I grew up with science fiction.
Even though I lived in a tiny farming town in Wisconsin that didn’t even have a library–just the book mobile once a month–I actually spent much of my youth on other planets, exploring the galaxy with the crew of the Enterprise or lost in the Galaxy on the Jupiter 2. I read comics. I read science fiction magazines. I watched Sci-Fi Cinema every Saturday afternoon on a staticky black-and-white TV that barely got the Chicago television station broadcasting old monster movies.
It got in my blood. It fired my imagination, and I had no doubt whatsoever that I wanted to be a science fiction writer.
I wrote a lot of bad SF short stories. Then I started to write slightly better ones. Eventually some were published.
Then, my first novel. Then, my first three-book contract, which eventually led to my work in the Star Wars universe, then in the Dune universe with Frank Herbert’s son, Brian.
Not only was I a fan of science fiction, I actively worked in science fiction. Every day I commuted to my job on an alien planet in my imagination.
I continued to write original novels even as I worked in all of those shared universes. Throughout it all, though, a much bigger story was brewing in my mind, something of my own—a universe that was the biggest thing I had ever developed.
I envisioned a spectacular opening scene: a gigantic industrial city floating in the clouds of a gas giant planet; a crew of workers harvesting chemicals out of the planet’s atmosphere. Then an enormous alien vessel, like the mothership from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” rises from the high-pressure depths and destroys the facility. In a sprawling galactic empire with several cooperative alien races, this was a new threat: an exotic species that lived deep in the cores of gas giants. And they had just risen up to declare war on the rest of the galaxy.
I developed all the characters who would drive my story—the star-crossed lovers, the alien emperor, the head of the human trade confederation, the military commanders, the scam artists, the archeologists, the spies, the explorers, the artists. I developed each culture, each planet, each monster, each type of starship. The Saga of Seven Suns grew and grew, spiraling out like a galactic “War and Peace.”
With so many plot threads going at once, the story itself became the main character, the driving force with hundreds of characters moving the story along. And I poured everything into it.
The Saga of Seven Suns was my love letter to science fiction, with exotic planets, alien races, killer robots, abandoned and mysterious cities, characters that ranged from the highest leader of a civilization, down to the lowest gutter-scum. The original series encompassed seven volumes, beginning with HIDDEN EMPIRE. Each massive book coming out on time, year after year. (Yes, I know–unheard of in science fiction and fantasy, right?).
I did a graphic novel prequel, VEILED ALLIANCES, and then novelized that and published it through my own WordFire Press. In addition to the comic rights, I sold audio rights, UK rights, French, German, Bulgarian, Czech. The series took off world-wide, building with each volume. One year, the top-selling science fiction and fantasy books in the UK included seven Terry Pratchett books and three of my Seven Suns books.
I wrapped up that great saga in 2009 with THE ASHES OF WORLDS, and then I wrote other things for five years. The Seven Suns universe was my masterpiece. It contains everything I love about science fiction.
I wrapped up the story, but I had planted seeds throughout, always planning to come back for a new trilogy, a “next generation” saga—The Saga of Shadows.
But, if the Saga of Seven Suns was my masterpiece, how could I follow it up? By trying to do even better, of course, making a bigger story with an even more dire threat. With THE DARK BETWEEN THE STARS, the first book in The Saga of Shadows, I returned to that universe that is so dear to me with a whole new story and a new cast of characters, as well as some old favorites.
Two decades have passed since the end of THE ASHES OF WORLDS, leaving the Spiral Arm in a completely different situation. I wanted to start fresh, so I wrote THE DARK BETWEEN THE STARS so that it starts anew and stands alone, introducing readers who haven’t experienced The Saga of Seven Suns, while delivering exactly what fans of the original series are looking for.
It was both exhausting and exhilarating to stretch those mental muscles again. The first novel just came out, and I’m well over halfway finished writing the second, BLOOD OF THE COSMOS, and it will be out on time next year. I promise.
I am very much enjoying this return to familiar strange places and characters who have become old friends, or even family. If you like good, old-fashioned space opera, and if you love science fiction as much as I do, I hope you’ll sample it.
And The Dark Between the Stars giveaway winner is: Irene M. from Toms River, NJ!
Congrats! Your book will be shipping shortly.