When we last spoke to Keith R.A. DeCandido, at the start of 2010, he had recently received the Faust – the Grand Master prize at the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers’ annual Scribe Awards – which recognises writers for their “extensive and exceptional work in the tie-in field”.
Five years after receiving that lifetime achievement award, his work shows no sign of being any less extensive or exceptional – since then, he’s continued to add new franchises to his hat, with debut stories for two more new properties due for release before the year ends. Today, Keith’s kindly agreed to talk about his ventures in both those new universes – Sleepy Hollow and Stargate SG-1 – and his return to Star Trek books after several years of absence.
The first of those arrives in September – right in time for the second season of Sleepy Hollow – as Broadway Books, an imprint of Random House, release two original novels. “The show is about a Revolutionary War soldier named Ichabod Crane, who died after beheading a Hessian mercenary in 1776,” explains Keith, for anyone unfamiliar with the series, “but both Crane and the Hessian are reawakened in present-day Sleepy Hollow, New York as soldiers in another battle, against the demon horde. Crane and a local cop named Abbie Mills are the Witnesses who must fight the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, one of whom is the now-headless Hessian mercenary, who is Death. Basically, each week Crane and Mills fight demons, monsters, and stuff, while Crane also tries to adjust to twenty-first century life.”
Keith’s novel, Children of the Revolution, is set “shortly before the end of the first season – between the episodes The Golem and The Vessel,” he adds. “As is only fitting, Crane and Mills have the largest roles, but I made an effort to make sure that Captain Irving, Mills’s sister Jenny, and, in flashback form, Sheriff August Corbin (mentor to each of the Mills sisters, who died in the pilot, but has continued to have a supporting role both posthumously and in flashbacks) all have big roles.” And for the history aficionados, he adds that “another character who plays a critical supporting role is General George Washington, who appears in a pair of flashbacks to 1776 and 1785”.
With a series that is still relatively new, not to mention ongoing, it must be hard to decide how closely to link a tie-in novel to its parent series. With Children of the Revolution, Keith feels that he has followed the show’s lead. “The show occupies a weird middle ground between serialised and standalone,” he ponders, “and I suspect the novel will be viewed the same way. Definitely part of their ongoing story, but still an adventure that works on its own. While the catalyst for the plot has its basis in an episode of the show, it’s not tied heavily to that particular episode.”
That episode is the show’s second, Blood Moon, in which “the demon Moloch tried to resurrect a witch known as Serilda of Abaddon,” Keith reminds us. “Crane and Mills stopped that from happening, but now her coven is trying to resurrect her again. The secret to doing so involves ten medals that were issued by the Continental Congress in 1775 which also can be used as magical talismans. It’s a race against time for Crane and Mills to stop more of the medals from being stolen from the various museums they’re now in (especially since the thefts have come with body counts) while trying to locate the one Crane was issued but never actually received before his death.”
The other Sleepy Hollow book will be The Secret Journal of Ichabod Crane by Alex Irvine which, Keith explains, “is a collection of Crane’s thoughts on various things, [and] will be released at the same time as Children of the Revolution.” As Sleepy Hollow is a newcomer to the world of tie-in fiction, “those are the only two projects under contract right now. Random House is, I suspect, taking a cautious view, wanting to make sure that these two books do well before committing to any more. If there are more, I really hope I get to contribute, as I’ve had an absolute blast working on this project.”
That much was obvious from several comments Keith made on his blog leading up to the reveal of Children of the Revolution, in which he repeatedly mentioned how smooth the process of creating this project has been. “Basically, nothing has gone wrong,” he laughs, “despite the accelerated timetable (I had two months to write the book, and that was a hard deadline with absolutely no wiggle room). It only took two weeks to go from an e-mail out of the blue from Meagan Stacey, my editor at Broadway Books, asking me if I wanted to write the book, to having an approved outline, and that was with a revision stage. The licensing people at Fox have been very quick to turn around approvals – the two bits of outline feedback both came within two days of my turning them in, and the novel itself was approved in a week. The feedback was all good and useful, too.
“In addition, the publisher has been hugely supportive, with a big marketing plan in development, the copy edit was excellent and fast, and the page proofs were as clean as any I’ve ever had – far cleaner than anything that was this rushed. I’ve had lots of projects that happened this fast (or faster!), and I’ve had lots of projects that went this smoothly, but they’ve rarely been the same project. As an example, my Command and Conquer novel Tiberium Wars from 2007 was also this much of a rush project, but that was fraught with all kinds of issues, including my needing to trash an entire subplot between drafts.”
