Interview: Supernatural: Keith R.A. DeCandido

Today, we sit down with Keith R.A. DeCandido, author of Supernatural tie-in novels, Nevermore, Bone Key and the upcoming Heart of the Dragon (one of two Supernatural novels next year; the other is Dark History):

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IFP: Can you tell us how you started out as a writer?

KD: I can’t ever remember a time when I wasn’t writing. My parents gave me a typewriter when I was very young, and I created my first book at the age of six – it was called “Reflections in My Mirror”, it was eight pages long, and I did it on construction paper. Still have it, too.

My first professional writing was nonfiction, writing news, reviews, articles, and things for magazines like Library Journal, The Comics Journal, Creem, Publishers Weekly, and others, starting in 1989. In 1994, I sold my first short story, a collaborative Spider-Man tale with John Gregory Betancourt for the anthology The Ultimate Spider-Man, and then in 1998, I sold my first novel, a collaborative Spider-Man novel Venom’s Wrath, with José R. Nieto (yes, I’m a big Spidey fan…).

IFP: Tell us about some of the projects that you have done.

KD: The vast majority of my work has been media tie-ins: Star Trek, Buffy, Supernatural, Doctor Who, Farscape, etc. I’ve done well over 40 novels, as well as short stories, ebooks, novellas, comic books, and more. I’ve also done a goodly amount of editing, both of novels and anthologies, over the years, also primarily in the tie-in field. My work has recently garnered me a Lifetime Achievement Award from the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers, which was a huge honor.

IFP: How do you choose your projects? What has been your favourite project?

KD: Sometimes, I choose the project; sometimes, the project chooses me. Earlier in my career, I had to chase more projects, but as time goes on, and I developed a resum̩, sometimes, editors would come to me. For example, I went after both the Farscape novels and the Farscape comic books, but the editors came to me to do World of Warcraft and StarCraft Рand my Star Trek projects have gone in both directions.

It’s impossible to answer what my favourite project is – it’s like asking parents which child is their favorite…

IFP: Can you tell us about how you got into writing tie-in novels? How did you become involved in writing Supernatural fiction?

KD: See above regarding Spider-Man. That was how it started, and it snowballed from there. With Supernatural, it was a case where the license was picked up by DC Comics’s Book Publishing Division, who were packaging the books – initially, for HarperCollins, now for Titan – and the editor there was someone I’d worked with in the past. I was one of the first people he thought of when the project came across his desk. I was already a fan of the show, having gotten into it during the summer reruns of season one, so I jumped at it, sending along two proposals. They liked them both, but liked Nevermore slightly more, so they went for that, as well as Witch’s Canyon by Jeff Mariotte. Then when Nevermore sold better than expected, they asked me to write a second one, so I did that second proposal, which was Bone Key.

IFP: You’ve written Supernatural two novels, Nevermore and Bone Key, so far. Can you tell us how you came to write about New York/Poe and Key West/Native American legends? What was your inspiration?

KD: Well, Nevermore was simply a desire to write about my hometown. I was born and raised in New York City and still live here. I specifically wanted to do a Bronx story because I thought it was possible that the Winchesters would come to NYC at some point, but I knew they’d never go to the Bronx, and this is where I live. Given the Poe connection – Poe lived here in the Bronx for many years – I thought it was a natural to tie Supernatural with the pioneer of horror fiction.

As for Key West, that’s another place I figured they wouldn’t go – there’s just no way to make Vancouver look like Key West – and also, one of my favourite places to visit. Key West has a ton of ghost legends, so it’s really a perfect fit, and I incorporated several of them into the novel.

IFP: What is your favourite genre? To read? To write for?

KD: Science fiction/fantasy has always been my favourite, though I also read a lot of mysteries. In fact, as I type these answers, I’m in the midst of reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, which I’d managed to live 40 years without ever reading…

IFP: Do you have any future Supernatural projects in the works?

KD: Again, as I type these answers, I’m working on a third Supernatural novel called Heart of the Dragon. It’s a three-part tale that involves three generations of hunters – the first third takes place in 1969 and involves the Campbells (Sam and Dean’s grandparents and mother, from “In the Beginning”); the second third has John Winchester in 1989; and the final part is Dean and Sam in 2009.

