Ilona Andrews Signing for Magic Rises
I arrived at the Mysterious Galaxy bookstore in San Diego two hours early. I’ve never been to a book signing before and I didn’t know what to expect. I appeared to be the first one to arrive (or at least the first one to stay waiting in the store). There were no chairs set up yet, and I wasn’t sure what to do. So, I walked up to the two gentlemen staffing the checkout stand.
“I’m here for the signing…” Before I could say anything more, the gentleman closest to the register reached out to shake my hand.
“Oh, are you Ilona? Welcome! We were hoping you would come early.” This flustered me a bit because I’m now shaking this man’s hand for no good reason and have to inform him of the mistaken identity.
“Oh, no. No. I’m sorry. I meant I am here to attend the signing. You know, as a fan.” The verbal exchange that followed was filled with that sort of fumbling dialogue that two people engage in after having blundered into a misunderstanding. My social klutz moment, #1. I’m hoping this isn’t a sign of more to follow. Finally, he informs me of the two-book purchase maximum of MAGIC RISES and mentions that they expect to sell out (which they did). I purchased my two books and wandered around the store.
Although small in square feet, the store itself has a fabulous selection. At this point, I’m still feeling a bit awkward and out-of-place. With nothing set up for the signing yet, I didn’t know what to do with myself. Sure, I could browse but my preferences run toward e-copies these days and for some reason that made me feel bad browsing their titles. My usual modus operandi would have been to find a seat, put my nose in a book (I had brought one with me) and try to fade into the scenery. However, that option just didn’t exist in this space. At this point, I noticed another woman entering the store. I thought I overheard her say something about the signing to the bookstore staff. I’m not sure I made a conscious decision to do what I did next. I walked over to her, introduced myself and started chatting. At first, I felt awkward because this is out of character for me but in that moment I decided to chat my way through this signing if it killed me, social blunders be damned. And so, that’s what I did.
Turns out, the first woman I met was a book blogger over at readingandwritingurbanfantasy.blogspot.com named Jennifer, who had driven down from Riverside. Later, I met a woman who had flown down from San Francisco specifically for the signing, dragging an unwitting friend along for the ride. I overheard another woman had driven down from Visalia in Central Cali. Several women I chatted with had driven down from the Los Angeles area. And there was E and MinnChica’s friend, T (whom I was hoping to meet), stuck in traffic for six hours just trying to get there in time to at least say hello and get her books signed. I’m telling you — this is one dedicated fan base!
There were two women in particular with whom I had great fun, both from LA. One was a bio-science engineer and the other, a physicist. I learned about Miyazaki anime (I know, I know :hangs heads in shame:) and we all had so much fun discussing the genre, the odd turns of LKH, and what we were hoping for the Mercy Thomspon series. Of course, we also spent much time lauding the Kate Daniels series and our respect for the authors’ work. We laughed so much while waiting for the event to begin and then, later, standing in the signing line. Seriously. My cheeks hurt. But I’m getting a little ahead of myself.
One of the advantages of arriving early is getting a good seat. As soon as the staff set up the seating area, I casually walked over and picked one. Front row, center. This almost never happens to me. I didn’t even have to fight anyone for it. About a half hour before the scheduled signing time, in walks Ilona and Gordon. By this time, the store was packed. Standing room only. I saw them making their way through the crowd at the front of the store and let out a loud “Woo!” cupping my hands around my mouth to amplify the sound. I don’t know what possessed me to do that. Perhaps it was all the stimulating conversation I’d been uncharacteristically engaged in. They made their way to the podium and I started clapping. I really don’t recognize myself now. Sadly, the bookstore staff swooped in and whisked them to a secret room at the back of the store. We would have to wait a bit longer, but it doesn’t matter because they were here! The volume of chatter rose exponentially with excitement.
And then the moment we’d all been waiting for: Ilona and Gordon returned to take their seats. The bookstore staff introduced them. And at this point I’m fuzzy – I think we applauded them while they were taking their seats, but I’m not sure we applauded them after they were introduced. I just remember this odd silence descending the room (or maybe it was just in my head?) after the bookstore staffer did his spiel about the importance of buying from local bookstores instead of the big e-stores and then told us to turn off (not just silence) our electronics. I wondered if he meant “off” or “silence” and did “off” mean that pictures weren’t allowed? I could hear several other people mumbling behind me after the staffer’s statement, as if we were all possibly wondering the same thing. (By the by, I decided for myself that the staffer meant “silence,” so I snapped a couple quick pics and hoped no one yelled at me.)
