It’s an expansion of the word “nova.”
Every time I get this question, I laugh, because I never intended the word “Novaun” to have any profound meaning whatsoever. When I was twelve years old, I watched a cut version of Planet of the Apes starring Charlton Heston on television and was totally blown away. If you’ll remember, Heston’s character named his female friend “Nova.” I liked the word so well that I expanded it to “Novan” and voilà! I had the name of the planet that would become the focus of my first novel, ESCAPE!! To the Unknown, finished at age thirteen. I rewrote that original novel many times during junior high and high school and used pieces of it for school assignments. When I was twenty-three, I wrote the first draft of The Double-Edged Choice, which was based, in part, on the novel I had written as a teenager. I had no reason to come up with a new name for my paradise planet, but I did change the spelling slightly to reflect how I thought it should be pronounced. In the end, the fact that “Novaun” was created from the word “nova” —a burst of starlight—makes it more significant than I could have ever imagined when I was a young writer.
I recently received this question again and decided to address it here in an effort to lessen the confusion many readers will naturally feel.
The Dominion Over the Earth series begins when Tohmazz Zarr and his people arrive on Earth and begin taking dominion of it. The natural ending of this series is when the final fate of that dominion is decided. Encompassed in that overall story is that of the Eden Colony. The Heirs of Novaun books take place during a two-year period that occurs twenty-seven years after Fall to Eden. Thus, Fall to Eden, Alien Roads, and Day of Liberation come chronologically before the Heirs books. There will be at least two more books in the Dominion series after that—one that will come before Heirs, and one that will overlap with Heirs chronologically and move the story forward a few years. For more about the story timeline, please see the page Chronological Book Order.
Despite the fact that Heirs of Novaun and Dominion Over the Earth share a few story events and characters, they are each complete and do not depend on each other. The Heirs books, like the People stories by Zenna Henderson, present the protagonists as generic people of faith and keep the exploration of ideas universal enough to appeal to a broad audience. Dominion Over the Earth, on the other hand, delves into ideas that will be of more interest to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and goes crazy with them. The fantastical approach is much more similar to that of C.S. Lewis’s Space Trilogy.
I wrote the original drafts of the four Heirs novels many years before I began work on the first Dominion novel Fall to Eden. Despite the fact that I had written the Heirs books to appeal to a general religious audience, from its conception, I intended to write Fall to Eden for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. My overall vision of the project simply couldn’t be developed completely without access to doctrines unique to my church and some of the extraordinary ideas touched on in our canon of scripture.
Up until that point, I had not been interested in writing more novels set in the Novaun universe. I realized, however, that combining the story about the Eden Colony with the rise of the Zarrist regime on Earth—which was part of the backstory of the Heirs books—provided me an easy way to get the colony onto a planet that had the qualities my “man-eating paradise planet” required. To mix everything up and make the story compelling to myself, I decided to combine the Eden concept and the story of the Zarrists with fantastical speculation on end-of-the-world prophecy fulfillment.
Fall to Eden, in many ways, reinterpreted those original Heirs novels, and, for that reason, I decided to rewrite them to make them compatible with Fall to Eden. When I published Fall to Eden in 2003 on Novaun Novels, eighteen years had passed since writing the first draft of The Double-Edged Choice. My interests had changed, and I knew that if I didn’t do the rewrite at that time, I wouldn’t, so I decided to put the Dominion series on hold to do that work.
I planned to focus the Heirs books toward members of my church as well (because I like consistency), but as I was doing the rewrite, a funny thing happened: the more I tried to change the novels, the more they remained the same. I found that I couldn’t write them to include unambiguous Latter-day Saint details because that wasn’t what the books were. I ended up with novels that I hope are accessible to many readers of faith who are looking for wholesome fiction to read.
As I progress in my work on Dominion Over the Earth, I’m finding that it still reinterprets Heirs of Novaun, and that each Dominion book reinterprets those in the series that come before it, much in the same way that the newer Foundation novels written by Isaac Asimov in the 1980s and 90s reinterpret the original Foundation stories he wrote in the 1940s and the newer Star Wars movies reinterpret the original Star Wars trilogy of the 1970s and 80s. Some readers will like the reinterpretations, and some won’t, but in the end, the important thing to you, the reader, is that I’m having a blast writing the books, because if I’m not, they’ll never exist at all, and if they did, we’d all be bored out of our minds!
