AC Crispin is the author of many books, including Star Trek Yesterday´s Son & a sequel, V tie-in novels, The Starbridge books. She wrote about Han Solo’s non-Brian Daley early years. Her latest is the first Pirates Of The Caribbean tie-in novel, a prequel to the movies, The Price Of Freedom. She also works with a partner as part of Writer Beware, warning authors of scams and other issues. She can be found online as @anncrispin on Twitter, on Facebook and at http://accrispin.com/ and http://www.writerbeware.com
SFFWRTCHT: Let’s start with basics: where did your interest in Science Fiction and Fantasy come from?
AC Crispin: I started reading Science Fiction when I was in the third grade and ran out of horse books. I had to find some new type of library book, and I grabbed Rocket to Luna and Star Rangers. I was hooked.
ACC: I can’t remember the horse story authors, beyond the obvious, of National Velvet, Black Beauty, the Black Stallion books, etc. I do remember the Science Fiction authors, and there are too many to name. The obvious suspects, Clarke, Heinlein, Andre Norton, C.J. Cherryh, C.L. Moore, Leigh Brackett, and, later, Lois McMaster Bujold, George RR Martin, Ursula K. LeGuin. And of course when I was about 15 or 16, Star Trek came along. Major influence.
SFFWRTCHT: Were you involved with cons and fandom? Cosplay?
ACC: I went to a few Science Fiction and Star Trek conventions before I wrote Yesterday’s Son. Maybe three or four? Not too many.
SFFWRTCHT: When did you decide to start writing? How did you begin?
ACC: I started writing Yesterday’s Son after I went to a Star Trek Townsley con in 1978. That was my first project.
SFFWRTCHT: Did you study writing in college? How did you learn your craft?
ACC: I was an English major, so I wrote lots of papers. I learned to research there. I took one creative writing course. My instructor was J.R. Sallamanca, author of Lilith. I don’t think he or the class knew what to make of me. I wasn’t interested in writing “literary” stories. I wanted to write spec fic.
SFFWRTCHT: Was the creative writing course influential?
ACC: It sort of was, in that I learned what I didn’t want to write, and what I did want to write. And that I hated amateur poetry. Let me rephrase…I hated bad amateur poetry.
ACC: At that Townsley con I mentioned, I saw “All Our Yesterdays” for the first time.I went home wondering if Zarabeth had been left with a “companion” after her brief fling with Mr. Spock. And I thought, “we’d never know if it did happen…” unless there were cave paintings! Yes! And the whole idea popped into my head while I was driving to work one morning. This idea wasn’t one I was going to forget. Not a chance. I was obsessed with telling the story. I wrote the book during 1978, Five times. Submitted it to Pocket in early 79.They bought it in 1982. It came out in 83.
SFFWRTCHT: How hard is it to capture the feel and voice of someone else´s sandbox?
ACC: I could “hear” them in my head. I’ve always been able to “hear” screen characters I love in my head. I just write it down when they talk. Jack Sparrow was the biggest challenge. Nobody talks like Captain Jack.
SFFWRTCHT: You did a great job with Captain Jack. We’ll talk about that in a bit. First, Yesterday’s Son really launched your writing then you wrote a sequel?
ACC: I wrote a couple of other books in between Yesterday’s Son and Time for Yesterday.
SFFWRTCHT: Was it Star Wars or V books which came next?
ACC: Three V books, a Witch World novel, then Sylvester, a novelization of a girl and horse movie. The Star Wars trilogy came ten years later. And in the late 80′s, the 7 book StarBridge series.
ACC: I was under contract to Tor for a couple of books, and Tor wanted another V book to follow right on the heels of the first. So I said I’d write one, but they wouldn’t give permission for us to launch into new territory because the first TV series was in development. So I said how about a book that tells the story of how the Visitors took over the UN and Washington? They said go for it. So I needed a New Yorker to write with. I asked my pal Howie Weinstein to write with me…he agreed. Howie got to write about his beloved NY Yankees. He loved that. He did the political and baseball stuff. I did the romantic stuff and blew up New Jersey.
SFFWRTCHT: Tell us about the Starbridge series? Seven books and they are relaunching soon, right?
ACC: Yes, the StarBridge series is coming back out from Ridan Publishing, starting in November. All seven books. StarBridge will be first.
SFFWRTCHT: And please tell us how that series originated. You wrote book one alone then collaborated with others. And the premise is there are eleven known intelligent races across the Universe, mankind being the twelfth, right? A first encounter?
ACC: The StarBridge series came about because my literary agent told me it was time for me to do a series of my own. So I did. I had long wanted to do a series featuring first contact between humans and aliens. And I wanted it to be very inclusive. I wanted there to be women having adventures. Black people, physically challenged people, all kinds of people…and aliens. I love creating different species of aliens. With StarBridge I got to write the books I would have wanted to read when I was a YA reader and could never find. In those days, the guys got to have all the fun. The girls got rescued. Bleah. So I wanted to change that. I brought in collaborators because I couldn’t write seven books in three years. I am not that fast!
ACC: Oh, there are 15 Known Worlds in the Cooperative League of Systems. Drnians, Heeyoons, Simiu, Mizari, the list goes on. I love the Simiu, because they were my first original alien species I created.I worked really hard creating them.
