimdall.
In Gemina, we find out why. We head to the jump station itself, where as the characters in Illuminae suspected, Very Bad Things are afoot. We meet Hanna, the station commander’s daughter – she has a black belt, and a keen eye for other kinds of fashion as well. We also meet Nik, a reluctant member of the station’s mafia. We like to describe Gemina as “Die Hard meets Alien.” When a hostile force takes over the station… Hanna and Nik are Bruce Willis.
The Book Smugglers: Do we get to meet ANY of the characters from the previous book at all?
Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff: Absolutely! When we finished Illuminae, the Hypatia was heading for Heimdall, and when the ship arrives, both storylines will merge. We don’t want to disclose exactly who you’ll meet, because we don’t want to spoil those who haven’t read Illuminae, but if the character makes it out of Illuminae alive, you’ll see them in Gemina.
The Book Smugglers: Illuminae and Gemina are not only great novels but also incredibly cool visual works of art. Built as epistolary novels, the books are filled with images, graphs, letters, photos, computer screens and so much more. How it the process of creating books such as these? What comes first, the visuals or the story?
Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff: Thank you so much! We have so, so much fun weaving together the stories and the design in these books. We start with a very general idea of the story, and then we build the design and the detail of the scenes hand in hand. Usually we plan about a hundred pages ahead, working out exactly what needs to happen. From there, we decide which character would best narrate those pages, and what format would suit them. It’s important that the storyline stand independent of the design – that if the story was told as a straightforward narrative in the usual style, it would still work all on its own. But that said, the design and the narrative are very much entwined – ideas about each drives the other.
The Book Smugglers: Speaking of process – both of you have written solo books as well as books co-written with other authors. Does your writing method change from one to the other – and what’s the process for writing the Illuminae Files?
Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff: There’s definitely a difference – when we’re co-authoring, we both outline and plan more comprehensively, because we’re both working on scenes simultaneously, and we need to make sure we’re singing off the same score. Once we’ve worked out the next hundred pages and decided on who’s narrating them and what format we’re using – for example, to deliver information we might use a briefing paper or a schematic, or to check in with a character we might use a diary entry or a private email – we divide up who’ll write what. From there, we write, emailing scenes back and forth and editing as we go. Oh, and when the characters have a conversation using an instant messaging program, more often than not, that’s us jumping into an IM program and writing it via improv.
The Book Smugglers: Can you talk about other books or TV and movies that inspired the Illuminae Files? Kinda like: for those of us who love this series, where should we go next?
Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff: Oh gosh, good question! For TV and movies, we’d point to Battlestar Galactica of course, and we’re both Star Trek fans as well. We’d point at movies like Interstellar, Gravity and The Martian, as well as awesome action flicks like Die Hard. When it comes to reading, we’d circle back to The Martian again. We’d also add in James S.A. Corey’s The Expanse series (books and TV!), Mira Grant’s Feed, Beth Revis’s Across The Universe, Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves… we could go on forever.
The Book Smugglers: Will there be more books in the series?
Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff: Indeed there will! Book three will be out the same time next year, and we’ve just handed in the draft. It features everyone who survives the first two books, and some new characters as well – there’s a hint about one of them in Illuminae, if you look very closely. (We added those couple of lines after the advance reader copies were printed, so if you only have an ARC, you’re missing those clues!)
The Book Smugglers: What comes next from both of you outside the Illuminae Files?
Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff: We’re busy-busy-busy! Jay just kicked off a new series with Nevernight, an epic fantasy about a school for assassins. He’s also hard at work on LIFEL1K3, which he likes to describe as “Romeo and Juliet meets Mad Max: Fury Road.”
Amie’s next book outside this series will be Unearthed, the first in a new duology with her other writing partner, Meagan Spooner. They like to describe Unearthed as “Indiana Jones teams up with Lara Croft… in space.” Amie’s also got a middle grade fantasy series in the pipeline, featuring wolves, dragons, shapeshifters and magical inventions.
Together, we’ve signed on for another series once the Illuminae Files are finished. It’s called the Andromeda Cycle, and we described it to our editor as “The Breakfast Club enrolls in Starfleet Academy.”
Sleep is for the weak!
Amie Kaufman is the New York Times bestselling co-author of Illuminae (with Jay Kristoff) and These Broken Stars, This Shattered World, and Their Fractured Light (with Meagan Spooner.) She writes science fiction and fantasy for teens, and her favourite procrastination techniques involve chocolate, baking, sailing, excellent books and TV, plotting and executing overseas travel, and napping.
She lives in Melbourne, Australia with her husband, their rescue dog, and her considerable library. She is represented by Tracey Adams of Adams Literary.
Jay Kristoff is the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of THE LOTUS WAR, THE ILLUMINAE FILES and THE NEVERNIGHT CHRONICLE. He is the winner of two Aurealis Awards, an ABIA, nominee for the David Gemmell Morningstar and Legend awards, named multiple times in the Kirkus and Amazon Best Teen Books list and published in over twenty-five countries, most of which he has never visited. He is as surprised about all of this as you are. He is 6’7 and has approximately 13030 days to live. He abides in Melbourne with his secret agent kung-fu assassin wife, and the world’s laziest Jack Russell.
He does not believe in happy endings.