February 19, 2008 - Interview with Keith R.A. DeCandido

On May 26, 2007 Bryn went to Marcon 42 and got to meet Keith R.A. DeCandido. After a little bit of bribing, he agreed to grant the YHU an interview. For this we are eternally grateful.

Chancellor Bryn: On behalf of the Young Hercules University, I wanted to let you know how grateful we are for this interview. Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with us.
Keith R.A. DeCandido: You're welcome, and I'm sorry I'm taking so long to get back to you....

Young Hercules University: What were your favorite books growing up?
KRAD: My parents gave me lots of Ursula K. Le Guin, J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert A. Heinlein, and P.G. Wodehouse to read as a child. My favorites were the EARTHSEA trilogy, THE HOBBIT, RED PLANET, THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS, and all the Jeeves stories.

YHU: How did you get started writing T.V. show-based books?
KRAD: In the mid-1990s, I was working as an editor for the late Byron Preiss and his various companies. I sold a few short stories to a bunch of tie-in lines, including some of Byron's books, and also worked on the first edition of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER: THE WATCHER'S GUIDE. Working on TWG gave me an in to pitch to the BUFFY fiction editor, which led to THE XANDER YEARS Volume 1. The strength of that and the Spider-Man novel I'd written made me attractive to the editor at Pocket who was handling the YOUNG HERCULES license.

YHU: Were you a fan of the shows HtLJ, X:WP, and/or YH before you were hired to write the books?
KRAD: Very much so, yes. I was a devoted fan of the entire "Xenaverse," so it was a particular thrill to get to write these two books for that reason.

YHU: You mentioned at the convention meeting Kevin Smith. Would you please repeat that story for the cadets?
KRAD: I first met Kevin at a Pasadena Creation convention in January 2000. I was there promoting my YH books, and I gave him copies of both. He was thrilled, particularly with THE ARES ALLIANCE, since he was on the cover. With all the tie-ins that had been done of HERCULES and XENA, nobody had ever put Ares on the cover of a book before (or since).
KRAD: I saw him again in New York a month and a half later, and he told me he'd been reading TAA with his eight-year-old son. I was thrilled. He was the sweetest man, and his death was a huge tragedy.

YHU: Which other Young Hercules actors have you met? What were they like?
KRAD: All the ones I've met have been incredibly nice and fun to talk to. From the YH end of things, besides Kevin, I've met Ryan Gosling and Joel Tobeck. I've also met Danielle Cormack, Jennifer Sky, and Gina Torres.

YHU: How much contact did you have with the shows writers while writing the books?
KRAD: None.

YHU: Were you given a plot to work with, or were you allowed to run free with the characters as long as you stayed true to the show?
KRAD: The latter.

YHU: In "Cheiron's Warriors" you briefly mention Autolycus. Were you encouraged to reference "Hercules: the Legendary Journeys", or was that your own idea?
KRAD: I wasn't discouraged from it. They treated it as all one universe, and considering half the characters are Greek gods and/or historical figures (and therefore more or less in the public domain), it was never a problem. I'm always fond of tying the universe together anyhow, which is why I put the reference to Autolycus in there. (And also why I used Aphrodite in THE ARES ALLIANCE, even though 'Dite never appeared in YH.)

YHU: Did you visualize the actors as the characters when you wrote the books (i.e. Dean O'Gorman as Iolaus) or did you have your own image of the characters?
KRAD: Oh, the actors, definitely. When I was writing Zeus, I was specifically channeling Roy Dotrice's version (as opposed to those of Anthony Quinn, Charles Keating, Peter Vere-Jones, or John Bach), since I think he was =by far= the most effective Zeus they had.

YHU: How much research do you do when you write the books?
KRAD: For the YH books in particular, I did some research into ancient Greece to add some details to evoke the time and place. For THE ARES ALLIANCE I had to go one step further and do a great deal of research into the gods of West Africa -- not to mention the lifestyle of the Yoruba, also...

YHU: How accurate to both the actual mythology and the show's version of the mythology do you have to be?
KRAD: I tried to bring in stuff from the actual mythology where possible, but the show's version always took precedence.

YHU: How long does it take, and how many drafts?
KRAD: As long as they give me. *wry grin* I've written a book in six months, and I've written a book in two weeks.

YHU: Where do you look for when you need inspiration?
KRAD: Everywhere.

YHU: How do you handle writers block?
KRAD: I can't afford writers block. This is my job.

YHU: Were any of your books at any time considered to be made into episodes?
KRAD: Nope. Certainly not the YH books, which came out =after= the show was cancelled.....

YHU: Do you have any input or control over what the covers of your books look like? (When I first bought "Ares Alliance", I thought part of the story would involve Hercules getting possessed since the picture of Ryan on the cover of "Ares Alliance" is from the episode Forgery while Hercules was under the influence of Heph's forge fire.)
KRAD: There are books where I have influence over the cover -- for example, several of my STAR TREK book covers have had my input. The YH were not among those number, however.

YHU: Is there any backstory to the ex-castle in "Ares Alliance"?
KRAD: Okay, keep in mind that it's been almost ten years since I wrote that book, so I have to ask -- =what= ex-castle? *whimper*

YHU: There are rumors of an episode that was written but never filmed. Do you know anything about it?
KRAD: I don't know anything one way or the other.

YHU: Which is your favorite YH episode?
KRAD: Again, it's been ten years, so the individual episodes have faded into a blur (particularly since there were over 50 of them in so compressed a time). In general, any episode Kevin was in as Ares was worth it, and I liked pretty much all the episodes that featured Cyane and her Amazon tribe.
KRAD: Actually, I think my favorite story may well have been the pilot movie that Ian Bohen starred in....

YHU: One of our cadets, Neila, wanted to say, "Keith R.A. DeCandido is an excellent writer. I've enjoyed all the books that I have that he's written. I have at least one Andromeda book that's he's written and it was a great story."
KRAD: Thanks so much, Neila! I had great fun writing DESTRUCTION OF ILLUSIONS, too....

YHU: Did you ever think that eight years after the show aired fans would still be talking about it, reading your books, and discussing the nuances of the show?
KRAD: No, mainly because I've seen how small the sales figures are for those two books..... *chuckle*

YHU: If you could create any kind of weapon out of any kind of edible foodstuff, what would you create and who would you attack with it?
KRAD: Fruitcake. That stuff's indestructible, man....

YHU: Do you have any advice on how we could contact any of the show writers or actors for interviews?
KRAD: No idea. Through their agents, I would guess. The New Zealand actors are likely more approachable....

YHU: Thank you again for your time!
KRAD: You're welcome! Feel free to ask any follow-up queries. I promise to get to them faster!

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