It's taken more than 20 years and a cell phone revolution for Kevin J. Anderson's writing process to seem more conventional than quirky. The Monument novelist dictates each chapter he writes into a recorder while hiking the vast trails of Colorado.
"People used to look at me strange, because I'm walking along talking to myself," Anderson says. "But these days, everybody else has a Bluetooth headset on, so it's perfectly acceptable now."
The 47-year-old has recorded the majority of his 100-plus novels — almost half of which have made national or international bestseller lists — while climbing all 54 of Colorado's 14ers and hiking more than 300 miles of the Colorado Trail.
Anderson points out that telling stories aloud is a time-honored tradition. And when you live in Colorado, it doesn't get much better.
"I can be surrounded by inspirational scenery and, most importantly, get away from cell phone rings," he says. "A trick that I've done is, I find that if I go out on a trail and keep walking until I finish dictating a chapter, I have exactly enough time to dictate a second chapter to get back to my car."
Which is important when you're pumping out 700-page books, usually more than one a year.
In addition to stand-alone novels and fiction anthologies, Anderson's bibliography includes 10 books in Frank Herbert's classic Dune series written with Herbert's son Brian; The Saga of Seven Suns, an epic science fiction series; Star Wars Jedi Academy books; and three novels based on the X-Files series.
In the past two months alone, he's had two novels hit bookstores. Enemies & Allies, which tells the tale of Batman and Superman during the 1950s Cold War, was released in May, and the first in a new epic fantasy trilogy, Terra Incognita: The Edge of the World, was published June 8.
Whether writing sci fi or fantasy, Anderson feels one of his goals as an author is to "try to give the modern-day reader something to think about." For instance, The Edge of the World deals with two religious societies on separate continents, whose hate for one another yields escalating acts of revenge — a cycle relevant to today's world.
"I think a lot of people find it more palatable to read the same message but in a story form," Anderson says, adding, "If they read a historical book about the age-old hatred between Christians and Muslims, that would be a completely different thing than reading a fantasy novel that has the similar clashes."
As part of the Terra Incognita project, Anderson and his wife Rebecca Moesta even wrote lyrics for a rock album based on one of the trilogy's story lines. (Music has long influenced Anderson's writing; The Edge of the World is dedicated to fan and friend Neal Peart of Rush.) The CD Terra Incognita: Beyond the Horizon became a collaboration with some big names in rock, including Erik Norlander of Rocket Scientists, James LaBrie of Dream Theater and Asia alum John Payne, who, with a handful of others, recorded the LP as Roswell Six.
"I got to step back and be a gushing fanboy again," Anderson says. "I was dealing with musicians whose work I had already admired. They were already on my CD shelf. And here I am on the phone with them, or e-mailing them."
Hiking. Writing. Making music with your idols. Not a bad gig, if you can get it.