Kenneth Johnson has been a successful writer-producer-director of film and television for more than four decades. Creator of the landmark original miniseries V, he also produced The Six Million Dollar Man and created iconic Emmy-winning shows such as The Bionic Woman, The Incredible Hulk, and Alien Nation.
Kenneth has turned his attention to writing novels. We had a chance to catch up to discuss his latest success, The Man of Legends.
The Man of Legends has been an enormous commercial success. How does that compare with your expectations?
Naturally I’m delighted that the novel has currently sold over 77,000 copies. But more importantly the 2,700+ Reader Reviews have been overwhelmingly positive and maintained a 4.3/5 Star rating. That so many people have been drawn to the book and responded so favorable is the best reward for any storyteller.
How did writing and creating some of the biggest pop-culture hits of the 1980s prepare you to build an ambitious novel?
I was lucky to have received a thorough education in classic theater and lit at the Drama Department of Carnegie-Mellon University. I think that I’ve been able to bring a lot of that classic training into my work in the popular entertainment industry and that has given my work an underlying depth, substance and social significance that’s characterized my TV and film work.
Legends began life 20 years ago as a feature film script, but the deeper I got into the research I realized that two hours wasn’t nearly enough time to do justice to the story or the characters. I finally realized that a novel was the best — and then maybe a multi-part miniseries.
Which famous historical figure was your favorite to write about?
I enjoyed Mark Twain, and the spunky Scotsman James Watt, but also the challenge of writing passages in the style of Herman Melville. But when I discovered that Percy Shelley had actually written poems about my hero Will — and I could put will in a room to interact with Lord Byron, Percy and particularly Mary Shelley (who was struggling with her work-in-progress novel, Frankenstein) that was all just so delicious. The genuine understanding, love and caring that gave Will was one of the novel’s high points for me.
You’re best-known for your science fiction, though The Man of Legends doesn’t fit neatly into the genre. Where would you say it does fit?
I was pleased that the Associated Press said it was “genre-busting.” I’ve always thought of it as a romantic, supernatural mystery. Interestingly, Amazon first said (always looking for the lowest common denominator) that it was The Da Vinci Code meets Forrest Gump. That made me groan, but they were partly right — however Forrest only affected 20th Century history whereas Will changed the course of history many times over 20 centuries!
Do you have any upcoming writing projects?
Amazon wanted a sequel to Legends, but I felt I had already done the best I could with it. I did have another idea that had been intriguing and they jumped on it. It will be out in four editions including hardcover next June 12… You can read about it here.
|Kenneth Johnson has directed numerous TV movies and the feature films Short Circuit 2 and Steel. Johnson has received multiple Saturn Awards from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films, as well as the Sci-Fi Universe Lifetime Achievement Award and the prestigious Founders Award from the Viewers for Quality Television. His previous novels include V: The Second Generation.|
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