The Writer Who Had No Future: An
Interview With Kevin J. Anderson
He published his first novel, RESURRECTION INC., in 1985, and has gone on to write a host of original novels both solo and with his frequent collaborator Doug Beason. He's also written Star Wars books, three X-Files novels, and comic book scripts. With his wife Rebecca Moesta, he's written fourteen books for the Young Jedi Knights series.
In 1998, he did a 27-city publicity tour in 28 days for the novel AI! PEDRITO!, which he adapted from an unproduced L. Ron Hubbard script. He capped that tour by setting a Guiness World Record for the number of books signed in one sitting. He also released LETHAL EXPOSURE, co-written with Beason.
Anderson recently signed the largest contract in science fiction history to write three prequels to Frank Herbert's DUNE. Anderson and co-author Brian Herbert are getting a reported $3 million for the books. His new epic series is THE SAGA OF SEVEN SUNS.
All this from the man who once won a "Writer With No Future" award for producing the most pounds of rejection slips at a convention. He piled up more than 750 rejections along the way, but now Anderson can count on plenty of acceptances in the years ahead.
SN: How did you get started in writing?
Anderson: Back when I was five years old, I saw a movie called "War of the Worlds," and it blew me away. I remember not sleeping at all that night, not because I was so scared, but because I was so thrilled about how the story was. I thought,"This is the best thing I have ever seen." Of course, at five years old, I hadn't seen a whole lot.
I decided I wanted to do science fiction. I was only five years old, so I couldn't write it. I drew pictures and told the stories to go with them. When I was about ten years old, I saved up enough money from babysitting and mowing lawns and stuff so that I could buy a bicycle like every other boy. Instead, I spent the money on a typewriter because I wanted to be a writer.
SN: You are renowned for your persistence. What kept you going when things looked dark?
Anderson: What looked dark was that people didn't see that I was going to be around anyway. I never had any question. I just wondered how long it would take the other editors and writers to see. I've had a lot of rejection slips, but I don't look at them as failures, I look at them as steps along the way to learning what I was doing. I'm a lot better writer now than I was when I was getting rejected.
It's not entirely because I'm successful and famous that I don't get rejected as much anymore. It's because I'm a better writer. You learn your trade as you go through. You're not wasting your time.
SN: What are the challenges and rewards of working with media titles or someone else's property?
Anderson: Working with the media tie-ins, there's a whole bunch of rewards. They sell a lot better than a lot of my original things. We get a very broad readership. We get lots of families' and younger readers' responses that say, "I never liked to read until I read these books," and they realize that picking up a book and sitting down can actually be a fun afternoon or a cool way to entertain yourself. We've got letters from kids who learned to read from our books. To me, that's a great reward.
The challenge is, because Star Wars and X-Files are so popular, it's much more work to get all the details right than to just make up your own world. You have to go back to somebody else's sources and somebody has to approve them. There's kind of an extra committee involved. I do both, I write my own stuff and I handle media fiction, and I also collaborate.
SN: How do you handle collaboration?
Anderson: When I pick a collaborator, I try to get somebody whose skills complement my own, who does things that I don't do well, or brings expertise that adds to the book. The book that I write with a collaborator is different than anything I would write on my own.
SN: What motivates you to keep going on so many projects?
Anderson: I love writing. I love telling stories. Doug Beason, one of my collaborators, once said if I ever stopped writing, my head would explode. I really enjoy it. It's not like I have to drag myself to the desk every morning and force myself to put in a few hours. If it's hard work and you don't want to do it, then by all means, this is not the profession for you, because there's a lot of time involved. I'm very successful now, but it took me almost fifteen years to get to the point where I was considered successful. Fifteen years, that's almost as much time as brain surgeons put in. It's not something that you step into lightly. You have to decide it's what you want to do. It's going be a lot of work for a long time.
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