Spoiler Filled Interview with Author of Illuminae Jay Kristoff - Taylor Holmes inc.

Spoiler Filled Interview with Author of Illuminae Jay Kristoff

Spoiler Filled Interview with Author of Illuminae Jay Kristoff

illuminae-don't-lookSometimes, rarely… ok, very rarely, you hit on a book that is absolute gold and you sit there staring at the ceiling in the night, just knowing that this thing is going to be a huge hit… if only somebody, anybody would read it. That’s how I felt about Illuminae after finishing it. So I ran around to all my friends and told them about it. Put copies in their hands. Wrote about it. And slowly people started picking it up. There were signs of life out there for Illuminae. And now? Now it’s been a New York Times Best Seller for the past 8 weeks.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. In the midst of my posting and my cajoling and my forcing people to read it I tweeted out my most recent post (as I always do) an Jay Kristoff (one of the two brilliant authors that made Illuminae happen) tweeted back to me a quick thanks. And people dislike Twitter? I don’t get it.

Well, at that point I sorta felt like I had one chance to get him to talk to me – and one chance to hook him into a conversation. And so I engaged him with the one question that would be controversial enough to start a bit of a conversation.

But before we go there, I really must say that his interview and this conversation is riddled with spoilers. Spoilers, on top of spoilers… on top of conjecture about their spoilery spoilerness. So, if I were you – and I hadn’t read the book yet, I’d go read this spoiler free review… then I’d go pick it up, and read it. And then join Jay and myself back here as I try my very best to figure out where he and Amie Kaufman are going with the sequel, Nomina.

Ok? Spoilers-ahoy! Got it? Great. Then let’s away by kicking off with the Twitter conversation that started this whole interview effort in earnest:

“Hey there !! is an amazing book. 1 Question? {spoiler} – when exactly did you decide Aidain was a good guy?!?”

And right away Jay fired back with:

@tayoflore Kady does want to see the best in it. But there’s still two books to come, remember :)”

Illuminae-is-epicAIDAIN, the AI psychopath that is responsible for more people dying in this book than even the BeiTech armies chasing them… is a good guy? Why would I even posit that? Well, with the ending happening the way it did, I could tell that Kady, Ezra and Aidan were the North Star that would hold all three books of the Illuminae Files together. Their futures would be completely intertwined and totally dependent on one another. So much so that Kady knowingly brings AIDAIN along for the ride to book two. But his response of, “She wants to see the best in it”, sort of blew my mind. She wants to see the best in it?!? Are you completely daft?! That is possibly the most outrageous sentence ever. It’s sort of like saying that the Bubonic Plague had all sorts of potential for refining the world into a better place. Right? So I responded with the only thing that would really make sense of it all…

“Yes – 2 more books & an endless delay between! Stop talking 2 me & write! Hah. Thanks for making such a fun ride.”

And that was, we needed more books, and pronto! Hahah. Only to find out that…

@tayoflore #2 is done! Handed it in yesterday!”

Completed? Nomina, is completed? And that is when I began begging Jay to let me read book two. I mean, wouldn’t he want to know what his fans would think? Didn’t he need feedback and honing to get it where it needed to be?!? And that was when he said I could read it for a pony… And ever since, I’ve been trying to wrangle a pony to ship to Jay for the privilege. Anyone want to donate a pony to the cause? But it was then that Jay agreed to answer some highly spoiler-filled questions and discuss some of the deeper ins and outs of the books progression.

And as I was chatting with Jay I tried to get under the covers of the book, the assumptions, and try and figure out what is really going on. Obviously, the first thing I want to talk more about is the origin of AIDAIN and how he came about to be insane. It is a computer after all…

illuminae-awesomeTHinc – “The current line is that Aidan is glitched as a result of missile damage… I’m dubious. Personally think that BeiTech could quite easily have hacked Alexander and tweaked the current AIDAIN-assisted-FFG01i programming. Hrmm, no question marks… am I smoking crack? There. The difference is obviously significant.”