SFFWRTCHT: Did you have a system for inventing alien names? It’s a challenge sometimes.
ACC: Yes, I had a system, and I worked on all the languages. I wrote a “Bible.” My husband wants to do a star map to go with it. We’ll see if I get time to clean up the Bible. Maybe some StarBridge fan will want to do a Concordance someday…you never know.
SFFWRTCHT: Was there anything in the series that popped up/changed after you wrote the Bible?
ACC: Yeah. There were at least two of three plots for stories we didn’t write. That always happens.You add to it, alter it, etc.
SFFWRTCHT: Was the system unique to that series or similar to the naming system you use in other books?
ACC: It was unique to the StarBridge series, and each species had their own language worked out, along with the names.
SFFWRTCHT: Are the books coming out in paperback only or hardcover and ebook as well?
ACC: I believe Ridan Publishing plans to eventually do trade paperbacks for people who don’t want to read e-books. It’s possible if the books sell well, there may be new books down the line.
SFFWRTCHT: You also did a trilogy of early years Han Solo novels for Del Rey. How did that come about?
ACC: It wasn’t Del Rey in those days. It was Bantam. My agent called me after I did Sarek, and said, “How would you like to write Han Solo’s back story?” I said, “sign me up!”
SFFWRTCHT: Ah yes, I almost forgot Sarek, which was your most popular Star Trek novel, you said.
ACC: Yes, Sarek was the second top selling Star Trek novel ever. Spock’s World was Number one.
SFFWRTCHT: I’d imagine one of the challenges inherent in tie-ins is coordinating with other tie-in writers. How hard is that?
ACC: It was fun and a challenge doing it for Star Wars. Other than that, I didn’t have to do it. No continuity between Star Trek novels.
SFFWRTCHT: And now you´re telling tales of Jack Sparrow. I enjoyed The Price of Freedom. Was it your idea or Disney´s?
ACC: Definitely Disney’s idea. You don’t just write a book like that and submit it. It would be a waste of time. Disney decided to do Jack’s backstory so the editor sat down and read all the Han Solo books, to see which she liked best. She liked the Han Solo trilogy of mine the best. So she picked me to write Jack’s back story. Great opportunity.
SFFWRTCHT: How much freedom did you have in writing it?
ACC: I knew the time period (while Jack was working for the EITC out of Africa) and where it had to end up. The rest, I invented. I worked very closely with my Disney edition editors, to make sure everything they wanted to see in the book was in there.
ACC: Historical fantasy, I guess. Disney said, “Where it doesn’t conflict with Disney POTC canon, be historically and nautically accurate. Talk about loads of research! No wonder it took me three years to write the novel.
SFFWRTCHT: Barbossa, Davey Jones. It was fun to see those movie characters in there. Any plans to write more?
ACC: That’s strictly up to Disney Editions. If the book sells well enough, could happen. Everyone go buy more copies. Definitely the longest book I’ve ever written. Took me sixteen months or so to write it. Usually takes me seven or eight once I have the outline done and approved. But this one was really two books in one, due to the flashback story in Shipwreck Cove.
SFFWRTCHT: You said earlier you’re an outliner. Have you always been one?
ACC: My first book was not outlined. All the ones after that, except for novelizations, were. I got used to outlining stories.
SFFWRTCHT: What´s your writing time look like? Planned time? Grab it when you can?
ACC: When I’m deep into a book, I write seven or eight hours a day. Or fourteen or fifteen. Or 20 or 24. Getting started is always kind of a bitch. Like moving a glacier. Ugh. The first hundred pages are the toughest.
SFFWRTCHT: Do you use any special software or music playlist?
ACC: I just use Word. I switched reluctantly from Wordstar for The Price of Freedom. And before you make fun of me, A Song Of Ice and Fire was written using Wordstar.
ACC: Oh, I have several pro buddies who are my beta readers, and I’m theirs. I couldn’t manage without them.
SFFWRTCHT: What future projects are you working on that we can look forward to?
ACC: I have begun work on a YA dystopia novel. You think life was grim in The Hunger Games? Hah! It’s Science Fiction, by the way. I’m so glad to be going back to Science Fiction. But I also want to finish The Exiles of Boq’urain trilogy. That’s coming.
SFFWRTCHT: We haven’t talked about the whole Write Agenda–Writer Beware thing. Is there anything you’d like to say on it?
ACC: It really restored my faith in the basic goodness of internet folks, when so many hundreds and even thousands of people banded together to defend Writer Beware and do major smackdown on those malignant trolls at The Write Agenda.
SFFWRTCHT: Any quick advice for up and coming writers on writing?
ACC: Yes. Besides checking with Writer Beware before submitting. (Obviously), don’t pay agents or publishers upfront. And never, ever submit a first draft. Remember, your ego is secondary. The Story always comes first.
Interviewer Bryan Thomas Schmidt is the author of the space opera novel The Worker Prince, the collection The North Star Serial, and has several short stories forthcoming in anthologies and magazines. His second novel, The Returning, is forthcoming from Diminished Media Group in 2012. He’s also the host of Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Chatevery Wednesday at 9 pm EST on Twitter, where he interviews people like Mike Resnick, AC Crispin, Kevin J. Anderson and Kristine Kathryn Rusch. He can be found online as @BryanThomasS on Twitter or via his website. Excerpts from The Worker Prince can be found on his blog.