Rocketed to Earth as an infant to avoid the destruction of his homeplanet, Keith R.A. DeCandido was raised by a roving pack of gypsy librarians and trained in their vile and depraved ways. A career in the publishing industry was his only recourse from decades of really expensive therapy. He has written some 50 novels, as well as short fiction and comic books, some based on TV shows (Star Trek, Doctor Who, Sleepy Hollow, Supernatural), movies (Big Hero 6, Cars, Serenity, Resident Evil), comic books (Spider-Man, X-Men, Hulk, Silver Surfer), and games (BattleTech, Dungeons & Dragons, World of Warcraft, StarCraft), others based on his own universes. Recent and forthcoming work includes: Star Trek: The Klingon Art of War, a coffee-table book that guides you in your life as a warrior; the Sleepy Hollow novel Children of the Revolution; Mermaid Precinct, the sixth book in his series of fantasy police procedurals that started in 2004 with Dragon Precinct; the short-story collection Without a License: The Fantastic Worlds of Keith R.A. DeCandido; a novel and a short story in the Stargate SG-1 universe, Kali’s Wrath and “Time Keeps on Slippin'” for the anthology Far Horizons; urban fantasy stories set in Key West, Florida featuring Cassie Zukav, weirdness magnet, including “Fish Out of Water” in Out of Tune, “Undine the Boardwalk” in Bad-Ass Faeries: It’s Elemental, and “Down to the Waterline” in Buzzy Mag; “Stone Cold Whodunit,” a Super City Police Department story, in With Great Power; essays in New Worlds, New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics and Kobold Guide to Combat; the graphic novel Icarus; the adventure “Merciless” for the Firefly: Echoes of War role-playing game supplement Things Don’t Go Smooth; “Streets of Fire” in V-Wars: Night Terrors; “Back in El Paso My Life Would Be Worthless” in The X-Files Volume 1: Trust No One; and bunches more besides. His twice-weekly rewatch of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine appears on Tor.com; he completed a similar rewatch of The Next Generation for the site in 2013.
Keith is also a veteran editor, having worked for magazines, book packagers, and publishers, including a five-year stint working for Byron Preiss’s various companies. His time at Preiss included supervising a six-year program of Marvel Comics-based prose fiction. He has edited more than a dozen anthologies, among them the award-nominated Imaginings: An Anthology of Long Short Fiction, the Star Trek anthologies Tales of the Dominion War and Tales from the Captain’s Table, and the Doctor Who: Short Trips anthology The Quality of Leadership. He supervised the Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers monthly eBook series from 2000-2007, and currently works as a freelance editor for clients both corporate and personal.
In addition to his writing and editing, Keith is a second-degree black belt in Kenshikai karate, in which he not only trains but also teaches; the percussionist for the parody band Boogie Knights; a proud member of the Liars Club, the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers, the Science-fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, and the Horror Writers of America; a prolific podcaster (The Chronic Rift, HG World, Gypsy Cove, The Dome, Cyborgs: A Bionic Podcast, The Batcave Podcast, and his own monthly Dead Kitchen Radio); and probably some other stuff he can’t remember due to the lack of sleep. Find out less at his cheerfully retro web site at DeCandido.net, which serves as a gateway to his entire online footprint (blog, Facebook, Twitter, etc.).
What was your childhood like, and how did it shape who you are today?
My childhood was wonderful, and pretty much all of it shaped who I am today. My parents are librarians (or were—they’re retired now), and books were always a big part of my life. So was science fiction and fantasy: some of my earliest fiction-reading experiences once I moved past picture books were Robert A. Heinlein’s juveniles, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea trilogy, and P.G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves stories. My parents also were always very encouraging of my life choices.
Growing up, who were your biggest creative influences?
Well, Heinlein, Tolkien, Le Guin, and Wodehouse, certainly, as well as the folks writing Marvel Comics in the 1980s, particularly Chris Claremont, John Byrne, Frank Miller, Roger Stern, Walt Simonson, Ann Nocenti, Louise Simonson, Jo Duffy, and particularly J.M. DeMatteis. Also Harlan Ellison, Molly Ivins, Vonda N. McIntyre, Dorothy L. Sayers, Marion Zimmer Bradley, Mary Shelley, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and Lord Byron.
