I think of this book as marking the beginning of my intermediate period. One day I was standing in my living room looking at the row of yellow spines on my collection of Tom Swift Jr. books.
In the summer of 1969, I discovered Tom Swift Jr. among the possessions of my Uncle George, who had died the year before in Viet Nam. I started reading them and was hooked. I was hooked on Tom Swift, on science fiction, and on reading.
My first book, Princess of Amathar had been an homage to the Edgar Rice Burroughs books I had loved in my teens. So that day, looking at Tom Swift, I thought, “that’s the type of book I should write next.” I wanted to capture the same feeling of excitement and innocence that I found when I read Tom Swift Jr., but I wanted to update the stories and make them my own. I sat down and created the setting and the characters, and made a list of inventions that stories could be built around.
There were two things that I always had trouble with, as a reader of Tom Swift. First, time never passed. Tom was always 18. The second, his inventions never seemed to change the world, no matter how innovative and revolutionary they were. I decided that Astrid’s inventions would change the world and she would age as the series progressed. So far I’ve written six Astrid Maxxim books and have plans for as many as fifty. I’d like to write at least one per year, but so far, I haven’t been.
The Drache Girl was originally the second part of the three part novel I wrote in 2007-2008. While I was writing it, it was known as “Colony.” It takes place a little over three years after the events in what became The Voyage of the Minotaur. When I was done, I decided to call it The Sorceress’s Apprentice, but ultimately changed that title to the current one. I don’t know if that was the best decision or not. I wanted to be more original, but the other might have caught more readers’ eyes.
As I mentioned before, this book was inspired by Lord of the Rings, Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, James Michener’s Hawaii, and the movie Zulu. The idea was to create a fantasy world mirroring British colonial imperialism. This part of the story also owes something to British TV series “Hamish MacBeth,” which inspired much of the character of PC Saba Colbshallow, though he had always been planned to have been a copper.
I enjoyed writing The Drache Girl probably more than any other book I’ve written. I really enjoyed the characters at this point in the story– especially Senta and her friends and Saba Colbshallow. It ended up taking me a looong time to publish because I decided ultimately that there needed to be another book between The Voyage of the Minotaur and The Drache Girl: The Dark and Forbidding Land.
The Dark and Forbidding Land was the first of two books that I squeezed between the events that happened in the original outline of Senta and the Steel Dragon, the other being The Young Sorceress. I enjoyed writing TDAFL and I think it works well. Part of that was because writing about Senta as a pre-teen was my favorite part of writing the entire series.
One of the challenges of writing this book was not to top the events in The Drache Girl. I didn’t want Senta aged 10 to be more powerful and experienced than Senta aged 12. Remember Star Wars, where we watch R2-D2 trudge around in the desert in episode 4, only to find out in episode 1, that he could fly?
The other challenge that I had was that I knew there were going to be characters who were going to die, based on my single book outline. But I was limited in which characters I could kill, because some of them appeared in The Drache Girl and The Two Dragons which were already written. So I sat down and created a whole pack of characters who, unbeknownst to them, were doomed. The down side of this was that I ended up liking several of them and was sorry to see them go. Not all of them ended up dying. So, there are a couple of characters who appear only in books 2 and 4.
I am currently re-editing The Dark and Forbidding Land. My son says it is his favorite book in the series. When I created the new book covers for the series, book 2 just had to have a T-Rex on it. I had a choice of one with a red head, as described in the book or one that looked more realistic. I had to go realistic.
The idea for Tesla’s Stepdaughters came while I was playing Rock Band 2 on my Nintendo Wii. I was playing it a lot over the summer in 2009. As part of the game, you create your band, and the band I created became The Ladybugs. The original band name was actually Tesla’s Stepdaughters, but when I got around to writing the story, it just seemed to make more sense that the band standing in historically for The Beatles would have a similar name.
I am really pleased with Tesla’s Stepdaughters. I think I was successful in creating a setting for the story, without delving too deeply into it. I’m really happy with my mystery. I never really thought I would be able to write a mystery story, and while some might point out that the mystery is the weakest part of the story (and I wouldn’t argue that), for me, I’m pretty pleased.
Recently, Tesla’s Stepdaughters has been getting more and more interest. It continues to slowly climb in sales and is the best selling of any of my single (non-series) books.
