Friday, 12 August 2011

Interview with Kevin J. Anderson


Kevin J. Anderson goes to work every day in several different universes, from his own Seven Suns or Terra Incognita universes, to Dune, or Star Wars.  He is a #1 international bestselling author of more than 100 novels, 48 of which have appeared on national or international bestseller lists; he has over 20 million books in print in 30 languages. He has won or been nominated for the Nebula Award, Bram Stoker Award, the SFX Reader's Choice Award, and New York Times Notable Book.

Anderson has co-authored 11 books in the Dune saga with Brian Herbert. Anderson's popular epic SF series, The Saga of Seven Suns, is his most ambitious work, and he is currently at work on a sweeping fantasy trilogy, Terra Incognita, about sailing ships, sea monsters, and the crusades. As an innovative companion project to Terra Incognita, Anderson co-wrote
and produced the lyrics for two ambitious rock CDs based on the novels, with his frequent co-author, Rebecca Moesta, with whom he has been married for 20 years.

His novel Enemies & Allies chronicles the first meeting of Batman and Superman in the 1950s; Anderson also wrote The Last Days of Krypton. He has written numerous Star Wars projects, including the Jedi Academy trilogy, the Young Jedi Knights series (with Moesta), and Tales of the Jedi comics from Dark Horse. Fans might also know him from his X-Files novels or Dean Koontz's Frankenstein: Prodigal Son.
Anderson is also a publisher at, teaches writing seminars, climbs mountains, and he cooks, too.

  1. When did you first read The War of the Worlds, and what effect did it have on you?
I was only 5 years old when I saw the George Pal movie, and it blew me away. I didn’t sleep at all that night - I was so obsessively fascinated about the heat ray, the ruined cities, the feeling of hopelessness; and then that crawling 3-fingered hand covered with leprous splotches, dying because of our germs.  Amazing!

So, when I was 9 years old, I read the H. G. Wells novel, the second adult novel I ever read (the first was The Time Machine). I’ve since read a great many of Wells’s novels, read biographies, and even wrote a novel with H. G. Wells as a main character (The Martian War).  Yeah, it had a pretty big effect.

  1. Since 1993, 48 of your novels have been on bestseller lists; and you have over 23 million books in print worldwide. What would you say is the key to your phenomenal success?
I write a lot, I read a lot, and I’m a die-hard fan at heart. I’m fortunate that I happen to have broad, commercial tastes so that what I like to read, and write, also matches what a lot of other fans like to read. I work very hard, have numerous projects in the works at once, and I never stop thinking about my characters and stories.

  1. In the world of publishing, there seems to be ongoing tension between independents and the established, traditional publishers. Many of your titles are available in eBook form at What advice, or encouragement, can you give to independent authors and publishers?
I work in both worlds, and intend to keep doing so (as long as the big traditional publishers will have me); I think they serve two different purposes. At, we’ve put up a great many of my hard-to-find backlist books, dozens of my novels and short stories that have been out of print, but are no longer economically viable for a major publisher to reprint and distribute. Nevertheless, I want them available for all of the fans. I can post something there, maybe a side story, a novella, a different type of writing, that wouldn’t fit with my big publishers. On the other hand, I don’t think ambitious new writers should just dive into self-publishing without going through the hard work of competing against other aspiring authors, rising to the top of the heap, getting revision requests, detailed editing, major distribution. It’s not supposed to be easy - it’s like making a major-league baseball team. I think too many new authors turn too quickly to self-publishing because they see it as a quick and easy way to get published. Work hard and earn your chops.

  1. Tell us about The Saga of Seven Suns. Why did you write this series, and what do you hope to achieve with it?
The Saga of Seven Suns is my love-letter to the genre of science fiction, a big epic that I spent about eight years writing (and now I’m just about to start a new trilogy set in the same universe, twenty years after The Ashes Of Worlds). It has a huge cast of characters, hundreds of planets, a war among races on a galactic scale (not to mention alien races, monsters, space battles, ancient abandoned cities, killer robots, exploding planets and stars). What more could you want? I plotted the epic from start to finish, all seven volumes, and delivered the volumes on time, every single year. It’s really a huge scope, and I loved living there. I think it shows the scale of what science fiction can be.