This is a complicated question, because the creation process is a complex one. The answer is no . . . and yes. I suppose the process is different for every writer, but for me, the foundation of my novels is the plot, and the personalities of all my characters are based on the roles they play in the story. For example, Trendaul Alexander from Fall to Eden has to be an indecisive person or his story would end too soon. Cameron Carroll can’t be a reckless rebel if he’s to be a credible bishop, but he can’t be too mature and sedate if he’s to be a credible twenty-year-old. The story roles establish the characters’ parameters, and as the story evolves, I begin filling in details and delving into motivations.
If I can glean a story detail from my own life, it’s one less thing I have to research. Since I have no desire to embarrass anyone I know, the details I use are always innocuous. Even then, any personal detail I use has to make sense in light of the story. I am, after all, writing fiction, not autobiography. In the broader aspects of character and plot, everything I observe among the people of my acquaintance is a potential story idea. I’ll confess, though, that I’m as affected by things I read as I am by things I observe. I recognized as I was finishing Fall to Eden that the storyline dealing with Ben’s pursuit of Sara had been unconsciously motivated by the stories I’ve encountered that untruthfully portray these kinds of relationships as harmless and even beneficial.
At some point during the story creation process, the characters begin coming alive to me and I think of them as real people. Sometimes this happens immediately, and sometimes it takes a long time. When a character comes alive, he or she starts transforming the plot and sometimes even transcends the parameters I had set for him or her. By the time a novel is finished, the characters have undergone a metamorphosis that renders them part story role, part research, part concrete experience, and part personal vision, both conscious and subconscious. Then my editor reads the novel and gives her insight into the characters, which refines them even further.
Despite the fact that I’m not the most prolifically published writer around, I do get this question sometimes. I only have a few basic tips. Publishing options have changed so dramatically over the last couple of decades that you’ll have to learn the details on your own.
Read and Research: Writers love to write, and they especially love to publish what they write, which means that a trip to the public library will probably provide you with a huge stack of books about writing and publishing. Read them! Search for websites targeted to writers. Read the magazines geared to writers. Attend writers’ conferences that apply to your particular field or genre. Follow the advice that makes sense to you in light of your own goals. As important as this writing research is, it’s also important to read widely. Make it a goal to increase your knowledge in a variety of fields. Everything you learn will make you a more interesting person and give your writing more depth.
Target and Focus: You will save yourself a lot of time and grief if you identify your audience before you write one word. A political candidate would not present the same speech at a dinner with business leaders that he would give to an assembly of college students. By the same token, a writer is not going to be as effective if he doesn’t target his work to a particular group of readers. Identify the field or genre you want to crack and learn the rules for it. Read, read, read books and magazines from your chosen field or genre to learn the voice, style, subject matter, and audience of any publication or publisher you believe is a viable target for your work. Read their guidelines for writers. Without that knowledge, you will have a difficult time writing something suited to the publisher’s needs.
Practice and Polish: Learn the rules of good writing and practice them. When you read something that is written particularly well, study it and determine the methods the writer used. Above all else, keep writing! Each one of my novels took hundreds of hours to write. I couldn’t have finished them had I not scheduled regular times to write. Spend as much time rewriting as you do writing. Find a knowledgeable person to read your work and critique it. Listen to what that person has to say and don’t argue when he points out flaws. Yes, your work will have flaws—always. If your reader doesn’t see any flaws in your work, get a new reader. Use the information you glean from these critique sessions to re-envision your work, and then get busy rewriting. In the polishing stage, read your work aloud and rework any sentences you stumble over.
Be Professional: Follow the rules for manuscript submission. If you don’t know the rules, go back to Tip 1: Read and Research. Once your piece is accepted for publication, don’t be offended when you’re asked to revise or even rewrite it. That’s part of the process, and if you aren’t willing to do it, you aren’t ready to be a published writer.
Thank you! Yes, it is my natural color. My hair used to be very dark brown. My first “white” strands of hair appeared when I was a teenager.