Jay Kristoff – “I’m presuming you mean they conducted some kind of electronic assault on the Alexander during the Kerenza IV assault? It’s a neat theory, but I can’t get too far into the details of what actually happened in orbit around Kerenza IV, because that has some bearing on book 3 (which we’re currently writing). But it IS a cool theory, and one that not many people have thrown at us :D”

So, maybe I was wrong about BieTech hacking, and injecting, AIDAIN into the control systems of the fleeing ships. Regardless of how “cool” my theory was! hahah. But please note, that one of the most interesting aspects about the Illuminae is that we have no idea what the hell is going on at the outset of the book. We don’t know why BeiTech decided to attack Kerenza IV. We can guess that maybe it’s about the illegally mined hermium. But that seems like a seriously bad assumption to make, knowing what we know at the end of the book. But Jay and I get into that later on in the conversation. And you heard it here first, the opening of Illuminae is so central, that our narrative will circle back to the beginning in book three (which is still unnamed).

Another key distinction that I wanted to understand and wrestle with a little bit was Phobos. If you remember, phobos was a drug used to subjugate the colonists of Kerenza. Yes? You remember this, because it became one of the scariest things in the whole book eventually. Phobos is what turned people into freakazoid zombies and caused me a great number of amazingly vivid nightmares. So, I was pretty intent on trying to understand what Phobos was really all about.

THinc – “Phobos mutated. I can’t quite recall what it’s original purpose was – suppression? Crowd control? Agent Orange? Regardless, it mutated, haphazardly, a zombie-mutant strain that was transmitted via oxygen? BeiTech is a complete unknown to me, but that story also sounds dubious. Did it actually mutate? Or was it designed from the start to zombify whole populace?”

Jay Kristoff – “The original biological weapon released on the Kerenza hermium mine was designed as a kind of paralytic for the purposes of urban pacification in areas where direct attack was difficult, or assets might be damaged (ie, a large mineral processing facility). Essentially, it was an airborne virus which attacked the fear centers of the brain – namely the sensory cortex and amygdala. It would kick in 12 -24 hours after initial infection, and initially provoke minor fear responses intended to make people group together, thus increasing the chances of greater infection. So, you get infected, you feel scared about You’re Not Sure What, you call up your parents/friend/partner, or go somewhere well lit and public with lots of people, thus infecting them too.

“In phase 2 of infection, the fear becomes so pronounced that physical action is impaired. Shakes/heart palpitations/and even catatonia. At this point, the enemy military rolls in, and seizes whatever objective the infected people are guarding, with most of them unable to fight back since they’re so paralyzed with terror.

“The mutated virus, however, shifted its attack from the amygdala to the synaptic gap and seratonin reuptake mechanisms of the brain, essentially destroying them. This pushed victims into a third stage, where they’re essentially suffering complete inability to distinguish fantasy from reality, sever paranoia and psychosis. If you’ve ever seen someone suffering a psychotic break under the influence of methamphetamine, that’s what we’re talking about. Cranked up to 11.

“So yes, the virus did mutate. It wouldn’t really serve BeiTech to turn the civilians they’re trying to pacify into a flock of psychotics who don’t feel pain, think virtually everyone is out to get them and are capable of almost superhuman feats of strength!”

Alright, so I was completely wrong on this particular theory, so wrong, that Jay decided to spend 4 or 5 paragraphs pointing out just how utterly confused I was. hahah. But it makes 100% sense that he would slow down and clarify, because this Phobos theme is critical to the entirety of the story. What I wonder about most now is this,… we know that AIDAIN carries forward into Nomina, book 2. BUT, will Phobos carry forward as well? I have always assumed that one infected person will go with them, and will make it alive as they continue forward. But maybe not? Or possibly, BeiTech will launch more Phobos attacks in the future, not realizing exactly what phobos is doing to the populace? We will see. Maybe I’ll pop a twitter flare to Jay and Amie and see what they say on that front.

