his month, Genre Chick Alethea Kontis puts on her best cowgirl hat and learns how to wrestle sandworms from real-life superhero Kevin J. Anderson. Whether master of ceremonies, mentor, or writing machine, this “Mister Anderson” is always at the top of his game.
New York Times-bestselling author Kevin J. Anderson is a fantastic guy and a machine, all in one neat and tidy package. He juggles other worlds (like Star Wars, X-Files, Dune, and Krypton) along with his own books (like the Saga of Seven Suns series), the books he writes with Rebecca (the Crystal Doors trilogy), and other offerings like Slan Hunter, where he finishes the last book in SF legend A.E. van Vogt’s catalog. He also keeps a MySpace page (as well as a blog and a newsletter), mentors a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome, donates hundreds of books a year to charity auctions, and appears at libraries and SF conventions all over the world.
I spoke with him at a recent convention to ask a few things about the inner workings of the “Great and Powerful Kevin.”
Alethea Kontis: Was there ever a time when you weren’t writing?
Kevin J. Anderson: Between the ages of one and four, I don’t think I was writing. But I do remember I started writing when I was five–I’ve been writing or storytelling ever since then. There was never a time when I wasn’t absolutely convinced that I wanted to tell stories or be a writer. Since I was five, it’s what I wanted to do, and my whole life has been on that track.
AK: What books did you read as a kid?
KJA: The very first book that I ever read was H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine. And then I quickly read The War of the Worlds after that. I read children’s science fiction-type books–there’s a whole series about a kid named Danny Dunn who got into adventures where he met aliens, or turned invisible, or shrunk down to a dinky size. There were a couple of books by A.M. Lightner: Rock of Three Planets and Space Plague. I loved those books when I was in second grade.
It was many years later, when I was a many-times published novelist that I found [Lightner's] address in the SFWA membership directory. I thought, “I should write her a letter and tell her about that.” The very next month, I got the issue of Locus that had her obituary in it. She was about 90 years old and had died in a nursing home. I’m really sad I didn’t write her a letter.
I read Frank Herbert’s Dune when I was 12. I just loved it. I read it again when I was in college, and I’ve read it again about 10 more times since then.
AK: What difficulties did you have with The Last Days of Krypton?
KJA: The biggest difficulty was trying to tell the strongest story using as much of the Superman mythos as I could. There are so many contradictions itself in the universe–from all the different comic incarnations, to the Christopher Reeve movies, to the new Superman Returns, to the Smallville TV show–all of them have varied interpretations.
I got to pull all the things that I thought were all the coolest parts of Superman history and wrap them all together into a big story. It’s just a big space opera on an alien planet with a cool, almost Greco-Roman culture. One of the things people think is strange is that in The Last Days of Krypton they’re all ON Krypton. It’s a book about Superman, but nobody has superpowers. Nobody flies in this book. Nobody gets shot at by bank robbers who then throw guns at them at the end of it.
AK: How have libraries helped you and/or your career?
KJA: We’ve done many talks at libraries–I love the Friends of the Libraries system and the speaking programs that they have. We’ve traveled around to a lot of different places–whether it’s our hometown, across the state, or to many different states–we’ve been to the ALA convention in SF a few years ago…
I think libraries are great because of the librarians. In all my books, nothing goes above PG, so they know they can recommend them to everybody, whether it’s a Star Wars book or an X-Files book. Librarians get people hooked on my books. There are kids who come in who don’t like to read but are assigned to read a book, and librarians will recommend one of my Star Wars books. The kids already like Star Wars, so they gobble up those.
I’ve had people come up to me that say they never liked to read until they read my books.
AK: With all the work you’ve done in the Star Wars universe, have you ever had George Lucas on speed dial?
KJA: I’ve spoken with him, met with him a couple of times, but never on speed dial.
AK: Is there anyplace where you would not write?
KJA: In a vat of acid, or a boiling cauldron, or on the hospital bed while undergoing open-heart surgery. But probably, those are the only limitations.
AK: Do you sing in the shower?
KJA: I plot stories in the shower.
AK: When was the last time you bought your wife [author Rebecca Moesta] flowers?
KJA: My wife generally likes balloons, but I did buy her balloons and flowers on her birthday about two months ago.
AK: Good man. Do you really live in a castle?
KJA: I really live in a castle with five turrets, three fireplaces, a portcullis, a suit of armor, a sword in the stone, a big fountain, flagstone floors… it’s not a real castle, though, because we actually have plumbing and heating that works.
AK: If you could be any superhero, who would you be?
KJA: I’ve always had a soft spot for Green Lantern. He’s got his ring, but the cool thing about the Green Lantern is that his powers come directly from what he believes he can do. I’ve always believed I could do things… and when I set my mind to it, I usually accomplish them. Green Lantern sort of symbolizes the way I view my life. If you have your goal and you devote you entire attention and talent to it, you will overcome any obstacle.