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Chat: Keith R. A. DeCandido

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Chat: Keith R. A. DeCandido

Subject(s): Keith R. A. DeCandido, Novelization Author
Dated: May 17, 2001
Source: SciFi.com


Moderator: Welcome to tonights chat with Keith R.A. DeCandido, author of the first Farscape novel, Farscape: House of Cards.
Moderator: Keith, can you speak?

KRAD: Woof!

Moderator: There you are.
Moderator: Hello Keith. It's nice to have you here for tonights chat. We have a big room filled with eager scapers who want to ask you many, many questions. Let's get started.

KRAD: OK, as long as nobody asks me about the birthmark.

Moderator: But first, Keith, do you have any opening words for our on-line chatters tonight?

KRAD: If you haven't bought HOUSE OF CARDS yet, then dadgummit, whatcha waitin' for?
KRAD: It's rerun season, you need =something= to tide you over. ;)
KRAD: Oh, and just for the record, my web page is the easy-to-remember DeCandido.net.
KRAD: Don't worry, I'll probably repeat it 8000 times before the evening is up.
KRAD: I think that suffices for opening remarks. :)

Moderator: Thanks Keith. Let's begin.
Moderator: <UCSBdad> to <Moderator>: For those, like me, with no knowledge of the literary biz, can you tell us a little about the process of writing House of Cards. Did you write the book and then try to interest TPTB? Did you start with just a concept? Did TPTB pound opn your door and beg you to write it?

KRAD: Any media tie-in novel starts with a concept.
KRAD: You have to get a pitch or an outline approved before you can write the book.
KRAD: In the specific case of HOUSE OF CARDS, I was approached by Boxtree (the UK publisher) at the behest of Tor Books (the U.S. publisher) because they needed someone to write a third book.
KRAD: The first two slots were already assigned to Andrew Dymond and David Bischoff, but their manuscripts had been hit with delays.
KRAD: I had been lobbying Greg Cox at Tor =very very= hard to push me as a possible author for the third slot.
KRAD: I wrote up a pitch, Boxtree liked it, Tor liked it, Henson liked it, they gave me a contract, I wrote it, and then circumstances conspired to have it be the first one published in the U.S.

Moderator: <Gmmas> to <Moderator>: Keith: you stayed away from letting Crichton see his mental Scorpius in the book...was that to keep from treading on area the show covers?

KRAD: More or less that, yeah.
KRAD: I was trying to avoid any major issues from the show so that casual viewers or people who only saw some episodes would be able to jump in with little difficulty.
KRAD: That's also why I set it between "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "The Locket." Once Stark showed up with a line on Jothee, they pretty much went full tilt into the end of season 2.
KRAD: That was the best spot to put a novel-sized adventure without stepping on the ongoing plotline, and it was also a good place to put a story that wouldn't rely on an encyclopedic knowledge of teh show.
KRAD: "the show." Sorry. Damn typos. :)

Moderator: <Luggage7a> to <Moderator>: Hoi Keith, can you tell what your target audience for the book is? Novices to farscape or die hard fans, and do TPTB have a say in that?

KRAD: Hoi back!
KRAD: The target audience for the book is anyone who enjoys a cracking space opera yarn. I tried to make sure that people who are unfamiliar with the show could follow it with little difficulty, and I also wanted die-hard fans to be able to enjoy it as well.
KRAD: I wasn't given any specific instructions from Henson or anyone else on "targeting" as such, though, no.
KRAD: And one of my preliminary readers before I turned it in had never seen an episode of FARSCAPE prior to reading the manuscript, and she had no trouble following it -- in fact, now she watches the show religiously.

Moderator: <Nate4c> to <Moderator>: Keith...what inspired your concept for House of Cards? How did you "get into the characters"..to understand them?

KRAD: The starting point for HOUSE OF CARDS was the basic idea of Rygel losing Moya in a card game.
KRAD: As to "getting into the characters," I pretty much did that from the moment I started watching the show religiously. I've always been proud of my ability to root around inside characters' heads.
KRAD: And to capture character voices, as well. Whether or not I succeeded, only you reader folks can say. :)
KRAD: I was also constantly plunking tapes into the VCR for particular character or plot points. I'm a compulsive researcher, regardless of what form that research takes.
KRAD: I think I watched every single episode of the show at some point or other over the course of writing the book.

Moderator: <babymoya> to <Moderator>: Keith, who is you favorite chacater on the show and was it hard to keep them out of every scene, or making them the central focal point of the story?

