It is a pleasure to team up once again with Leticia Lara, from Fantástica Ficción, to interview Sylvain Neuvel, author of the amazing Sleeping Giants (which will be published by Stella Maris next week in Spanish as Los gigantes dormidos). Hope you enjoy this interview and remember that you can read its translation into Spanish at Fantástica Ficción.
Sylvain Neuvel: I suppose each person has their own definition of what a writer is. Personally, it’s the process I find most satisfying, typing on the keyboard, watching worlds take shape on the page. I don’t think it really matters if you can make a living out of it or not. In that sense, I’ve always been a writer. Having your book published, and in a bunch of languages, is the greatest thing that ever happened to me, but I’m not sure it makes me more of a writer than I was before. Most influential? I would say Michael Crichton, Tom Clancy. I’m always in awe at authors who have been publishing great books for a long time. It’s one thing to write a good book, it’s another thing altogether to write one every year under contractual pressures. The people I admire most are the ones with longevity.
LL&O: Does your background as a linguist help you with writing? In Sleeping Giants we can see a brief talk about alien semantics, are you going to elaborate on that in the next books?
SN: I’ve really gone out of my way not to put too much linguistics in Sleeping Giants. It seemed too obvious: linguist writes book about aliens. But one of the characters is a linguist, so it’s certainly possible he’ll get to use his training a bit more in future books. You’ll just have to wait and see ;)
LL&O: One of the main characters in Sleeping Giants is a French-Canadian and you live in a bilingual city. Would you say that French culture has influenced your writing?
SN: It would be hard for it not to. I was raised in French only. I learned to speak English later in life, studied in the United States, and now there are certain things I think of in English while others feel more French to me, but I’m sure there are hints of my origin in everything I write.
LL&O: What do you think is so special about giant robots that make them so appealing in movies, books, computer games…?
SN: Well, for reasons I don’t entirely understand, war machines, things like tanks, are cool, and giant war machines are proportionally cooler. What makes giant robots even better is that, being anthropomorphic, we can’t help but assign them some human traits, some personality. They function in a way that we can relate to, they run, they throw punches. There’s also something about the act of creation, building things that are larger than life, humans creating gods, in some way.
LL&O: The structure of Sleeping Giants is a bit unusual. Was it difficult to tell the story you had in mind using reports, interview transcriptions, journal entries, experiment logs…?
SN: It takes longer to plot. I need to decide which point of view to take, which character to involve for every scene, what to show and what to skip. Once it’s done, though, dialogue is a great way to show the characters’ personality without having to peak directly into their minds or having a narrator explain how they feel. It lets the readers form their own opinion, like they would in real life.
LL&O: What do you think about your book being translated into Spanish? Why did you choose to self-publish your book? Is there any news about the film adaptation?
SN: Spanish is fun because, other than the French one, it’s probably the only translation I’ll actually be able to read. As I’m writing this, Sleeping Giants is being translated into nineteen languages. Nineteen! It’s crazy. I never would have imagined that, not in my wildest dreams when I finished the book. I tried to get an agent for it. I tried for about a year, and failed. I decided to self-publish and sent the manuscript to Kirkus reviews. They came back with this amazing review and, as soon as they put it online, I started getting emails from Hollywood producers. One of them found me a movie agent, that agent found me a book agent in New York. Sony bought the movie rights, then the book in the US. I never actually got to self-publish Sleeping Giants, it sold before the release date. Sony hired David Koepp (Spider-Man, Mission Impossible, Jurassic Park) to write the script. That’s where we’re at. Fingers crossed!
LL&O: How do you cope with your daytime job and your writing?
SN: It’s tough. I have a full time job and a six-year-old son. I wrote Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods at night after my son goes to bed and on weekends, but that was before Sleeping Giants was released. Now I’m working on book III, and with interviews, conventions, answering fans, etc., it’s a lot harder to find the time and really concentrate. I’m adapting, but I struggled with it for a while. Of course, I hope things go well enough for me to quit my day job. When you only have an hour or two each night, there’s a lot of pressure to be really productive during that time.
LL&O: Are social networks important for your relationships with other authors and with your readers?
SN: They are for me. I really enjoy interacting with readers, and social networks make it much easier.
LL&O: What can you tell us about your future projects?
SN: Well, as I said, I’m working on book three. I was lucky enough to write a short story for Star Wars Insider Magazine (#166) this year about the life of a Stormtrooper, and I have another short story in the works for another publication. Mostly, I’m concentrating on the Themis Files series.
LL&O: Any other thing you’d like to add?
SN: Thank you for having me!
(You can also read this interview in Spanish at Fantástica Ficción/También puedes leer esta entrevista en español en Fantástica Ficción)