HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: You can tell she's fascinating. Just look at that photo! And when she had an idea for a novel, it was a doozy.
We'll just let Ilana tell you!
My passions, friends, experiences, and clothes are eclectic. Even my name Ilana Katz Katz is unusual. (My middle name was Katz and I married a Katz… what are the chances of that?) I don't think there is a cookie cutter out there that could begin to reflect the shape of my life. It's no wonder that food for thought comes where I least expect it.
I would have predicted that my most interesting storytelling inspirations would come from my experiences as a musician in Boston’s subway system. I play old-time and blues fiddle to entertain passersby waiting for the trains.
The subway hosts the gamut of people from the homeless to the manicured businessperson. With music bridging the gap between strangers and friends, people often talk to me in between fiddle tunes revealing the secrets of their lives. Many of their experiences stay with me, but it was a routine trip to the vet that most sparked my imagination. I would never have guessed that would be the case.
“Fixed male cats have the best temperaments,” Dr. S said while examining my newly adopted rescue kitty. “Imagine if our world was run by castrated men,” she said with a laugh. I have to admit that I was initially a little horrified at her suggestion, but it did get my mind spinning. What if women ran the world? Would there really be less war? Less violence in general? Would negotiations for social rights and religion be different or any better? I looked for answers and found some pretty interesting information.
Through the early 1900s the average age of sexual consent for girls in most states was 10-12 with Delaware weighing in at the age of seven. Really? Seven? I seriously doubt a woman declared that a seven-year old child could reasonably consent to, let alone engage in, sexual activity. But I can tell you in the late 1880s, a group of mostly women started to chip away at these laws. By 1920, most states succeeded in changing the legal age of consent to 16-18.
This fueled my wonder. Nearly a hundred years later, what kinds of changes would an all-woman power structure initiate around the globe? I wonder if the similar hierarchy, values, and struggles we see today would morph out of the women over time.
I’d like to believe that having world-wide female leaders would yield a better world, perhaps a more humanitarian place. Of course we don’t know what would really happen, but I wish we did!
Since I doubt my lifetime will show me a women-ruled globe, I explored this by writing The Underground: Imagine a world where women rule and men must cater to their every whim… or else. The story is set in the backdrop of the futuristic dystopian America run by an iron-fisted Queen. Under the guise of ending sexual assaults against women, she requires unmarried twenty-six-year old men to be castrated. To further diminish men’s rights, women are the only ones who can legally propose marriage.
I enjoyed coming up with this story, but the flipside of developing fictional characters is that people reading my work insert me into my books assuming it was somehow autobiographic. I find myself having to say, "No, I am not a man-hating dictatorial extremist with scalpel happy tendencies. I'm just a happily married storyteller with a dystopian bend.”
I never know where my next story idea will come from, but enjoy pondering the possibilities of situations that stretch my imagination. I’ll keep my eyes and ears open, no matter where I am.
HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: I hesitate even to mention it. But a world ruled by women? What if...
In addition to being a novelist, Ilana can often be found playing fiddle in Boston’s underground subways. (Park Street, on the Green Line is a favorite station.) She lives in Boston, MA and Newport, RI with her husband Warren and adorably lazy felines Boris and Squeaky. Her debut novel The Underground is available at Amazon.com, as an ebook and in paperback. She’ll be releasing her second novel Finding Jayne later this year. For more information about Ilana and her books, see ilanakatz.com.