Brainstorming MENTATS OF DUNE

It’s an annual pilgrimage, when I travel up to spend days with Brian Herbert so we can brainstorm our next novel together.  Last year, it was HELLHOLE AWAKENING, before that SISTERHOOD OF DUNE.  This year, we’re ready to dive back into the Dune universe with MENTATS OF DUNE, the follow-up to SISTERHOOD OF DUNE.

Brian picked me up at the Seattle airport and we drove into downtown Seattle to sign books at the University Bookstore (and went to lunch with the science fiction manager Duane Wilkins…we’ve been signing books for Duane for more than 13 years now). Brian and I started brainstorming as soon as I threw my suitcase into the car and climbed into the passenger seat.  As preparation, we had both reread all of our previous outlines and the notes we had left in the folder when we wrapped up SISTERHOOD OF DUNE.  Sitting in the cafeteria on the ferry off to Brian’s house, we tossed ideas back and forth of various nasty ways to kill of some characters (I’m sure the nearby passengers thought we were plotting a massacre).

We spent the next several days fleshing out ideas, eating at our favorite local haunts, working out at the gym, going for hikes on the shore at Port Townsend (where Frank Herbert lived).  We even went out to see Prometheus for an evening show (I had expected to be more impressed, but I was disappointed). Meanwhile, the MENTATS storylines grew, characters surprised us, and we found some great ways to tie story lines together.  On the final day, we were invited to spend time at the main headquarters in Seattle to meet with representatives (and fans) there.

photo by Janet Herbert

I got to the airport early to go home, with several hours to kick back and just process all the ideas still swirling around from all our brainstorming. We had roughed out our outline, but it still needed a lot of fine-tuning, cleaning up and fleshing out.  I’ve spent the past several days at home just compiling all the ideas and firming up the stories. (And calling Brian to brainstorm some more to keep all the plot lines straight.)

We are ready to get back to the tumultuous decades after the fall of the thinking machines, the rise of the Corrino Imperium, the formation (and survival) of the great schools—the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, the Mentats, the Navigators, the Spacing Guild, the Swordmasters, the Suk Doctors, and the growing waves of anti-technology fanatics who are determined to plunge human civilization into a new “pure” Dark Age.  Valya Harkonnen, Vorian Atreides, Gilbertus and his secret mentor Erasmus, Raquella, Josef Venport and the mutated Norma Cenva, and the leader of the Butlerians, Manford Torondo.

I’m eager to start writing!