INTERVIEW: Kevin J. Anderson

I think every avid reader has a short list of authors that they would love to talk to. A few months ago, I was lucky enough to have a conversation (online) with one of mine. Even HE will admit that I fangirled a smidge, no matter how professional I tried to behave. Just a few days after posting that interview, I took a break from my book blog while I worked on creating my next adventure. As far as I was concerned, it was the best way that I could have ended that part of my story, getting the chance to do that. When I sat down to start planning my future blog posts here, I wanted something that, for me, would be epic, but I couldn’t imagine topping that. It wasn’t until one night, around 3 am (when I seem to always get my best ideas), I just happened to wonder if he would be interested in coming back for a second interview – close that blog out with him, and then open this blog up with him. He agreed… and here we are.

Kevin J. Anderson is an incredible writer, and anyone who hasn’t take the time to read one of his Star Wars and Star Trek books or the continued saga of Dune is truly missing out. But for me, it will always be The Last Days of Krypton. It’s definitely top ten in my most favorite books of all time… and one of the few on that list that haven’t changed over the years. I came upon it… almost by accident. My family was getting prepared to evacuate for a hurricane, and we were in Walmart picking up some last minute items. This was back when the book area was in the front of the store, up near the registers, and my sister and I would go to that section every chance we got. My mom told me I had “exactly one minute” to pick something, so I just grabbed a book – one of several that I was trying to make my mind up on – not even looking at what it was. I read almost the entire thing in the car, and have read it several times since. You don’t have to necessarily be a Superman fan to pick this book up. It’s… before Superman. How his parents met and got together, why General Zod is such a jerk. The important stuff haha. It really is quite good.

Since that time, I had lent the book out a couple of times, until one day it didn’t come back. In a conversation with an old friend a couple of years ago, talking about favorite books, I mentioned that book and how much it meant to me. For my birthday, he purchased a hard cover copy and, knowing he was going to be at a convention that Kevin was at, he had him sign it for me. It is one of my most treasured items.

Ladies and Gentleman, I give you… my second interview with THE Kevin J. Anderson.

Meghan: Hi, Kevin. It’s been a little while since we sat down together. What’s been going on since we last spoke?

Kevin J. Anderson: Plenty, as usual. Many books released – Spine of the Dragon (epic fantasy) and Kill Zone (high-tech thriller) just in the past month, and a vampire thriller, Stake, coming out from Audible in October. And I’m a professor running a brand new grad-program for a Publishing MA at Western Colorado University, and I’m involved in the big Dune feature film and TV series. So, yeah, busy.

Meghan: Who are you outside of writing?

Kevin J. Anderson: Well, writing is an integral part of just about everything I do, and even the other parts of my life are related to my writing – as a teacher, a dedicated hiker in the mountains of Colorado (I dictate my writing while hiking), a publisher. And I’m also the grandfather of three great boys, and an appreciator of fine craft beers.

Meghan: How do you feel about friends and close relatives reading your work?

Kevin J. Anderson: I hope my friends and close relatives want to support me by reading my books! (Though, if I do have a the occasional graphic sex scene, that can be a little embarrassing.)

Meghan: Is being a writer a gift or a curse?

Kevin J. Anderson: A gift – I love writing, making up stories, creating worlds, playing with my imaginary friends. I can’t conceive a job that would be more satisfying for me.

Meghan: How has your environment and upbringing colored your writing?

Kevin J. Anderson: I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin, so I have a Midwestern sensibility and work ethic, and that “isolationism” kept me from being exposed to exotic cultures and foods. I didn’t even have Chinese food for the first time before I was in college. But now I pursue all sorts of experiences and foods with great gusto.

Meghan: What’s the strangest thing you have ever had to research for your books?

Kevin J. Anderson: When you write big SF and Fantasy, you have to research many strange things. Sometimes, when writing modern-day high-tech thrillers, you can step into dangerous territory. In one of my novels, Virtual Destruction, I had to interview many security experts about the best way to poison a prominent weapons researcher (that raised some eyebrows), and for another novel, Fallout, I toured the Hoover Dam complex and asked a few too many questions about how a terrorist might blow up the dam (turns out, you can’t), and that also raised some suspicions.

Meghan: Which do you find the hardest to write: the beginning, the middle, or the end?

Kevin J. Anderson: Probably the middle. I write massive books, 160,000 words or more, and when you hit the middle, you’re getting tired from all the work already, and the end seems very far off.