How did you initially become involved with writing tie-in novels?
As an editor, actually. In 1993, I joined the staff of Byron Preiss Visual Publications and via that job, I worked on many tie-ins as an editor, which led eventually to writing tie-ins as well.
How does the process of writing a tie-in novel differ from writing a novel based on your own material?
Not as much as you might think. Storytelling requirements are the same regardless: you need to tell an interesting tale with a beginning, a middle, and an end. The main difference is in world-building and character voices. With tie-ins, the world is generally already built, but you also have to cleave to the established character voices—if your dialogue for Captain Picard doesn’t sound like it would come out of Sir Patrick Stewart’s mouth, you’ve got a big problem.
What is the typical process for getting approval for a tie-in story?
Generally it works thusly: A publisher obtains the rights from the copyright owner—for a TV show or movie, it’s generally either the production company or the studio that produces it—to do tie-in fiction, and then they hire a writer or writers to pen them. Every step of the process has to be approved, which means that I have to provide a detailed plot outline before I write the first word of the book, and wait for that to be approved before I start the manuscript. Then I write the book, and that has to be approved. In addition, everything from the cover art to the design take on the book has to be approved as well. It’s the editor who handles all that—the editor serves as the liaison with the copyright holder, often dealing with someone in the licensing department who is authorized to speak for the property, as it were.
Are there any recent movie or television series that you would particularly love to write a tie-in novel for?
The Librarians and Penny Dreadful.
What inspired the story of your Dragon Precinct series?
Two of my biggest fictional loves have been epic fantasy stories and cop stories. I blame the former on the early exposure to Le Guin’s Earthsea and Tolkien’s Middle Earth, and I blame the latter on watching Barney Miller and Hill Street Blues at an impressionable age. Dragon Precinct melds those two loves in a manner that I hope is entertaining. The two main characters, amusingly enough, are characters I played in fantasy role-playing games in college and in my 20s, both of whom I loved enough to want to write stories about them.
What does your writing environment look like?
Whatever I want. I can pretty much write anywhere, and have. As an example, my 2006 StarCraft novel Nova was written in the following locales: my apartment (both at my computer desk and in the living room on my laptop), at a pub in Dublin, Ireland, in a hotel room in Glasgow, Scotland, in a friend’s house in County Wicklow, Ireland, in the Starbucks up the street from my apartment, in a hotel room in Atlanta, and in planes and trains that took me back and forth among those various locations. These days, most of my writing is done at my computer desk at home, where I’m surrounded by action figures, stuffed animals, a baseball bat, and a sword, but I often work other places as well.
What’s the best book you’ve read recently?
At the risk of horn-tooting, I’d have to say the anthology Out of Tune, edited by Jonathan Maberry. I have a story in it, but the other stories in this anthology—which are all inspired by old ballads—are superb to a one, and I’m deeply honored to be in the book.
What did you think of J.J. Abrams’ recent Star Trek films?
They did precisely what they were supposed to do, which is get the general public to give a damn about Star Trek again. After ten years of bad Voyager episodes, bad Enterprise episodes, and a bad movie (Nemesis), interest had plummeted amongst the populace. The 2009 film and Star Trek Into Darkness have revitalized interest in the franchise across the board—sales of ancillary merchandise has gone up in the past five years, for example, and Trek books are regularly hitting the Times best-seller list for the first time since the early 1990s. From an aesthetic standpoint, I’d say the movies are visual feasts, excellently paced, and brilliantly acted.
If you could change one thing about the world or society, what would it be?
People would be able to understand the point of view of someone other than themselves. I think 99% of the problems in the world stem from an inability of people to get how someone else might perceive the universe.
What are you working on next?
A bunch of things: I’m scripting Icarus, a graphic novel adaptation of a novel by Gregory A. Wilson, for Silence in the Library and ComicMix; I’m working on a few short stories, including a Dragon Precinct story for a Kickstarter I did last year and a story for an anthology; a Stargate SG-1 novel called Kali’s Wrath; and a couple of other projects I can’t talk about yet.