Today I am interviewing C.T. Phipps, co-author of the new space opera novel, Lucifer’s Star, first book of the Lucifer’s Star series. He is also author of the Supervillainy Saga, Cthulhu Armageddon series, and Straight Outta Fangton.
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DJ: Hey C.T.! Thanks for agreeing to do this interview!
For readers who aren’t familiar with you, could you tell us a little about yourselves?
C.T. Phipps: Hexa, I’m a life-long geek who managed to luck out into being an author by trying for about six years. I didn’t know if anyone would ever want to read my stuff so I just wrote what I wanted to read and that resulted in some modest success with my work. That led to other people checking out my work and meeting with my current publishers.
DJ: What is Lucifer’s Star about?
C.T.: A lot of Star Wars fans (okay, maybe just me) always wondered what happened to all of those TIE pilots and stormtroopers after the Battle of Endor. The Ewoks couldn’t have eaten all of them, right? So, I starting thinking a lot about the morality and world-building which went into what a “real” morally ambiguous between a ruthless dictatorship and their rebels would like as well as the aftereffects.
In this case, its personified by Colonel Cassius Mass who was a soldier of the Archduchy of Crius who found out, holy crap, we were the bad guys?, only after losing everything. It follows him as he tries to disappear into a normal life only to get dragged out of it by the side which defeated his and that wants him to prevent another war. It’s a dark space opera with heavy focus on characterization and questions of what to do when no side is right.
DJ: What were some of your influences for Lucifer’s Star?
C.T.: In addition to Star Wars, I drew a lot of inspiration from multiple other sci-fi franchises. I basically took elements from all the ones I loved, put them in a blender, and hit frappe. Alien, Aliens, Babylon Five, Blade Runner, Dune, Firefly, and even Mass Effect. I wanted a used universe where big epic space battles occurred but still the stories were fundamentally about how they affected the little guy.
DJ: Actually, where did the idea for yourself and Michael to co-author this book from? Have you done this before or had you two been joking around with the idea and finally decide to give a go for real?
C.T.: Michael Suttkus and I have been friends for almost twenty-years now so it was more the case of us finally getting around to doing the co-authorship. In the case of Lucifer’s Star, I did the actual writing while Michael provided me lots of help with the world-building and ideas.
Indeed, the universe was originally his idea before I started to develop it along the road I described above with the release of The Force Awakens (I wanted something very different from the Star Wars sequels than JJ Abrams it seemed).
Indeed, we’ve been around the idea of Lucifer’s Star as a tabletop roleplaying game first. This was, notably, the origin of The Expanse franchise by Daniel Abraham and James S.A. Corey. Basically, the two of us decided to play to our strengths.
DJ: Could you briefly tell us a little about your main characters? Do they have any cool quirks or habits, or any reason why readers with sympathize with them?
C.T.: I wrote the protagonist, Cassius Mass, as sort of a deconstruction of the typical space opera paragon. You know, the guy who the hero turns into at the end when he gets his happy ending. Here, we start with him being the perfect hero and show that’s an illusion.
Cassius was a man who once had it all. He was the best pilot of the Archduchy of Crius, handsome, intelligent, beloved by all, and having a cool energy sword too. This all gets taken away in the first chapter. It turns out the war which he led all of his friends into not only got them all killed but also ended up killing his family in the final bombing of his home world. He’s not even left with the idea he did the right thing as it turns out his side was a bunch of conquering imperialists everyone as happy to see go. It’s made him extremely cynical and skeptical of anything resembling causes.
The other characters all have their own tragedies and motivations. Isla Hernandez, the ship’s doctor, is a bioroid (sort of a biological android like the kind in Blade Runner) trying to pass for human after escaping her ex-master. Clarice Rin-O’Harra is the ship’s security officer trying to make up for the fact her rich family made its fortune via slavery. William Baldur is a former guerilla fighter against the Archduchy which Cassius was the literal poster boy for (as in they made posters of him). Ida is their aging Southern belle captain and she turns out to be a spymistress for the side which defeated the Archduchy.
DJ: What is the world Lucifer’s Star universe like?
C.T.: Lucifer’s Star is a story set in The Spiral, which is the Orion Arm of the galaxy (where Earth is located). It’s basically an isolated part of the universe where humanity has settled thousands of worlds but this is small potatoes to much older established races which consider humanity a minor nuisance at best. The fact humans can’t stop warring on each other to unite also makes things worse with the opening chapters dealing with a war of conquest between the two most powerful empires.
Despite a massive increase in technology, all of the ills of humanity like poverty, conflict, slavery, and more still exist. Our heroes are small fish in a big pond and trying to do the best they can.
DJ: One thing that has fascinated me is how a book is written by multiple authors. By this, I am referring to the actually process of outlining the story, writing it, and then editing it.
Do you each do your own outline for the whole story? Then look over each others sections/chapters and compare to see how the story fits?