This was only a momentary blip by my recall as once Ilona and Gordon started talking and opened the floor to questions, away we went. In times like this, I wish I had eidetic memory. I can remember the essence of how the experience felt, but if asked exactly what was discussed or what they said, my recall is less than ideal. I do remember some small things like how outraged Gordon was that his children’s friends hadn’t seen the movies Bloodsport or Labyrinth. How Ilona bemoaned that if someone in the house could make a case that some action/behavior was funny, then it was usually given a pass. How working with their editor greatly improved their work but also sometimes how editorial comments could be difficult to interpret into an actionable change to the content. Yes, Roman deserved his own story someday (woot!). The next Curran POV will likely be from the Rakshasa scene at the end of MAGIC STRIKES. How it would be interesting to delve into Curran’s best-laid-but-not-executed plans from MAGIC RISES.
But mostly what I remember was just how they both exuded a sense of warmth and charm to the audience. There was no artifice, no arrogance. They have remained grounded in their everyday life experiences even as their popularity as authors has grown over the years. And funny!! They are the kind of spontaneous funny that happens when someone isn’t actually trying to be funny. They have a sense of humor and it shows in their partnership dynamic and how they relate to the audience. They bantered and we laughed along with them. And we laughed a lot. They also have respect for one another and that shows in their interaction. They describe the strengths each brings to their writing process and it’s clear that the work would not be the same without their individual contributions. An audience member asked them about the common thread of family in their stories and what followed was a truly touching response from both of them about how their own histories may have lead them to focus on the importance of family as a type of wish fulfillment for the kind of life they hadn’t had growing up. They shared their thoughts on how family keeps you grounded and that they wanted to incorporate that idea into their stories.
Before we knew it, the call for the final question came. Where had the time flown? Afterwards the staffer directed us into a signing line that wound throughout the store, out the front door and down the mall sidewalk. One of the event organizers moved down the line with a sticky pad asking for the names that Ilona and Gordon would use to personalize the inscriptions. As for the actual signing, I had two objectives. One, say “Hello” from all The Book Pushers. Two, get my two books personalized to be given as gifts. Finally, it is my turn to approach the podium. I remember this in a sort of slow-motion kind of way. I walked up to the podium, beaming. I must have just stood there because I realize I’m now being asked “What can we do for you?” Oh, right. Objective one.
“Hi, I write with The Book Pushers, you know, E, MinnChica, Has and Lou. They all say hello!” Objective one, check. “I have two books I’d like to give as gifts. One is for E and the other is MinnChica.” Objective two, check. What I failed to do was ever actually introduce myself. :facepalm: Of course, they both know E and MinnChica so we talked about them a bit (all good things!). I’m sure I blathered some incoherent nonsense after that point, but they were focused on signing the books so I’m hoping it went unnoticed. Then, I got my picture taken, knocking over some books behind me in the process which Ilona straightened out while I just stood their mutely wondering how I managed to do that. Then I looked at Ilona who was just looking back at me and so I hugged her. Then I hugged Gordon. All the while saying “thank you” over and over again. I’m not sure what either of them thought of me hugging them. But in the moment, I didn’t care. It was only later, once I had time to reflect back that I realised what a blithering idiot I had been. I’m not known for having fan-girl moments, but I think that must be what one feels like.
So, my Ilona and Gordon encounter over, I proceeded to look for T who had persevered through the traffic-from-hell. She was easy to spot at the end of the line, poor thing! I’m so glad I got to meet her – she has a great energy about her and was so nice. She happened to be Skyping with E which was also fun – even if we couldn’t get the video of E to work on our end (they did figure it out after I left, darn it).
I’m so glad I got out of my usual hermit-zone and met some really lovely people along the way. I think that’s what going to these signings is all about — yes, of course, meeting the authors was fantastic fun and has become a cherished moment, but the camaraderie I felt being amongst fellow fans also left an indelible memory and contributed to a richer experience all around. Hopefully we will run into each other again at future events.
May I just say congratulations to Ilona and Gordon for their #1 spot on the NYT Bestseller List for MAGIC RISES. All of us here at The Book Pushers are so happy for them!!