KRAD: Probably my favorite character is Aeryn.
KRAD: It was pretty easy to keep her out of every scene, though -- I mean, she can't do =everything=. ;)

Moderator: Yes she can.

KRAD: And I made an effort to make this an ensemble piece.
KRAD: OK, fair point, she =can= do everything. But there =are= other people on the show.
KRAD: Besides, if nothing else, Aeryn would =never= lose Moya in a card game. :)
KRAD: But I did have a great time putting Aeryn through hell, which is the best thing to do to characters you like. I'll be doing likewise for Kira Nerys in my upcoming DS9 novel.
KRAD: (Gee, Kira, Aeryn -- think Keith has a thing for kickass women with troubled pasts?)

Moderator: I think so.
Moderator: <Xenajules2> to <Moderator>: Keith, are the different covers I've heard about just in different countries, or how are they distributed?

KRAD: The British edition has a different cover from the American edition.
KRAD: The British edition has Aeryn in the foreground on the left and Zhaan in the background on the right.
KRAD: The American edition has Zhaan on the left and Rygel on the right, with Moya up top in the background.
KRAD: To further confuse the issue, an early version of the British edition cover had Aeryn and Crichton, but that got changed later.
KRAD: Oh, and to add insult to injury, the cover for the British edition on Amazon.co.uk was a cast shot that had =nothing= to do with the actual cover of the book.
KRAD: Confused yet? :)

Moderator: <nomad-soul> to <Moderator>: Hiya Keith...For how long after writing the book was "Viva Las Vegas" stuck in your head?

KRAD: Probably not as long as it's been stuck in the heads of the book's readers. *cue diabolical laughter*

Moderator: <Thinkum> to <Moderator>: Viva Liantac! You obviously enjoyed writing in the Uncharted Territories of Farscape's universe -- but what part of the job was the *hardest*?

KRAD: I'm not sure how to answer that.
KRAD: Probably the character I had the most trouble with was Zhaan. Not sure why, but her voice was the hardest for me to latch onto.
KRAD: So I guess you could say that Zhaan's scenes were the hardest. I guess. *shrug*

Moderator: <UCSBdad> to <Moderator>: We gor a little more backround on the Peacekeepers in HoK, the mutiny of an elite unit, etc. Any further info about the Peacekeepers you picked up?

KRAD: Not really, no. I just extrapolated from what little we've gotten in episodes like "Premiere," "That Old Black Magic," "The Way We Weren't," "Nerve," "The Hidden Memory," "Mind the Baby," "Family Ties," and Aeryn's general conversations.
KRAD: Oh yeah, and "PK Tech Girl," particularly the disdain commandos have for the techs.

Moderator: <Gmmas> to <Moderator>: Keith: how did you get into doing tv tie-in novels, and what advice would you have for others interested in that field?

KRAD: To answer the second question first....
KRAD: The advice I would have is to write your own material.
KRAD: Your best chance of writing tie-ins is to establish yourself as an author of original fiction first.
KRAD: I got into it kind of bass-ackwards, having served as an editor of a tie-in novel line (the Marvel novels published by Berkley).
KRAD: My way won't work for everyone, obviously. :)
KRAD: But really, tie-in editors prefer to work with established writers who have proven that they can a) write and b) hit deadlines. :)

Moderator: <dw-mckim> to <Moderator>: W/ the novel & mag, you've now written for two official Farscape products - any chance you might be among the SHOW's writers in the future (or even the upcoming comics given your experience)?

KRAD: Actually I haven't written for two official FARSCAPE products.
KRAD: I've written for three.
KRAD: *rimshot*
KRAD: I also wrote a short story that will be in the upcoming role-playing game from Alderac Entertainment Games (to debut in June).
KRAD: As for the show....
KRAD: Right now, the deal the producers have with the locals is such that only Australian natives and members of the show's production staff can write for the show.
KRAD: FWIW, if that changes and it becomes open to non-Aussies, Rockne O'Bannon his own self has told me that I'm welcome to pitch to the show.
KRAD: So we shall see.
KRAD: As for the comics, the response is basically the same: we shall see.
KRAD: I certainly have no objection to doing a comic book. :)
KRAD: I think WildStorm wants to see how the six-issue miniseries that Marv Wolfman is writing does first.
KRAD: But I have let folks at WildStorm (for whom I wrote a STAR TREK comic last year) know that I'm interested, so we shall see.
KRAD: As I said. :)

Moderator: <Rownan> to <Moderator>: Hey Candido, Did you meet any of the Farscape cast to get a better idea of how their characters should be portrayed in your book?


