April 8, 2009 by SebastianPiccione, Project Fanboy

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April 8, 2009 by SebastianPiccione, Project Fanboy

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Bestselling Author, KEVIN J. ANDERSON interview
by SebastianPiccione


Bestelling author, and genre guru, KEVIN J. ANDERSON has written everything from his own creations to Star Wars, X-Files, and Dune. His latest works, ENEMIES & ALLIES, the first meeting of Superman and Batman against a 1950s historical fiction backdrop, and his own age-of-discovery fantasy epic, TERRA INCOGNITA, BOOK ONE: EDGE OF THE WORLD are hitting May 5th and June 8th, respectively. Despite his frantic writing schedule, he took the time to chat with us about the many worlds he lives in, figuratively speaking.

SEBASTIAN PICCIONE: Kevin, for anyone who may not know, can you briefly tell us who you are?

KEVIN J ANDERSON: OK, here’s the short-version bio: Kevin J. Anderson is the international bestselling author of nearly 100 books, with 20 million copies in print. He and Brian Herbert coauthored WINDS OF DUNE as well as 11 other Dune novels. For his “Terra Incognita” seafaring fantasy, THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, Anderson co-wrote the lyrics (with wife Rebecca Moesta) for a crossover rock CD featuring performers from Dream Theater, Saga, Asia, Kansas, Rocket Scientists, and Lana Lane. He has also written the SF epic “Saga of Seven Suns” and two novels set in the DC Universe: THE LAST DAYS OF KRYPTON and ENEMIES & ALLIES, the first meeting of Batman and Superman. He has written comics for DC, Marvel, Dark Horse, IDW, and Wildstorm.

SEB: So, between Star Wars, Superman, X-Files, and various movie novelizations to name a few, how did you become the “go to” guy for turning genre properties into novels?

KJA: They like what I do, and the fans like what I do. I have developed a reputation for reliability, professionalism, and good work. Lucasfilm kept asking me to do more and more projects over the course of many years -- a total of 54 Star Wars projects in all. Chris Carter, creator of the X-Files, read my Star Wars: Jedi Academy trilogy and contacted me to write his X-Files novels. He told my editor, “This guy gets it.” Paul Levitz, president of DC Comics, loves reading my Dune books with Brian Herbert, and that’s how I got the job to write LAST DAYS OF KRYPTON and ENEMIES & ALLIES.

Truly, I’m a fanboy at heart; I love genre shows, books, movies, comics. I grew up reading them, and now I have a dream job.

SEB: Star Wars. You’ve done your own trilogies, stand alones, short stories for the anthology books; where do you get your ideas? Are they things that you pitch, or is it more of a “Hey, Kevin, we need somebody to write a story that deals with the following..”? Or is it both?

KJA: It was some of each. Lucasfilm had read my original science fiction novels and asked me to do a trilogy, but I came up with the idea for the Jedi Academy books. While I was writing that, I met Tom Veitch (Dark Empire from Dark Horse Comics), and we decided to write comics together for the Tales of the Jedi; I proposed the first of the three anthologies (TALES FROM THE MOS EISLEY CANTINA), and then Lucasfilm asked me to do the other two. I pitched DARKSABER to them, then they asked me to write the young adult series, YOUNG JEDI KNIGHTS, with my wife Rebecca, and they also asked me to do the ILLUSTRATED STAR WARS UNIVERSE with Ralph McQuarrie.

SEB: Be it Star Wars, Super Heroes, or any of the other properties you’ve been so entrusted with, what is it like to tell stories with such iconic pop-culture characters? Is there a lot of pressure to live up to creator and fan expectations?

KJA: I really love writing my original books, but I also enjoy creating adventures with some of my favorite movies or shows. I see challenges, and advantages, to each. When I do my own novels, the readers approach it with a clean slate and no preconceptions, and I have to build the whole world and characters for them. When working with Star Wars, or Superman/Batman, or X-Files, or Star Trek, the reader already knows the universe (and obviously likes the show or movie, otherwise they wouldn’t have picked up the book). It’s an enormous challenge to take on that responsibility, to write a book that has to meet or exceed their expectations.

