Best-selling author Philip Athans started writing stories the second he became literate. He continued to write in college and his degree in Cinema & Photography landed him in a string of music retail positions where he worked long hours for low pay, 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. 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 his job at TSR and Wizards of the Coast 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. There Phil worked 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 release of Completely Broken. He’s continued his writing on the subject of writing with, Writing Monsters.
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 collector of vintage Ace Science Fiction Doubles, with a huge library of books, comic books, and more pencil-and-paper RPG books than he could ever hope to play.
Philip Athans is now working as a freelance editor, ghostwriter, educator, and writing coach. Find him at Athans & Associates Creative Consulting to learn more.