Friday, August 7, 2009
A chat with Kevin J. Anderson
Kevin J. Anderson has authored over one hundred novels, almost half of those appearing on national and international best seller lists. He has co-authored 10 books in the Dune series and is currently on tour with his latest, The Winds of Dune with Brian Herbert, which hit the bookstores this week.
AW: Tell me about collaborating. Can you describe your process with Brian Herbert on the Dune series?
KJA: Brian and I have written over 2 million words together; we’re good friends and we love brainstorming. When we’re starting work on a new novel -- The Winds of Dune, for example -- we’ll meet together and spend a few days talking out the plot arcs, the scenes, the characters, the overall novel. We expand it into a chapter-by-chapter outline, then divide up the chapters, assigning them based on our strengths. We each write half of the book, then swap chapters and edit each others’ work; the file goes back and forth until we have polished the whole thing maybe ten times. That’s how the prose seems seamless, because we’ve both worked and reworked each chapter.
AW: When did you first know you were going to make it as an author?
KJA: Even when I started to submit stories to magazines, I was convinced I was going to get published, which is why I was so persistent in sending manuscript after manuscript. However, an author, even a very successful author, can never rest easy. Publishers fold, readers move on to other interests. I’ve published a hundred books, 48 of which have been national or international bestsellers, I’ve won a bunch of awards, but I don’t rest on my laurels. I always try to challenge myself with a novel that fascinates me, and one that will fascinate the readers.
AW: How many more Dune books can readers expect?
KJA: Frank Herbert mapped out about 25,000 years of human history, so there’s plenty of room to tell more stories. We currently have two additional Dune books under contract, The Throne of Dune(2011) and Leto of Dune (2013), but after those books are finished we’re considering going back to the post-Butlerian Jihad time period to talk about the formation of the Great Schools (the Bene Gesserit, the Spacing Guild, the Mentats, the Swordmasters).
AW: Has the shake-up in the publishing industry affected you? How?
KJA: Promotion and travel budgets have been drastically cut; one of my book tours was scrapped when the publisher cancelled all author tours, some of the publicity has been cut back, my editors don’t travel as much to conventions, so I can’t see them as often as I usually do. Several of my friends in the industry are now gone. The economic downturn has hit publishing hard.
AW: What was the most challenging piece of fiction you ever wrote? Why?
KJA: I spent three years researching and writing a very detailed and complicated historical fantasy, Captain Nemo, the life story of Jules Verne’s greatest character and his fictional friendship with Verne. I had to read stacks of Verne’s work, many historical references, study a great deal of geography and exploration journals. It also turned out to be one of my favorites among all my novels, so I think it was worth the extra effort.
AW: What has been your most memorable convention experience?
KJA: I just completed a stint as a special guest with Brian Herbert at the San Diego Comic-Con, which was a hurricane with fans -- 130,000 attendees, huge crowds at our panels, long lines at our autographings. And just the week before I was at OSFest, a very small convention in Omaha, where some of the con staff brewed a special batch of India Pale Ale for me, which they named after the Seven Suns series. From gigantic cons to small cons, they’re all special.
AW: Have you considered writing in another genre or medium?
KJA: Well, I’ve written novels, short stories, comics and graphic novels, and rock music, so I’ve covered a good portion of the available media (though I’d like to do a movie or TV script). In genres, I’ve done SF, F, Horror, Mystery, Thriller, even historical. I don’t really think in terms of genre, but of a story that captures my attention.
AW: Who encouraged you most when you started writing for publication?
KJA: I had some teachers in high school who were very supportive, and then college friends who were all aspiring writers and we formed a very active support group and workshop. After that, I maintained a circle of friends who offered advice and resources.
AW: Do you have any advice for new writers?
KJA: Be persistent and never stop learning how to improve your craft. Think of having a career as an author along the same lines as being a professional athlete. You don’t just break in after one or two tryouts; you have to work out daily and keep yourself at the top of your form.
AW: What are you working on now?
KJA: I am doing my final edit on the second “Terra Incognita” novel, The Map of All Things, and Brian Herbert and I have completed our first draft on our original SF trilogy, Hellhole. That, and getting ready for more than a month of book-signing appearances for The Winds of Dune.
Visit Kevin at www.wordfire.com.
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