Moderator: <GeneralSun> to <Moderator>: was it hard writing the John/Aeryn relationship factor or not? without going over the top obviously, and making us shippers go suicidal!

KRAD: (I love the easy ones. :) )
KRAD: Well, the last thing I want to do is make shippers suicidal.
KRAD: And it wasn't that hard to write it, actually.
KRAD: My take on it is that the two of them are obviously hopelessly in love with each other. But it's not that simple because of their backgrounds and where they're coming from.
KRAD: Basically, Aeryn is underequipped for a relationship, and John is overequipped for one.
KRAD: And I had a =great= time writing their semi-shippy moments in the book (when she talks to him about Stran on Moya and the scene in the hotel room).

Moderator: Here's a tough one for you.
Moderator: <leon> to <Moderator>: Keith, do you think Crichton is a right man for a woman like Aeryn?

KRAD: No, I think I'm the right man for a woman like Aeryn.
KRAD: *ducks the sideswipe from his girlfriend*
KRAD: (And yes, folks, she really took a swipe at me.)

Moderator: <The-Finn> to <Moderator>: Did playing role playing games help you understand character developement? (DnD and the Like)

KRAD: I suppose it had something to do with it, yeah. *chuckle*
KRAD: (Folks, the person who asked that question is an old high school gaming buddy of mine, hence the question.)
KRAD: (He thinks he's funny. :) )

Moderator: Speaking of girlfriends and family....
Moderator: <GutPageant> to <Moderator>: As an artist, I've always had to put up with my family teasing me about not having "a real job". How much worse is it for you, writing sci-fi novels?

KRAD: It's just fine, actually.
KRAD: In fact, my parents encouraged me on this path.
KRAD: And hey, I make more money from my writing and editing now than I did in an office job.
KRAD: So that really isn't an issue. :)
KRAD: In fact, my mother is so proud of me that she's in the audience for this chat right now.
KRAD: (Really!)

Moderator: <Gmmas> to <Moderator>: Keith: is it hard to keep the different universes straight, going from Star Trek to Farscape, not to mention all the other tie-in worlds you've done?

KRAD: You just thought I put a lot of in-jokes into my writing. Actually it's me being confused.....
KRAD: ;)
KRAD: Seriously, it's not that hard.
KRAD: And I'm heavily into my next book where Captain Xander Harris of the U.S.S. Enterprise goes on a journey into the Uncharted Territories to save Lt. Commander D'Argo and his son Alexander from the evil Venom.

Moderator: And the quesion we all have been waiting for....
Moderator: <ceallaig> to <Moderator>: Keith -- this is a traditional first chat question, so let's get it out of the way now: boxers or briefs?

KRAD: Neither.
KRAD: I'm not much for men who are involved in contact sports, and I have no interest in the legal profession.

Moderator: <Dabee> to <Moderator>: Hey Keith! Really liked the book! AND really looking forward to meeting you at ScaperCon2001.......will you be bringing any of your books or your DQYDJPlayers stuff with you? If not, could we talk you into it? Would love to have you there to sign it for us! Thanks....;)

KRAD: I will have copies of the Don't Quit Your Day Job Players CDs (that's my band) at ScaperCon, and I'll probably have copies of VENOM'S WRATH to sell.
KRAD: Beyond that, I'd rather you support your local bookstore or whatever vendors might be in the dealer's room at the con.
KRAD: (The Don't Quit Your Day Job Players is a rock/blues/country band that I play percussion for. For more on us, go to www.dqydjp.com.)

Moderator: <Nate4c> to <Moderator>: Keith Have you been approached about doing another Farscape novel since the success of your first? Do you have a concept for a next Farscape novel?
Moderator: <Rownan> to <Moderator>: Are there more Farscape books planned and when are they due out?

KRAD: The initial license Boxtree and Tor got from Henson was for three novels.
KRAD: The other two are DARK SIDE OF THE SUN by Andrew Dymond (which was out in the UK last November and will be out in the U.S. in September) and SHIP OF GHOSTS by David Bischoff (UK in September, US in January).
KRAD: They were all assigned at roughly the same time.
KRAD: Whether or not there are any more beyond that will depend on how good the sales are for HOUSE OF CARDS.
KRAD: So buy early and buy often! :)
KRAD: Having said that, since Henson really liked my book, Boxtree really liked my book, Tor really liked my book, and Rockne O'Bannon really liked my book, I think it's safe to say that, if there are more books, I'll be writing one or two of them.
KRAD: And yes, I have an idea for another book.

