I’m interviewing Sylvia Engdahl today, author of science-fiction novel “Defender of the Flame”. Thank you for answering my questions, and welcome to my blog, Sylvia.
Q: Please tell us about yourself.
I lead a very quiet life. I’m 80 (past the age of thinking it should be a secret!) and since I’m unable to move around much I’m always at my computer. When I’m not writing or working as a freelance editor of anthologies, I am online somewhere or trying to organize the vast accumulation of stuff on my hard disks — books, photos, music, and many years of collected material. I’m glad I didn’t live before the era of scanners and ebooks with enlargeable fonts! I’ve converted all my own past books to ebooks, not only to make the out-of-print ones permanently available, but because print is now too hard on my eyes.
Q: Tell us about your book.
Defender of the Flame is about the distant future at a time when humankind is beginning to develop so-called “paranormal” powers such as ESP. It’s focused on the main character, starship pilot Terry Radnor, and what happens to him when he commits himself to defending the colony world where he has found love and happiness. It’s not typical science fiction as it’s not an action/adventure story and doesn’t contain anything weird — like my other novels, its emphasis is on the feelings of the characters.
Q: What inspired you to write Defender of the Flame?
I had finished a two-part series, Stewards of the Flame and Promise of the Flame, and had not planned to continue it, but I got to thinking of what might happen on the world of the story 200 years later, and so a new two-part series just grew. At first I expected there would be just one more book, making the original series a trilogy. But it’s quite different in some respects and some readers like it better, and I’ve since written a sequel, so now I’m describing it as the beginning of a second series. It doesn’t depend on having read the first one. (However, the first book of the first series, Stewards of the Flame, is permafree at all ebook retailers.)
Q: How much time per week do you spend writing/editing your work?
There’s no way to say “per week” — when I’m finishing a novel and have no other deadlines I’m likely to spend 10 hours a day, as I can’t put on mind on anything else. Earlier in a novel, and/or when I do have other deadlines, I usually spend 2 or 3 hours per night.
Q: If you could meet three authors, which authors would you choose?
J.R.R. Tolkien, Nevil Shute, and maybe Robert Heinlein — I didn’t care for his later novels but his early work, especially his YA novels, inspired me to write realistic space fiction.
Q: What are you working on at the moment?
I’ve just finished proofreading Herald of the Flame, the sequel to Defender of the Flame, which will be released October 15 and is now available for pre-order. Now I’m about to start laying out the pages for the print edition — I do all the desktop publishing work myself, including the cover.
Defender of the Flame
Author: Sylvia Engdahl
Genre: Science Fiction
Defender of the Flame is about the first steps toward the next phase of human evolution — the development of so-called “paranormal” powers such as ESP. Starship pilot Terry Radnor’s life is transformed by the discovery that he possesses these powers, and that others are working to spread them throughout the worlds of humankind. But they face danger. Most people don’t want to know that such powers exist; they have a deep innate fear having to admit that their conception of reality is false. And some of those people will go to any lengths to suppress their emergence. Some will even resort to terrorism.
Terry vows to defend the world that is spearheading the spread of new human capabilties, a world where for the first time in his life he has found happiness. He has no idea of how far that aim will take him from everything else he cares about — his promising career as a Fleet officer, his wife and soulmate, his unborn child. Torn away against his will, he is forced into exile from all that has previously mattered to him, seeing no chance to fulfill the commitment he has made. Yet a mysterious and extraordinary destiny has been predicted for Terry, and fate leads him to an even stranger one than anybody could have imagined.
This is the first book in the Rising Flame series, to be followed soon by Herald of the Flame. It does not depend on having read the Hidden Flame series, which precedes it, since although set in the same world it is a separate story, complete in itself, that takes place 200 years later.
Sylvia Engdahl is the author of ten science fiction novels. She is best known for her six Young Adult novels, which are also enjoyed by adults; Enchantress from the Stars was a Newbery Honor book, winner of the 1990 Phoenix Award of the Children’s Literature Association, and a finalist for the 2002 Book Sense Book of the Year in the Rediscovery category. The others, including the Children of the Star trilogy, are for older readers, and her most recent novels — Stewards of the Flame, Promise of the Flame, Defender of the Flame, and the forthcoming Herald of the Flame — are for adults. She has also recently published an updated and expanded edition of her nonfiction book The Planet-Girded Suns: The History of Human Thought About Extrasolar Worlds. She is a strong space advocate and has maintained a widely-read space section of her website for many years. From her home in Eugene, Oregon she works as a freelance editor of nonfiction anthologies for high schools.
Author Website: http://www.sylviaengdahl.com
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