Best place to look is at our websites, www.wordfire.com and www.dunenovels.com. I have written nearly 80 books, from original science fiction to fantasy, mystery, thrillers, to horror. My most popular works so far are my DUNE prequels written with Frank Herbert's son Brian, my numerous STAR WARS or X-FILES novels, and my many comics. Recent releases include a new hardcover short-story collection, DOGGED PERSISTENCE, an original novel based on the scenario set up in the classic SF film, "Fantastic Voyage," -- this one's called FANTASTIC VOYAGE: MICROCOSM. And, under the pseudoymn "Gabriel Mesta," my wife Rebecca and I just published STARCRAFT #2, SHADOW OF THE XEL'NAGA -- for all you gamers out there.
The coming year will be a big one for me -- in October, Bantam will publish DUNE: HOUSE CORRINO, the final book in the "Prelude to DUNE" trilogy. In January, Pocket will publish a really cool new novel, NEMO: THE FANTASTIC HISTORY OF A DARK GENIUS, which is the fictional life story of Jules Verne's Captain Nemo -- one of my best ever! Then in February, Bantam will publish the hardcover of my ambitious standalone SF novel HOPSCOTCH -- I've been working on that one for about five years! In July, Warner Books will release the first volume in an all-new science fiction epic series, THE SAGA OF SEVEN SUNS, which should fall right between STAR WARS and DUNE -- and therefore squarely in the midst of what my fans most want to read. Then, in October 2002, Brian Herbert and I will release the first book in a new DUNE prequel trilogy, which tells the long-anticipated story of THE BUTLERIAN JIHAD. So, you see, I have a lot of irons in the fire!
Tell www.buried.com about yourself (Biography, how did you become a writer, et cetera)…
Well, the solar cloud of gases coalesced, drawn in by gravity, until finally the seeds of planets began to form… (oh, OK, not that far back…)
Anyway, I've known I wanted to be a writer since about age five, when I saw the George Pal film of H.G.Wells's WAR OF THE WORLDS. I decided I was in love with fantastic fiction, and by age eight I had started writing my own stories. Thus, it is with great delight that I have just received an OK from the H.G. Wells estate for me to write a novel that tells of young HG wells and his biology professor TH Huxley, going to Mars to thwart the impending invasion. This novel will be something of a companion piece to the above-mentioned NEMO. Because they're so different from my usual Big SF novels, we are publishing them under the deviously clever pseudonym of "KJ Anderson" -- just to avoid confusion in the bookstore computer, though I doubt anybody is going to be fooled.
I wrote literally dozens and dozens of stories by the time I got out of high school, even managed to get a couple of them published in tiny magazines, and I tried my hand at writing novels while I was in college. I got a job as a technical writer for a large research laboratory in California (you mean, I get to practice my writing and graphic design skills all day, play with high-tech research and gadgetry, and you PAY me for it???) Sold my first novel, RESURRECTION, INC., by the time I was 25 -- it was nominated for the Bram Stoker Award. I quickly followed that with a fantasy trilogy and three high-tech thrillers with Doug Beason (one of them, ASSEMBLERS OF INFINITY was nominated for the Nebula Award, and THE TRINITY PARADOX was nominated for the American Physics Society's "Forum" Award -- the only work of fiction ever nominated.)
Then I got a phone call from one of my editors asking if I would be interested in writing sequels to STAR WARS. I had by then established myself as a reliable and cooperative writer, and the editor thought I would mesh well with the STAR WARS subject matter, as well as the folks at Lucasfilm. That certainly gave my career a shot in the arm, and suddenly I started to appear on bestseller lists and receive thousands of fan letters. All told, I wrote 55 different projects for Lucasfilm, which branched out into doing X-FILES work for Chris Carter, some STAR TREK work, two novels based on TITAN A.E., a novel based on the STARCRAFT computer game, a lot of comic books, all sorts of stuff. I really loved doing all that, since I'm a fanboy at heart (though there are some snobs out there who think that working in somebody else's universe is despicable…which is just silly).
All along, I never stopped writing original novels and stories, though they certainly had a much lower profile than my million-sellers. Nevertheless, the work culminated in the Coolest Thing In The World, when Brian Herbert and the Frank Herbert estate allowed me to work on new DUNE novels, based on thousands of pages of notes Frank had left behind at his death. DUNE was always my favorite SF novel, and was a tremendous influence on me. These books are immensely gratifying to write and require the peak of my skills.
Even still, I am writing numerous original novels at the same time, a new big SF series, some standalone novels, some stories. I'm just a writing maniac, I guess.
What is the most appealing thing about horror/ science-fiction for you and why YOU write…
When I read I want to be transported to a bigger-than-life, breathtaking, exotic realm -- and the same goes for when I write. Who in the world wants to read a "slice of life" story about a boring person in the everyday world having a boring day on the job? Yeccchhh. I love creating worlds, characters, races, setting up the rules and pushing them to the edge. I read and study many diverse subjects, so I have expertise in all sorts of oddball areas. I love just telling stories, and Big Epic Legends have always caught my fancy.
Some writers say that what they write doesn't have much to do with themselves-others say that their writing is very much influenced by their own experiences. How is this with you?
