Featuring monthly interviews with new writing talent
Author of Star Racers
Star Racers is an explosion of vivid action and characters so compelling you can’t help but root for them. How long did you carry around this story in your imagination before engaging in the hard work of forming it into a novel?
Short answer is: I thought about Star Racers for seven years before starting the novel. In 2003, I wrote down a list of movie titles for my next screenplay. I didn’t like any of them. I loved sci-fi and I wondered what I could write about. I thought about what movie I’d want to see based on the title. The words popped up like toast – that’s how I came up with Star Racers.
My next thought was that they’d have to train, so I thought of what sort of school they’d go to. Then I wondered how old the students would be, and whether or not they’d be students. And everything came from those two words: Star Racers.
Other questions came to mind: why have the race? What are the stakes? Money or some other reason? I came up with some characters and focused on just the pilots – the ones who would train. Then I focused on who would do the training.
And since I had already written over twenty screenplays, I knew that I had to write an outline of what would happen. That outline changed hundreds of times over the course of twelve years.
The first Star Racers screenplay was written in about a year, and I invested several thousand dollars on a script consultant to improve that first screenplay. I considered the sequel, the second Star Racers screenplay, my best screenplay. I really liked it. I wrote a third Star Racers screenplay to complete the trilogy, and I knew that one of the special things about Star Racers is that the saga can go on forever.
Another aspect that I loved about Star Racers is that the scope cannot get any larger – this story doesn’t involve just one or two planets, or one or two galaxies. It involves the entire universe, and the second novel will explore that larger arena.
I couldn’t sell the screenplays, but I loved the idea so much that I had to keep going, so in 2010 I decided that my first novel would be Star Racers.
I knew I had to develop new habits – I’m a big believer in the idea that the better you read, the better you’ll write. So I changed how I spent my time: I bought a lot of books over the last five years, and I bought two Kindles and listened to a lot of audio books. I read at night, in the morning, and during the day.
I read the first Harry Potter book four times. I read the other HP books at least once. I read Dune twice. I read other sci-fi books and also read fantasy books. I really like the Game of Thrones books. I’ve read several GOT books three times.
I have watched a lot of movies over the years, and often created characters from a number of actors and actresses.
The good thing about writing about 3834 is that I could imagine the new tech: hovering smartballs, floating airscreens, hypersonic battlejets, hotels in space, downloading inexpensive mind-reading apps, creating companies that offered mind-reading apps and thinking that there is humor there if handled the right way. Also, what sort of distractions would people love? Would they use robots as mannequins? Why not? What if they were too aggressive when selling? How would that play out? So I wanted a realistic world – used space vehicles, hotel ads, and selling. I wanted the concept of competition to be seen in a new light and on a grand scale – it is costly to create warships, so that plays into why things are as they are. What kind of Universe is it? Violent, war-torn, and Protectors of Peace are needed.
Rev and Sashi were my favorite characters. Did you have any favorites, and were there any that you wished you could have left out of your novel?
I love Pinky and Dux. I like Little Blue. I like TST. There were characters like Rev’s mom that I cut. I cut a couple other friends that went on the journey.
I was amazed at how many characters and detailed scenes this novel contains. How much planning and outlining went into its writing?
The novel went through fifty full rewrites. Meaning I kept refining it chapter after chapter, and each time I found something I could improve. Getting feedback really helped. I had over a hundred people giving feedback over a period of about three years. I really needed a strong outline, and then let it go during the actual writing. I shifted several chapters over twenty times. I cut out a several chapters that involved training.
You’ve categorized Star Racers as “A fantasy opera full of intense sci-fi action and romance. It’s a novel written for teens, young adults, and appropriate for children aged twelveand up.” Did you have input from any young people in your life during the planning or writing stages?
There were several teens who gave feedback, but most of the feedback came from readers around 20-28 years old. They helped me clarify a lot of descriptions. It was really difficult to create the first chapter involving Rev and the race airway. I changed chapter one hundreds of times. I was a substitute teacher in Spanish Harlem and the Bronx for about two years. I taught pre-K through 5th grade, and I often read to the students. A lot of times I had students stand and perform short sessions of Aesop Fables, improvising the dialogue and the students repeated my dialogue to make the stories realistic and funny. After two years, I had a much stronger sense of storytelling structure – most good stories have a strong beginning, middle, and end. It’s true what they say: the best way to learn is to teach.
Your story is an epic battle for survival that throbs with hope. Did you know all along how it would end?
I knew how it would end for a couple characters, but there were other changes made after I and other readers felt so much for them. Don’t want to give away too much.
I found the relationship between Rev and Sashi especially moving. Did you find their love scenes harder or easier to write than the novel’s action scenes?
The angels chapter was the second most difficult chapter to write. I needed lots of help from beta readers. I’m glad I kept improving it. I think that’s one thing I can pass on to others: if you have the time and energy, keep reading, keep getting better feedback, and edit what needs to improve. Go to other books, keep seeing yourself improving the novel.
I think that’s one thing I did better than ever before: refusing to accept an okay chapter. I wanted readers to really love it or be excited by what they read.
I used idea cards for years, and I created idea cards just for the novel. So a lot of time was spent in preparing my mind before I wrote anything. I would use Lumosity, use the idea cards, read, and then write.