Meghan: Do you outline? Do you start with characters or plot? Do you just sit down and start writing? What works best for you?

Kevin J. Anderson: I outline very carefully. I feel that if you want to build a big, complex skyscraper, you better draw a blueprint first, rather than just digging holes and throwing up walls wherever you like. I really don’t like rewriting and throwing out chapters, so I prefer to plan ahead. This is doubly important if you collaborate, so you and your writing partner both have the same road map. Also, if you write media tie-in books, you must outline carefully, so the licensor can approve ahead of time.

Meghan: What do you do when characters don’t follow the outline/plan?

Kevin J. Anderson: I develop the characters as I develop the outline, so the plot itself is natural to the characters. If I reach a point where the characters really insist on doing something else, my subconscious is already retooling the storyline.

Meghan: What do you do to motivate yourself to sit down and write?

Kevin J. Anderson: It’s fun to write. I don’t need to trick myself.

Meghan: Are you an avid reader?

Kevin J. Anderson: I used to be a voracious reader, but now I WRITE so much, my days are filled with writing, editing, and proofreading my own prose. When relaxing, I prefer to sit back and enjoy a good movie or show. I do consume audiobooks a lot, though.

Meghan: What kind of books do you absolutely love to read?

Kevin J. Anderson: Great epics that are not necessarily in my genre. I read outside of SF/F because I learn a lot of new tricks that way.

Meghan: How do you feel about movies based on books?

Kevin J. Anderson: Since I’m working on the new DUNE movie, I certainly think that’s a great idea and I am confident with the cast and crew involved, it will be excellent. When a book is made into a movie, it’s beneficial to the author in almost all instances. Sometimes authors gripe about changes, but even a mediocre movie sells a lot of copies of the original book.

Meghan: Have you ever killed a main character?

Kevin J. Anderson: Dozens and dozens of times. Very sad…

Meghan: Do you enjoy making your characters suffer?

Kevin J. Anderson: I don’t enjoy it, but you do want to throw them into terrible and challenging circumstances, which makes the story compelling. When characters suffer great tribulations, we hope it shows the reader how they might cope with their own difficulties.

Meghan: What’s the weirdest character concept that you’ve ever come up with?

Kevin J. Anderson: I had to create a shape-shifting alien prostitute who worked on a space station and never knew what sort of customer would come in next. That was pretty weird.

Meghan: What’s the best piece of feedback you’ve ever received? What’s the worst?

Kevin J. Anderson: Best piece of advice was from an otherwise useless writing instructor when he told me “No bad guy ever THINKS he’s the bad guy.” Made me rethink antagonists completely. Worst piece of advice was when my agent suggested I should write medical thrillers, like Robin Cook, because they sold well. Since I know nothing at all about medicine or hospitals or doctors, that was not a good idea.

Meghan: What do your fans mean to you?

Kevin J. Anderson: As I write this, I spent five days at DragonCon (about 100,000 people) then came home for one day, then flew off to spend four days at Salt Lake FanX (another 100,000+). I do a great many conventions where I meet fans face-to-face, take pictures, sign their books. I also interact with them daily on social media. Without my fans, I wouldn’t be able to sell stories.

Meghan: If you could steal one character from another author and make them yours, who would it be and why? If you could write the next book in a series, which one would it be, and what would you make the book about? If you could write a collaboration with another author, who would it be and what would you write about?

Kevin J. Anderson: These last three questions… I just don’t even think like that. I have so many projects in the works, and so many already planned out in my head, that I simply don’t spend time considering what series I might like to do or what writers I would work with. I already do my solo books, and my collaborations with Brian Herbert, Doug Beason, and my wife Rebecca. I don’t have brains pace for any more!

Meghan: What can we expect from you in the future?

Kevin J. Anderson: Kill Zone just came out in hardcover from Forge Books. Stake will be out from Audible in October. From my own WordFire Press, I just published Saga of Seven Suns: Two Short Novels, and I will be releasing new editions of my novels The Dragon Business, Captain Nemo, and The Martian War.

Meghan: Where can we find you?

Kevin J. Anderson: Twitter ** Facebook ** Instagram ** Website (alas, a website interminably under construction)

Meghan: Do you have any closing words for your fans or anything you’d like to say that we didn’t get to cover in this interview or the last?

Kevin J. Anderson: I’ll keep telling stories. I’m glad a lot of people like to read them.

