Interview Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
An Interview with Kevin J. Anderson
conducted by Sandy Auden

© Sandy Auden
Kevin J. Anderson
Kevin J. Anderson
Kevin J. Anderson was born in 1962 and was raised in Oregon, Wisconsin. At 10, he had saved up enough money from mowing lawns and doing odd jobs that he could either buy a bicycle or a typewriter -- he chose the typewriter and has been writing ever since. He sold his first novel, Resurrection, Inc., by the time he turned 25. Anderson worked in California for 12 years as a technical writer and editor at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory where he met his wife Rebecca Moesta and his frequent co-author, Doug Beason.

Kevin J. Anderson Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Horizon Storms
SF Site Review: A Forest of Stars
SF Site Review: Dogged Persistence
SF Site Review: Resurrection, Inc.
SF Site Review: Dune: House Atreides
SF Site Review: Lethal Exposure

Horizon Storms
A Forest of Stars

Dave Dorman
Dogged Persistence
Resurrection, Inc.
Dune: House Atreides
Lethal Exposure
Kevin J. Anderson has embarked on a huge undertaking with his Saga of Seven Suns novels -- the sheer breadth of story embraced within its planned seven volumes would make a less determined writer tremble.

Yet Anderson has actually made the task look easy, with a regular stream of releases throughout the series. But you have to ask why an author would take on such a big project...

Origins of a Saga

While I was writing my own original stories, Star Wars books and Dune books, I was also looking in the bookshop. I watched several other writers being tremendously successful with what we lovingly call big fat fantasy novels. Many, many volumes, many of which are large enough to be used as a weapon in military combat, and they were all fantasies. Well I like SF more that fantasy so why is no author writing a giant continuing science fiction series?

In truth, I was actually doing that anyway. The Dune books I write with Brian Herbert happen to be a very long epic SF series. But I started wondering what I would like to do as a large continuing SF story.

I'd already had an idea that I thought was too good to use in a Star Wars novel. Remember Cloud City, Lando Calrissian's place up in the clouds of a gas giant planet? I had this image in my head of Cloud City floating above the clouds but there's this endless ocean of planet below and nobody knows what's down there. I saw the gigantic Mothership from Close Encounters of the Third Kind coming up out of the clouds and attacking Cloud City. Nobody knew who they were or where they came from but they were a race that lived deep within the gas giant planet. And somehow or other, our characters had done something to piss them off.

I thought this was a fabulous idea and like a game of dominoes that kept falling into place, I began to envision why they were attacking, what had been done to these gas giant aliens. I wanted the people to be destroyed in the city above the clouds. I wanted them to also have had no part in it at all, that they were innocent bystanders which would set up other political conflicts. I knew I wanted to have other races in there too and before I knew it, the entire story for the first five books fell into place within the first hour, all the generalities were there. I didn't know all the politics or all of the characters -- all that got built up later as I fleshed it out -- but I really did have the whole road map for the entire series.

This original plot hasn't changed over time either. At least, it hasn't changed in the sense that the original story that I had in my head in that first hour is all there -- that's still the main outline and framework of the whole story. But there are some characters that I made up to serve no real purpose -- except to walk on stage and maybe say a few lines -- that have become very interesting to me. They've taken off on their own storylines. And as I develop them and their own stories expand and they start to intersect with the other characters so the details have grown in their own directions. But the main outline, the main trunk of the tree so to speak, has stayed the same.

Character Evolution

One of these made up, wayward characters is called Davlin Lotze. He's basically a specialist in obscure details -- which is to say he's a spy. And he doesn't like who he happens to be working for so he's gone AWOL and done other things.

That character started out as part of a charity auction where two people in the audience, namely David and Linda Lotze, won a bid to get their name mentioned in one of my books. So I combined their names to Davlin Lotze and just assigned it to this character that appeared and wasn't supposed to do anything. But I found that he could solve a problem that I had set up in the plot. And he solved it with such panache that I had to use him again and it turns out that this man has been one of the main characters in all five volumes of the series I've written so far. So I think those two people have quite got their money's worth out of the donation.

Another example is a trader woman called Rlinda Kett, who was going to be a character off and on in the books but she teamed up with her ex-husband, who's a bit of a clown and an amusing character and who I didn't even know existed till she started grumbling about him. I thought it might be a good relationship and it turns out that they're like many real people, in that they love each other dearly but they can't stand to be married to each other and now they're doing just fine.

As I build up the family details -- everybody's got parents and brothers or sisters or uncles etc. -- they've all got something to do. I keep track of all of this stuff because I feel that when someone has to appear to do a minor thing in the plot, I may as well use somebody who has some minor connection to the other characters rather than just, like a movie script would say, Security Guard Number 1. Well, why call him that? You may as well make him the grandson of the old woman who just got killed in the last chapter.

Never A Dull Moment

My work on the Seven Suns series is like my own love letter to science fiction. I've always loved SF and I threw in everything, from the giant nasty robots that are Gort in The Day The Earth Stood Still, to alien ruins on empty planets, to the dying and decadent aliens from a different race to the space gypsies and weird planets to the strange religions and star-crossed lovers and good guys and bad guys and really nasty aliens who live in gas giant planets. Everything that I love about SF is in some form in these books.

