Shaun Farrell interviews Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson Special thanks to Mysterious Galaxy bookstore for their support of this column. To learn more about their exciting collection of signed first editions, please see our links page.
Special thanks to Mysterious Galaxy bookstore for their support of this column. To learn more about their exciting collection of signed first editions, please see our links page.On August 21st I had the pleasure of seeing Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson at Mysterious Galaxy bookstore in San Diego. They were launching their new Dune novel, Hunters of Dune. What follows are portions of their interactions with the crowd. Because some of the audience questions were too faint to be picked up by my recorder, I will interject the occasional comment to indicate any subject changes. Besides that, this piece will have the standard SQ format.
I hope everyone enjoys this. Kevin and Brian are incredibly kind (and talented) individuals. They really played to the crowd, and I tried to capture the energy in the room by showing some of the crowd’s reactions. If you ever have a chance to hear them speak, DO IT!! Oh, yeah, buy their books, and when you do tell them Shaun sent you.
The first thing Kevin and Brian did was show the audience a picture of Sandworms of Dune, the next novel, which was on Brian’s laptop.
Kevin J. Anderson: That is the cover for Sandworms of Dune for next year, the second part to Hunters. It’s the jpeg file that Steven Yuul painted for us. It’s great because Steven has done every one of our Dune covers, and he did my Saga of Seven Suns covers. Whenever they tell him he’s supposed to do the cover, he’ll call me and ask what’s on (it). So, I come up with something on the outline and send it to him. He does the painting and sends it to us before we finish writing the book. So, we look at the painting and say, “Okay, so that’s how we’re supposed to describe it.” And we put it in the book.
We’re not revealing this on the website yet. You’re the only people who’ve seen it!
(Audience applauds.) About why they launched the book at Mysterious Galaxy:
KJA: When the publisher set up the book signing tour, they established that we’d do the first signing for Hunter of Dune at a Barnes and Noble in the L.A. area and then we’d come down here a day or so later. This is our seventh tour of eight books. Some of you may have noticed that we didn’t come here last year. Previously when we would launch a tour, our first signing was in the University bookstore up in Seattle, which is Brian’s hometown bookstore.
I called (the publisher) and said, “It doesn’t make any difference to Barnes and Noble if we do the first or third signing there, but I think it might make a different to you guys and these guys (the MG staff) if we launched at Mysterious Galaxy.” They agreed, so we changed the schedule.
Brian Herbert: In 2000 we did a book tour, and a lot of you people were there. That night we went to the Hyatt hotel. We went to the 39th floor and were having a couple of beers and looked down on Coronado island. We went back to our rooms around the 20th floor, and at about 2:30 Kevin started hearing things banging around. It was the Joshua Tree earthquake, 7.1.
KJA: (The noise I heard) was the doors (on the TV cabinet) flinging open as the hotel went that way and then they’d slam as the hotel went back.
BH: The whole hotel evacuated into the parking lot. Then Kevin went back up and went to sleep, and I slept in the lobby with about 150 other people.
Laughter and applause
KJA: So then we said we don’t need to do a west coast tour; let’s do the east coast next year. We went to the east coast and got whomped with Hurricane Isabel. There must have been six or seven feet of water in the streets. Everything was shut down, and we’re supposed to be doing 6:30 in the morning interviews on Good Morning Baltimore. I called up the police station and said, “You don’t want us to come there because we’re just a couple of science fiction authors.” The whole TV news was what to do if your house is floating away, or if you don’t have your insulin and you’re dying. And he says, “Oh, no, we want to have you there.” Literally through hell and high water we manage to get to this thing only to find out that the producer of the show is a big Dune fan, and he just wanted his book signed. (laughter) Everything else that entire hour was hurricane, emergency news, and two guys talking about a desert planet.
BH: We had to do sixteen rapid-fire TV interviews yesterday morning, and to do it we got up at 1:30 in the morning and were due at Pacific TV in L.A. at 3:15.
KJA: You’re sitting in the studio, and you have an earpiece on so you can hear the announcer, but all you can see is the guy with the camera with this yellow square paper with a smiley face drawn on it. And (the cameraman) said, “Look at the smiley face and imagine it’s the person you’re talking to.” On four hours of sleep, sixteen interviews in a row.
BH: Isn’t that glamorous? This other tour, on the east coast, we were in Westchester County for one of the appearances, and they had no power. But there were still a couple of diehard fans— I think there was three. There was a mother, a daughter, and a young man. The daughter knew Dune from the front cover to the back cover. It was like Fahrenheit 451, and the mother introduced us to the daughter and said, “This is Dune.” She was not renamed, but she knew the book backwards and forwards. That was kind of neat. I mean, it wasn’t really weird or anything.
BH: When you only have three fans that show, you better not criticize one of them. A lot of authors, for one reason or another, will only have one or two fans show up. Some of those authors get pretty nasty, but we try not to.
KJA: Well, I do sometimes. Of our eight Dune books we’ve done tours for seven of them. We wrote Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune straight through. It’s a two-volume book. As you might guess, doing a signing tour eats into your writing time. When (the publisher) wants a Dune book delivered every year, and you guys want one every year, and then they put us on the road for six weeksthat’s a fair chunk of the year that we don’t do much writing. We get to brainstorm, so it helps us fine tune things. Last year, when The Road to Dune came out, because it wasn’t really a novel we kind of begged off and asked for a year so we could do these two books on time.
BH: Now he’s being nice, because I’m the one who begged off. We signed a contract that gave us two years to do each book. I needed that two year contract.
Kevin and Brian then talked about the various books they have out in addition to the Hunters of Dune. Please look at their websites for lists of their new work. There was a nice gem about Asimov’s magazine that I had to include.
KJA: I have never been in Asimov’s. I’ve tried for twenty years to get in Asimov’s. I finally co-wrote a story with Mike Resnick, and I said, “Mike, I want to write a story so I can finally get published in Asimov’s.” He said, “Sure. Let’s write a story together. They’ve accepted every single thing of mine for the past nineteen years.” They rejected our collaboration. And Analog is going to publish it in a couple of months. But one day!
You said you had a contract for eight books. What comes after that?
BH: Hunters of Dune and Sandworms of Dune are both Frank Herbert titles he used for other books and then changed. We didn’t even pitch Paul of Dune, but we told the publisher we may do a Paul of Dune in the future. Tom Doherty said, “You can’t just mention a Dune book to me and not expect me to buy it.” He made us an offer, and I think we had to go back and change our British contract to add it in.
KJA: After Tor (bought Paul of Dune), our agent went to the British people and said, “You guys know that you’re one book short?”
BH: So now Tom Doherty has one book sitting there, and it really will be a trilogy. At this point we’re thinking it will be Paul, Jessica, and Irulan, maybe not in that order. In the Dune universe women (became) increasingly important as Frank Herbert wrote the series, so I think it’s appropriate that two out of three have female titles.
KJA: Paul of Dune will tell about Paul’s younger years between House Corrino and Dune but will also tell the story of Paul’s great Jihad between Dune and Dune Messiah.
How do you guys prioritize your time if you’re writing the Dune books and your other projects?
BH: On the first draft we write our half of (the Dune) book and nothing else. Typically, that’s how we do it. That’s all we do until we get that first draft done. Then, whoever has (the book) will have a month or a month-and-a-half with it, and during that (time when the other person has it) you can work on your other own stuff.
About working within Frank Herbert’s world.
BH: If you’re talking about the Butlerian Jihad that was in the appendix of Dune, we were pretty well structured on the timeframe. All the fans knew exactly where we had to end up, so we had to make it interesting to get there. Now it’s a little more open-ended because it’s not so certain where we’re going. It’s all a mystery right now. Frank Herbert tried to publisher mysteries in the 50s and 60s, and they were all rejected. I have a lot of his unpublished material. But he immersed a mystery into Heretics and Chapterhouse of Dune. So when you read the book and find out the answer, hopefully it will be like a mystery and you’ll say, “Oh, yeah.” But there are two million words of clues leading up to that.
