Friday, October 09, 2009

Guest: Sylvia Engdahl

There have been only a few periods in my life when story ideas came to me. I always had plenty of ideas for themes I longed to express -- ideas about the future of humankind in the universe -- but usually not for action. And in my youth I was too busy with other work to write in any case. I first got the basic ideas for my Young Adult science fiction novels ten years before I had enough plot in mind to develop them into novels. Then in the 1970s, at a time when I was homebound while caring for my elderly mother, I was finally inspired with the ideas for six of them. They were successful, especially Enchantress from the Stars, which became a Newbery Honor Book (and later, in new editions, won other awards).

However, I stopped getting ideas for YA novels, and when after many years inspiration finally did strike again, it was for an adult novel. This presented several problems. In the first place, my reputation was in the Young Adult field and people thought of me as a YA author, thus my past success meant nothing from the marketing standpoint. In the second place, my books have never fit neatly into any genre. In the YA field that was okay because YA novels aren’t separated by genre in any case. When it comes to adult fiction, publishers demand that a novel appeal to mass audiences in a specific one. My fiction is set in the distant future, so it can’t be issued as anything but science fiction -- yet it tends to be liked best by readers who don’t consider themselves science fiction fans. It’s not “far out” enough to suit those with a lot of background in that field. So I was aware that my new novel wouldn’t meet genre marketing requirements.

For a long time I felt I was crazy to work on something I knew to be unpublishable in the present market. But I got wrapped up in Stewards of the Flame; on the rare occasions when I do have story ideas, I’m wholly absorbed by them. I couldn’t bear to set it aside. And then I realized that self-publishing is practical nowadays, and because I have desktop-publishing skills and professional copyediting experience, I could produce the book personally. It took me awhile to resign myself to this idea, since I was used to acceptance by major publishers -- but I’m glad that I did. I’ve enjoyed having complete control over the design of the book and its sequel. The only problem is that they’re still labeled “science fiction” and many of the readers most apt to like them don’t look for books under that heading.

To learn more about Stewards of the Flame, and read an excerpt, CLICK HERE

1 comment:

  1. Hello, and thank you for having me here! If anyone has questions, I'll be happy to answer them here or by e-mail - you can find my address at my website.



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