THinc. – “The end of the book seems to indicate that the reason that Ezra and his dad are on Kerenza is to hide from Ezra’s mother… And Ezra’s mother is desperate to get Ezra back. Was the illegal mining attack just a coverup for the real reason, which was for Leanne Frobisher to get her son back? And if so – who is Ezra really? hahah. There is no way on God’s glorious green earth you’ll answer that one… but I had to ask, for the record. Personally think Ezra is the key to the whole series – he either knows something or his DNA is the password to decrypt a vault somewhere. hahah.”

mercifulJay Kristoff – “Lol. Yeah, pretty hard to answer that without getting spoilery. Book 2 contains much more detail about the attack on Kerenza IV and the people behind it. I will say that BeiTech is an enormous corporation, and the right hand doesn’t necessarily know what the left hand is doing at all times :)”

I just got my hands on the summary for book two (not sure why I’m only just finding this – but whatever) and it really seems like the focus of the book shifts to the Heimdall Station, and Kady and Ezra take a back seat in this one. But it looks like Amie and Jay are setting us up with another inside out love interest to carry the story. Which I’m neither for nor against. Definitely makes it more interesting to a wider demographic than most Space Stories, that’s for sure.

THinc. – “Is Illuminae the name of a rebel alliance, of sorts, that are now hellbent on uncovering the evil BeiTech for what they are… or is it just a cover for Kady and Ezra confronting Executive Director Frobisher of BeiTech Industries?”

Jay Kristoff – “Spoilers. :)”

THinc. – “Well yeah! Isn’t that all we’ve been talking about so far?!? hahaha.”

Jay Kristoff – “The Illuminae Group is indeed trying to bring BeiTech to justice over the crimes committed during the Kerenza attack, but there’s more to the story than we show in book 1. Kady alludes to a couple of those elements at the end of ILLUMINAE – “the Kennedy Assault Fleet”, “Project Plainview”, and “Rapier”. You’ll find out more about those in GEMINA.”

I’m currently half way through re-reading Illuminae just to pick up on all the pieces I missed the first time through. If you’ve just finished the book, you should flip back to the first few pages and notice the documents, and who they are from and to. When you first read them, you have ZERO idea how significant they are. But that is how the whole book rolls. Once you realize that these documents are post-incident and that their visibility has a wider scale than you do… it makes it really interesting to read back through them. Which basically means, Amie and Jay have their shizzle together. They aren’t winging this thing and seeing where it goes. Which is like watching a master class in plotting. Kudos guys. 

THinc. – “What are your thoughts about the sale of the story to Brad Pitt’s production company? Are you excited about the prospect of seeing your book hit the big screen? Hopefully they will let you and Amie consult?”

Jay Kristoff – “It’s very exciting, naturally. Selma and 12 years a Slave were both amazing movies, and Plan B are an excellent production company. You do really sign over the rights in these deals however – if Amie and I are asked to consult, we’d jump at the chance, but Plan B and Warner brothers aren’t obliged to do so, by any stretch. You really just have to trust the people in charge and understand that movies aren’t books and books aren’t movies. We’re very confident in our crew and feel we’re in excellent hands. After that, you just kinda cross your fingers. Hollywood is a very strange place.”

THinc. – “And finally, would you like your pony Brown, or Black?”

Jay Kristoff – “Black. Like my heart.”

black-ponyAs I mentioned earlier, once I found out that Gemina (book #2) had been written, and that it was complete, I told Jay that I would give him absolutely anything that he wanted in order to get ahold of a copy to read in advance. And his answer? He wanted a pony. When I mentioned to Amie (co-author) that Jay was getting a pony, a black one, in order to let me read it early… her response?

Whaaaaat? If he’s getting a goat, I want a goat! You know he’s going to sacrifice his though, right?”

It’s been a fun ride getting to know Jay a little bit (and now all of a sudden chatting even with Amie as well has been fun.) They have written the best book of the last few years in my opinion. It’s funny. It’s light. It’s intense and scary. It’s steeped in questions and secrets. It’s well plotted and paced like an of the rails rollercoaster. Illuminae really is the one book that has said to the world… this, THIS, is how you write a book in 2016. Here is the new bar.

Thanks Jay for taking time out to chat with me about these intensely spoiler-iffic topics. It was really a lot of fun. And I’m still going to ship you that goat here soon!