Kevin J. Anderson has more than 140 published 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 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 Shadows trilogy, and his humorous horror series featuring Dan Shamble, Zombie PI. He has edited numerous anthologies, written comics and games, and penned the lyrics to two rock CDs. Anderson and his wife Rebecca Moesta are the publishers of WordFire Press.
i write. i make up stuff. i adventure hard, so you don’t have to.
Here’s an interview on writing and books with my good friend Jody Lynn Nye. I thought you might enjoy it—and read Jody’s books! Her new nonfiction book, with Bill Fawcett, is Pros and Cons, and her novel Taylor’s Ark, were both just released by WordFire Press.
Do you have a pre-writing routine or ritual?
Every morning, when I get up, I feed the cat, then make my cocoa, check out Facebook, update my computer programs and game apps, and watch a few minutes of TV with my husband or stare out the glass doors at the local wildlife (we live on a thickly forested lot). I flip open my laptop and start on the project I left off the night before. Sometimes that means I spend a lot of the day in pajamas, but I understand from my friends that it’s not too uncommon a practice among writers. I am most productive in the morning, so I don’t even look at my e-mail until noon or later.
I see you have cats. Are they helpful when writing your books?
At the moment, we have only one cat, Jeremy, a black Texas longtail. He’s very helpful, if by helpful you mean coming in to yow at me that he’s getting insufficient attention just as I’m trying to concentrate on a scene. I always threaten him that I’ll take my computer and go to the library to work. He stretches out on the carpet as I stroke him, eyes slitted, purring, because he knows I hardly ever make good on that threat.
What do you have to have in order to write? A favorite beverage, warm cat on your lap, candles, heavy metal rock blasting in your ears, or . . . ?
No music, no TV. Too distracting. If I have snacks in reach, I’ll nibble, so I limit what’s in reach. The cat is not much help (see above), but sometimes he lies on my legs on the other side of the laptop. When I hit a knotty moment, I’ll play a few hands of solitaire or check in on FB, then go back to it.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I like to be challenged. I’ve taken on a few projects because they made me stretch. I don’t write horror or dystopia as a rule, but I have recently written stories in various friends’ literary worlds that involved those themes. I learn a lot about myself when I try new things. When I hit a snag, it means something is fundamentally flawed in my project. I need to get away from it for a while to see where the failing lies. That can take a while, and often I don’t have a while. I have a problem writing short. My husband teases me that I will “write no book before it is long,” paraphrasing the Paul Masson wine commercials. I can edit down if I need to, but I hate to have to do that.
Are you as funny as your books?
I like to think I’m funny. Contrariwise, I like people to take me seriously.
Chocolate, dark, 73% cocoa solids or better. I lose more of my tolerance for sugar every year.
Several. Dorothy Sayers’s Lord Peter Wimsey novels, particularly Murder Must Advertise or Gaudy Night. Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe books, especially The Black Mountain and The Doorbell Rang. Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. Nine Tomorrows by Isaac Asimov. I could go on and on.
Ruby red and amethyst purple.
Night or day?
Coffee or chocolate?
Chocolate. I don’t drink coffee.
Dogs or cats?
Cats, now and forever. Dogs are nice people, but I prefer cats.
Fish or gerbils?
Fish. Gerbils are terrible gossips.
What was your inspiration for Taylor’s Ark?
My inspiration for Taylor’s Ark was curiosity about the future of medicine in space, and how a doctor could make a living. I have a family predilection for medicine, with an emphasis on neuroscience. My brother’s a neurologist, my uncle’s a psychiatrist, my mom’s a psychiatric nurse, my cousin’s an OB-GYN, another cousin just retired as the head of surgical education at a nearby hospital, and yet another cousin is a dentist who doubles in paleontological dentistry. He diagnosed Sue (the T. rex at the Field Museum) with an abscess that probably led to her death. I might have gone into medicine if I hadn’t been more interested in pursuing a career in media. I read medical journals and watch a lot of shows like Untold Stories of the ER.
At the time Taylor’s Ark was written, environmental medicine was starting to take hold as a specialty. It’s my belief that it will become even more important in the future as humankind steps onto new worlds and finds new things that could potentially make it sick or kill it. Genetically speaking, we can’t get infections from alien germs, because we don’t share any common microbes, but they can poison us or give us rashes.
Being a romantic at heart, I also gave Shona a husband she loves and who loves and supports her. They may be one of the few happily-married couples in space. I thought it would be fun to give Shona animals to supplement her diagnostic devices. Harry the cat and Saffie the dog have their own very distinct personalities as well as their talents. Shona is also responsible for the well-being of an alien visitor who mooches her candy supply and is writing a scholarly dissertation about human foibles. Chirwl is the small being on the ground next to Shona’s right foot on the cover. I hope to go on with the series one day.