R.J. Sullivan Blog Interview: Kathy Tyers, Part 1
Q: Kathy, thank you for agreeing to this interview. And also, thank you for answering my fan letter all those years ago with such a gracious response. Who knew we’d end up here decades later? Did you receive many fan letters back then?
Q: How did the Lady Firebird Yahoogroups list come about?
KT: A fellow who goes by the online name TZ Maverick asked for permission and invited me to participate. That was a new experience! I still think of the folks on the group as friends, though I don’t check in as often as I used to.
Q: How did this daily exposure to fandom discussion and dialog differ from the pre-internet fan response? How did it affect your writing if at all?
KT: It was a world of encouragement when I needed it. I was living a real-life horror story, and someday I’ll tell that tale. But fandom discussions were quick, fun, and personal. They were also distracting, when I needed to be writing.
Q: As a midlist Bantam author, you received an invitation to contribute original fiction to the Star Wars novel and anthology titles—what would be for many SF authors a “dream gig.” How did that come about and what was your reaction at the time?
KT: Truce was a dream gig. I’d been a Star Wars fan since the first film’s release. Bantam Books originally acquired a license from Lucasfilm for Timothy Zahn’s first set of three Star Wars novels. Their phenomenal success proved there still was plenty of interest in Star Wars—so Bantam acquired a license for an additional book series. At that time, I’d published the first two Firebird novels with Bantam Spectra, another space opera called Crystal Witness and Shivering World. That meant I was “known” at Bantam—and my editor Janna Silverstein was a fellow Star Wars fan. One February day, she called to ask if I would like to be a Star Wars writer. I can still hear the grin in her voice, and it took me quite a while to wipe the grin off my face.
Q: When interacting with fans, do they fall into different camps—that is, Star Wars readers and Lady Firebird readers? Secular fiction readers and Christian fiction readers? Do you find your readers exclusive to one interest over the other or are they overall “well read” on all things Kathy Tyers?
KT: Every reader has favorites. Some of them overlap. What I have in common with all my readers is our enthusiasm for imaginative fiction. But I enjoy meeting them as people even more than discussing books.
Q: Explain the history of the Firebird books at Bantam, Bethany House…..and beyond!
KT: I started writing Firebird in the summer of 1983. It was acquired by Bantam in August 1986 and published in June 1987. Fusion Fire appeared in November 1988. My Bantam editor then asked for a stand-alone novel, so I set the series aside.
I never gave up hope of finishing it, even though I had no idea how it would end. I simply felt committed to the characters and their story. I met Steve Laube, then at Bethany House Publishers, at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference in the spring of 1998, and we hoped to make it a five-book series. Within Bethany House, it was cut to three books (Crown of Fire is based on the outlines to books 3 and 5; book 4 simply went away). Those three were published in late 1999, early 2000, and later in 2000. Bethany House reprinted an omnibus three-in-one version in 2004.
In the following years, I met Jeff Gerke at a different writers’ conference. He worked as an editor and author, and we talked science fiction. We corresponded irregularly then, but he consistently mentioned—or hinted—that he would like to be professionally affiliated. The hints and encouragement got thicker after he founded Marcher Lord Press as an independent, internet-based publishing house for fantasy and science fiction. So in 2010, having finished writing a new Firebird-universe novel (more about that below) and having started a final book in the series, I emailed him a proposal: the whole Firebird series, with no exceptions (except for that unwritten “book 4,” since the events I proposed aren’t possible now). He accepted—immediately! – with his own stipulation: he wanted the republished trilogy to include some features that aren’t available elsewhere. He suggested I read the Annotated Chronicles of the “Dragonlance” series as an example. I did, and then The Annotated Firebird took shape.
It was wonderful to reminisce my way back through Firebird, Fusion Fire, and Crown of Fire. I dug out the notebook of charts, maps, family trees, linguistic brainstorming and other notes I accumulated when writing the series, and I looked for things that might make interesting annotations. Since I also work as a writing teacher, other annotations are writing-method oriented … so readers who aren’t interested in the niceties of point-of-view etc. are welcome to skip those! MLP has scheduled The Annotated Firebird for April 2011 release, to be followed by Wind and Shadow in October 2011 and Daystar some time in 2012.
As they say here in Montana: Yeehaw!
Concluded Friday, February 11