Moderator: Here is a question all the women in your life wants to know...
Moderator: <ladyhawk> to <Moderator>: How does he get inside the heads of his women characters so well?

KRAD: Years of observation of interesting women.

Moderator: <birthsister> to <Moderator>: did you have an idea what the other two authors were writing so you didn't give conflicting information, or are all your books "stand alone" sort of things

KRAD: They're all standalone sort of things.
KRAD: I read DARK SIDE OF THE SUN while I was writing HOUSE OF CARDS.
KRAD: Haven't read SHIP OF GHOSTS yet.
KRAD: But they don't really have anything to do with each other except that they're FARSCAPE stories. :)

Moderator: <Rownan> to <Moderator>: What made you decide to focus your first novel on Rygel?

KRAD: I don't really think I did, honestly.
KRAD: I mean, Rygel's the catalyst for the plot, but I don't think he's the focus as such. I tried to give equal time to all the castmembers.
KRAD: I freely admit that Rygel was a =ball= to write -- he's a gleefully obnoxious little troll, he's much smarter than everyone gives him credit for, and he gets a lot of the best lines.

Moderator: <Fauconne> to <Moderator>: Keith, is there a booksigning scheduled?

KRAD: Just the two convention appearances I'm making in July -- Shore Leave in Hunt Valley and ScaperCon in Cincinnati.
KRAD: I just moved recently, so I haven't really had time to schedule signings.

Moderator: <ceallaig> to <Moderator>: Hey, Keith, welcome to your first chat. You mentioned on the bboard that you have more fic coming out soon in the new FS magazine and in the new RPG -- can you give us a preview?

KRAD: Sure I can!
KRAD: First issue of the FARSCAPE magazine will have a story called "Many a Mile to Freedom."
KRAD: Zhaan and Rygel are captured by a nasty-ass crimelord.
KRAD: Second issue of the FARSCAPE magazine will have a story called "Brotherly Love."
KRAD: It's a Crais story that focuses on how his life has changed over the years.
KRAD: The RPG will have a story called "Ten Little Aliens."
KRAD: It takes place in the first season and has Crichton, D'Argo, Crais, and seven other people trapped in an icky setting.
KRAD: I'm also working on an Aeryn story for the third issue of the magazine.

Moderator: <PhilScape> to <Moderator>: If he was asked to be a head writer for the show, would he take up the opportunity? (Considering it is a very time-consuming job, being a head writer)

KRAD: The likelihood of that coming to pass is so slim as to be nonexistent, since I have no screenwriting experience whatsoever.
KRAD: And I'd have to move to Australia.
KRAD: But heck, if they asked me and offered me flipping great wodges of cash, I'd probably do it, yeah. :)

Moderator: I think this is a fair question for those who don't know what the novel is about...
Moderator: <slidecat> to <Moderator>: may i ask what is your book loosely about? if you have the chance for another?

KRAD: Well, typing directly from the back cover of the book....
KRAD: The pleasure planet Liantac was once the greatest gambling resort in the Uncharted Territories. Even now, having fallen on hard times, it remains a spectacle of glitz and greed.
KRAD: Astronaut John Crichton and his fellow interstellar fugitives ses Liantac as the source of much-needed supplies--except for Rygel, whose boundless avarice is tempted by the promise of easy riches.
KRAD: Imagine his shock, then, when he loses their starship, Moya, in a game of chance!
KRAD: To discharge the debt, and liberate their ship from the planetary authorities, Crichton, Aeryn, and the others must take on a number of challenging assignments.
KRAD: But all is not what it seems, for treachery and deadly intrigue hides within this ... HOUSE OF CARDS.
KRAD: And yes, I just typed that off the back cover of the book. :)

Moderator: Tell the truth, you have that memorized.

KRAD: *chuckle*

Moderator: Final question for the night Keith....
Moderator: <babymoya> to <Moderator>: What are you most proud of about this novel?

KRAD: Writing Aeryn getting drunk. And John's reaction to it afterward.
KRAD: And BTW, I'm willing to go on longer if there are more questions.

Moderator: How about 15 more minutes?

KRAD: Sure!

