Interview With Author Sylvia Engdahl (Defender of the Flame, Science Fiction)

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In your own words, please describe your book.

It’s about the distant future when humankind has settled worlds of many stars and is beginning to develop advanced powers of the mind, such as telepathy and other psi capabilities, which are opposed by the majority that fears them and must therefore be pursued in secret by those who believe they are the only hope for saving Earth’s declining civilization. The focus is on the people in the story, not scientific speculation, and so it intentionally portrays their culture, and such things as starships, in familiar terms rather than as startling different from what’s known today. The hero, Terry Radnor, is a starship pilot who becomes involved in protecting a new world with a secret and finds love and happiness there–but is then torn away by a strange turn of fate and forced to make a new life for himself, wondering if he can ever again find a way to serve the cause he believes in.  Does fate sometimes work in ways that are purposeful?  That’s just one of the questions the story deals with.
What genre/genres does your book fall under?

As it’s set in the distant future on a hypothetical world, it’s categorized as science fiction. However, it’s directed more to mainstream readers than to avid SF fans, as it’s neither an action/adventure story nor “far out” in terms of the culture and concepts portrayed. People who don’t read other science fiction often tell me they like mine.
Is this book part of a series?

It is the first book in the Rising Flame series, which follows the Hidden Flame series.  I split the Flame series in two because this book begins a separate story set 200 years later that doesn’t depend on having read my two preceding books Stewards of the Flame and Promise of the Flame.  They are quite different in many respects and some readers, especially those who disagree with the controversial view of health care in Stewards, like this book, which doesn’t deal with that issue, better — yet no one wants to begin with a book labeled Number 3 in a series.  The only disadvantage to starting with this one is that the included backstory would spoil some of the suspense of the eariler books if you intend to read them all.  (The ebook edition of Stewards of the Flame is free at all retailers if you do want to read it. although it definitely isn’t necessary to the enjoyment of this one.)
What was the inspiration behind your book?

I wanted to explore in novels for adults some of the main themes featured in my best-known YA novels–those connected with “paranormal” human abilities such as ESP, which I believe will be more widely developed in the future, and another theme that I can’t mention here because it would be a spoiler to say that it’s dealt with in this book.
What led you into writing? Was it a lifelong ambition, or the result of some type of turning point in your life?

I always wanted to write but didn’t have ideas for stories, as distinguished from mere themes, and I didn’t have time. Then in my 30s I left my job as a programmer to serve as companion to my elderly mother, which gave me a lot of free time; that was when I wrote my YA novels.  But after the last of them was published I didn’t get any more story ideas for many years, though readers kept begging me to write more. It wasn’t until much later that I got the story ideas for my adult novels.
So far, what has been the greatest moment in your writing career?

The first one was when I won the Newbery Honor for Enchantress from the Stars in 1971. More recently, it was when I opened my website in the late 90s and discovered that many adults remembered my YA books from their teen years and were hunting for them, which led to
the republication of all my YA novels in both hardcover and paperback in the 21st century.
Are you self-published or published through a small-press? Can you tell our readers what led up to that and your publishing experience?

My adult novels are self-published, as they don’t fit neatly into a genre and therefore don’t have the mass-market appeal demanded by traditional publishers today; and I enjoy the freedom this gives me.  My YA novels were published, and three of them republished, by major traditional publishers; the other three were republished as adult science fiction by a small press that no longer exists. I have self-published ebook editions of these, one more YA novel, and a nonfiction book; publishers still own the rights to the other two.
What are you working on now?

I’m finishing the sequel to Defender of the Flame, which is titled Herald of the Flame and will be available for preorder soon.
In your own words, please tell us about yourself.

There’s not a lot to tell, as I live a very quiet life and because of age-related health problems I rarely leave my home; virtually all my contact with the world is online. I live in Eugene, Oregon. Currently I work, via the Internet, as a freelance editor of nonfiction anthologies (which is why you’ll see many nonfiction books under my name at Amazon, only one of which is a book of my own). I’m a strong space advocate and have maintained a space advocacy section of my website for many years, including among other things my site  which contains quotes from many well-known people about why it’s vital for humankind to expand into space.
What are some of your likes and dislikes?

I like my computers — I spend nearly all my time with one or the other.  I dislike most television and rarely watch it, except for movies.
How can readers connect with you?

At my website, My email address is available there and I love receiving email from readers. I also have Amazon and Facebook author pages, plus personal pages on Facebook, Goodreads, and LinkedIn.
Tell us one thing about yourself that we wouldn’t know?

I’m now 80 years old, past the age of feeling that one’s age should be a secret.
If there was one thing you could tell your readers, what would it be?
Please don’t think of me as exclusively a YA author!  I’m honored by the awards I received for Enchantress from the Stars, but they resulted in even my YA novels being given to children too young to understand them, as they still are, and relatively few of the adults who enjoy them have discovered my adult novels.  People tend to assume anything new I write must be YA and are disappointed when I say it isn’t, if they’ve heard of my recent books at all.  I’d like it to be known that I’m writing for adults now, which would bring me a second audience.
Where can readers purchase your book?

The ebook editions can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, and Google Play. The paperback editions are available at Amazon, and I also sell signed copies from my website.



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