Genre Chick Interview: Kevin J. Anderson

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.

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My New Backyard

Here it is — I still can’t get used to it. Imagine this picture with ten feet of trees above every piece of that back fence, obscuring the view of any other house. No one could see me from my porch.

Normally, at 4:00 in the afternoon the entire lawn would be in shadow. This is what I get to look at now.


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Trinoc*Con Pics

I finally had the time to get my pics together from LA and Trinoc*Con — I’ll post more of them later (or, more likely, Seamus will).

But I had to share this one — I had been at the convention for maybe half an hour.

I swear, it’s getting to where you can’t take me anywhere…without having to call 9-1-1.

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Thank you, everyone

I think I’ve had more comments and emails than I’ve ever had for any other post before — thank you all so much for the tremendous support. I can’t say how muh I appreciate all your advice and input and love. It was sorely needed.

I had no idea how physically ill the removal of a bunch of scrubby trees would make me…it’s nice that I haven’t had to do it alone.

I’ve closed all the curtains and blocked out all the windows to the back of the house — I’m slowly weaning myself into getting used to the idea that I once lived in a forest…and now I live in a desert. I expect my electric bill will go up quite a bit now that the late afternoon sun is unimpeded — and I suspect that some of the less-hearty plants that were once protected will now die.

Not that they wouldn’t have died in the 101 degree heat anyway. 🙂

I’m trying to think and plan and come up with new ideas…I’m trying to see this as an opportunity instead of a tragedy…I’m trying not to decide to give up and sell my house and move to a different country. And I wish I had the money and the resources to fix it all and do it yesterday — but this is one of those times when the superhero guise fails and I realize that I am just one woman against the world.

Good thing THAT doesn’t happen very often. 🙂



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The Electric Company Just Ruined my Life

I got back from LA at 2am. I had told my boss I was going to sleep and come in late this morning. So I was making breakfast, when I looked out my kitchen window…and just about passed out.

While I was gone, sometime over the last 5 days, the Electric company cut down all the trees behind my back fence. And I don’t mean trimmed…I mean GONE. RAZED. To the ground. My private backyard — the thing I have always loved best about my house (and pretty much the reason I bought it), looks like crap. Now, instead of leaves, all I see are houses. I can see everyone’s house. I can even see people’s houses on the opposite side of the street behind my house.

I hate it. And I hate that I hate it. My backyard was my escape from the world. And now the world has come crashing in. I’m devastated.

I cried all morning. (I’m still weepy.) I called the electric company, and they actually sent some guys out and we had a nice conversation (everybody in TN is nice). Not like it will change anything…it’s their property and the trees aren’t going to magically come back…but I just wanted to talk to someone. I even cried in front of them. I’m still in shock. It’s just…oh my god. Those of you who have seen it wouldn’t recognize it. I have no idea what to do. I came to work because I couldn’t stop crying.

You know, when you make a life full of little things that make you happy, those little things become more vital than you think they do.

LA was beautiful — at least, Redondo and Hermosa Beach were. I had a great time, even if was only 24-hours and I threw up on the plane and had a migraine the whole time. 73 degrees with a breeze, and I got to see the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. I can’t believe I’ll be back there in 10 days for WotF. Thank god this time it will be for longer…and it will be a direct flight both ways.

But that’s later. Right now I’m just tired, and sad. And sick.
I miss my trees.

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