The New York Times best-selling author Philip Athans started writing stories the second he became literate, and an early love of movies and TV sent him to film school. He continued to write in college and even played in a punk rock band before he discovered that being a good writer and being a good musician don’t necessarily go hand in hand. His degree in Cinema & Photography landed him in a string of music retail positions where he worked long hours for low pay, but got a lot of free CDs and tickets to concerts, and met some interesting people. But that was just the beginning of a career that has spanned all three stages of the entertainment industry: selling other people’s work, helping refine and develop other people’s work, and putting work of his own out there.
Before he even sold a short story, he started publishing his own magazine: Alternative Fiction & Poetry, which in its short, five-issue life span went from complete obscurity to semi-obscurity. Still, there’s never been a better crash course in running a creative business than just diving in and doing it yourself.
While still selling records and slowly inching his way through the post-punk novel that eventually became Completely Broken, he set out to turn a hobby (role-playing games) into a career. A number of freelance assignments ended up getting him his first paying job in publishing. He sent a proposal for a freelance project to TSR, Inc. (the creators of DUNGEONS & DRAGONS) and the vice president of the games division was so impressed by the proposal and his resume that he passed it on to the executive editor of the publishing division, who was looking for a new editor. Phil apparently said the right things in the interview and in 1995 he became the newest editor for TSR Books, one of the premiere publishers of fantasy fiction in the world. His editing job moved to Seattle two years later when TSR merged with Wizards of the Coast, and Phil moved with it, finding a new home and a string of successes in the Pacific Northwest.
The best thing about that job was the intense, hands-on development of complex intellectual properties that went way beyond traditional genre publishing. His skills in that regard are exemplified in the great leaps forward that the FORGOTTEN REALMS novel line made under his care. Phil has been working with established authors like R.A. Salvatore (whose FORGOTTEN REALMS novel The Pirate King, broke the top three on the New York Times hardcover fiction best seller list), but he’s also had the enviable opportunity of discovering new talent and starting some outstanding young authors on successful careers. He left Wizards of the Coast in June 2010, a little bloody, but not beaten.
Though he wrote his first novel in 1985, he published his first, Baldur’s Gate, in 1998 and has gone on to publish a whole bunch more: Baldur’s Gate II: Shadows of Amn, In Fluid Silence (as G.W. Tirpa), The Savage Caves and The Death Ray (as T.H. Lain), Annihilation, which got him his own place on the coveted New York Times best sellers list in the summer of 2004, The Watercourse Trilogy (Whisper of Waves, Lies of Light, and Scream of Stone), 2008’s A Reader’s Guide to R.A. Salvatore’s The Legend of Drizzt, a detailed, illustrated guide to the FORGOTTEN REALMS line’s best-selling series, The Guide to Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction, released in 2010 by Adams Media, and the e-book releases Completely Broken, The Haunting of Dragon’s Cliff (with Mel Odom, first in the new sword & sorcery series Arron of the Black Forest), the anthology Tales From The Fathomless Abyss, the first in a new shared-world fantasy series featuring stories by Mike Resnick & Brad R. Torgersen, Jay Lake, Mel Odom, J.M. McDermott, and Cat Rambo. The first Fathomless Abyss novella, Devils of the Endless Deep was released in June 2012. Look for his short story “The City is Theris” in the WARHAMMER anthology Age of Legend. And How to Start Your Own Religion (from Adams Media) is on sale now, too.
Somewhere in all of that he got married to a very patient woman and had a couple of great kids. He continues to be a full blown media junky: a Comcast Digital Platinum subscriber, and collector of vintage Ace Science Fiction Doubles, with a huge library of books, video games, CDs, and DVDs (and now, thanks to his PS3, Blu-Rays), not to mention a serious comic book collection and more pencil-and-paper RPG books than he could ever hope to play.