From Sci-Fi and Fantasy to Thrillers: Kevin J. Anderson on Writing Kill Zone

By Kevin J. Anderson

When you get right down to it, every story is a thriller—otherwise who would want to read it? Yes, genre labels and expectations are different. Readers who pick up a fantasy novel don’t want the same thing as readers of mysteries or westerns, but if there’s nothing exciting, or at least interesting, in the story, who would want to read it? 

Though I’m primarily known for my science fiction and fantasy novels, my reading and writing has always ranged widely. Two months ago Tor Books released my epic fantasy novel Spine of the Dragon, a sprawling story with dozens of point-of-view characters, two continents at war, lots of worldbuilding, history, and complex magic systems. It might seem strange that so soon afterward, Doug Beason and I would release a modern-day mainstream high-tech thriller, Kill Zone.

But to me, a story is a story, and Doug and I had a thrilling idea that demanded to be written. The core concept behind Kill Zone is extremely topical—you don’t see many sleeping dragons or ancient magic wielders in today’s headlines!

Doug and I have known each other for over thirty years. Our first short story together, “If I Fell, Would I Fall?” was published in 1988 in Amazing Stories. We have the same sensibility of plot and characters, in outlining and pacing. 

In writing a high-tech thriller, I use all the same skills I developed in my other novels, but Doug brings a wealth of experience and expertise that lets us give Kill Zone the cutting-edge veracity that high-tech thriller readers want. With his background as a PhD Physicist, a retired colonel form the US Air Force, and his Washington, DC experience as a former member of the President’s Science Office and Chief Scientist of Air Force Space Command, as well as Associate Director at Los Alamos National Laboratory, Doug has an unparalleled background for writing a book like this, set amidst the politics and technical challenges of a nuclear waste storage complex.

I could never have written this book myself, but the fast-paced writing, the intricate plotting, and the complex characters are still my forte. The worldbuilding inside a nuclear storage complex or a nuclear power plant is just as rigorous as developing a fantasy world or a galactic empire.

Doug and I have written nine novels together, ranging from the futuristic hard science fiction of Lifeline or the Nebula-nominated Assemblers of Infinity, to the World War II time-travel thriller The Trinity Paradox, to the ecological disaster of Ill Wind, and the modern high-tech thrillers of Ignition and the Craig Kreident mysteries.

We hope they’re all thrilling in their own way. In Kill Zone we brought together the best of our skills to create a fast-paced and thought-provoking adventure. We hope you enjoy it.

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2 thoughts on “From Sci-Fi and Fantasy to Thrillers: Kevin J. Anderson on Writing Kill Zone

  1. I would like some advice on how to start on a writing a book. I have been writing some things down but sometimes get stuck. Just wanting to get some advice on how to get a little further into it. Hope to hear back thank you.

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