How do you pronounce “Phoena”? (Netaia, Veroh, Ssi-ruuk, etc.)
I honestly don’t mind if you pronounce any of them however you’d like. Just so you know, I pronounce “Phoena” FEE-na, just as I pronounce “Phoenix” FEE-nix.
I’ve written a Star Wars novel. How do I get it published?
I hate to say this, but unless you are a published author, with credentials that the current license holder (Del Rey Books) can investigate, and unless the editors at Del Rey extend you an invitation, you simply can’t. These books are being written by invitation.
How long does it take for you to write a book?
I’m not a fast writer. I write “sedimentary” books, first putting down a layer that’s basically an outline with dialog, then adding detail and subplots in successive layers. I prefer to have a year from the concept to the submission draft that I send my editor. This way, I can get deep enough inside my characters’ skins to make them believable, and I can shape the events of a story to support each other and fit logically. I have great admiration for people who can turn out more than one good book in a year.
Do you work from an outline?
Yes. The outline is nearly always subject to change, though, and characters have right-of-way over plot. The exception is when an outline has been hammered out to fit the events of a longer series (e.g. New Jedi Order). In that case, I’m obligated to stick with it.
Did you enjoy writing for Star Wars©?
Yes. There was a mythic quality to that universe, an ongoing battle of good versus evil, and a cast of characters who have come to feel like my friends.
Have you met George Lucas?
No, but I sat about six feet away from his dining table, in the employee restaurant at Skywalker Ranch. I was brought to the Ranch for a planning meeting for the New Jedi Order series, thanks to the good folks at Del Rey. Skywalker is an amazing place, an architectural tribute to what can be done with deep pockets and excellent visual taste.
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Why do you put a musician in nearly every book?
Thank you for noticing! Music was my first language. I was trained as a flutist, I took up guitar as a teenager, and I added Irish harp in my twenties. I performed with a flute ensemble, and I sat in with the local symphony orchestra when a sub was needed. “Write what you know” is a commonly quoted adage for writers, and I know enough about music to add that dimension to my fiction.
Where did you get the idea of giving each chapter in the FIREBIRD books a musical subtitle?
Early in the process of writing FIREBIRD, I was also practicing Charles Griffes’ “Poem for Flute and Orchestra.” The final section of that work is notated “allegro con fuoco,” or “fast, with fire.” It occurred to me that this would make a wonderful subtitle for the last chapter of FIREBIRD. It wasn’t difficult to come up with subtitles for other chapters. Later, I enjoyed putting a twist on that idea for CROWN OF FIRE: since one of the central scenes takes place at a formal ball, most of the early chapters are subtitled as dances.
Who are your spiritual influences?
The Holy Spirit, when my focus is where it ought to be. C.S. Lewis – I devoured nearly all of his books as an undergraduate. In grad school, I’ve discovered an array of wise writers from George Herbert to Karl Barth to N.T. Wright, and studied under J.I. Packer. My church in Vancouver has strong scriptural preaching from a Biblically conservative pulpit, and I’m finding deep meaning in the liturgy, which is—after all—deeply rooted in Biblical truth. There’s something astonishingly uplifting about plunking down onto my knees as part of a large congregation, a kind of full-body communion that impacts me deeply.
What were you doing in graduate school?
I wanted to go to grad school for many years. I chose Regent College for its scholarly reputation, its extended family of students, staff, faculty, and graduates, and its location in Vancouver, BC, on the Pacific Rim between ragged peaks, farmlands, and rainforest parks.
For my degree in Christianity and the Arts, one requirement was to produce an Integrated Project in the Arts and Theology—a major creative work accompanied by a theological essay. To fulfill this requirement, I wrote a new science fiction novel. WIND AND SHADOW, a next-generation novel in the Firebird series, was followed by the award-winning Firebird series finale, DAYSTAR.