Interview With Destroyermen Author Taylor Anderson

By Kit-Bacon Gressitt

If you have never read alternate historical fiction, there’s a really good reason to start, and he’s coming to town: Taylor Anderson, the best-selling author of the Destroyermen novels. Anderson is making two stops in San Diego to promote his sixth book in the series, Firestorm — noon Saturday, October 8 at the U.S. Naval Base Exchange, and  2 p.m. Sunday, October 9 at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore in Clairemont Mesa.

Why read Anderson’s books? Let’s start with the success of the series. Born of a life-long desire to write and the sudden freedom to do so, Anderson drafted his first manuscript with a blend of enthusiasm, a solid background in history and firearms, and a spoonful of naïveté.

“When I got into this,” Anderson explained, “I’d been an old-time country gunsmith for years. I’d taught history, and done a lot of [historical] movies, but I really didn’t know the first thing about publishing. In my deeply stupid arrogance, I decided to use history, which I’ve always loved. … And I wrote the first book and sent it off. And the next thing I knew, I was being published.

“I did go through an agent, and he’s a great agent,” Anderson continued. “He asked me how I had the guts to send it to him. And I said I didn’t know any better. He said to send him the full manuscript, and he enjoyed it enough to spend some time telling me what to fix, and that was huge. About a month later, about Christmas time, I sent it back to him and the next thing I know, around the middle of January, he had several publishing companies kind of in a bidding war for it. And of course, they decided that it had to be a series, and I agreed entirely. I had too big of a world to explore.”

That world is an alternate Earth on which, as Anderson described, “the KT [asteroid] extinction didn’t take place.” During World War II, an American destroyer and a Japanese battle cruiser pass through a storm and land in the alternate world, launching a series of adventures and battles that engage the Lemurians and Griks, the beings that evolved in lieu of the effects of the mass extinction.

The Destroyermen books have a devoted following in the U.S. Navy, partially because the ship is one of the characters — “in a Starship Enterprise kind of way,” Anderson said, “except it’s a lot less capable and a lot more dilapidated.” Although he has been “assailed by some of the alternate history purists,” he described his series, with a laugh, as “kind of an alternate universe, military history, science fiction fantasy” blend.

Regardless of the books’ popularity with genre fans, the fact that Anderson has a gift for complex plot and dialogue and a fabulous sense of humor makes reading his work a fun and guilt-free pleasure. And then there are his humility and generosity.

“I get a lot of fan mail. Of course, it’s still feels odd for me to get it, but I get a lot of fan mail from former military, naval and active duty — from around the world,” he said. “I’ve gotten contacts from sailors who’ve been deployed. Just recently got one from a guy who said his whole ship was a fan. Our men and women in uniform are just so wonderful, and I get so many contacts from them that it just makes me proud and happy that they enjoy the story. But my hat still fits. I’ve been me so long, my wife has pretty much given up trying to do anything about it. … And it’s gratifying to have so many active and former Navy men, particularly destroyer men, say I hit it on the head. Of course, I appreciate everything they do for us. I’ve dedicated all my books to those who are defending us now or in the past. I feel like I’m giving something back in a sense. … And I get so much stuff from young folks, and that makes me really happy. I keep it this side of PG13, even though it’s for adults.”

Finally, there’s what Anderson said about his mother: “My mother is my first editor. She’s the only person who reads my books before they go out.”

And you have to love an author who loves and respects his mother.


What: Taylor Anderson signing Firestorm Saturday, October 8, 2011: 12 noon: U.S. Naval Base Exchange, San Diego Sunday, October 9, 2011: 2 p.m.: Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore, 7051 Clairemont Mesa Blvd. Authors website:

Crossposted at the North County Times.