Moderator: <birthsister> to <Moderator>: until your book, we've never seen Aeryn lose control, or allow herself get into a situation where she could lose control...where did you get the idea for the drunk scene?

KRAD: Well, it was something I wanted to see. :)
KRAD: And I thought that the combination of encountering Stran and having to impersonate a PK commando again (and being so distressingly good at it) would lead her to being a bit more introspective and wallow-ish (so to speak) than normal.
KRAD: Aeryn is always very tightly in control of everything. That's part of why she pushes John away -- she's used to the regimental life and she's used to having everything in a certain order.
KRAD: Life on Moya is the very opposite of that, and it seems to me that she has to work very hard to keep her sanity in the face of it versus her upbringing.
KRAD: So I put her in a situation where maintaining that control would be just a wee bit harder. :)
KRAD: As I said before, the characters you like are the ones you want to torture the most.

Moderator: <grf> to <Moderator>: I'm looking forward to reading the book, but that description makes me wonder, why couldn't everyone else just disown Rygel? He doesn't own Moya, so how can he lose it?

KRAD: That's explained in the book. :)
KRAD: So you'll just have to read it.
KRAD: :)

Moderator: <nomad-soul> to <Moderator>: Do you consider yourself as *ahem* fanatical as other Scapers?

KRAD: That would be a big "no." *chortle*
KRAD: I love the show a lot, and follow it with a kind-of religious zeal, but I can't hold a candle to some of the more obsessed folk. :)

Moderator: <dw-mckim> to <Moderator>: (Hi Mom!) If House of Cards becomes the basis for a Farscape movie - who would you like to see cast as Stran (or any other original characters)?

KRAD: Ugh.
KRAD: I'm not sure.

Moderator: I think I can play a Luxan warrior.

KRAD: We've got one in the book. :)
KRAD: Honestly, now that you're asking me point blank, I can't think of anyone.
KRAD: Sorry. :(
KRAD: I'll think on it and post something to the BBoard.

Moderator: <Elflore> to <Moderator>: Just how did you end up writing tie-in novels? (I think, for many of us fanfic authors, it sounds like a dream job! <g>)

KRAD: I published my first short story in a Spider-Man anthology through bizarre circumstances. I then published a few more stories, both tie-in and original.
KRAD: Next thing I know, I've got a contract to coauthor a Spider-Man novel with Jose R. Nieto.
KRAD: It kinda snowballed from there.

Moderator: <GutPageant> to <Moderator>: Some TV writers have mentioned avoiding fanfics for fear of plagiarism lawsuits. Is this a concern for you as well? (P.S.--No, I'm not a fanfic writer; just curious)

KRAD: A minor one, really.
KRAD: I don't really avoid fanfic, though.

Moderator: <TracicarT> to <Moderator>: My Friend Zeke (a very handsome Black Lab) has difficulty in turning pages (being a dog, and all), and was hoping the book would be released in audio form. Do you think it will be available in as an audio book?

KRAD: Probably not, no.

Moderator: I have a question: What do you think the cast members will think of this novel?

KRAD: Well, I =hope= they like it. :)
KRAD: Virginia Hey has a copy of the book as it happens -- I gave her one at I-Con. :)
KRAD: But I don't know these folks (Virginia's the only one I've met), so I really couldn't say.

Moderator: Thank you Keith for joing us tonight. Do you have any final words for our chatters tonight?

KRAD: Hope you all enjoy the book, please visit my web page at DeCandido.net, I hope to see some of you at ScaperCon or Shore Leave in July (check the web site for more details), and I do frequent the BBoard, so if you have other questions for me, post there.
KRAD: I also have several other books out:
KRAD: VENOM'S WRATH, a Spider-Man novel
KRAD: THE XANDER YEARS Volume 1, a BUFFY novelization,
KRAD: and an upcoming DEEP SPACE NINE novel called DEMONS OF AIR AND DARKNESS (September).
KRAD: Buncha short stories, too, including one in the DOCTOR WHO charity anthology MISSING PIECES and an upcoming XENA anthology.
KRAD: So please read my stuff and feed my ravenous ego!
KRAD: (Not to mention my ravenous bank account ;) )

Moderator: Before we become unmoderated, be sure to tune in Friday, May 25 for a Farscape four episode marathon, beginning at 9PM ET/PT.
Moderator: Farscape also returns, Friday, June 15 with all-new episodes for the Summer of SCI FI.
Moderator: And thank you all for coming to tonight's chat. I will make the the room unmoderated now.