Kevin J. Anderson has to be one of the busiest science fiction/fantasy writers in the business. His work has been translated into 30 languages, and has more than 20 million books in print. Among those are original novels and novel series, collaborative works with his wife sci-fi author Rebecca Moesta, Brian Herbert (which expand on Frank Herbert’s classic Dune universe), and a string of movie and TV tie-in novels from The X-Files to Star Wars.
In addition to all of his writing endeavors, Anderson and Moesta also have an e-book publishing business with about 60 titles, they are actively promoting. It seems like the most hectic of lives to be living while trying to crank out a continuous string of novels!
His latest novel Hellhole Awakening, part two of a trilogy, is about to be released by Tor, and just before he goes on tour beginning March 26, Kevin took the time to sit down and chat about his latest projects— and his extremely active writers’ life.
Kevin, I must say, your life sounds completely exhausting!
I just drink a lot of coffee and work all the time! When I see in a movie a writer sitting off in his cabin staring into the distance, waiting for the muse to suggest a literary phrase to him, and when it doesn’t he goes out and walks in the woods to be inspired! That is as big as a fantasy as the movie Independence Day. It’s not the way [professional] work. Any writer I know who is successful has a schedule kind of like mine. They’ve always got a million irons on the fire, there’s always something to promote and something to propose and something to write, something to rewrite, something to edit, something to research. I love the whole publishing business and book selling and I love to travelling and seeing my fans and I can’t think of any job I’d rather do.
How many hours a day do you write? You can’t possibly write 24/7, but it sounds like you get pretty close to that.
It’s probably a good ten maybe to twelve hours a day that I’m doing something to do with writing, whether that’s doing an interview, editing, or actual writing. That’s seven days a week. I’ve got all these stories that I’m working on. The sooner I finish this story, the sooner I can start this next story.
You’ve written both for worlds you’ve created, like Hellhole, but also in worlds created by others: the tie-in novels for Star Wars, The X-Files, even your Dune novels based on Frank Herbert’s legendary novels. Do you have a preference? Do you find it more freeing to be writing in your own world or you prefer to write in someone else’s world where you don’t have to think as much about creating a unique universe?
The answer is yes.
Care to elaborate?
See I’m a fan boy. I grew up being a fan of science fiction and watching all the movies and watching the TV shows. We would even run around in the backyard playing Star Trek! So that was part of my growing up and my introduction to science fiction. Dune was my favorite science fiction novel of all time, and Star Wars—I have no idea how many times I saw it in the movie theaters. So it’s really cool to write stories set in these universes that have already meant so much to me.
There are advantages in that. It’s like you’re climbing aboard a car that already has a big engine. There are already fans who are going to grab the book because it says Star Wars on [the cover]; the characters are already [established]. If I say “Han Solo and Chewbacca flew the Millennium Falcon to Tatooine,” I don’t have to describe anything; you know Han, you know Chewbacca, you know what the Millennium Falcon is, and you know Tatooine. But swap out of all those words for made-up characters from an original novel, and I certainly have to explain to you everything about.
I’ve got a real head start when I’m writing a book in the Dune universe, for example, but there are also constraints. I have to follow the rules of that universe. Dune is very complicated. It has a very intense political setup that’s got lots of rules, lots of detailed philosophical underpinning, and if you’re going to put on those shoes, you have to walk the walk, and you have to know what your doing. Of course the advantage is that you have fans willing to take it up because they already liked the universe. But the disadvantages is that you have fans that may be so knowledgeable about the universe, they know more about it than you do, and they very much want everything exactly perfect.