SEB: The DUNE sequels with Brian Herbert, how did you get involved with those?

KJA: DUNE has always been my favorite SF novel, and I have read it a dozen times. Frank Herbert wrote five sequels, but then he passed away, leaving the last volume -- CHAPTERHOUSE DUNE -- on a cliffhanger. Obviously, there was more to the story. His son Brian had published several well-received science fiction books of his own, including a collaboration with his father, the last novel Frank Herbert published. After publishing numerous popular Star Wars and X-Files books and receiving a lot of critical acclaim on my original fiction, I got in touch with Brian through a mutual friend. We met and brainstormed, and decided we could work together to tackle the enormous project Frank had left unfinished.

SEB: Are you and Brian working from any notes or ideas from his father, or are is this all you guys?

KJA: Frank had talked with Brian about writing books together in the Dune universe. After his death, Brian found some items he had left in a safe deposit box, including computer disks containing his last outline, for Dune 7. Among other boxes in storage, we found thousands of pages of notes, unpublished chapters, character backgrounds, epigraphs. So when we started work on the books, we had a great deal of material to work with.

SEB: For THE LAST DAYS OF KRYPTON, how much research did you do, and which (if any), version of Krypton was the most influential on yours?

KJA: When research entails reading tons of comics, it’s certainly a pleasure to do. The original Krypton has been shown, but really only peripherally, in many different iterations. The John Byrne “Man of Steel” was one cornerstone, as was the Richard Donner/Christopher Reeve film. I developed a story that was able to encompass, or at least rationalize, almost all of the contradictory continuities.

SEB: Your latest Superman, with Batman this time, book is ENEMIES & ALLIES, due out May 5th. What can you tell us?

KJA: When talking with my DC editor, we brainstormed another big book, a seminal story to tell -- not just any old adventure with Superman and Batman, but this is the first meeting of the two greatest heroes. I chose to set it in the 1950s during the Cold War, with Lex Luthor ratcheting up international tensions because he’s profiting so much from the military buildup. This is also the height of the flying saucer craze, the first publication of the James Bond novels (which Bruce Wayne reads), the launch of Sputnik, and all kinds of other details that tie in with the cultural landscape.

SEB: Now, I got my copy yesterday, and I’m through the first three chapters (that’s right kids, being PRESS has its advantages) and I love the intros. You start with very clear definitions of who these characters are, to themselves, to their respective cities, and even, their initial ideas about each other. Is that juxtaposition part of what drew you to this project?

KJA: Yes. I wanted to draw these people not just as icons, but as real characters. Batman/Bruce Wayne is a lost soul, scarred by his tragic childhood and yet forced to play the aloof and irresponsible playboy; Clark Kent/Superman is an alien but desperate to fit in; he has the powers to save the world, and yet in this era every portrayal of aliens is as a nasty, bloodthirsty invader.

SEB: Now, aside from researching the characters, how much research into the era, the 1950’s did you do? Because many of the references are very period specific?

KJA: I did a lot of research into the period, trying to keep all the little details correct, the type of watch Luthor would wear, for instance. However, the historical events aren’t exactly correct -- this is the same period, but a different timeline, if that makes any sense. Of course, this is a version of the 1950s that does have Superman and Batman.

SEB: Will you do more of these Superman/Batman novels? Could this become another franchise for you?

KJA: I sure had fun with this, and with the KRYPTON novel, and I’m a big fan of the DCU. My editor and I are bouncing ideas back and forth for the next adventure, but we have to make sure it’s a big enough story. I don’t just want to write a random adventure.

SEB: Now, you’re no stranger to the DCU, you wrote the JSA: STRANGE ADVENTURES mini back in 2004, correct? What was that like?