The Voyage of the Minotaur was actually the second novel that I wrote– sort of. As I mentioned the other day, it was originally the first part of a very long novel– almost 400,00 words, about 850 pages. I was almost done with this book before I even had a working title, but settled on The Steel Dragon, and this of course later became Senta and the Steel Dragon. The three parts were originally called– Expedition, Colony, Dominion.
After the book was done and had gone through editing, I decided that it was just too big and had to be split into three parts. So part one became The Voyage of the Minotaur.
Several things influenced me to devise this story. A friend had encouraged me to self-publish Princess of Amathar, and the success of that book, minor though it was, encouraged me to write a second. Lord of the Rings had just come out and so I was already thinking of a three part fantasy story. I had also just read Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, and remembered his notes about it being his Lord of the Rings. Finally, I had recently watched James Michener’s Hawaii. Putting this all together with several non-fiction books I had recently read about colonial imperialism (particularly Britain in Africa), I came up with the story outline for Senta and the Steel Dragon.
I wanted a story that told about colonialism over a long period– in this case about ten years. I had thought about how badly native people were treated by the colonial powers and wondered just how much worse it would have been if those natives were an entirely different species. I already had a world map that I had created a few years earlier when I had toyed with the idea of writing a role-playing setting. All of this went into the mix. I also used the setting I had created twenty years before for a few fantasy vignettes I had written– the otherworldly place that people visit when they use the magic drug opthalium. Throwing all this into the mix, I just started writing. It took 14 months to write the drafts for what became three books.
By the end of 2009, I had already decided that I was going to publish The Voyage of the Minotaur myself. I had three fairly popular free books out there– His Robot Girlfriend, and the two Eaglethorpe Buxton stories. So I thought, what I really need is a prequel to distribute free that will drive interest for The Voyage of the Minotaur and subsequent books.
Brechalon was a difficult task, because I was trying to set up what would happen in a year or two before the action really starts. Two of my main characters were at this point fairly uninteresting children and a third was in prison. I decided to focus on the others, so I had the Iolanthe-Terrence-Yuah story line, the Iolanthe-Zeah story line and the Augie story line. In addition I followed Zurfina into the prison. Those decisions brought out a couple of other weaknesses. The most interesting thing about Terrence is his drug addiction, but I couldn’t show too much of it without giving it away, and the most interesting thing about Zurfina is her magic, and she was in an anti-magic prison cell. In the end, I was pretty happy with the story, though I don’t think it does much more than hint at what really is to come in The Voyage of the Minotaur.
One of the big inspirations for Augie’s part of the story, as well as the battle scenes in The Voyage of the Minotaur was the movie Zulu starring Michael Caine and Stanley Baker. I think Augie and Terrence probably owe a lot to the characters in the movie (loosely based on real military heroes.)
Of course, it hasn’t been nearly as popular, even given it’s free, as His Robot Wife or Eaglethorpe, but I have had more than one person tell me they’ve read The Voyage of the Minotaur because they first read Brechalon, so it is serving its purpose.
I really like the new cover. I designed the covers for the series myself, so I take all the blame or credit such as there is.
I had finished Eaglethorpe Buxton and the Elven Princess and had a lot of fun writing it. I was still busily trying to find a publisher for Senta and the Steel Dragon, so I decided to spend my free time writing a second Eaglethorpe book.
A few years ealier, I had written a little play, which was performed by the Brown Junior High Drama Club to great success, and I decided that this play had been written by Eaglethorpe. The play involves characters from his world– specifically the parents of the Queen of Aerithraine, so it fit. Incidentally, there were two showings of this play, which went really well, and I taped one of them using a big old VHS camcorder. About two years later, my wife taped over it. I don’t remember what show she taped now.
I was watching lots of Shakespeare at the time I was writing Eaglethorpe and you will see a lot of not so subtle nods to the Bard. The third part of Eaglethorpe (which is in The Many Adventures of Eaglethorpe Buxton) is really a continuation of the story in Sorceress.
Another bit of trivia: In the old D&D game that I played with my kids many years ago, Myolaena, the sorceress in this story, had a sister– Zurfina, whom you’ll recognize from Senta and the Steel Dragon.