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Christie Golden

By Caillan Davenport
Posted at March 25, 2003 - 11:16 AM GMT

'Homecoming' photo - courtesy Psi Phi, copyright Paramount PicturesChristie Golden is a name synonymous with Pocket Books' Star Trek: Voyager novels. Her work includes Seven of Nine, The Murdered Sun, the Gateways instalment No Man's Land and the Dark Matters trilogy.

This June, Golden will send the Voyager crew off on a bold new adventure in Homecoming, the first novel set after the crew's triumphant return home to the Alpha Quadrant in "Endgame". The two-book storyline will be continued in The Farther Shore, currently scheduled to be published in July.

Christie Golden recently agreed to answer questions from TrekToday readers. Her responses to a selection of the questions submitted can be found below:

Sonia Wong: Ms. Golden, first and foremost, allow me to say that you are a superb writer, you rank among my fav authors. I have a question, what got you into Star Trek?

Christie Golden: Sonia, thank you! What a great thing to say. This is a good question, as there's a fun story as an answer. When I was in the fifth grade, they were starting to show Star Trek reruns on TV. I had a friend, Debbie, that I played with almost every day after school. Well, one day, she told me she couldn't come out to play because she was watching this show called Star Trek. I was pretty mad at her! So I decided that day to watch this show, to see what kind of a show could keep Debbie inside instead of outside playing with me. I was hooked! I even remember the first episode — "Operation: Annihilate!" From that moment I was a fan and started writing Star Trek scripts in my math classes. My apologies to all the math teachers out there.

PJinNH: Of the Voyager books you've already written and have been available to the public to buy, which one are you most proud of? (By the way, it was a pleasure seeing you at the Denver convention in April of 1999.)

Christie Golden: I remember you, PJinNH! :) I have to say that I really love the Dark Matters trilogy. I am proud of the way that I was able to utilize real scientific theories (dark matter and the Shadow universe) and then expand upon them. I really slogged through a lot of dry books to do research for that one! I remember just being riveted by "Eye of the Needle", it really stands out as a great episode, especially in the first season, and it was a thrill to work with Telek R'Mor and the Romulans. Jekri Kaleh's character arc was also fun to do, and as it was a trilogy, I had the room to concentrate deeply on a secondary character.

CW Tyger: Long after I should have, I've finally started reading your Dark Matters trilogy. Even though it took me a while to start reading them, I consider you one of the top three Star Trek authors currently writing Trek novels. You write with a depth I've rarely seen in Star Trek. I'm wondering, how do you come up with ideas for them, especially something like Dark Matters?

Christie Golden: Thanks, Tyger! A lovely compliment. I hope you're enjoying Dark Matters. As for depth, well, I think it's because I never approach any novel as "just" a Star Trek novel or "just" a media-based novel. My name is on every book I write (well, except for A.D. 999, which I wrote under the pen name of Jadrien Bell!) and there are some people for whom that book is the only exposure to what I write. I try very hard to give people the good stuff — not just the characters they have come to know and love, but new, fresh people to "meet", exciting drama, deep themes. I have often said that I am moved to write about "the triumph of the human spirit", and it's not enough for me to write a good Trek book — I want to write a good book, period! As for the ideas, I clip articles from the local paper and watch documentaries about just about everything. I also pay attention to themes that have been addressed in the shows. And sometimes, it's an offhand quote from someone that really fires my imagination. Regarding the Dark Matters books, as I said, I did a lot of research about the more unusual theories out there, and a lot of it flowed from that.

rtc61: It seems to me that the quality of Star Trek novels over the years has been inconsistent at best, almost cookie-cutter in some cases. As a successful novelist, what's your perspective on the book series? What's your approach to maintaining the quality of your own Trek work?

