The Hardest Part: Alex J. Cavanaugh on Dragon of the Stars

North Carolina author Alex J. Cavanaugh already has three Amazon bestsellers under his belt with his first trilogy, as well as a sizzling review from Library Journal which praised the series as one which “calls to mind the youthful focus of Robert Heinlein’s early military sf, as well as the excitement of space opera epitomized by the many Star Wars novels.” After the publication of CassaStorm in late 2013, I’d been on the lookout for his next book, but it wasn’t until I e-stumbled onto it in late December last year on a popular Goodreads list (Most Anticipated Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Novels of 2015) at #3 that I started to get an idea just how much of a following Cavanaugh has grown over first years of his young writing career. As I wrote him, “Dude, That’s one way to let a guy know that you have a new book coming in April!” (Now he’s at #15 on the list, which is still pretty impressive, above such heavyweights as John Scalzi and Stephen King, and this fellow named Neil Gaiman. You may have heard of him.) Here, Cavanaugh writes about finding a new voice and a new world for Dragon of the Stars.

Dragon of the Stars - Alex J Cavanaugh

Starting a New Story After Finishing a Series
By Alex J. Cavanaugh

When I wrote my first book, I never envisioned a series. When it expanded to three books, I found certain aspects of the sequels were easier since the world and characters were already established. It provided a starting point on which I could continue to build.

Once I finished the series, I wasn’t sure I would write another book. I knew I wouldn’t continue with the Cassa universe. I’d taken the main character on his journey and there wasn’t much farther I could go with the story.

And then an idea hit me for a standalone story. Dragon of the Stars would not take place in the same universe though. That meant starting from scratch.

It’s one thing to put together a puzzle when you know the picture. When you have no idea though? That’s when you stare at the pieces and wonder where to begin.

This is what I did:

Sketched a rough outline. It was really bare bones, but it gave me the overall picture.

Worked on the character profiles. They were also spotty but enough I could see the character’s motivations and arcs.

Structure and setting. I set up the world and its people, including politics and structure.

Fleshed out the outline even more. I noted what aspects of world building I needed to research to bring the story to life.

Research. All the details that would make the story real and make it work. (I could tell you anything you wanted to know about sea kelp now!)

Final outline. This is where I added the details and fine-tuned the storyline. A lot of my research never made it into the book, but it wasn’t supposed to. It was just to give me a background and some accuracy.

First draft and initial edits. This is where I made sure everything flowed together. Had I provided accurate facts? Were there holes? Details that caused confusion? All of that got ironed out in the first couple passes.

Those steps helped me establish the world of Dragon of the Stars and set it apart from the Cassa universe.

One other area of this book provided a real challenge – the shift in point of view.

Most of my writing is third person from two or three points of view. With Dragon, only one character fit the role of main character. Since I am not a fan of first person (I don’t like to be in a character’s head that much) I had to work from the view point of just one character while staying in third person.

The advantage of third person is being able to show different viewpoints. When one character isn’t present, another is always there to observe.

But when there is only one character, it limits what he can know or see. I had to really work around that roadblock and reveal things to my main character in a way that made sense while providing him and the reader with the right information. And of course doing it in third rather than first meant I had to ensure the story retained some intimacy.

Those two items made my solo book a little more difficult than the previous ones. With careful planning, I was able to pull it off. And if I managed, so can you!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alex J Cavanaugh Trilogy

Alex J. Cavanaugh has a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and works in web design, graphics, and technical editing. A fan of all things science fiction, his interests range from books and movies to music and games. Online he is the Ninja Captain and founder of the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. He’s the author of Amazon Best-Sellers CassaStar, CassaFire, and CassaStorm. You can find him on twitter at @AlexJCavanaugh.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Dragon of the Stars - Alex J Cavanaugh

Dragon of the Stars
By Alex J. Cavanaugh
Science Fiction – Space Opera/Adventure/Military
Print ISBN 9781939844064 EBook ISBN 9781939844057
Dancing Lemur Press, LLC

The ship of legends…

The future is set for Lt. Commander Aden Pendar, son of a Hyrathian Duke. Poised to secure his own command and marriage to the queen’s daughter, he’ll stop at nothing to achieve his goals.

But when the Alliance denies Hyrath’s claim on the planet of Kavil and declares war on their world, Aden finds his plans in disarray. Entrenched in battle and told he won’t make captain, Aden’s world begins to collapse. How will he salvage his career and future during Hyrath’s darkest hour?

One chance remains–the Dragon. Lost many years prior, the legendary ship’s unique weapon is Hyrath’s only hope. Can Aden find the Dragon, save his people, and prove he’s capable of commanding his own ship?

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13 Responses to The Hardest Part: Alex J. Cavanaugh on Dragon of the Stars

  1. Sherry Ellis says:

    I’m so glad Alex’s series has been so successful!

  2. kellypolark says:

    Congrats, Alex! I loved hearing your process !

  3. Thanks again for the opportunity!

  4. Way to go, Alex!
    I think that each type of POV choice holds its own challenges, and it seems like you’ve mastered them!

  5. Truedessa says:

    Congrats – Always interesting to read your thoughts on writing. It seems you have a successful formula . I really enjoyed reading Dragon of the Stars..3 times.:)

  6. Mina B says:

    I loved hearing about your process too! Very cool. Great post!

  7. I like your organized approach to starting out with a new angle. POV is tough once you’ve gotten used to only using one. Writing a series, I think it’s easy to get a little lazy (for me, anyway), because the setting, characters, etc. are already set up. When I start a new book, I’m always wondering what I’m doing. 🙂

  8. Southpaw says:

    Thanks for sharing your process!

  9. I deal with books after my series by writing them while my series is still in progress. 😉

  10. Pingback: July newsletter: Paul Tremblay, Clay and Susan Griffith, John Scalzi, Michael Swanwick, the Oak City Comic Show, Kim Harrison, Christopher Moore, and the latest NC books and news | Bull Spec

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