IFP: You seem to be very involved in the fandom for the show. You’ve written a forward for In the Hunt and you’ve mentioned that you used feedback from the show’s fans about Nevermore when writing Bone Key. What kind of feedback do you get and how do you use it in your Supernatural-related projects?
KD: Oh, I get tons of feedback, and some of it is useful, whether for details I’ve gotten wrong – I messed up Dean’s eye color in Nevermore, as his eyes look blue on screen – or for tonal issues. Several people didn’t think the horror content was high enough in Nevermore, so I made a conscious choice to ramp that up in Bone Key.

Not all of it is useful, though. I’ve had complaints that I don’t write Sam right, but nail Dean perfectly; then the same day I’ll read that I don’t get Dean at all, and can only write Sam. Such is the way of things…

IFP: What do you think of the Apocalypse storyline for seasons four and five of Supernatural?

KD: Well, it’s certainly ramped things up. I like the higher stakes, both for the world in general and for the brothers in particular. One of the show’s strengths is the complexity of the sibling relationship, and the Apocalypse story has really brought that to bear full force.

IFP: What has been your favourite scene in the show?

KD: Probably the dreadful singalong of “Wanted Dead or Alive” in “No Rest for the Wicked”.

IFP: Who is your favourite character in the show?

KD: Bobby. I’ve been a fan of Jim Beaver since he was on Deadwood, where he came close to stealing the show (no mean feat given who else was in that cast), and his character has been a magnificent addition to the show since the second season.

IFP: Do you have a favourite film or television series (or both)?

KD: Favourite film is probably Rashomon, or Casablanca, or Citizen Kane, or The Princess Bride, or Monty Python & the Holy Grail, or Duck Soup, depending on my mood. Favorite TV series is The Wire.

IFP: Do you have a favourite filmmaker or author (or both)?

KD: Akira Kurosawa’s my favourite filmmaker. Favourite author varies wildly. Currently, it’s George Pelecanos, but that could change any day.

IFP: What artistic accomplishment are you the most proud of in your career so far?

KD: Well, I think my strongest novel is a Star Trek novel that was published in 2003 called The Art of the Impossible. It’s a big political epic covering 18 years of history, and I think it’s the fiction of mine that’s worked best.

But in terms of artistic accomplishments I’m proud of, I have to point to two large editorial projects of mine. I edited the Marvel Comics novels that were published by Berkley Books from 1994-2000, and I also edited the monthly
Star Trek eBook line that ran from 2000-2008. I’m incredibly pleased with how both those lines came out.
IFP: If you could be a Lovecraft/Mythos monster (or character), which one would you be? Why?

KD: Yog-Sothoth, just ’cause he has the coolest name.

IFP: Do you have a favourite Lovecraft/Mythos story? If so, which one is it?

KD: Not really. Never was hugely into Lovecraft, honestly, though I have enjoyed the Cthulhu comics published by BOOM! Studios recently.

IFP: Please tell us about your upcoming projects.

KD: Well, I’m working on Supernatural: Heart of the Dragon, and I’ve also got two StarCraft projects out in 2010: a manga volume called Ghost Academy and a novel called Spectres. I’m also writing the monthly Farscape comic book for BOOM! Studios in collaboration with Rockne S. O’Bannon, the show’s creator. I’ve got several other projects in development, but as of this writing, they’re too preliminary to talk about publicly.

IFP: What is your dream project?

KD: Several original novel and comic book notions that are swimming around in my head I would love to see print. They might yet some day, so I’d rather not give specifics just yet…

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Bio: Keith R.A. DeCandido is the author of three novels based on Supernatural: Nevermore (2007), Bone Key (2008), and Heart of the Dragon (2010), and also wrote the foreword to In the Hunt: Unauthorized Essays on Supernatural. Beyond the Winchester family, Keith has a metric buttload of other fiction, most notably more than a dozen Star Trek novels, the monthly Farscape comic book, and two novels and a manga volume based on StarCraft. A receipient of a Grandmaster Award from the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers, Keith lives in New York City. Find out less at DeCandido.net or kradical.livejournal.com.

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IFPInterview: Supernatural: Keith R.A. DeCandido