Christie Golden: I'm afraid that I cannot really speak to the quality of the other books out there as I haven't read any. Yes, I'm bad...but I'm busy! :) From what I hear, the DS9 relaunch is getting some big thumbs up from the readers, though. I partially answered this question in the prior one — I try very hard to craft something I can be proud of every time, something that works as a good book, a good read, as well as a good Star Trek novel. I really do care about what's out there. I have had some wonderful letters from readers telling me how much my books have meant to them, some of whom are struggling through some very difficult life issues — loss of a child, hospitalization, and so on. It's not, never has been, and never will be about cranking out word count for a certain amount of money. And my readers are smart — I think they can tell that.

Ricky C.: I think your Voyager novels are great! Did you ever pitch stories to the series while it was on television?

Christie Golden: Thanks, Ricky! Yes, actually I did travel out to LA to pitch for Voyager. I had a lovely conversation with Jeri Taylor, who was very friendly and pleasant. Two of my ideas were apparently too close to what they were already working on, and one she simply didn't like. (I later used that idea as the basis for my story Hard Crash in the SCE series, so nothing gets wasted!) It was kind of nice to know that I was so in tune with what they were looking for, however.

J.D.: Did you like the way the writers developed Janeway's character on the TV show? Did you feel there were any missed opportunities?

Christie Golden: I think there are always "missed opportunities" on a TV show. You can't do everything. But missed opportunities on the show mean opportunities for me and my novels. For instance, they dropped Chakotay's spirituality pretty early on, but I resonated with that a great deal. So I have tried to integrate it into my novels. As for the character — since the writers are her creator, it's kind of hard to argue with what they chose to do.

Deltadream: Is it difficult to write a Star Trek novel knowing that there are so many avid fans who can attack as easily as they can praise?

Christie Golden: LOL! I have to say that I feel lucky that all the people who have taken the time to write me email have been "on my side" and agree with what I've done. Only once have I gotten a negative email, and even that writer took care to praise my Voyager work (he didn't like The Last Roundup.) Yes, it is something that I'm aware of, but there are a few things that make it less hard. One is that truly, you can't please everyone. If I do X, there are people who love the book because of X and people who hate the book because of X. And sometimes it's surprising what people choose to like or not like. I have recently adopted the line from the song "Garden Party": "You can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself." In the end, I write what I feel is right and true for the characters and the situation. There will be readers who agree with me, and those who don't. Fortunately, judging by the sales, there are more who like what I do than who don't like it.

I tend to avoid bulletin boards and reviews because, as Esther Friesner once described writers, I am a shy and timid forest creature and I just don't like seeing posts that attack my writing and sometimes attack me. I do, however, post my email address and welcome emails and letters, all of which I try to respond to. I would appreciate it if those who send me email realize a few things and just act with common courtesy, as I try to. Remember that I get a lot of letters and I can't always send long, detailed replies to a few dozen questions. That's what interviews like this are for! Please read the FAQ on my web site before you ask a questions. I have stopped assisting people with research papers and homework, simply because if I continued to do so I would spend all my time doing that and not writing — which is what you all really want from me, right? Finally, please don't send me letters that say "If you do X, I will never buy your book." It just makes me feel bullied. Readers are free to buy or not buy my books, but I must write the book I feel is right. Reader input is valued, but I won't write books just to give one person what she/he wants.

Christian Waugh: I greatly enjoy your work — you seem to capture the characters and the relationships well. Do you feel like you, yourself, have to establish a certain sort of close relationship with the crews of which you write? If so, do you feel more endeared to Kirk's Enterprise or Janeway's Voyager?

Christie Golden: I've got the original crew embedded in my genes by this point, but I have made more of an attempt to bond with the Voyager's. It's one of the reasons I continued to write mostly just Voyager books, rather than expand to Next Gen as many authors do, because I really wanted to know them deeply, to the bone.

James: What is your opinion of the cover art for Homecoming? Do you believe it accurately portrays the feeling of the crew being home finally, or is it too Janeway centric?