  1. You have studied physics, and you have worked at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory for twelve years. Did your lifelong interest in science fiction inspire your study of science, and how has it influenced your writing?
I grew up watching and reading SF, so by the time I got to high school, I was also reading Astronomy Magazine, had my own telescope, and was interested in the science behind the science fiction. I needed to know about quasars, black holes, supernovas, etc. before I could write them. The more I learned about how the real universe worked, the more story ideas came to me (some of the ideas didn’t work, because the science precluded it, but that’s OK). Working for so many years, at a very large government research lab, allowed me to see how real scientists work and interact (believe me, it’s not the way you see it in the movies).

  1. What do you find most rewarding in the writing process?
I love building the stories, painting the worlds, and constructing the plotlines like an intricate puzzle.  Also, while I’m writing, I use a digital recorder and go out for hours on the forest or mountain trails here in Colorado. I get to go hiking and do writing at the same time - the best of both worlds.

  1. What do you find most challenging, and how do you overcome it?
I work on a lot of different projects at once, and balancing the priorities is often challenging. A lot of people and deadlines are all pulling at my time, so the only solution is to do it all.

  1. What advice would you give to other authors regarding marketing and promoting their books?
Writing a brilliant book doesn’t do any good if nobody knows about it and nobody reads it.  You have to get out and talk about your book, meet people, write blogs, go on Facebook or Twitter - but don’t just be a monotonous “buy my book!” commercial; be interesting, and then readers will think your book is interesting.

  1. Tell us about your Guinness World Record for "Largest Single Author Signing".
Hours and hours and hours - thousands of books signed, two bands playing, an entire street in Hollywood blocked off, free banana splits. I would run a pen into the ground and then toss it out to the audience like a rock drummer tossing a drumstick. I set the Guinness Record - I’m pretty sure someone has broken it since, but I’ve got the nice certificate on my wall.

  1. You have collaborated with other authors including Brian Herbert, Dean Koontz, Doug Beason and your wife, Rebecca Moesta. Tell us about your writing process when collaborating.

I love to brainstorm with other writers; Brian and I meet together and spend a few days just hashing out a new Dune or Hellhole novel; we write up the outline together, break down the chapters, and then we hash out who is going to write what chapters. Then we write the draft chapters, each edit them, and then combine them for more start-to-finish editing. Brian and I have each written our chapters in Hellhole Awakening, and now I’m working through the first edit. When I’m done, I’ll send it to Brian, and he’ll do the same. It goes back and forth until it’s done.

  1. Your deal with Bantam Books was the largest single science fiction contract in publishing history. Tell us about your Dune novels and the major new film currently in development by Paramount.
Dune has always been my favorite SF novel ever, so I am very pleased to be working with Frank Herbert’s son Brian on the new novels. We’ve now been working on big books together for twelve years. When we sold our first three Dune books: House Atreides, House Harkonnen, and House Corrino, that contract was the largest single SF contract in publishing history, and those books outsold Bantam’s projections by three times, according to our editor. Because Dune is such an incredible classic, there has always been Hollywood interest in remaking the original film and possibly some of the other novels, but right now there’s nothing in production. We’ll keep our fingers crossed.

  1. What aspirations, or reservations, do you have regarding the screen adaptation of your original books?
I would love to see film adaptations of some of my books, because it exposes a much larger audience to my work. Films are a different art form to books. I’d like to take a crack at doing a screenplay adaptation, but I’m primarily a novelist. Of course, we’ve all seen crappy adaptations of great novels more often than great adaptations, but even films like The Postman and Starship Troopers sold many hundreds of thousands of copies of the original novels. I see it as a good thing, regardless.

  1. Tell us a little about a good science fiction or fantasy book you’ve read recently.
I am halfway through reading Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb and really enjoying it. I always like Robin Hobb’s work and I’m glad to revisit her universe. Next up is The Temporal Void by Peter F. Hamilton, one of my favorite big SF writers.

  1. What new developments, in the world of science fact, excite you?
Good news, bad news: I was saddened to see the landing of the last space shuttle flight, the end of our shuttle program. Imagine a science fiction writer in the 1960s who wrote a future history novel about a space program that put a man on the Moon several times, then stopped due to lack of interest, then created a space shuttle program that went on for years of incredible breakthroughs, and then stopped without any successor program ready… That author would have been a laughing stock! But I was also glad to see the new launch of the Juno probe to Jupiter, even though it’ll take five years to get there, I can’t wait to see the pics.

Mt Guyot - 13,370 feet

  1. Tell us about your interest in mountain climbing.
I love being on the summit, meeting the challenge of scaling a slope, working my way along the rocks, usually alone, often racing gathering thunderstorms. I have checklists of peaks and knock off as many as I can every summer.