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 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 is the intense, hands-on development of complex intellectual properties that goes way beyond traditional genre publishing. His skills in that regard are exemplified in the great leaps forward that the FORGOTTEN REALMS® novel line has made under his care. Phil has been working with established authors like R.A. Salvatore (whose FORGOTTEN REALMS novels, The Two Swords and The Pirate King, broke the top five 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. This collaborative body of work has satisfied the authors, company, and audience alike and brought the line to new heights.
Though he wrote his first novel in 1985, he published his first, Baldur’s Gate, in 1998 and has gone on to publish eight 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, and The Watercourse Trilogy (Whisper of Waves, Lies of Light, and Scream of Stone), and 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
When Wizards of the Coast became part of Hasbro, new opportunities opened up, including the chance to work with some great people in the development of Centipede: an animated series for television with Dan Clark, Hasbro’s Fantasy Factory, and Cartoon Network. Centipede died in development, but put the visual media bug back into Phil in a big way.
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, CDs, and DVDs.
DUNGEONS & DRAGONS and FORGOTTEN REALMS are trademarks of Wizards of the Coast LLC, and CENTIPEDE is a trademark of Hasbro. Inc.
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