An Interview with Brian Herbert

Brian Herbert, son of Frank Herbert, is the author of numerous bestselling novels, some set in the Dune universe and some set in other worlds, along with Dreamer of Dune (Tor Books, 2003), an acclaimed biography of his father.

IZ Digital spoke to Brian about his new collection of novellas Sands of Dune, co-authored with Kevin J. Anderson, and about the importance of Dune, past, present, and future.

Here on IZ Digital you can also read an interview with the cover artist of the new collection, Sean O’Connell, and an interview with Kevin J. Anderson.

Without further ado, the our interview with Brian…

IZ Digital: In ‘The Waters of Kanly’ there is a wonderful scene where Staban Tuek and Gurney Halleck are exchanging quotes. Staban’s quote, a neat paraphrase of Proverbs 23:7 (‘A stone is heavy and the sand is weighty; but a fool’s wrath is heavier than both.’), calls back to the original Dune. Which characters and quotes from your father’s novels do you find yourself thinking back to the most?

Brian Herbert: I suppose I think most of Duke Leto, whose deep sense of honor and justice reminds me of my father, Frank Herbert. I like the relationship of father and son, which reminds me of my relationship with Dad, the hopes a father has for his son, and the subtle complexities of the Duke Leto-Paul Atreides interactions. Lady Jessica is also a favorite of mine, as she was modeled after my very dignified mother, Beverly Herbert – and Jessica is the most beloved of all female characters in the Dune Universe. But there are SO MANY wonderful characters my father created, so that it is difficult to separate one from the rest, or even three, as I have done.

IZ Digital: Were the first two volumes of the Caladan trilogy, novels that look closely at the lives of Leto Atreides and Lady Jessica, particularly meaningful to write because of the connections between these characters and your parents?

Brian Herbert: Yes, although it was not something I thought of consciously when I was co-authoring these novels. I was more focused on developing the backstories of these characters, leading up to the doorstep of my father’s great novel Dune – filling in stories that I thought Dune fans would like to read about some of the most beloved characters in my father’s universe.

IZ Digital: What did you find most rewarding, and exciting, about expanding the lives of these two characters into full-length novels?

Brian Herbert: I am a Dune fan, too, and as a fan I wanted to see these stories developed, to fill in untold tales in the universe.

IZ Digital: The third volume of the Caladan trilogy focuses on the young Paul Atreides. How did your understanding of Paul change as you were writing the third volume?

Brian Herbert: In developing his character, I thought he should be portrayed as a person aware of his duty as the future Duke Atreides, a young man who prepares himself carefully, ever-increasing the risks he takes, evolving into the future he sees in prescient glimpes.

IZ Digital: You must have produced millions of words of prose with Kevin J. Anderson. How has your collaborative writing process developed over time? What are you still discovering about each other as writers?

Brian Herbert: Every writer has his or her strengths, and weaknesses – and each of us knows what the other writes best, so that when we are brainstorming and outlining new novels, we know which chapters and storylines should be written by each of us. We both write around 50% of the chapters, and then begin passing the entire book back and forth for further refinements, and weaving storylines together. Of equal importance, we have both learned that we can depend upon one another to meet publishing deadlines. If we say we are going to do something, we do it. It has been a very good relationship, going back for around 25 years.

IZ Digital: The BOOM! Studios Dune adaptations bring stories like Blood of the Sardaukar to a different audience in a different medium. What do you enjoy most about adapting these stories into graphic novels?

Brian Herbert: Through these short stories, some of which are being adapted into comics and graphic novels, we are reaching a younger audience, and eventually many of them will read the many novels in the Dune series.

IZ Digital: Do you end up seeing, or thinking about, stories differently once they’re been pencilled and coloured?

Brian Herbert: Yes, it’s interesting to see how the artists visualize these stories, and commit them to digital images. We see the artwork as it progresses, and if anything deviates too far from what we intended as authors, we provide guidance.

IZ Digital: In the introduction to Sands of Dune you write that the story ‘Imperial Court’ ‘clears the way for an entirely new part of Dune history.’ What stories do you still want to tell in this vast universe? Can you give any hints about future Dune projects, after the Caladan trilogy?

Brian Herbert: Unfortunately, the answers to these questions would be “spoilers.”

IZ Digital: You wrote Ocean with Janet Herbert, your wife, and the Hellhole trilogy with Kevin J. Anderson. What other non-Dune projects would you like to see out in the world?

Brian Herbert: I would like to see many projects, but this makes me think of something my father said, that he did not like to discuss projects that were in progress, because that took energy away from his writing energies. I think he was right. When I first started writng, I would often tell others what I was working on, and if I didn’t go into enough detail they would have an unenthusiastic response. If I then revealed more, and still could not get a positive reaction, it was depressing, and sapped my energy for the writing project. So in my own way, I arrived at a similar conclusion to that of my father.

IZ Digital: What do you read for pleasure?

Brian Herbert: I like to read biographies, because they transport me into history in a more interesting way than thick, generalised history tomes. Mostly, I read non-fiction.

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