The sheer volume of science-fiction author Kevin J. Anderson's oeuvre is staggering: more than 115 novels including a handful set in the Star Wars universe, over 23 million books in print and a pile of awards. There's no stopping for Anderson, either, who was about to write two chapters of a new Dune book and submit the manuscript of another novel when he took a short break for a phone conversation with Jon Roe. Anderson has three books out this September, which he'll be promoting during his stay at the When Words Collide festival this weekend, including Clockwork Angels, a collaboration with Rush and Neil Peart that's a novelization of their new album.
How did your collaboration with Rush and Neil Peart come about?
My very first novel was almost entirely inspired by their Grace Under Pressure album. I saw a story in that album; I'm not sure it was the story that they thought it was, but it inspired my imagination. I wrote the novel and published it. After I had the printed copies, I just signed three copies and then addressed it to the three members of Rush and just mailed it off to Mercury Records. I sort of forgot about it for a year. Neil, in the meantime, read it and wrote me back. We started a correspondence that's been going on for close to 25 years now. We wrote a story together a while ago and we've always been playing around with the idea of doing a crossover novel and an album.
Could you talk a bit more about the two other books you have coming out at the same time?
The other one is called Death Warmed Over and it's the first in a series called Dan Chambeaux, Zombie P.I. It's a very humorous horror, (about a) laugh out loud, zombie detective working with cases that involve werewolves and vampires.
My third book is called The Martian War, which is also a steampunk, fantasy historical where H.G. Wells and his professor T.H. Huxley go to Mars to stop the Martians from launching their invasion.
So you're a big H.G. Wells/Jules Verne fan?
Yeah, in fact the thing that turned me into a writer was watching the movie of War of the Worlds when I was like five years old. I decided this was the coolest thing ever and that I wanted to tell stories like that.
You give a lot of writing workshops at these conventions. What's your No. 1 piece of advice for aspiring science-fiction writers?
I think persistence is the most important thing. It's so hard to get your first thing published. I had 80 rejection slips before I had anything published. I talk to so many aspiring writers who gave up after getting 20 rejections. I say, "If I had given up after 20, I would never have gotten anything published." You just have to stick to it. Don't expect it to be an overnight success. It might take you 20 years to be an overnight success.