In The Beginning …

There’s nothing new under the sun — no matter what galaxy or fantasy world you care to mention. The challenge is weaving it all together so it feels fresh and new.
on Jun 7, 2013 · No comments

Hands_of_God_and_AdamEditor’s note. Our guest this week is Michelle Levigne, the author of over thirty-five speculative novels, a number set in a science fiction universe known as The Commonwealth. Those books include the following:

* Sunsinger series — 10-book YA series about a boy growing up on a small starship: Sunsinger, Spacer’s Creed, Dead World, The Lady and the Order, Fever, University, Leap Ships, Aramar, Gemar, Scouts.

* Chorillan Cycle — Azuli Eyes, Scouts’ Pride, By Fire and Stars, Chorillan, Silver Azuli

* Hoven Quest, and tie-ins, The Meruk Episodes I-V and VI-X.

* Wind Walker and sister novel, Moonbirds
* True Caderi
* The Downfall series — Norbra’s Children, The Pirate and the Professor, The Saddle and the Sleuth

* The Order #1 — Undying

Enjoy this introduction to Michelle’s fiction.

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In the beginning … long, long ago, in a writer’s cluttered mind far, far away …

Sound familiar? There’s nothing new under the sun — no matter what galaxy or fantasy world you care to mention. The challenge is weaving it all together so it feels fresh and new … or at least nobody notices you inserted an homage to a favorite author or TV series, or you grafted in something with roots in fan fiction.

How did I start writing my sprawling SF series, the Commonwealth Universe? Truthfully? I don’t know.

I’ve been saving rough drafts, notes, and ideas since the early 80s. The more stories I assemble for the Commonwealth, the more of these bits and pieces and rough drafts and outlines I dredge from my files, insert to fill holes and provide history and background details and launch new ideas. It’s a little scary, how well these disparate scraps fit together, like a dozen puzzles tossed into the jumbled bag of my imagination. But that’s the fun part. Making matches, seeing the pictures that don’t quite work, but give me ideas of what’s possible.

Look for these titles (and more) in the future: Virtually Dead, Star Dances, Peregrine, The Talon, Nova Vendetta, Khybors, Lin of Sunsinger.

HovenWhile trying to start this blog post, I recalled that Hoven Quest started as “Metamorphycs,” a short I wrote for a friend’s multi-verse fanzine. When I was writing the Sunsinger books, the planet Gemar sounded like a good place for the ship to visit. I dusted off the story, changed names and details — because honestly, “Metamorphycs” was just too hokey a name for a story about shapeshifters …

I wrote a story for a fanzine for the TV show, “Highlander.” The story of Maria and her immortal sweetheart, separated for centuries, stayed with me. I rewrote it as a wretched SF romance that languished in my computer. During a Sunsinger novel, Captain Lin gives Bain a lesson on Commonwealth history. Specifically, the Downfall, where the previous galactic civilization imploded under its own corruption, and the Order, a branch of the Church brought civilization back from barbarism to the stars. It occurred to me it would be “easier” to do that if everyone in the Order were immortal. Thus were planted the seeds of the genetic manipulation/quest to breed the perfect Human being, slave classes, and fears of mutation that spawned the Downfall, the genetic terrorists called the Set’ri, and how the Undying/the Order came to be.

In The Lady and the Order, Bain meets Sister High Scholar Marnya, who started out as Maria from that “Highlander” story. I excavated that bad romance and salvaged bits and pieces to create the early days of the Order, part of the novel, Undying.

From the hazy details of the Downfall, now I had places to plug in story ideas that had been sitting in my files for years. Don’t ask which stories came first — when is a story a story? When you get that image that sticks in your head, like the faun trudging through a snowy wood that sparked the Narnia stories? Some ideas have been waiting to be fleshed out into Commonwealth stories longer than my oldest published Commonwealth books.

True Caderi started as a present-day story about a girl kidnapped by the father she never knew, to brainwash her into supporting his nefarious plans for conquest and riches. During early outlining and assembling details, I realized it would work better as SF. I already envisioned the Commonwealth as a highly moral, ethical government, so obviously Adlan Caderi, the planetary pirate lord, was not a citizen of the Commonwealth. But I wanted to use the Leapers — a race of female pilots who mentally link with their ships to travel between dimensions — who belong to the Commonwealth. Caderi wants to breed his own Leaper pilot/captain, so True Caderi had to be in the same universe. Well, duh, Captain Lin had taught Bain that a group of colonies, abandoned during the Downfall, had loosely allied together for survival. They refused to join the Commonwealth, and … let me check my notes, what did I call them? The Conclave. Okay, Caderi owns a planet in the Conclave. Problem solved. That spawned the Sunsinger novel Leap Ships, as well as a side trip to Caderi’s planet during The Lady and the Order.

Sunsinger-1-resizeAnd that’s part of why I can’t honestly say what book came first!

I desperately need a guide to the Commonwealth books, all the people, places, theology, science, history, technology, who descended from whom, and where in the time line of the Commonwealth all the books take place, so I can go to one place to find out what I need instead of reading and re-reading published or rough drafted books or sifting through notes.

Confession: I’m working on a guide to the Commonwealth, starting with the Hoveni, to offer readers on my web site, followed by a guidebook to the Khybors — once I finish writing the book about the Khybor race, which begins with the Downfall, and exists as several totally unrelated short stories that link together beautifully if I just cut some pieces here and stitch them together in these places and rearrange this history and change these names and …

Maybe I should have gone to medical school — life would be a whole lot simpler!

But not as much fun.

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On the road to publication, Michelle fell into fandom in college (she is a recovering Trekker, and adores “Warehouse 13” and “Stargate SG-1”), and has 40+ stories in various SF and fantasy universes. She has a BA in theater/English from Northwestern College and a MA focused on film and writing from Regent University. She has published 50+ books and novellas with multiple small presses, in science fiction and fantasy, YA, and sub-genres of romance. She has been a finalist in the EPIC Awards competition every year since 2004, winning with Lorien in 2006 and The Meruk Episodes, I-V, in 2010. Her training includes the Institute for Children’s Literature, proofreading at an advertising agency, and working at a community newspaper. She freelance edits for a living, but only enough to give her time to write.

Her publishers include the following:

  • Writers Exchange: (Commonwealth novels)
  • OakTara Publishers: (Commonwealth novels)
  • Desert Breeze Publishing: (Tabor Heights, Ohio series)
  • Amber Quill Press:
  • Uncial Press: (Zygradon — Arthurian fantasy series)
  • Mundania Press: (fantasy)
  • Hard Shell Word Factory: (fantasy)

You can contact Michelle at her website or blog.

  1. Kessie says:

    Wow, you have a ton of books! You’re really prolific. Your universe sounds really interesting, too. Your Leap Ships reminds me of Hobbs’s Liveship trilogy, only yours is in space. I’ll look up your series on Goodreads. If you have a fan base, you could give them a wiki to manage. Naomi Novik’s fans made one for the Temeraire books, and she remarked how often she refers to it, because there’s nothing like the hive mind of the fan base for remembering details.

  2. Galadriel says:

    Sounds cool. Maybe I’ll check a few out via Interlibrary loan

What do you think?