Christie Golden: I actually haven't seen the covers yet, just a rather poor scanned version, so I can't truly and accurately comment. I did know that the first would be Janeway and the second Seven, and that's fine with me. However, as a writer who is married to a portrait artist (www.fineportraitsinoil.com) I am sorry to see that it appears that there will be more focus on using photographs rather than art in future works. :)

Dr. Corby: Are you at all concerned about making dramatic changes in the circumstances of the lives of the Voyager characters with the possibility of some of them being used in a future series-mix-and-match Star Trek movie and "invalidating" what you've written?

Christie Golden: Well, to be honest, I am a bit concerned. I'm working very hard to establish what happens to these characters in an exciting and believable fashion, and I don't think there's anyone who wouldn't be disappointed to have that hard work essentially "invalidated". But that is one of the risks you run when working with a media tie-in project. I ran that risk every week that Voyager was on, and more than once I had to scramble to rewrite things so that they didn't conflict with something they did on the show. I have no control over that, so until and unless it happens, I'll just try to continue to write the best stories I can.

Tom Loveman: You're a fantastic writer and your Voyager books are the best! Homecoming sounds like it might be the link that can transport Voyager to the big screen. Do you think Voyager has a future in movies? If so, do you see Homecoming as part of that transition? Thanks! Tom

Christie Golden: Bless your heart for saying so! I like that better than the mix-and-match idea! Personally, I am very excited about these books and I think they would make a great movie. But I don't believe there's much crossover between the books and Hollywood, so I doubt that they'll ever adapt my books into movies. More's the pity, right? As for whether Voyager will make it to the big screen, I have absolutely no idea. Believe it or not, you fans have a lot more information than the book writers do. I often get news tidbits from my readers. I'll have to leave that up to Paramount.

Lee Jamilkowski: Did the appearance of Kathryn Janeway in Star Trek Nemesis force you to change any plans you had for the character, or was it just a minor adjustment to make her an admiral?

Christie Golden: I knew about it fairly early on, so it was pretty easy to incorporate it into the book. Thank goodness! :)

Aaron: Will you re-evaluate the Chakotay/7 of 9 relationship or reinforce it in the Homecoming novel and related to that how will you approach Janeway's detachment from her fiance who was to have remarried several years prior to the crew's safe return?

Christie Golden: I know you all are curious, but subjects like these are things that are best left waiting to be "discovered". If I answer these firmly one way or another, someone who wanted to be surprised by how it all worked out is going to be disappointed. I consider info like this "spoilers" and I don't want to be a killjoy. (I've worked too hard on the books to ruin their elements of surprise!) I will say that Mark is indeed in the book. Make of that what you will...! ;)

Ken Carper: Ms. Golden, a good number of Star Trek fans including myself feel that the Borg have been heavily overused on Voyager to the point that they have lost much of the menace they once had. As your first book in the relaunch series is, shall we say, Borg-centric what do you feel you have done as an author to combat the feeling that the Borg are no longer a threat? What spin were you able to put on the Borg to make them more than just an enemy so easily dispatched by Janeway and friends as they were on Voyager?

Christie Golden: I agree, I think the Borg did risk losing their "teeth" because of overexposure. In the earlier Next Gen episodes and in First Contact, they were really scary in large part because they were so mysterious. Anything that loses its mystery loses part of its fear, and I don't see how we could have had any Borg episodes without some of the mystery wearing off. But that doesn't mean they aren't really frightening. I went back to earlier Next Gen episodes and First Contact to rediscover their danger and fear. I even address in the book that fact that Janeway and crew are so used to the Borg they have forgotten how genuinely terrifying they can be. I have put a fresh twist on the Borg in this book and I hope have made them again a chilling threat, because I wanted to recapture the horror of what they represent. I don't want to reveal the "spin" because it will spoil the surprise. Just trust me! :)

Gilly H: First, thanks for all the little snippets of Janeway/Chakotay you manage to slip into your novels! Second, now that the show is over will you be allowed to finally give us what we've all been waiting for in the 'official' books — a definite J/C development? If not, why can't we have a separate series just for all 'shipper fans where the major fan favs are featured? Right now, J/Cers are writing and reading J/C for themselves, which seems a lost opportunity for the official publishers.

