Gillian Anderson is returning to the genre that made her a cultural icon – but it’s not on television. The newest project from the star of The X-Files is a book franchise called the EarthEnd Saga, a collaboration with co-writer Jeff Rovin, a prolific geek whose extensive bibliography includes works in the best-selling Tom Clancy’s Op-Center series. The first novel, entitled A Vision of Fire, will be published in October by Simon & Schuster through a new imprint devoted to literary and speculative fiction across all genres called Simon451, a nod to legendary author Ray Bradbury’s dystopian/sci-fi classic Fahrenheit 451.
“It’s been a fantastic experience,” Anderson tells EW, adding that she was inspired to give sci-fi world-building and storytelling a shot at the encouragement of Rovin, a friend of a friend. “I enjoy writing, but don’t usually allow myself the time, and I don’t think I’d ever think to write something in this genre without the prodding of someone like Jeff. But I realized I had ideas hidden within me for a series and a lead character, in this case, a heroine.” Referring to The X-Files, she says: “After nine years of living in a semi-science-fictional universe, I think I now have an ingrained knowledge and rhythm for it.”
A Vision of Fire centers on Caitlin O’Hara, a world-traveling child psychiatrist who specializes in treating kids who’ve suffered trauma from natural disasters and war. She’s a grounded personality – she has a son, who is deaf, and everything she knows about the world is challenged when she begins treating a uniquely troubled young girl. Explains Anderson: “Over the course of spending time and helping her and investigating the origins of the girl’s trauma, Caitlin begins to realize that the girl’s behavior is tied to much greater forces in the universe, and as the story unfolds, she must prevent destruction on a grand scale.”
Anderson – whose favorite authors include Ann Patchett, Elizabeth Strout, and George Saunders – said she knew what she didn’t want as much as she knew what she wanted. “It was a very clear to me that I didn’t want to enter into the horror realm. That doesn’t interest me,” she says. “I also wanted a very strong female character, around my age. I would want to read something like that and I think other women would like to read.” She adds that the nature of the storytelling world is such that future books “can go into many different directions, and follow different characters in different age groups the people can hook into.”
Asked about her sci-fi influences, Anderson says her touchstones run cinematic. “I don’t think I realized or even admitted to myself how much I like science fiction films, which literally began with Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” she says. The books are being written with an eye toward possible film adaptation. “Not to get ahead of ourselves,” she says with a laugh. “Our goal is to write a great series of books. But the opportunity is quite large, and hopefully we can create something that translates well into other media. I tend to act in more heady stuff. Period films, dramatic, tortured heroine things. So this could be something interesting and fun that can be added to the mix of things I do.”
Anderson is currently shooting the new NBC drama Crisis, set to premiere on March 16. She’s also set to do some episodes of NBC’s much-lauded serial killer thriller Hannibal this spring before returning to the UK to film the second season of her other critically acclaimed serial killer thriller, The Fall. When does she find the time to write? “On planes,” she laughs. “I’m on a lot of them these days.”
Simon451′s other initial offerings include the Paris-set dystopian novel The Undying by Ethan Reid.The publisher says that more info about the titles and news about additional books will be released at New York Comic-Con in October.