The Illuminae Files – An Interview with Jay Kristoff.

By Johanna Edler – Posted 12 November 2021

The Illuminae Files trilogy is set in the year 2575 and tells the story of teenagers trying to fight corporations invading their planet while also trying to evade a lethal virus and a destructive Artificial Intelligence. Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman are the two authors behind the incredibly successful trilogy that is going to be made into a movie soon.
The two Australian authors live and write in Melbourne. The first book in the trilogy, Illuminae, won several prizes indicating its success and popularity, for example the Aurealis Award for Best Science Fiction novel in 2015. Both authors also have several other successful series, Jay Kristoff for example wrote the Nevernight trilogy and the Lifelike series and Amie Kaufman is the author of the Starbound trilogy and Unearthed series.
One thing about the Illuminae Files that makes the story unique is the narrative mode that the books are written in. Told through many different types of media such as classified reports, diary entries, interviews, or video transcripts the story is incredibly fast-paced and creates a suspense that leaves the reader wondering what will happen next. If that sounds interesting to you, give Illuminae a try! After reaching out to Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff was kind enough to answer a few questions for us. If you want to know what he likes about writing science fiction novels and which Australian authors he admires, have fun reading the following few questions that he answered for us!

Johanna Edler: Do you and Amie Kaufman plan on writing more books together after the third book in the Aurora Cycle? If yes, would you like to do another science fiction project?
Jay Kristoff: We tend to stray toward sci-fi when left to our own devices. At the moment, we’re just trying to get Aurora 3 done in time for deadline!

JE: What do you like the most about writing science fiction and how do you research for your books?
JK: Science fiction is a realm of infinite possibility. While I love fantasy, in general, it deals with what has been, whereas Sci-Fi deals with what can be. I find the freedom in that incredibly inspiring, even if the future worlds I imagine are often frightening places.
Research is a large and complex subject. In essence, we lean upon the shoulders of experts. I consulted an astrophysicist when building the trinary star-system for my Nevernight series. We spoke to virologists and epidemiologists when building the phobos virus for Illuminae. Basically, we’re not scientists, so we usually talk to those who are.

JE: What is your favourite childhood book or a book that got you into reading?
JK: Where the Wild Things are by Maurice Sendak.

JE: What would you like to do if you got the chance to spend a day in the world of The Illuminae Files or Aurora Cycle?
JK: Just hanging out in space would be amazing. The cosmos is an incredible, beautiful and terrifying place. Just catching a glimpse of it from outside the boundaries of earth would be life-changing.

JE: What is your favourite part of your artistic process as a writer?
JK: Meeting readers. I’ve had the most incredible moments of my life talking to readers on tour, listening to them tell me how my work changed their lives for the better. You folks make everything worthwhile.

JE: Who is your favourite Australian author and why?
JK: Garth Nix. He’s the elder statesman of Australian spec fic, who paved the way for most of us working today. His Sabriel series is beautiful. And he’s a genuinely lovely chap too.

JE: Do you have any Australian science fiction, fantasy or fiction novels to recommend? What (under-appreciated) Australian novel deserves more attention?
JK: Australian writers tend to be quite varied in our approaches and the kinds of work we make, so it depends what kind of book you like. But here’s a list of Australian authors whose work I love:
CS Pacat, Ellie Marney, Alan Baxter, Trudi Canavan, PM Freestone, Astrid Scholte, Will Kostakis, Lili Wilkinson

Thanks again to Jay Kristoff for taking the time to answer the questions! For all of you who have not read a book by him and his co-author Amie Kaufman yet, I highly recommend you pick up The Illuminae Files trilogy and see for yourself!