The second new property for Keith will be the aforementioned Stargate SG-1 series, as he will be part of the Stargate SG-1/Stargate Atlantis anthology Far Horizons, a “collection of short stories set in the milieu of the two shows”. Little is known about the project as of this point but Keith is “pretty sure they’re all within the lifetime of the series, though I can’t say for sure as I don’t really know much about the other stories in the anthology. Also, so far Fandemonium has done only a few post-finale-type novels, the Legacy series for Atlantis.” His own contribution, the SG-1 story Time Keeps on Slippin’, is set within the series’ run, filling in a gap between two episodes. “I don’t want to say which two episodes yet,” Keith teases, “though I will say it’s also between two seasons, and the focus will be on Carter and Teal’c.” On social media, Keith has mentioned that he is in talks to do more (long-form) Stargate, but “that decision isn’t in my hands. As soon as those other people make decisions, I’ll better be able to answer that question.”
In addition to those new worlds, 2014 has also seen Keith revisit an old one: he returned to Star Trek books after a four-year absence with The Klingon Art of War: Ancient Principles of Ruthless Honor. While it’s definitely not a novel, it’s hard to immediately categorise – fiction? non-fiction? self-help book? philosophy? If Keith had to shelve it in a library, where would it go? “No frapping clue,” he grins. “Philosophy may be the best bet, though it is, strictly speaking, about a fictional universe, though it’s written as nonfiction. Seriously, I’ve been struggling with this since I got the gig, and I’m no closer now than when I started to categorising the fershlugginer thing…
“The book is presented as a text that has been published in the Klingon Empire,” Keith explains. “The original ten precepts go back to shortly after the time of Kahless, and the original text has been published in various forms throughout the thousand years since. This particular edition is published in the late twenty-fourth century and not only has the original text, but also modern commentary, as well as an introduction and afterword, by a Klingon novelist named K’ratak. This way, the book includes examples of how the precepts apply to life using examples that the reader might be more familiar with. The precepts themselves are guides to how to live your life as a proper warrior. Following these precepts will lead you down the path of honour.”
Keith drew inspiration from “anything and everything” for the precepts. “I pulled from various Trek TV shows, movies, comics, novels, novellas, and short stories. Naturally, I also used Sun-Tzu’s The Art of War as an inspiration, and my background as a black belt in karate was a big help, as there’s a lot of Eastern martial arts philosophy that’s very Klingon.
“And,” he adds, cheekily, “I made a whole bunch of stories up…”
As mentioned above The Klingon Art of War is Keith’s return to Star Trek books after quite a few years of absence. How did the return came about? “The book was put together by becker&mayer!, a book packager in the Pacific Northwest, who’ve put together a lot of cool referency-type books – they did Larry Nemecek’s Stellar Cartography, Paul Ruditis’s A Very Klingon Khristmas, David Goodman’s Federation: The First 150 Years, Chip Carter’s Obsessed with Star Trek, and so on,” he remarks. “John Van Citters of CBS Licensing came to them with the notion of doing The Klingon Art of War, and John and Ben Grossblatt of b&m! put together the basic structure. They actually first approached Dayton Ward, figuring that his background in the Marine Corps would make him a good choice, but Dayton didn’t have the time and he suggested me, as someone who has an extensive history writing Klingons. Naturally, I jumped into it with both feet.”
Because The Klingon Art of War was produced by a different creative team than the licensed Star Trek novels, the possibility of more Keith R.A. DeCandido-penned Trek novels is still up in the air; asked if there are any plans, he refers to the answer he gave regarding Stargate – that the “decision isn’t in my hands”.
But until the Star Trek editors see the light, Keith is busy with several other projects. “I’ve got a whole mess of stuff in the works, including more in my Dragon Precinct universe” – which has so far expanded to four novels (Dragon Precinct, Unicorn Precinct, Goblin Precinct, and Gryphon Precinct) and short story anthology Tales from Dragon Precinct – “from the next novel, Mermaid Precinct, to various works of short fiction.
“I’m also working with Jonathan Maberry on three projects: Out of Tune, which is an anthology of stories based on sea ballads (the Child Ballads, etc), one of the upcoming V-Wars shared-world anthologies (I contributed to the first V-Wars, and I’ll also be doing a story for Volume Three), and an X-Files anthology, where I’ll be doing a story taking place during that show’s second season. Dark Quest will be putting out a collection of my short fiction called Without a License: The Fantastic Worlds of Keith R.A. DeCandido, which will include a new Dragon Precinct story and a new Cassie Zukav story [Zukav being the lead in a series of urban fantasy short stories set in Key West Florida, from the 2013 collection Ragnarak and Roll]. I wrote a module for the Firefly: Echoes of War role-playing game called Merciless. I’ve also got an SCPD story coming out in a superhero anthology called With Great Power.”
Ever the tease, Keith ends the interview with a cryptic hint at a potential future project. “I’m talking to an editor about a tie-in project that’ll be really really cool if it all comes together,” he smiles, “but I can’t really talk about it yet…”
The Klingon Art of War was released by Pocket Books in May 2014. Children of the Revolution will be released by Broadway Books in September 2014. Far Horizons will be released by Fandemonium in the autumn.