C.T.: I’ve worked with a couple of other authors to try to get books out and sometimes it succeeds, sometimes it doesn’t. In the case of Lucifer’s Star, Michael was mostly the idea man but he talked with me the entire way through. In the case of another work I did, we outlined the story and then did a round-robin of switching chapters until we were done. Really, when doing any collaboration, one has to have a lot of trust and be willing to do a lot of rewrites.
DJ: What was your favorite part about writing Lucifer’s Star?
C.T.: For me, it was getting into the heads of the various characters and showing their rationales for doing everything they’ve done. One of the writing course lessons which stuck with me is “everyone is the hero of their own story.” I enjoyed getting into the perspective of a man who, unwittingly, worked for an Evil EmpireTM and got himself exposed to the consequences of his society’s actions.
I also liked writing that THOSE people weren’t necessarily saints themselves. As someone told me once, “oppression doesn’t make you a better person, it just makes you oppressed.” So, we’ve got this very gray and gritty universe where the protagonist has to figure out if he should be fighting for the universe or his crew or himself. Sometimes he makes bad choices and sometimes making a bad choice ends up doing well for everyone. It’s that kind of universe.
DJ: What do you think readers will be talking about most once they finish it?
C.T.: I like to think readers will be interested in discussing the characters, their decisions, and their morality. One of the things which popped up in virtually every review is every character (antagonist or protagonist) can give a fairly good argument for why their side is right. Part of the fun is poor Casisus is the only one who no longer cares. He’s tried fighting the good fight and just wants to disappear into obscurity now. It’s everyone around him who keeps trying to use him as a pawn or get him to come back into the fight on their side.
I fully hope my readers will also be interested in discussing how many characters are outright liars in the book. As befitting a politically charged military science fiction story, there’s a lot of characters who are hiding their true identities and intensions. When these characters reveal their true natures, I hope it’s a genuine shock.
DJ: Did you have a goal when you began writing the Lucifer’s Star series? Lucifer’s Star is only the first book, but is there a particular message or meaning you are hoping to get across to readers when they finish it? Or perhaps a certain theme to the series?
C.T.: I’m trying to do for space opera as much what Game of Thrones did for fantasy (yes, keep your ambitions reasonable, Charles). Basically, just taking the tropes of the genre and putting them under critical examination by having things just not magically work out for our heroes.
But even more than that, I just wanted to tell a really good story which was fun to read. It was the kind of space opera I wanted to read. If I had a theme for Lucifer’s Star, it’s that conflict is rarely about good vs. evil but just people vs. people—which you’d think wouldn’t be an especially unique message.
DJ: When I read, I love to collect quotes – whether it be because they’re funny, foodie, or have a personal meaning to me. Do you have any favorite quotes from Lucifer’s Star that you can share with us?
C.T.: “Evil is evil. Big. Small. Grand. Petty. Well-justified or just because. There’s no lesser or greater of it. Choosing between them does not make your soul any less blackened.”
DJ: Now that Lucifer’s Star is released, what is next for you?
C.T.: The sequel!
DJ: Where can readers find out more about you? :
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/C.T.-Phipps/e/B00L32LLDY/
DJ: Before we go, what is that one thing you’d like readers to know about Lucifer’s Star that we haven’t talked about yet?
C.T.: It’s a fun novel despite its heavy subject matter full of laser swords, androids, pew-pew, and starfighter combat. I refuse to let stories which include meditations on war, morality, loss, and betrayal to go forth without lots of exciting combat scenes mixed with copious amounts of snark. Don’t let my author’s statement of it being “deep” and “serious” fool you. It’s hardly that—except when it is.
DJ: Is there anything else you would like add? (Or add your own question).
C.T.: Nope! Thanks for having me here!
DJ: Thank you so much for taking time out of both of your days to answer my questions!
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*** Lucifer’s Star is published by Crossroads Press available TODAY!!! ***
Buy the Book:
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From the bestselling author of The Rules of Supervillainy:
Cassius Mass was the greatest star pilot of the Crius Archduchy. He fought fiercely for his cause, only to watch his nation fall to the Interstellar Commonwealth. It was only after that he realized the side he’d been fighting for was the wrong one. Now a semi-functional navigator on an interstellar freight hauler, he tries to hide who he was and escape his past. Unfortunately, some things refuse to stay buried and he ends up conscripted by the very people who destroyed his homeland.
LUCIFER’S STAR is the first novel of the Lucifer’s Star series, a dark science fiction space opera set in a world of aliens, war, politics, and slavery.
Brian McClellan is an epic fantasy author. He studied writing under Brandon Sanderson and Orson Scott Card and was an honorable mention in the Writers of the Future Contest.
Brian is an avid player of video games and reader of epic novels and history. His hobbies include making homemade jam from local berries and tending to his hive of honeybees. He lives in Cleveland, Ohio with his wife, two dogs, and cat.