Inquiry: Who has two thumbs and two boxes full of ILLUMINAE author copies?
Conclusion: This little black duck. That’s who.
It’s a strange thing, to hold two and half years of your life in the palm of your hand. I look down at this thing with my name on the cover, next to the name of one of my dearest friends in the world, and it trips me out. I’ve done this four times now and the dissonance never goes away. Opening a box and finding a Thing you spent years of your life making. It’s like opening a time capsule, maybe. You can’t help but think about who you were when you started making it. How your life has changed.
No book I’ve ever written has changed my life the way ILLUMINAE has.
Amie and I started writing this book for fun. I’m not going to say we had no illusions about it actually getting published, because neither of us are the sort to spend months working on a project that has NO chance of flying. But we knew the odds were long. The ideas we were coming up with were too weird. The alt-format thing would be too scary for a publisher to pick up. But most of all, we kept getting told that “Editors don’t buy sci-fi“.
So we wrote it for fun. Because it was so much fun to write. Every draft we sent back and forth was titled with a pun on the word “ILL”. License to ILL. Scott ILLgrim vs the World. ILL your darlings. No idea was too outlandish. There was no budget, no brief, no constraints. Just pedal to the metal, headlights off, drive motherfucker, drive.
Let’s see where this road takes us.
We wrote it on our lunchbreaks and in stolen minutes on weekends and at 1 and 2am. We wrote it for ourselves, because we thought no house would buy it. We wrote it trying to break the idea of what a book could be. Destroying and creating. Because fuck it, no one will ever see it. And a part of my mind was whispering the whole time “Wouldn’t it be cool if it actually did get made? Because jesus, this feels like it could be awesome” but no, shut up Jay. It’s never gonna get made because “Editors don’t buy sci-fi“.
We sent 130 pages out on submission in late October, 2013. We had four major houses sniffing within a week. By the end of that week, the trilogy had been pre-empted by Random House in a major deal. They pulled their entire crew in over the weekend to get the ducks in a row. Fairy tale stuff. Like winning the lottery. My whole life changed that weekend. I think I slept about three hours total.
So many people worked so hard on this book. So many hours, so much faith and sweat invested in this thing we wrote in stolen minutes thinking no-one would ever read it, headlights off, drive, motherfucker, drive. We’ve been so incredibly lucky to land with an editor and house that believes in us so whole-heartedly. Hundreds, thousands of hours work. Everyone firing on all cylinders. Bringing their A-game, nose to the stone, balls to the wall. All of it just amazing fun. I remember working on artwork with our designer as my wife and I booted around Europe on our 10th wedding anniversary trip. Sitting on a boat watching the Mediterranean ocean float past, trying to figure out the best way to make our readers turn the book 360 degrees during a space dogfight sequence, or illustrating a nuclear explosion at an atomic level, all the while thinking “Fuck, how did this become my life?“.
How did this become my life?
Because this is two and half years of it, sitting here in the palm of my hand. This book my friend and I wrote, because we chose not to listen to the people who told us we shouldn’t. And I’m so fucking proud of it. It’s like no book I’ve ever read. We’ve done things in these pages nobody’s ever done. Because we wrote it like no one was watching. Because “Editors don’t buy sci-fi“.
Until they do.
This life is full of people who will tell you can’t. That you won’t. That you shouldn’t even try. Doubt it not, my friends, these people are your enemies. They are the death of your hope and creativity. They are walking misery, seeking your company. Don’t spare them a second, or a breath. Leave them to their “can’t'” and “won’t'” and “shouldn’t'”. Leave them choking in your dust. Standing still as you speed at your horizon.
Pedal to the metal.
Just drive, motherfucker.