Today’s interview is with Kevin J. Anderson, New York Times Bestselling author. Probably best-known for his contributions to the Star Wars universe and his Dune prequels with Brian Herbert, Kevin is currently hard at work on the first book in a new trilogy, The Dark Between The Stars., a follow-up to his bestselling SF epic, The Saga of Seven Suns.
Adam Gaffen for Amazing Stories: What’s the background of The Dark Between The Stars ? Is it set in a universe you’ve already explored? Where did the idea for the book come from?
Kevin J.Anderson: The Dark Between the Stars is space opera on as grand a scale as I can imagine, Dune and Star Wars and my entire lifetime of reading science fiction. From 2002 through 2008 I published a seven-volume epic, The Saga of Seven Suns, about a million and a quarter words with dozens of storylines, characters, planets. It just grew and grew. But I also had some major plotlines that just couldn’t fit within the 7-volume series—and I had promised my fans that I would come out with each big volume on time, every year, AND that the story would really end when I said it would.
But I kept files and files of even bigger ideas that deserved full treatment, but I had to wait for the right time. After living for eight years in the Seven Suns universe, I needed to explore some other literary landscapes—I did my Terra Incognita fantasy trilogy (about half a million words long), the Hellhole series and a new Dune trilogy with Brian Herbert. But all the while, a “next generation” trilogy for Seven Suns was taking shape in my mind—the Saga of Shadows. The Dark Between the Stars is the first volume.
AS This might be tough, but let’s give it a shot. How about a one sentence synopsis of your novel?
KJA Twenty years after the elemental conflict that nearly tore apart the cosmos in The Saga of Seven Suns, a new threat emerges from the darkness, and the human race must set aside its own inner conflicts to rebuild their alliance with the Ildiran Empire for the survival of the galaxy.
AS I know that you turn out prodigious volumes of work; how long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
KJA This has been building inside my imagination for many years, and it was like a hunting dog straining at the leash, ready to be released. Every November, writers around the world embark on NaNoWriMo, an exercise to write 50,000 words of a draft in a single month. This year, once I started The Dark Between the Stars, I plunged in headfirst, and wrote 120,000 words of draft in October and 120,000 words of draft in November. Altogether, at 240,000 words, this is my longest novel so far. And now I’m in the midst of editing! [Note that this probably won’t hit bookstores until 2014 or so.]
AS What other works would you compare your story to?
KJA The really big ones—not just Dune and Star Wars, but Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep, Peter Hamilton’s “Night’s Dawn” series, Joan Vinge’s SnowQueen and Summer Queen, or a science fiction version of George RR Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire. I love having a story this big to play with, and all those characters to turn loose in the story.
AS Of course, this isn’t the only iron you have in the fire right now. What other projects are coming up soon?
KJA For something completely different, I have a humorous horror series featuring Dan Shamble, Zombie PI. The first three books—DEATH WARMED OVER, UNNATURAL ACTS, and HAIR-RAISING—as well as an original novelette “Stakeout at the Vampire Circus,” all come out between September 2012 and May 2013. Those are really fun to write and really funny. I just released a wonderful steampunk fantasy, CLOCKWORK ANGELS, based on the Rush album of the same name and co-written with Neil Peart. Brian Herbert and I are about to publish HELLHOLE AWAKENING, the second novel in that series, and we’re editing MENTATS OF DUNE right now.
AS How did you first connect with Brian Herbert? It seems that many of your recent books have been collaborations with him.
KJA We’ve done fifteen novels together so far—substantial novels—13 in the Dune universe and two in our original Hellhole universe. I had written many of my own novels, as well as many successful Star Wars novels and other fiction set in existing universes. Many years after Frank Herbert had passed away, I was a huge Dune fan waiting to see how the story ended. Brian and I met through a mutual friend and we discussed the possibility of finishing the story Frank had left uncompleted, and also to reawaken interest in the wonderful Dune universe. We’re in the middle of a new trilogy now, which began with last January’s SISTERHOOD OF DUNE, that tells the story about the formation of the great schools in the Dune universe.
AS You also recently worked with Rush and Neil Peart. Can you tell us a bit about that experience?
KJA Neil Peart and I have been friends since shortly after the publication of my first novel, RESURRECTION, INC.—more than twenty years. Rush music has always been very inspirational to me, and Neil is not only a fantastic lyricist but also an accomplished writer in his own right, mostly of nonfiction. We did a short story together, “Drumbeats” (just reissued as an eBook), but we were looking for that really cool, really big project. The new Rush album “Clockwork Angels” is a steampunk concept album with a great fantasy story woven through it. Neil was talking with me as he developed the story, and early on we decided it should be a novel. We plotted it together, and although I did most of the actual writing, he read each draft chapter after it came off of my word processor. Rush artist Hugh Syme painted original illustrations for the novel, and CLOCKWORK ANGELS: THE NOVEL was a tremendously satisfying experience.
I love my job!
AS Thanks for your time, Kevin! Are there any web sites you’d want your fans to know about for more information?