I hate books where there's nothing going on. Seven Suns is about a handful of races and empires, hundreds of star systems and a multi-strand war that is going on with many different alliances and enemies and villains. And in order to show the whole picture you have to have eyes everywhere to see the different facets through.

You need to have characters who are conveniently in the spot to see the interesting things happen rather than have one character who couldn't possibly see everything because then I would have to do things off stage. Readers are like voyeurs, they want to see everything happening. They don't want to be told that a great massacre occurred that wiped out an alien race. They want someone who's actually there.

I don't want to use a narrative voice because you don't care about the narrator. There's a very good example in book three Horizon Storms, I needed to have the robots, the nasty people, wipe out one of our innocent little human colony that was set up by a bunch of wide-eyed pioneers. They're building a town, they've got all their hopes and dreams packed up in their suitcases and they've gone to set them up. And I thought it would just be very nasty if these evil robots came and wiped them out. In this situation, it's no fun to tell that story from the evil robots point of view, because you don't care about them, so I created this poor innocent little girl colonist who happens to be there and happens to escape and be the only one left alive after this tragedy.

She's another character that I found so interesting that I've kept her in a couple of books and I'm now sending her off on a completely different story line. The character came about when one of my editors (the producer for some of my audio books for Random House) was sending me a whole bunch of free books on tape and she said, 'Well, now you've got the throw my name in as a character somewhere.' Her name is Orli and I told her I'd either make her princess of the universe or do horrible things to character. And I ended up doing horrible things to her character.

Because of the nature of this multi-volumed epic story that I'm telling, it would really get rather dull if by book five I hadn't managed to off one of the characters. I have the luxury of off-ing a lot of the characters because I'm constantly planting the seeds for new characters to come up and take the roles. I don't want to say that you want to regularly kill off your characters but you want to keep the story line unexpected enough so that the reader doesn't yawn. By killing off somebody that they really like makes them blink their eyes and go, 'I didn't expect that.'

Another thing is that, especially from book four onwards, the characters that you thought were the villains from earlier books are starting to come around and seem to be doing things for the right reasons after all. The primary example for this is the Dobro Designator. There's a really terrible person, or you think he is, and then in book four you kind scratch your head and think, 'I kinda like this guy after all.'

I've done that with several characters, because I don't believe that heroes and villains are black and white. I think that most villains are doing their terrible things for the best of reasons, or at least reasons that make sense to them; it's not because they want to cackle and crack their knuckles and claim they want to take over the world. I don't know what I'd do with the world, if I was the ruler of it anyway. I think I'd just have bureaucratic headaches.

A Quality Approach

One of my biggest advantages is that I grew up as a science fiction fan. I read the books all the time and I know what pisses me off as a reader and I promised myself not to do that with my own books.

One of these things is every one of these books so far (and frankly every one of my Dune books with Brian Herbert as well) has been brought out on time, every year. You can count on them to come out -- a Seven Suns book every June/July and a Dune book every September -- because I hate it when an author hooks me on a series and leaves me hanging for years and doesn't turn in the next book.

I made a vow to myself that if I was going to do these books with a whole bunch of cliff hangers (so you could almost hear the resounding thuds of books being thrown across the room as people wish they didn't have to wait another year!) then I will come out with the next book, next year. You don't have to wait so long.

Also, when I read giant epics -- space operas with more characters that you could list in a telephone book -- I find it very upsetting when the author doesn't put a glossary at the back. Despite my best intentions I might forget who somebody is or which family they come from. So I've made sure that I always put a glossary at the end of each of my books so you can flip back.

And I know that if you're reading the series you don't want to have to re-read all of the previous books every year. So I do a 'Story So Far' section at the beginning to get you up to speed. I'd be delighted if you wanted to re-read them every year but I want to give you enough clues so can get up to speed. It's almost like the TV show, they do these scenes from 'last week's episode' just to remind you.

And it looks now that to tell the whole story will take me six or seven novels. I prefer seven just because it's Seven Suns and it feels like the right amount of books, but I'm not going to keep making up things to drag it along. I have my plan, there is a finish line, I know where we're going with the story, there may not be any characters left alive at the end of book seven but I don't want to have readers think that I'm just stretching it out so that I'm forcing them to buy a book every year. The situation is always so much different at the end of each book than the beginning, I'm moving the story along, characters are dying or changing, the political situation is changing, I'm extinguishing stars, I'm blowing up planets. It will be finished. I want the readers to know there's hope, that there will be closure.

Copyright © 2006 by Sandy Auden

Sandy Auden is currently working as an enthusiastic reviewer for SFX magazine; a tireless news hound for Starburst magazine; a diligent interviewer/reviewer for The Third Alternative and Interzone magazines and a combination of all the above for The Alien Online. She spends her spare time lying down with a cold flannel on her forehead. Visit her site at The Auden Interviews.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide