The prog-rock world was abuz with the news that noted sci-fi author Kevin J. Anderson was going to be doing the lyrics and story to a sci-fi progressive rock cross-over project. The story, as it turns out is part of a new series he's penning entitled Terra Incognita. Anderson's credentials are quite impressive, all you have to do is check out his entry in Wikipedia. As an international best selling author he's done everything from work on new Dune epics to write a Batman/Superman novel. Wondering how he ever got interested in progressive rock, I decided to have a little chat.
Jerry Lucky: I was in grade six when I wrote to a local DJ because I was bound and determined to work in radio…I practiced for four years in my basement and then got my first weekend on-air gigs half way through grade 11…So I’ve always admired people who know what they want to do with their lives from an early age…now you wrote your first story at the age of eight…that’s really cool. Does the story hold up after all these years?
Kevin J. Anderson: Wow, I haven’t read it in ages, don’t even know if I still have a copy, but I do remember the story and I think it’s got a halfway decent plot. A scientist invents a serum that will bring anything to life, but when the rest of the scientific community scoffs at him, he breaks into a wax museum and brings all the figures to life (monsters of course), and then goes to a museum and brings some dinosaur skeletons to life, then goes on a rampage. (I’ve seen movies that were worse.)
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, submitted stories to magazines when I was 12, got a few published before I was out of high school, published my first novel right out of college. I never had a moment’s doubt.
JL: People write about all sorts of things, what was it that drew you to science fiction?
KJA: The imagination. I loved SF movies when I was little, enjoyed the monsters, the alien worlds, the great adventure. Nothing else ever seemed as interesting.
JL: I read on Wikipedia (along with all the amazing stuff you’ve done) that you’re also writing about the first meeting of Batman and Superman. I’m a huge Batman fan. What’s the status of that project?
KJA: That novel, ENEMIES & ALLIES, was published in hardcover from Morrow in May (2009) and did very well. The fans loved it, too. (And, I know we’ll be getting to this in a few questions, but I also included some of the members of Roswell Six as cameos in that book.)
JL: Dare I ask what you thought of the movie Sky Captain? I’ll go on record as saying I loved it. I really appreciated the “forties serial” approach. I have the DVD and think it’s just a cool movie. How did you come to write the novelization?
KJA: Obviously, I thought it showed incredible imagination and potential -- that’s why I did the book. It seemed like a book right up my alley. I had done an original novel, CAPTAIN NEMO, about the life story of Jules Verne and his friendship with the real Captain Nemo; I did the novelization for THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN; I did a novel called THE MARTIAN WAR about HG Wells fending off a Martian invasion, and a War of the Worlds anthology. So when my editor saw the project, mine was the first name he thought of.
JL: This is way off the topic, but I’m just interested in your thoughts on the re-imagined Battlestar Galactica. Having actually watched the original, I was just stunned at what they were able to do with sci-fi on TV. I thought it was brilliant, but then I’m just a fan…as a more than accomplished sci-fi novelist, what did you think?
KJA: Topic? There was a topic??? Yes, both Rebecca and I loved the series -- very gritty, compelling, and well done.
JL: OK let’s get to Terra Incognita…Why don’t you give me the thumbnail synopsis of the story?
KJA: This is my big new series, set in a fantasy world much like our Europe in the Age of Discovery, the 1400s with Prince Henry the Navigator, Columbus, all the great explorers, with sailing ships and mysterious maps…but in my world, sea monsters are real, and a little bit of magic works. There’s also a great clash of religions, two warring continents, the crusades… The first novel, THE EDGE OF THE WORLD, came out last June in tandem with the Roswell Six CD, Beyond the Horizon; I’ve already finished the second book, THE MAP OF ALL THINGS.
JL: I suppose the big question is how do we go from book to musical CD?
KJA: My writing has always been
inspired by music --
JL: Did you know of Erik Norlander? Or was he aware of you before this project?
KJA: Oh yes, I had been a fan of his work on Rocket Scientists, his own CD “Music Machine,” and most especially the fantastic albums of his wife Lana Lane. Erik was also a fan of my novels, and we had corresponded several times well before this project ever came up, and we had exchanged books and CDs.
JL: How involved were you with the writing of the music?
KJA: We outlined the songs, knew which tracks were needed to tell the story, and we wrote the lyrics. We knew who the vocalists were going to be for each particular character, and we gave Erik some general ideas of the music itself, and Rebecca had a couple of the basic melodies, but for the most part Erik had free reign and turned his creativity loose. He’d send us files with his new songs, Lana would sing base vocals for the demos, and we’d send comments back or talk on the phone.
JL: Were you at all familiar with some of the other vocalists and musicians who became
They were on our wish list.
Everybody involved recognized that we were doing a unique project, something that hadn’t really been done before, and all the musicians were prominently included in the acknowledgments and afterword of the novel -- so a lot of coolness all around.
JL: Your wife Rebecca Moesta wrote some of the lyrics for the CD. Was that a difficult or time consuming process?
KJA: Rebecca and I both wrote the lyrics together. We planned the songs together, and sometimes I took the first cut at the words, sometimes she did, but we both worked them back and forth. She’s better at rhythm and pacing than I am, but I have more of the big picture and overall scope. She has more of a formal musical background than I do, but I’m the prog rock addict.
Note, we’ve written about 30 books together and so we’re very comfortable with the process of collaboration.
JL: You provided the connecting passages in the CD booklet…I found that extremely helpful while listening. It set the stage for the music that followed. Was that something you knew from the beginning the CD needed?
KJA: The unique aspect of this project is that here you have a rock CD written by a bestselling author connected to a new novel. Having the exclusive text, original connective fiction, in the lyrics booklet seemed like an obvious thing. And the booklet is filled with paintings from one of the most highly acclaimed artists in the science fiction field, Bob Eggleton. We hoped that the songs are standalone, but if you know how they fit into the overall story and who the characters are, we felt the listener would get a greater experience.
JL: I’m most interested in how you approached this project because you probably knew you’d have to do some serious editing? There’s no way you can set a whole book to music, so did you approach it as if you were making a move?
KJA: The novel is 600 pages long and has a great many storylines and characters. We did not try to adapt the entire novel, but took out one specific storyline that was a cornerstone, a representative piece of the novel, and it could stand alone as a powerful story of two lovers torn apart by hostile circumstances. It seemed perfect material for the CD.
JL: After it was all said and done…were you happy with the way the CD turned out? (Honestly)
KJA: Are you kidding me??? This is the single coolest project I’ve done in my career (and I’ve done a lot of cool things). I played the songs hundreds of times during the creative stages, and I still play the CD a couple of times a week, just because I like it so much.
JL: Was the project one that was enjoyable?
KJA: Enormously satisfying and a great deal of fun.
JL: What was the most difficult aspect of making it happen?
KJA: I’ve collaborated on many book projects before, where I and a coauthor have to adjust our schedules, work out our creative differences, brainstorm, and put together a novel. In Roswell Six, we had more than a dozen performers, with different schedules -- and a lot of these guys were big names, with their own bands on tour, new CD releases of their own. So just coordinating all that was quite a challenge. (Not to mention me and Rebecca fitting it in with our writing deadlines, plus designing and writing the booklet, obtaining the artwork, etc.) But we pulled it off.
JL: Last question, then…will you do another disc like this?
KJA: Shawn and I are already hard at work developing another CD to accompany the second novel in the series. Just tonight at dinner, Rebecca gave me her revamp of lyrics for the second song we’ve written. But because this is a different storyline from a different novel, featuring different characters, we’ll be bringing in some new talent, as well as having some performers return. A lot of details are still up in the air. If it all works out, you should see a new CD next summer when THE MAP OF ALL THINGS is released.
JL: Thanks so much for taking the time…I really appreciate it.
KJA: Ditto. Let’s hope we get some new listeners. You can order the book and CD from www.anderzoneshop.com or www.progrockrecords.com.