Kevin J. Anderson is the author of 160 novels, 56 of which have appeared on national or international bestseller lists; he has over 23 million books in print in thirty languages. Anderson has coauthored fourteen books in the Dune series with Brian Herbert, over 50 books for Lucasfilm in the Star Wars universe. He has written for the X-Files, Star Trek, Batman and Superman, and many other popular franchises. For his solo work, he’s written the epic SF series, The Saga of Seven Suns, and a sweeping nautical fantasy trilogy, Terra Incognita, accompanied by two progressive rock CDs (which he wrote and produced). He has written two steampunk novels, Clockwork Angels and Clockwork Lives, with legendary drummer and lyricist Neil Peart from the band Rush. He also created the popular humorous horror series featuring Dan Shamble, Zombie PI, and has written eight high-tech thrillers with Colonel Doug Beason.

Anderson holds a physics/astronomy degree and spent 14 years working as a technical writer for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. He is now the publisher of Colorado-based WordFire Press, a new-model publisher using innovative techniques and technologies to release books worldwide in print and eBooks. They have released over 300 titles. Anderson is also one of the founders of the Superstars Writing Seminar, which has been one of the premiere professional and career development seminars for writers. He is also an accomplished public speaker on a wide range of topics.

He and his wife, bestselling author Rebecca Moesta, have lived in Colorado for 20 years; Anderson has climbed all of the mountains over 14,000 ft in the state, and he has also hiked the 500-mile Colorado Trail.

The Last Days of Krypton
Before there was Superman… there was Krytpon, a doomed world, and two parents who gave us their only son…

Everyone knows how Kal-El – Superman – was sent to Earth just before his planet exploded. But what led to such a disaster? Now, in The Last Days of Krypton, Kevin J. Anderson presents a sweeping tale of the pomp and grandeur, the intrigue and passion, and the politics and betrayals of a doomed world filled with brave heroes and cruel traitors.

Against the spectacular backdrop of Krypton’s waning halcyon days, there is the courtship and marriage of Kal-El’s parents, the brilliant scientist Jor-El and his historian wife, Lara. Together they fight to convince a stagnant, disbeliving society that their world is about to end. Jor-El’s brother, Zor-El, leader of the fabled Argo City, joins the struggle not only to save the planet but also to fight against the menace of the ruthless and cunning General Zod.

The diabolical Zod, future archenemy of Superman, avails himself of a golden opportunity to seize power when the android Brainiac captures the capital city of Kandor. As Zod’s grip on the populace tightens and his powers grow, he too is blind to all the signs that point ot hte death of the very civilization he is trying to rule.

Through all of this, Jor-El and Lara’s love for each other, their history, and their son allows for Krypton to live on even as the planet is torn apart around them. For in the escape of their baby lies Krypton’s greatest gift – and Earth’s greatest hero.

The Last Days of Krypton is a timeless, groundbreaking exploration of a world that has never been fully defined, and reveals the extraordinary origins of a legend that has never ceased to amaze and astound generation after generation.

Wake the Dragon 1: Spine of the Dragon
Bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson’s triumphant return to epic fantasy, Spine of the Dragon, is a politically charged adventure of swords, sorcery, vengeance, and the rise of sleeping giants.

Two continents at war, the Three Kingdoms and Ishara, are divided by past bloodshed. When an outside threat arises – the reawakening of a powerful anceint race that wants to remake the world – the two warring nations must somehow set aside generational hatred and form an alliance to fight their true enemy.

Kill Zone: A High-Tech Thriller
Power duo Kevin J. Anderson and Doug Beason team up in Kill Zone, a perilous disaster thriller for the modern age.

Deep within a mountain in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a Cold War-era nuclear weapons storage facility is being used to covertly receive more than 10,000 tons of nuclear waste stored across the U.S. Only Department of Energy employee, Adonia, and a few others, including a war hero, a senator, and an environmental activist, are allowed access to perform a high-level security review of the facilities. But Hydra Mountain was never meant to securely hold this much hazardous waste, and it has the potential to expolde, taking with it all of Albuquerque and spreading radioactivity across the nation.

This disaster situation proves all too possible when a small plane crashes at a nearby military base, setting off Hydra’s lockdown and trapping Adonia and her team in the heart of the hazardous, waste-filled mountain. Now, the only direction for them to go is deeper into the mountain, through the tear gas and into a secretive area no one was ever supposed to know about.

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