KJA: Ah, I loved that miniseries, and I wish DC would collect the six issues as a graphic novel. It’s also a period piece, set in the 1940s, with many icons of pulp science fiction, including the Golden Age grandmaster Jack Williamson (who passed away last year) -- I worked with him to include him as the main character in the series, interacting with the superheroes. He loved it, and I’m glad he got to read all the issues before he died.

SEB: Any other forays into the comic medium in your future?

KJA: We’ve been working for years to put together original Dune graphic novels. That may actually come about soon.

SEB: Now, last year you finished up one of your own series, THE SAGA OF SEVEN SUNS. What can you tell readers about those seven books?

KJA: It’s probably my masterpiece (so far -- I always try to stretch my skills with each new book). A big seven-volume continuous epic with dozens of main characters and a sprawling plot that describes a huge galactic war among several races. I wrote each book on time, and they came out regularly, and I ended the series when it was done… How many other SF authors can say something like that! All seven volumes are out in paperback now, so readers can pick up the entire series. First book is HIDDEN EMPIRE, so start there, but I’ve also written a graphic novel prequel, VEILED ALLIANCES, from Wildstorm.

SEB: This June, hot on the heels of ENEMIES & ALLIEs, the first in your next series TERRA INCOGNITA Book 1: THE EDGE OF THE WORLD will be released. Not only is this another of your own creations, but this one has its own soundtrack. Care to explain that?

KJA: My writing has always been heavily influenced by music, especially progressive rock, and with TERRA INCOGNITA I created a groundbreaking crossover project with ProgRock Records, adapting one of the novel's storylines to form the basis of an epic rock CD under the band name "Roswell Six." My wife Rebecca Moesta and I wrote all the lyrics to the songs, and accomplished keyboardist and composer Erik Norlander, well known for his band Rocket Scientists as well as his solo CDs, came aboard at the beginning of the project to write the music and to helm the production chores. His wife Lana Lane, the "Queen of Symphonic Rock," provides the female lead vocals. Other vocals are from James LaBrie (Dream Theater), Michael Sadler (formerly of Saga), and John Payne (Asia feat. John Payne). We also have the violinist from Kansas, David Ragsdale, and Kurt Barabas (Amaran’s Plight), guitarists Chris Brown (Ghost Circus) and Gary Wehrkamp (Shadow Gallery), bassist Kurt Barabas, drummer Chris Quirarte (Prymary), Martin Orford (IQ) on flute -- he came out of retirement to play on this CD! -- and Mike Alvarez on cello.

This was a terrific project. It’s a synergistic project unlike anything ever seen in the publishing and music business — an original novel and original CD from the same author. We have sample tracks up on MySpace.com/RoswellSix, and we’ve had over 20,000 plays in the past month. The CD is available for preorder now, and we’re giving a free poster with all preorders before the release. (Can you tell I’m proud of how it turned out?)

SEB: How important is music to your creative process? Do you listen as you write, and if so, what do you listen to?

KJA: I listen to music all the time, and I’m always discovering new performers. Sometimes I’ll edit to movie soundtracks, but rock is the most influential to me. Rush, Dream Theater, Tool, Kansas, all kinds of stuff.

SEB: So, what is the basic premise for the TERRA INCOGNITA trilogy?

KJA: It’s a big nautical epic set in a time like our Age of Discovery, with sailing ships and sea monsters and a big religious clash between two empires, like the crusades. Lots of characters, lots of drama. I am really enjoying this universe.

SEB: The second book in the TERRA INCOGNITA trilogy, THE MAP OF ALL THINGS. Are you still working on that, or is that finished?

KJA: I’ve finished the first draft and I’m working on the first edit right now; the book should be out on time in June 2010.

SEB: Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers before I let you go?

KJA: I really enjoy my job, and I love writing my books, whether originals or in an established universe I love. Among the projects I’ve got going, I’m sure your readers can find something that’ll interest them.

SEB: Well, Kevin, thanks for taking the time to talk with me. It’s been an honor and a privilege.
When a brand knew urinal puck showed up in the bathroom of my studio, I knew what I had to do.
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