Gillian Anderson Hits the Books (INTERVIEW)

Sci-fi fans love her as Scully from 'The X-Files,' and now the versatile actress is going from screen to page with her own literary spin on the genre.
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Sci-fi fans love her as Scully from 'The X-Files,' and now the versatile actress is going from screen to page with her own literary spin on the genre.
Gillian Anderson Photo

Actress-turned-author Gillian Anderson makes her literary debut with "A Vision of Fire." (Photo: © Stephen Busken)

The truth is out there.

Vision of Fire Book Photo

"A Vision of Fire" is the first title in Anderson's sci-fi thriller series.

In this case, the truth is that Gillian Anderson has returned to her sci-fi roots, but taken a very different path this time around: she’s co-written her first novel.

Best known for her iconic turn as skeptic-turned-believer Dana Scully in the groundbreaking series The X-Files, Anderson has since gone classic, appearing in films like House of Mirth, Bleak House on BBC, and taking on a successful string of theater roles that showcase her versatility as an actress. Most recently, she was just upped to series regular on Hannibal, after a recurring role in the first two seasons. And she recently told fans in a Reddit AMA how she would love to be cast in the all-female Ghostbusters reboot that’s in the works.

While we cross our fingers about that, you can check out Anderson’s latest sci-fi incarnation as an author. Her debut novel, A Vision Of Fire, is the first in a series and takes the reader on a journey across the globe, across time, and through the complexity of the human mind.

Eager to get the inside story about her storytelling, we asked Gillian a few questions and had her fans on our Facebook page chime in too.

What made you decide to take up writing professionally? Is it something you’ve always done, or something new?

I’ve always wanted to write, but thought it would be something for my later years. That would still be the case were it not for my collaboration with Jeff Rovin, my co-author. His understanding of structure and plot from years as a best-selling author have allowed this to come to fruition.

What is your writing process like? Was it challenging working with a co-writer? How did you work together?

We got together to brainstorm the trajectory of the trilogy and he and his research assistant Clare put together an outline and began each chapter, which they would then forward to me.

Do you have habits, as a writer? Special place to write, special food, any rituals?

Due to my crazy schedule at the time when I was commuting between where I live in London, and jobs in Chicago, Toronto, and Belfast, I wrote on airplanes.

Who are your favorite writers?

Anne Patchett, Elizabeth Strout, George Saunders, and Charles Dickens.

Any interest in seeing a TV or movie version of the book? Who would you cast in the lead roles?

The character of Caitlin was conceived with the intention in mind that I would play her when the series is translated to the big screen.

Dr. Caitlin O’Hara, the book’s main character, is a strong, professional woman, much along the lines of Scully, but with a different area of specialization (child psychology) and a child of her own. Was Scully was part of the inspiration for her? Do you see a connection between the two?

None at all really, sorry!

What made you decide to have Caitlin’s son be deaf?

It is important for the story that Jacob is deaf and I think adds an important element to their relationship. I am also looking forward to the opportunity of finding a young deaf actor to play him.

What drew you to science fiction as a genre? Fans are obviously going to draw connections to The X-Files. How do you feel about that?

I would not have been approached to participate in this book if it were not for my previous involvement in science fiction. I get the business sense of it.

Who was the first person to see the book outside of your publisher? Were you nervous? How did it go? Whose opinion in your life matters the most to you?

My daughter, whose opinion I value hugely. She is 20 and a reader of The Hunger Games series and of Game Of Thrones and has very good understanding of the genre, and gives great input.

The book is the first in a series. Do you have the whole series already scoped out?

Yes we do. It was essential before we even started writing One that we knew where Three would end.

And A Few Questions from Fans. . .

Did you ever have nightmares because of a particular X-Files episode? If so, which episode?

Not that I recall, but I did always try to read new scripts in daylight.

Which do you prefer, acting or writing? 

I don’t have enough experience writing yet to really answer this question. Acting is my first love.

Is there any real hope for an X-Files 3 movie?

Yes, there is hope. Keep the hope.