This was my first novel and was begun way back in 1978/79 when I lived in a small Scottish town called Wishaw and was a member of ASTRA – The Association in Scotland to Research Astronautics. It is a science based society looking at the realities of space flight. We had exhibitions in major Glasgow Art galleries showing wonderful 3D models of Dyson spheres and O’Neal habitats to name 2 of the possible real space living modules.
As well as the exhibitions, we worked with science fiction writer and Nebula Award winner, Chris Boyce, the resident author for the City of Glasgow, and Duncan Lunan, the City Astronomer, on the factually based books, FIRST COLONY, and FIRST CONTACT. It was in this science based atmosphere my Sholan Alliance had its first beginnings.
The novel was three quarters written by the time I moved down to live in Norfolk in 1980 and was shelved while I began a new life. Due to a couple of very dear friends, Marsha Jones and Anne Page, I was persuaded to finish the book in 1987, and I did, in something like 3 months. Marsha took it to show to her sister whom she said was an editor, that Christmas, and I began Fortune’s Wheel, which was finished a year later in time for her to take with her for her sister when she moved back home to New Jersey in America.
I finished reworking Turning Point in 1993, and turned to this novel. I had the story of the continuing romance of Carrie and Kusac, but no adventure. So it was back to the drafting board. I decided to try something new and have more than one thread in this novel which allowed me to go to other characters and see events through their eyes and add layers of suspense to my writing. I reckon it was successful. 😉
By this time I had a 2 year old son and was desperate to regain my brain and intellect! Those of you who have kids will know exactly what I mean. By now I was a very active member of The Vikings, NFPS re-enactment group and loved sword fighting. It was no surprise my Sholans still maintained a Warrior culture and had ritual single combats. I had sent in the first draft when my editor told me that the Khalossa, the Sholan Mothership, was too Star Trek. She told me to go away and actually design it myself. “You what?” I shrieked after I put the phone down. I then promptly phoned my computer guru Merlin and wailed loud and long down the phone at him. The following night, armed with a load of books and a gaming system, I came home and sat down to design my first star ship. The maths alone had me climbing the walls! I had to decide the outside shape of the ship then choose the displacement which was 200,000 tons, and from that worked out the length and height. If I say math was my weak subject, does that give you a clue?
I did it, and another friend when he saw it said my maths must be wrong because the ship would be 1 kilometer long. “That’s right,” I said calmly. He checked the math, I grinned because Merlin had already double checked for me, and it is 1 kilometer long. Big ship!
I invented the Concourse and the Wilderness for the Sholans as being plains evolved beings they’d have a need for open spaces. And the Wilderness was a sort of Holodeck but with trees and rivers and hunting animals that they could release to chase. Plans of the Khalossa will be available at some point through the fan club web pages as will the other ships.
That done, the ship based sections came to life as my editor had said they would. A very clever lady, my editor.
Around this time I went to Crete on holiday. I have always loved the Ancient Civilizations and this holiday was a dream come true. I will never forget the blue-on-blue sea and sky, the feeling of walking beside the Old Gods of Greece. I could almost hear Poseidon when we took a boat out to Santorini, the modern name for the remains of the volcanic island of Thera whose eruption in 3,000 BC could have destroyed Knossos. It affected me very profoundly, and it is no coincidence at all that the Sholan architecture is pure Cretan with open villas and brightly painted murals on the walls – mind you, they have the climate to match! 100 degrees in the shade and no humidity! I want to live there – at least in the summer!
With books like mine there’s the old argument, is it SF or a kind of fantasy since felinoids might be considered unlikely to exist. A rule of thumb is, If it has a space ship on the front, it’s Science Fiction. So come time for the cover art, I said, Please put a space ship on the front! It’s become traditional now for me when art work is mentioned to say, Don’t forget the space ship!
If you look real hard, you’ll see the space ship on this cover! 😉 I avoid writing anything in stone in my series unless I absolutely have to, and until this one had avoided any mention of how Guilds, Clans and Sholan government are set up and operate. With this one, which has a large political element to it, I could avoid it no longer. For a couple of weeks or so I was to be found pouring over the Parliaments of the world like United Nations, The USA Senate and House of Representatives and Worlds Health Organization. So if you want to know the set up for the Sholans, it’s a mix of all three!
I also had to have my characters time travel, and get highly mystical in this one. That was fun. I went back to the roots of all Earth religions – the Shamanic beliefs of the Innuit. It is recognized as one of the first belief systems and belongs to a Hunter Gatherer society. And my Sholans were just that. Again my love of the Classical came into play, so I took the basics of Shamanism and projected it through to a religion not unlike the Greeks had in respect of the Gods and Goddesses. However, just as in the real Innuit Shamanic belief, religion is an intensely personal experience with each person capable of making their own relationship with their Gods or Entities. and having mystical experiences. No one person holds the key, anyone can hold any part or parts of the truth.
Ah, this one. Well, this one was written in ’97 when I had a really nice birthday. My spinal condition which I’d had from birth and been assured would never trouble me, decided it was time it was noticed in a big way. The result is I had to give up my active life and use a wheelchair when outside my home. That’s life, though. I have had the opportunities to do many thinks actively that others can’t, now I have to take it a little more easily. Luckily it is considered therapeutic for me to write. 😉
Needless to say, I was in a great deal of pain around this time and nearly had to pull out of finishing this novel in time for the deadline. Luckily DAW are a wonderful bunch of folk and the support and help they gave me was way above and beyond what I could have hoped for. The book was finished with 1 hour to spare before it went to print! How’s that for cutting it fine? It did mean that the ending had to be rethought by me 4 times because of the physical problems I was suffering. It took doctors 4 months to figure out why I was in such pain and unable to walk or stand for any length of time. This is why there are a couple of tiny leads that aren’t expanded on, but luckily, nothing was lost as issues I would have resolved in this novel were addressed in the next one, DARK NADIR.
Hmm. Well, I remember taking this one all the way to Confurence 9 in Los Angeles and virtuously working on it there and at my friends Marsha’s and Ira’s house in Newark – when their cats didn’t mug me! I also remember the re-work stuff came through 2 days before we went on holiday to Butlins, so while my son and his friend played in the pool and made life hell for the jolly Red Coats at the kids’ club, I sat in several hours each morning and after lunch writing away madly! Having said that swimming isn’t exactly my thing so I was glad of an excuse not to spend all day every day in the pool with the two boys! 🙂
The first review I read of it said it was “A fast paced novel with more aliens in it than a Star Wars cantina!” I remember thinking surely not, until I actually got my own Author copy, then I had to agree! It doesn’t come across the same way on a computer screen or on piles of sheets of paper, you know. My book is not really a book until I hold the finished article in my hand. Also up till that point in time, I never really consider them finished. Once I have one copy, then I can let it go and concentrate on the next one.