Welcome to the eightieth edition of 10 Questions With…
I am so excited about today’s interview. When Sylvain Neuvel agreed to the interview I asked him if it would be ok for me to ask him more than the 10 questions. His response? “Bring it on!” I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did.
Today our guest is:
Tell us about yourself.
Where to begin? I was raised in Quebec City, but I lived in Montreal for most of my life. I dropped out of high school at 15 and I traveled for almost a decade. I’ve had just about every job you can imagine. I love sci-fi in all shapes and sizes, and I think the world would be a better place if there were more toys in it.
1.) What is something that many people might not know about you?
Well, I’m a debut author. Most people don’t know anything about me. How about this? I hate driving. Cars, that is. I hate it will every fiber of my being. I’ve been driving motorcycles for twenty-five years, but I only got my car license after my son was born. I was thirty-six. I feel at home on a bike, but I hate the car. I can’t see anything.
2.) What inspired you to write your first book?
My son! When he was younger, I offered to build him a toy robot. Only instead of just saying yes, he started asking way too many questions about what it could do, where it came from. He wanted a backstory to go with the toy. A few days later, while we were watching Grendizer (Japanese anime about a giant robot from outer-space), I started thinking about what it would be like if we found giant alien artifacts in real life. That’s how I got the idea. I wrote a book for adults, but deep down, Sleeping Giants is about a dad building a toy for his son.
3.) Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
It changes from time to time. Ten years ago, I would have said Kundera. Twenty years ago, maybe John le Carré. Looking back, I’d say Michael Crichton is the one that has influenced me the most. I love science, and there’s always some of it in his work, but it also doesn’t take itself too seriously. It’s fun. I like fun. Smart and fun.
4.) If you could have dinner with any author, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
Would the dead authors be alive for dinner? I won’t take any chances. I’ll say Jason Hough. I’ve had dinner with him a month ago with other Del Rey authors and that was a fun night, so I’d do it again.
5.) What book are you reading now?
I finished Morning Star by Pierce Brown last night. Now I’m staring at my TBR pile and I have no clue where to go next. Right this minute, I’m leaning towards The United States of Japan, by Peter Tieryas.
6.) Are there any new authors that have captured your interest?
Yes! I recently read The God Wave by Patrick Hemstreet. Great book. Lots of science. The whole thing feels very real.
7.) If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in any of your books?
Let me think… I have one book. It came out about a month ago. So, no. ☺
8.) Can you share a little of your current work with us?
I turned in Waking Gods, the sequel to Sleeping Giants, not that long ago. I love that book. The stakes are higher in book II, for everyone. There are some answers in there that people are probably looking for. It also asks some interesting new questions. I hope people like it as much as I do.
9.) What song best describes you and why?
I’d have to go with the one Carly Simon wrote for me. “You’re Sylvain. I bet you think this song….”
I never met her. Not sure how she heard about me…
10.) A penguin walks through that door right now wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he here?
He was in a gang with some Mexican fire ants, but they got locked-up in a tiny insect jail and he’s trying to find it. He says: “I’m looking for ant Attica.”
11.) How did you go from dropping out of school to getting your B.A. in linguistics?
I worked for about nine years after I dropped out. I traveled. After a while I realized my income was going down every year. Time to go back to school, I thought. I did a B.A. as fast as I could, then my professors suggested I go for a Ph.D. I didn’t have any money, so they said I should apply to schools that had some. I made a list of places I thought I had no chance of getting into, and I was lucky enough to be accepted at the University of Chicago.
12.) What is it about linguistics that grabbed your attention?
I always had a thing for language, but I also liked science. This seemed like a good mix of the two.
13.) The first thing that people notice when they go to your website is that you have the lyrics for the Ewok Celebration Song. Can you tell us the story behind that? Did you translate it? If so, how?
No, I have nothing to do with the translation. I found that on the Internet, maybe twenty years ago. I used to have a reference to the original page on my site, but it disappeared at some point. I have no idea who translated it. All I know is that I get more traffic for that than for anything I ever did.
14.) Why did you choose to write Sleeping Giants in an interview format? Will Waking Gods be in the same format?
When I first asked myself what it would be like if we found alien artifacts on Earth, my first thought was that we wouldn’t know about it. Information would be restricted to the few people involved. But it would have to leave a paper trail. I wanted to write that paper trail. And I like dialogue. I think it’s an organic way to get to know the characters. It lets the reader participate. As a reader, I appreciate it when the author has enough trust in me to let me figure some things out on my own. I wanted the same for my readers. The series is called the Themis Files, and the format remains throughout the series but I try to shake things up a bit. Waking Gods will feel familiar to those who read Sleeping Giants, but it’s also a different experience.
15.) Do you have a certain number of books planned for The Themis Files? If so, how many books can we expect?
We’ll see. All I can tell you is there are at least three. We’ll go from there.
16.) Do you have any other stories that are not set in the world of The Themis Files that you are working on? If so can you tell us anything about them?
I’m working on the third in the series now and I have little time for anything else. I have a short story about the life of a Stormtrooper in the next issue of Star Wars Insider (No. 166). That was so much fun to write. You should check it out.
17.) You mention that you have an interest in robotics and are working on building a working R2-D2 replica. I heard in an interview that you put that project on hold because your son, who was two at the time, saw the R2-D2 dome and you decided to wait and build it with him. Have you been able to start that back up?
Not quite. My son is six. He can do some work, but not enough for it to be really fun. I told him we’d work on some parts this summer, but we’ll wait a bit before we go into motors and electronics.
18.) What other kind of robots have you built?
I worked on little sumo bots many, many years ago. I never really got to playing with the programming, but I built a couple of them. I made the robot I promised my son after I wrote Sleeping Giants. There’s a little Themis in our living room. It’s just a toy, though, doesn’t move on its own. I also made him Lego sets from my book.
19.) You also state that you obsessed with Halloween. What is Halloween like at your house? What kind of things do you do?
I haven’t been able to spend as much time preparing these past couple years, but I would normally start working on my costume around February. Some took a bit more time. My ROTJ Darth Vader took about a year, and the reveal helmet isn’t even complete. Other than turning my house into a costume shop for half the year, we buy lots of candy. There are tons of kids in our neighborhood. We take turns going door to door with my son while the other one gives candy away. I usually have a night out with my friends. One costuming day isn’t enough, though, so I also cosplay at Montreal Comic Con with my son.
My Grendizer costume. (Big giant robot, the same one I was watching with my son when I got the idea for Sleeping Giants). It was so much fun to make. There are no references other than the anime itself, and it’s from the seventies so it was all hand-drawn. The robot is slightly different from one scene to the next. There were so many fun challenges building it. The robot’s head is really small in the show, but it had to fit over my head in real life. I raised the shoulders a bit in the costume, and I see through the bottom of the face instead of the eyes (like the pilot on the show) to make the proportions better. There’s a remote control inside one of the glove to light up the chest and horns. Really proud of that one. Here:
Go ahead, pimp whatever book you want:
I only have one! If you’ve read it already, make sure you pre-order Waking Gods early. That way, you’ll forget all about ordering it, and it’ll be a nice surprise when it arrives in April!
I want to thank Sylvain Neuvel for joining us today for this edition of 10 Questions With…
I hope you enjoyed learning about him as much as I did.
If you want to learn more about Neuvel and his book you can visit his website.
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