KJA: Publishers Weekly did a review of Hunters of Dune. The review said something like, “In this book Herbert and Anderson reveal that the great mystery is THIS,” and it spells out everything.
KJA: Hours after Publishers Weekly posts it, Amazon.com automatically takes it and puts it by the ordering page. Fortunately I had one of my short stories published by their amazon shorts program, which meant that I had actually talked with a human on the phone. Our assistant tracked him down, and he’s a Kevin Anderson fan. He’s a Dune fan. He went, “They shouldn’t say that!” So, we got the review pulled, but it still was up for a couple of days. (A fan) saw it and started posting it all over the place.
BH: But (the readers) still have to figure out how it came to that.
KJA: Right. I just thought that was unprofessional because people have been waiting twenty years to find the answer to this.
Did you talk to them about the review?
KJA: I wrote their reviews person. It’s the reviewers’ opinion about whether or not they liked the book, but this is unfair. You can’t just give (this away).
Was the resolution for these two books yours or your Frank Herbert’s? .
BH: (Long pause)
KJA: It’s a yes or no question.
BH: Yes, ah
Audience laughs harder.
BH: It’s a combination. We had a structure that (Frank) laid out, but Kevin and I have created new characters and new storylines that threaded up to the grand finale. We fit (those) into (Frank’s) overall scenario.
KJA: It was like we had a roadmap. But there’s a difference between having a map and driving across the country.
Are there any future media plans for your books?
BH: We’ve actually been talking with a movie studio, and those kind of things are very complicated. Talk doesn’t mean much. But we’re hoping there can be a major movie of something in the Dune series.
Will there by any Dune graphic novels?
BH: That’s tied in to (the media) question, actually. It’s all one big complicated negotiation.
KJA: Because there was the Universal movie and the two TV miniseries, and if you know anything about Hollywood contracts, everybody tries to grab everything they can.
BH: We do have offers on these things. It’s a matter of sorting it out and seeing what we can go forward with.
Are there sections of the novel that one of you dislikes writing but the other enjoys?
BH: We were with our editor one day and I said that Kevin likes to do the sex scenes.
KJA: I like to research for it.
Very loud laughter
BH: Then Kevin said he gets more practice.
KJA: We’ve done so much work together that we have an instinctive feel for (who should write what). In general, I’m more of the flat-out action stuff, the space battles and things. (Brian’s) more philosophical and ecological. We exchange each other’s chapters back and forth twelve or thirteen time. By the time it’s done I’ve put action in the philosophy, he’s put philosophy in the action.
Brian, you’ve written with Kevin and with your dad. How are those collaborations different?
BH: In Dreamer of Dune I talked about how I didn’t get along with my father until I was maybe twenty. When I was an adult he and I became best friends. I saw this loving side of him because my mother had terminal lung cancer, and I saw dad become my mother’s nurse and cook. He built a house for her in Hawaii where she could breathe easier.
I remember sitting there working on (Man of Two Worlds) with him. We were working late at night many times. I couldn’t believe it because we had been so estranged before that. It was really bad. For us to become so close and to actually write that book was quite a moving experience for me. The story idea was mine and I pitched (it to him). He was so busy I spent a little over a year writing the first draft, and then he and I spent six months of intensive work where he really got into it and made extensive changes. I had done some humor books before that, and people think the humor in Man of Two Worlds is me, but a lot of it was Frank Herbert. It was wonderful for me to see that sense of humor.
When (Kevin and I) got together we decided to go to our strengths. I would write particular storylines first and Kevin would write particular storylines. We’d write about fifty chapters each, and it’s been a totally different process.
KJA: We do more editing back and forth than you and your dad did, right?
BH: It’s different. We email it now.
KJA: Was yours written on a computer?
BH: Dad retyped (Man of Two Worlds) on a computer.
At this point Kevin and Brian said thank you and started signing books. I hope you enjoyed getting a sense of what the fellas are like. Visit the Dune website at www.dunenovels.com.
Copyright © 2006 by Shaun Farrell. All Rights Reserved.