Karen Tintori and Jill Gregory
Authors of The Illumination
(Purchasing Information at
Authors of The Illumination
(Purchasing Information at
It is a great opportunity to be able to speak to authors who are collaborators on a book. We don’t often get this opportunity. Being a collaborator on a WIP (Work In Progress), I know that it is not always easy to work on a project such as a book with someone else.
Karen Tintori and Jill Gregory have been best friends for more than 26 years. By the time they wrote their first novel together, they decided that since they write with one voice they'd do it as one person--Jillian Karr, a combination of their first names. For nearly a decade, Karen and Jill concentrated on their individual careers while trying to figure out how to "out" the Lamed Vovniks. The Illumination, their second hidden history thriller, has just been published by St. Martin's Press in the U.S. and Canada next year, and in Germany -- again by Rowohlt, and by Pan Macmillan in Australia.
Karen and Jill are joined again at the brain, working daily on plotting their next thriller.
I am honored to be able to interview these two prolific authors. I hope you enjoy the interview, and take the time to ask them questions and make comments about their interview. ~Sue
Sue: How long does it take you to write a book together?
Karen and Jill: It generally takes us eight months to a year to finish a book, but by the time we've submitted a new proposal to our editor, the first three chapters are usually included. Plus we've already done thorough research on our subject matter and then write the rest of the book from a well-thought out synopsis.
Sue: Is there a genre that you would like to write in that you haven’t already, either together or singly?
Karen: My mother always told me I'd end up writing children's or young adult books. Right now I don't see it, but many of the other things she'd predicted I'd do have come true, so who knows?
Jill: I might like to write a fantasy or paranormal novel some day. I've written novellas with fantasy elements for anthologies, like the Once Upon A anthologies I wrote with Nora Roberts, Ruth Ryan Langan and Marianne Willman, but never a full -length novel. Some of my favorite books are The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Once and Future King, and the Mary Stewart Merlin books, beginning with The Crystal Cave.
Sue: How do you keep track of your characters and story thread?
Jill and Karen: We make notes and lists for ourselves. Sometimes we'll write down all the scenes we need to do, all the information we still need to reveal, all the major story points we need to cover. There are often so many threads that if you don't write down every single detail you want in the book somewhere or other, you can completely forget to put something in. So we make a lot of notes for ourselves. We also have a poster board on the wall with photos of our characters which we've cut from magazines and which we both agree resemble and personifies the character. Alongside the photos and around them, we scribble important facts about the character, age, eye and hair color, etc. As well as key dates and other information for the character's backstory.
Sue: Do you name your characters or do they tell you themselves who they are?
Karen and Jill: We very definitely name them. We have a baby name book we flip through and one of us will read aloud a name that strikes us and seems to fit the character, and if the other one agrees that it's a good fit, we retain it as a possibility. If not, it's tossed. We also use the phone book. Once, without looking at any book, while I was on the internet in one room and Karen was at the work keyboard in the office, we both suggested the same surname at the same time! It was for a character in THE ILLUMINATION. But this happens to us all the time. Our brains are in sync.
Sue: Do you base any of your characters on people in your real life?
Jill and Karen: No, not at all. We make them up out of whole cloth. We even avoid giving our characters the first names of family and friends. That way we are free to make them whatever we want them to be and what the story needs them to be.
Sue: What was the high point of collaborating on The Illumination?
Karen and Jill: The high point was when we began pulling all the threads together for the culmination of the story, and we came up with several very cool twists that made it all work. It's fun to spring surprises on the reader that flow seamlessly from the story.
Sue: What did you learn through collaborating on this book?
Karen: I learned that we needed to choreograph certain action scenes so that we both saw them exactly alike. Our protagonist, Natalie Landau, knows Krav Maga, the Israeli system of self-defense. While we researched the principles of Krav Maga, when it came to writing the fight scenes, we needed to go through the motions (in slow motion!) in order to understand the movements well enough to describe them in a way that the reader could easily follow the action.
Jill: Karen knew about the evil eye through her Italian background, but I wasn't as familiar with the belief. I learned a great deal about the far-reaching mythology of the evil eye. I knew a little bit before we started, but not how ancient and extensive this belief is throughout human history.
Sue: Do you have any tips for authors who would like to collaborate?
Karen: We work differently than most writing teams we've come across. We write every line together and spend great chunks of time together, discussing every aspect of our characters and the story. It helps if your writing partner is your best friend, because a writing partner is a lot like a marriage -- you need cooperation, give and take, and a willingness to compromise.
Jill: Every collaborative team has their own way of working. Both partners have to feel comfortable with whatever way they choose, and you have to have mutual respect and a willingness to put the book first, before your own ego. In other words, if your writing partner doesn't like an idea, don't take it personally. Either convince the other person of the idea's merit, or drop it and move on with an open mind.
Sue: What do you find as the most challenging aspect of writing? The most rewarding?
Karen: The most challenging aspect of writing is avoiding the temptation to procrastinate -- either by checking your email, doing a little more research, or any other device to keep your butt from the chair. The absolute best is when Jill and I are writing and the one who isn't at the keyboard that day is pacing the office as the words roll from our mouths and fingertips, and both of us are totally of one mind and in the ultimate writing zone.
Jill: The most challenging is facing a blank page on the computer screen. It is also challenging to start a book, knowing all the difficulty ahead of weaving all the strands of the story together in a natural, yet suspenseful way and in balancing plot, character, narrative, dialogue, pacing, etc. The most rewarding moment is feeling that what you've written will grip the reader and surprise, intrigue and entertain him or her. Also, the absolutely most rewarding moment is when you write THE END.
Sue: Do you have any additional comments you would like to make?
Karen: Writing is the best job in the world, and probably the most masochistic. At the end of a day, Jill and I are often left whimpering, so exhausted by our mental gymnastics that a three hour rumba class would probably have taken less out of us. Plus, ours is a job, like motherhood, that doesn't end at 5 P.M. The book -- and whatever problems we're having with it -- rumbles in our heads twenty-four hours a day until we reach the end.
Jill: It takes many months and sometimes a year to write a book, but all the while, you're hoping that it will only take the reader a day or two to tear through the book. Our goal is always to enthrall the reader so completely that he or she won't be able to put the story aside. That's what we strive for with every book --that's foremost in our minds throughout the writing process.
Sue: Thank you so much for allowing me to interview you and have you on my blog. It was a real pleasure for me. I look forward to reading more of your collaborations.
Make sure you make a comment or ask a question of either Karen or Jill or both to be entered into a drawing for a free copy of The Illumination. Don’t forget to add an email address where you can be contacted if you are the winner.
Again, thanks to Karen and Jill for being here!
Here is a synopsis of THE ILLUMINATION, by Jill Gregory and Karen Tintori:
Natalie Landau, a museum curator with an expertise in Mesopotamian protective amulets and magical beliefs, has received a puzzling gift from her sister Dana--a necklace with a blue evil eye pendant on it. The Evil Eye is a symbol of protection common throughout the world, with a history connecting it to many religions.
When Natalie learns Dana was murdered only hours after sending the gift, she begins to think her evil eye amulet had something to do with her sister’s death. As she races to discover the origin of the pendant, Natalie is sucked into an international battle between powerful religious factions, each battling for the eye, which turns out to be far more valuable—and far more powerful--than she could ever imagine.
Here are some comments about The Illumination.
“The intrigue is high. The excitement is palpable. The story is priceless. Combining mysticism, history, and fanaticism, this is one thriller that's simply impossible to put down until you've reached the ending - breathless and so well satisfied. Tintori and Gregory are first rate story tellers! ”--M.J. Rose, international bestselling author of The Memorist
“Jill Gregory and Karen Tintori return with another extraordinary thriller after their outstanding The Book of Names. Their new novel, The Illumination, skillfully weaves history, ancient art, dark legend and religious fanaticism into a story of high-stakes terror and international intrigue. The excitement stays at a high pitch from the opening scene at the looted Iraqi National Museum to the final sensational twist. A page-turner. extraordinaire.”--New York Times bestselling author Douglas Preston, co-author of The Monster of Florence and The Wheel of Darkness
“Stirring and imaginative. A tense, intelligent, and surprising thrill. Drum tight in execution, fueled by imagination, the plot is as sharp as a broken shard of glass. If you like your tales loaded with intrigue, treachery, and a wealth of secrets you're going to love The Illumination.”-- New York Times bestselling author Steve Berry, author of The Charlemagne Pursuit and The Templar Legacy