About Sylvia Engdahl:
Sylvia Engdahl is the author of ten science fiction novels, six of which are Young Adult novels that are also enjoyed by adults. The one for which she is best known, 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. Her four latest novels, the Hidden Flame series and the Rising Flame series, are for adults. Recently, she has published an updated and expanded edition of her nonfiction book The Planet-Girded Suns, now subtitled “The History of Human Thought About Extrasolar Worlds.” She is a strong advocate of space colonization and in addition to a widely-read space section of her website she created the site www.spacequotes.com, which contains quotations about why humankind must expand into space. From her home in Eugene, Oregon she now works as a freelance editor of nonfiction anthologies for high schools.
What inspires you to write?
I’m inspired by my beliefs about the future, especially the vital importance of exploring space and settling new worlds, and by my positive view of human progress.
Tell us about your writing process.
I begin with the theme and basic conception of a novel and its main characters. I must know the ending of the story before I start writing, and in fact I often write the ending first, which enables me to lead up to it. The structure of the plot is clear in my mind, but I have difficulty thinking of action so most of the ideas for events don’t come to me until I’m actually at that point in writing the story.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I envision the characters through their thoughts and feelings, as if sharing them. I stay inside their minds rather than picturing them as people I’m talking to.
What advice would you give other writers?
Don’t expect to make much money unless you are writing exceptionally good fiction that fits will into a popular genre. Write what you feel strongly about rather than what you think will fit the market. And if you have ideas that you haven’t been able to sucessfully develop into books, be sure to write down as much as you can about them and save them–someday you may be inspired to develop them further. Most of my novels have been based on story ideas that came to me many years earlier than the books were written.
How did you decide how to publish your books?
I wrote a number of young adult science fiction novels that were traditionally published in the 1970s, some of which were very successful in the YA field. But my science fiction isn’t typical of that genre and generally appeals more to mainstream readers than to avid SF fans, so when I came to write my adult novels, I knew they were not suitable for science fiction publishers and did not have mass-market potential. Indie publishing offers the opportunity to write books that don’t conform to established categories and are directed toward smaller, though enthusastic, audiences. Because I had desktop publishing and professional copyediting experience, I was able to do all the work of publication myself, which wouldn’t be advisable for an author who lacks such experience. I have also issued indie ebook ediions of my previous books that were out of print.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I think there will be major changes that are already underway. Ebooks will become an increasingly dominant over print books because the rising cost of producing and distributing print editions is simply too high to compete with digital publication; people are not going to be willing to pay such high prices when there are plenty of inexpensive ebooks available. I expect that hardcover fiction will vanish, except for extremely expensive collector’s editions. Mass-market printing of books will continue, but only for bestsellers or potential bestsellers, which is very nearly the case now. To stay in business, publishers will have to issue ebook originals; but they will have to pay larger royalties on ebooks than they do now in order to attract good authors.
What genres do you write?: Science fiction, Young Adult, Nonfiction
What formats are your books in?: Both eBook and Print