Christie Golden: I can't dictate how Pocket wants to handle its Trek lines. The whole J/C thing falls under the "please all, please none" area. As they say in the military, "I can neither confirm nor deny" whether there will be J/C in the books. :)

Andrew: Will there be other writers working on the Voyager relaunch, or only yourself? If there are others, how did working with them affect your stories? If not, how far ahead are you planning these stories?

Christie Golden: As far as I am aware, I'm it. No pressure, right? Seriously, I'm pleased because the only person I have to agree with is myself. It does make things easier to have a single, unified vision. Currently there are plans for two more books to be released in 2005, and that's about all I can tell you right now.

Param Bhattacharyya: What was your experience writing the book Warcraft: Lord of the Clans? How do you feel about the universe?

Christie Golden: Lord of the Clans was one of those really hard projects that was also a real joy. I was approached to write the book with a six-week deadline. Eeep! Fortunately they had a pretty good outline, which saved me time. Working with Blizzard was a delight. I was in touch with them almost daily, able to bounce ideas off of them, and we all seemed delighted with the results. This was my first contact with the universe, but when you have the guy who helped create the game you're adapting willing to answer questions at all hours of the day or night, you can feel pretty safe that you're doing the right thing. I mainly concentrated on the characters rather than "world development", and I had a lot of fun with Thrall. In fact, when I saw the "teaser" for the game, the one where Thrall bolts upright and blinks his blue eyes, I actually got a lump in my throat and said to my husband, "There's my baby! There's my little boy Thrall!" (I actually "raised" Thrall from an infant, so I feel a bit motherly.)

Stacey: How long did it take you to get your first book published? Do you have any advice for an aspiring writer?

Christie Golden: That's a question with an odd answer. My "first book" was an original fantasy novel that I shopped around for seven years and never sold. I've still got it in a file somewhere. My big mistake was I didn't immediately start on another book while waiting to hear about that one. It can take up to a year for a publisher to respond, and you can finish a whole other book in that time. That's something I like to tell aspiring writers — once you have shipped off a manuscript, start something new immediately. My first published book was Vampire of the Mists, the book that launched the Ravenloft tie-ins for the role-playing game. I answered an audition, and my work was read "blind", which means no one knew who submitted which proposal. It was my first published fiction and I had to write it in three months. Talk about a baptism by fire!

Some more comments for aspiring writers: Read. In your field and out of it. Write. A little bit every day if you can. Write in the same place, at the same time. Make it kind of a ritual. My husband sages his area before he starts to paint; the scent tells his subconscious that it's time to go into "creative mode" now. For those who want to write Star Trek, the very best thing to do is sell something else first, so that you approach Pocket as a published writer. It's hard to do a Trek book, because so often people come up with the same ideas and the editor will have to say, "Sorry, I just contracted a story about dark matter and Romulans." Seriously, this happens all the time! It's also hard because it's only one market. It's much easier to break in with your own fiction first. And then, you can have your agent contact Pocket and start pitching your great ideas to them!

Thanks so much for the opportunity to answer these questions, they were all really great. I'd like to say one last thing. As I write this, war has begun. All I can think of is how much I wish there were a Federation and a Starfleet in place right now. Star Trek offers us such a glorious vision of the future, of peace among peoples. Let's all hope that one day, we'll achieve it.

Thanks! Christie Golden

A special thank-you to Christie Golden for taking part, and to all the readers who submitted questions! For more information on Christie Golden's work, head over to her official web site.

If you missed last month's Q&A with Star Trek: Voyager actor Tim Russ (Tuvok), it can be found at this page.

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Caillan Davenport is one of the TrekToday editors.

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