Little did bestselling sci-fi writer Kevin Anderson know that when he acknowledged the popular rock band Rush for inspiring his first novel, Resurrection, Inc., back in 1988, he’d be collaborating with the group’s percussionist and lyricist, Neil Peart, in a novelization of one of their CDs. The author sent copies of his first book to Mercury Records, and a year later, a seven-page letter from the group’s drummer showed up in his mailbox. They’ve been friends ever since.
The writing partnership began a few years ago. “Neil began thinking up his big, epic steampunk adventure concept for his album, and he started corresponding with me as he was developing it,” Anderson says. “We brainstormed back and forth. It was no surprise when he suggested that we do a novel version of it. I already had the story in my head, and it was just a very organic process that developed.”
Anderson and Peart e-mailed ideas—sometimes 12 exchanges in a day. Clockwork Angels (ECW Press) is a coming-of-age story about an idealistic country boy who wants to go to the big city and gets caught up in a wildly different world. “One of the big villains is the watchmaker, who wants everybody on a schedule and controls everything,” Anderson says. “The other bad guy calls himself ‘the anarchist’ because he thinks there’s too much order—so he blows up the train and wrecks everything so that people can be free. Our boy gets caught up in the middle of this and ends up taking adventures all across the landscape—flying in airships and taking cargo steamers across the ocean and going to ancient lost cities and fighting pirates—everything that you want in a book.”
With more than 100 books published, Anderson’s working with a bestselling musician resulted in a special kind of teamwork. “We just built upon each other’s idea. He’s looking at it from a musician’s point of view, and I’m looking at it as a science fiction writer. He made me bring in all kinds of colorful metaphors and imagery, when as a science fiction writer I might have just charged ahead with whatever the plot needed next.”
The album Clockwork Angels comes out this month, and the book debuts in September to coincide with Rush’s album tour. In addition to traditional distribution channels, the book will be available with the paraphernalia one finds at every Rush concert venue.
Anderson has attended Book Expo dozens of time. “You step through the door, and it’s like a giant carnival!” he exclaims. “Every place you turn, there are exhibitors, big publishers, small ones, and all the peripheral materials—the bookmark manufacturers and the calendar people. It’s like Christmas morning in the publishing industry—all the goodies are under the tree.”