Hmmm, I don't know. I just tell the stories that keep appearing in my head. Sometimes they draw upon personal experiences I've had, emotional events that left a deep impression on me. Other times, I just let the wild imagination run. I know I turn the tables on that concept, though, because I often make a point of seeking out places and experiences that I can use in my work. For instance, in preparation for the DUNE novels, my wife and I went to Morocco and the Sahara, I spent quite a while in Death Valley, and also at the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado. For my X-FILES novel RUINS, we went down to spend time at the Maya ruins in the Yucatan.
You've co-written books with Doug Beason--do you prefer writing books solo or with a collaborator?
I enjoy them both. There are a lot of compromises and negotiations in writing a novel with someone else (and I have written over twenty of them with my wife!) -- but the point of collaborating is to combine two sets of skills and knowledge/experience bases so that the resulting book is broader, deeper, and better than anything either writer could do individually. Doug Beason is a career military officer and a PhD physicist, and so the books we write together are very high-tech and politically based -- a cross between Tom Clancy and Michael Crichton. I couldn't write them alone. Brian Herbert brings a lot more than his family name to our DUNE collaborations -- he has extensively studied philosophy and religion, and adds a depth to the DUNE books that I could never do alone.
On the other hand, I am also writing THE SAGA OF SEVEN SUNS, big complicated novels all by myself. It's also liberating to be on your own schedule, making your own decisions. Soooo, rather than making a choice, I'll just do both, thank you!
What would you say the biggest difference is writing stories based on someone else's characters/universe as compared to your own creations?
Obviously, when they're not your toys to play with, you have to get permission and approval for everything you do. Therefore, you have more hoops to jump through, more speed bumps along the way, more compromises to make. You might have to rewrite a scene because it contradicts some toymaker's plans for an action-figure down the road! I once had to delete a full storyline in an X-FILES novel because it looked too similar to an episode of the show (that wasn't even in production before I had started my ms.!).
When you write your own novels, you can do what you like, make your own decisions. On the other hand, you are starting from a dead-stop and you have to lure the readers to your book somehow. If I write STAR WARS, for example, the readers are already predisposed to like it. As a science fiction fan, I had always loved to make up my own TREK stories even as a kid -- getting the opportunity to do it professionally was a real delight.
My favorite compromise is the DUNE novels -- Brian Herbert and I are basing them on the original and popular DUNE books, but he and I make all the choices and decisions, without an army of lawyers to screen everything for approval. I am writing in my favorite already-existing fictional universe, and telling the best stories I can come up with.
I recently finished reading CLIMBING OLYMPUS, which was about scientists surgically altering humans to be able to live on Mars without a space suit--which is a similar idea in a new HULK screenplay I recently read (gamma rays to change people so they could survive on Mars). I'm thinking the screenwriter may have been influenced by the book...
Well, Fred Pohl wrote a novel called MAN-PLUS about altering a single experimental subject to survive on Mars, and there was an old "Outer Limits" screenplay called "The Architects of Fear" where scientists converted Robert Culp into an alien. While I was influence by both of those stories, there really aren't any new ideas under the sun. To me, CLIMBING OLYMPUS was taking those "classic" ideas and then asking "what next?" Science fiction is like a dialog among authors; we read each other's stories and build upon them.
By the way, the original novelette that inspired CLIMBING OLYMPUS, "Human, Martian -- One, Two, Three" has just been reprinted for the first time in my new short story collection, DOGGED PERSISTENCE.
What is your favorite book that you've written?
You can't ask such a simple and straightforward question to a guy who has published 80 books in a variety of genres!
Top contenders would be, DUNE: HOUSE HARKONNEN (I think this really captures the feel and scope of the original DUNE series)
NEMO -- this is a book I really wanted to write, from my own heart, and so I did it in between all my other obligations. It should be loved by anybody who enjoys Jules Verne or the old movies.
HOPSCOTCH -- such a big idea I wrestled with it for close to a decade. I'm very pleased with how it turned out.
THE SAGA OF SEVEN SUNS #1: HIDDEN EMPIRE (just mailed off yesterday!) -- SEVEN SUNS is the project I've been training my whole career for. I threw all the ingredients and skills I have developed over the course of writing so many other projects and concocted something that goes off the scale.
Now, if you think it's strange that I've skewed these choices to my most recent books, consider this: I love writing, and with every project I try to push the envelope, go beyond anything I've done before. I would sure as hell HOPE that my recent novels are better than the ten-year-old ones. If not, then I'm not learning and growing as a writer.
Who is YOUR favorite horror author?
Ray Bradbury has probably had the greatest influence on me -- SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, wow! -- and not just his horror, but his fantasy and his science fiction. I gobbled up everything by Bradbury when I was in high school (and for years I subconsciously imitated him).
As for more recent works, I dutifully read everything by Stephen King (who is all over the map, sometimes effing brilliant and sometimes unreadably sloppy and overblown) and Dean Koontz (who can pump up and extend a suspense scene like nobody else in the business). I also like Dan Simmons and Thomas Harris a lot.
Anything you want to add (website info, et cetera)?