Saturday, June 16, 2012

Fiddler on the....Subway?

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, 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


  1. One of my favorite fantasies! The devastation caused by testosterone poisoning alone is unacceptable, sometimes.

    In Peru they grow some 3200 of the 4500 species of potato in the world, including one kind that lowers the testosterone levels in men. Women feed these to male relatives who are acting overly aggressive. I say send them to the cooks of every single world leader.

    Ilana, I tried downloading your book this morning, but it appears not to be available for Nook. Will it be at some future time? Thank you. Looking forward to reading this one!

  2. Ilana, I LOVED reading the inspiration for your novel! That is so cool. And I love how things shake out in the novel too with all those castrated dudes and that Mean Queen. Xoxo, Renée

  3. If the world were run by castrated men, women would have no part.

  4. Interesting premise! I'm certainly intrigued and will check it out. I never would have guessed that such a novel came from that particular source. I also enjoyed hearing about those potatoes from Karen in Ohio. I might have to get me some. :-)

  5. Anonymous, no one is suggesting castrating ALL the men. Just the ones who are overly aggressive. Think of the money we'd save on prisons alone. Sigh.

  6. What a fascinating post by a fascinating woman!!!

    and yet another book to add to my pile. sigh.

    Thank you Hank and thank you Ilana Katz Katz (coolest name ever!).

  7. I am an older generation female who learned how to find a space for myself in a male-dominated world. I am not totally convinced that eliminating all powerful men is sufficient, although it's a good start toward a peaceful world.After reading about author, I am intrigued enough to get the book and see what she imagined.

  8. I'm fascinated by how the idea for this book came about. Very cool twist and a real mind bender for the reader. Thank you for sharing your work with the world!

  9. Karen,
    Very sorry that it's not available on Nook! It's on B&N as a paperback, and on amazon, but can't do the Nook yet. Super sorry. It'll be toward the end of the year for that.

    Thanks for the fun info about potatoes. Wow! There are so many interesting little tidbits when you dig - literally. :-)

    -ilana katz katz

  10. WOW.

    What a great idea for a book. I often wonder what is going to happen to China when that overwhelmingly male (aborted baby girl) population grows up.

    And this is the flip side to that.

    And SEVEN in Delaware. ICKY. Some pedophile must have been in the state legislature.

    I suspect though, that an overly estrogen-based society has serious flaws or you would not have a book.

    Can you tell us, or would that be giving away too much?

  11. Soon after women controlled Earth, thus eliminating testosterone, fighting, war, weapons, and all forms of aggression, the planet was attacked by aliens and the human race destroyed. :-)

  12. The book explores what would happen if women ran the world. I don't want to give up the details, but power has a habit of breeding imbalances that get out of control. :-)

  13. jack, you are too funny.
    Ilana, what's it like to play music in the. Subway??

  14. It is *always* interesting in the subway. I've had tattoo-laced and pierced goth-dressed teenagers spontaneously start square dancing.. I've even been blessed by a priest! I've had invitations to play on several TV shows. Every single time I leave after playing, there are people's faces or a story someone told me or *something* that stays with me. Perhaps my favorite thing is watching serious people in a hurry notice the music, turn their heads and a big smile shines on their faces. I often get a thumbs up or a nod or a wave. I *love* that, love thinking that I may have changed their mood.

  15. Great post and the book is so good -- just read it. You might think by the summary (and that unfortunate word "castration") that it's rough going, but it's as intriguing as 1984 and as heroic as well.

  16. Innovative concept, kind of an opposite land. Would that we could pick and choose who would be castrated (rapists, etc), not just kitties. Smile. Is corruption solely power based, a human condition not sex/testosterone based? or...Hell hath no fury like a womans scorn. Cant wait to see how the story unfolds. What a great idea.

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  18. So great to hear the story behind the story!

    And you're in good company: