With more than 120 books and over 50 U.S. and international bestsellers under his expert, sci-fi author and movie tie-in novelist Kevin J. Anderson has been cooking up creative delights for fans for years. He’s crafted for universes like STAR WARS, THE X-FILES, and DUNE (with Brian Herbert); Dark Horse comics series including TALES OF THE JEDI with Tom Veitch; various PREDATOR comics; the STAR CHALLENGER series for children, aimed at promoting STEM studies; and original series such as the space opera SAGA OF SEVEN SUNS and DAN SHAMBLE, ZOMBIE P.I. Through it all, Anderson entertains and showcases the wonders of other worlds.
RECURSOR: What appeals to you about writing science fiction?
KJA: I have always used my imagination and dreamed of other worlds, whether in the far or different future, or in imaginary fantasy worlds. I got my degree in physics/astronomy so I could get the science right in my SF. I don’t want to write about boring things I can see every day!
Which sci-fi creations have influenced you?
DUNE, of course, is one of the most important influences as a novel. Frank Herbert’s mastery of ecology, science, politics, and great adventure was wonderful. I got heavily into STAR TREK in high school, and I read voraciously — Bradbury, Asimov, Heinlein, Andre Norton. They all inspired my imagination. And then I started writing my own.
You’ve written many novels for properties like STAR WARS, THE X-FILES, and others. What are the challenges and joys of writing in someone else’s created universe? How do you bring your own vision to it?
I am a huge fan, so it’s a terrific honor to be asked to write for STAR WARS, DUNE, STAR TREK, BATMAN and SUPERMAN. I love doing it and running with some of my favorite characters and universes, although occasionally the red tape, approvals, and licensors make things difficult.
I always bring my own vision. I just write in different universes. Sometimes they are wholly created by my imagination; sometimes they are set in the real world, or in a well-known imaginary world, like DUNE or STAR WARS. A good writer knows the parameters and writes the best story possible with those ingredients.
You’ve worked a lot with co-creators, including Doug Beason, Brian Herbert, and your wife, Rebecca Moesta. What is it like to collaborate on writing?
I like making up stories with other people, and I enjoy brainstorming. It was obvious for me to work with Brian Herbert on further DUNE novels, and we work exceptionally well together. We’ve written close to three million words together, not just the DUNE novels but also our original HELLHOLE trilogy.
I like finding a coauthor whose skills and knowledge balance out my own. Doug Beason and I just sold a new high-tech thriller, DOOMSDAY CASCADE, about the nuclear power industry, and I couldn’t have done it without Doug’s expertise. The books we do together are different from anything I could have done alone.
How do you negotiate the compromises that must happen in a collaboration?
By working together. We brainstorm and come up with the best story. It involves some negotiating and convincing, but we always end up agreeing on the best way to tell the story.
Some of your work has been written to a young audience, like the CRYSTAL DOORS series and the YOUNG JEDI KNIGHTS novels. How is it different, if it is, writing for children/teens versus adults?
I think the key is NOT to consider it any different. I still tell the best story, and the characters are in danger as well as doing something significant. They just happen to be younger than in a typical adult novel. I think too many people get focused on writing “for kids.” I treat them as “readers.” I read DUNE when I was 11, and that’s not a kid’s book! You shouldn’t underestimate your readers.
What inspired you to work on STAR CHALLENGERS, books that encourage students to pursue STEM studies? (Proceeds go partly to the Challenger Center, a charitable education organization founded after the 1986 Challenger tragedy.)
My wife Rebecca and I worked with June Scobee Rodgers, founder of the Challenger Center, to come up with an exciting science fiction adventure series that would also get kids interested in science. We developed a story based around the Challenger Learning Centers (which are wonderful experiences — simulators that take students to a future space station or moon base), only our characters are actually transported into the future to experience real moon bases, real space stations. And they learn that if they and their generation don’t look to the future and keep studying science, then our future is doomed.
It’s a great story, with a great lesson. All the books are available online. I am a board member of the Challenger Center, and I have always been supportive of their mission.
What are you working on right now?
I just released my new Dan Shamble novel, TASTES LIKE CHICKEN. Doug Beason and I are doing final revisions to our thriller DOOMSDAY CASCADE. And I’ve got my big epic fantasy, SPINE OF THE DRAGON, going through its revisions now. Plus some short stories…not to mention running my own publishing company (WordFire Press). And I’m halfway through my classes to get my MFA because I’ve been hired as an Adjunct Professor to teach writing and the publishing certificate program for Western State Colorado University. So, yeah, there’s enough to keep me busy.
What advice would you give to sci-fi authors today?
These days, more than any other time in publishing, authors need to keep in touch with their fans, to fill them in and let them know about new books, because there is so much available. I am expanding an ambitious readers group, where I’ll be interacting a lot with the dedicated fans, giving free books, sneak previews, and a lot of updates. It’s free if you want to keep in touch, and you’ll get a free copy of my Dan Shamble story collection WORKING STIFF. Go to wordfire.com to find out more or sign up.
Kevin J. Anderson has published more than 140 books, 56 of which have been national or international bestsellers. He has written numerous novels in the STAR WARS, X-FILES, and DUNE universes, as well as unique steampunk fantasy novels CLOCKWORK ANGELS and CLOCKWORK LIVES, written with legendary rock drummer Neil Peart, based on the concept album by the band Rush. His original works include the SAGA OF SEVEN SUNS series, the TERRA INCOGNITA fantasy trilogy, the SAGA OF SHADO trilogy, and his humorous horror series featuring DAN SHAMBLE, ZOMBIE PI. He has edited numerous anthologies, written comics and games, and the lyrics to two rock CDs. Anderson and his wife Rebecca Moesta are the publishers of WordFire Press.