The countdown has begun for Simon & Schuster’s upcoming Star Trek: Starfleet Academy series of books for teen audiences – and we’ve got some scoop. First, check out the cover of the first title, The Delta Anomaly, by Rick Barba, which will go on sale on November 2, 2010. Next, StarTrek.com just caught up with Kara Sargent, editorial director of Simon’s Spotlight at Simon & Schuster. She filled us in on what readers can expect from the Starfleet Academy series, talked about what it takes to craft teen-centric Trek fiction, and previewed not only The Delta Anomaly, but also The Edge, the second Starfleet Academy novel, set for release on December 28, 2010.
First, how amazed are you by the continued popularity of youth-oriented Star Trek books?
I’m thrilled by it, but not really surprised. Star Trek has resonated with people of all ages for years and years. That’s the mark of a truly outstanding franchise. It’s not surprising to me that teens are embracing it today.
To your thinking, what's the key to appealing to the teen audience and how tricky is it to write Trek fiction that engages a young reader without talking down to him or her, and that follows familiar characters without altering their already well-known history?
I think teens are looking for the same things adults look for in their books—compelling stories, great characters, and strong writing. The trick with any audience you’re targeting is to make sure the material is relatable. Teens like reading about their peers, and the Starfleet world is made up of characters who are their peers. These are great characters in a very cool setting. Using Kirk as an example, Starfleet Academy Kirk is pretty much exactly as you would imagine him to be, given your knowledge of Kirk the grown man and captain of the USS Enterprise. Starfleet Academy Kirk is this brooding and sexy guy at a new school, in a super-competitive environment with lots of rules and regulations, and this rebel is thrown in and has to navigate his way around. All the while he’s having incredible intergalactic adventures, training to be a Starfleet Commander, and, of course, picking up girls, hanging out with his friends, pulling pranks, and picking up some more girls. Who wouldn’t love reading about this guy? The whole process of coming up with stories in this setting really wasn’t tricky at all. It was a lot of fun, and it never felt forced. It seems like a really natural direction to go in.
There will be hardcovers, paperbacks and e-book editions for each title. How far apart will the individual formats be released?
Actually, all versions will be released simultaneously. The first book comes out in all versions on November 2.
Let's talk specifically about The Delta Anomaly. What's strikes you as exciting about the plot and how it incorporates some favorite Trek characters?
I love this story. At its core it’s a mystery about a serial killer. Early on in the book, the killer targets one of the Starfleet cadets—a friend of Kirk and Uhura, in fact—and the reader is immediately drawn in to this very fast-paced, very chilling mystery. All the while, there are fantastic side stories going on. One involves Uhura and a special assignment she gets from her favorite instructor, Commander Spock. I’ll just say there’s some serious chemistry between those two and leave it at that! Another side story involves a big Starfleet assignment Kirk is involved in that pits him against his nemesis at the Academy. There’s lots of adventure in that one. And, my favorite side story involves Kirk and a beautiful young co-ed he meets at a coffee shop. Her name is Hannah, and Kirk has his work cut out for him because Hannah actually doesn’t swoon at his feet the first time she meets him.
What makes Rick Barba unique as a writer?
First and foremost, Rick is a great storyteller. He’s particularly skilled at weaving together a bunch of smaller stories in a way that seems completely natural and is never jarring for the reader. There aren’t lulls in Rick’s stories. You keep turning the pages because you’re always engaged and can’t wait to find out what’s going to happen next. He also brings to the table a real respect and love of the property. He’s a true fan. He knows these characters so well, and I think he brings them to life beautifully.
The Edge will be out later this year. How would you describe that one?
The Edge focuses on the stress of life at the Academy. The story opens with a competition and Kirk realizes that some cadets seem to have an edge that he doesn’t have. One of the cadets is the girl he’s interested in. Some mysterious events and even a death occur, leading Kirk to investigate what’s going on, and he uncovers a really dark world of illegal activity.
What would you say makes Rudy Josephs unique as a writer?
Right off the bat, Rudy came up with a great story concept that we knew would captivate our audience. And then, not surprisingly, he brought it to life flawlessly. He really shines at exploring interpersonal relationships between the characters, giving them a real depth that I think our readers will respond to. He’s really comfortable placing these characters at this age and in the Academy, and his story reflects that. And like Rick, he’s a big fan of Star Trek. That comes through in his writing.
There are more books planned for 2011. How many will there be? And do you know the authors yet?
We’re planning to do at least one book per season, but I don’t have any details to share yet.