How do you get the ideas for your novels?
Mostly from daydreaming. I think about random scientific ideas and sometimes they turn out to be good book plots.
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
Usually I spend the first half of the day dealing with the business side of writing. Responding to emails, talking to my editor, talking to my agent, etc.
After lunch is when I actually do my writing. When I’m working on a first draft I try to write a thousand words per weekday. I don’t always succeed but that’s the goal.
What makes a great character?
I’m not sure on the right person to ask. I consider my biggest weakness to be character depth and complexity. But I would say that a good character is one that the reader empathizes with and roots for. If the reader feels invested in a character and wants them to succeed they will be pulled through the book.
Having The Martian and Project Hail Mary adapted to screen, with big names attached, must be surreal. How involved were you in the adaptations, if at all, and what did you do to celebrate when you got the news?
For The Martian my only job was to cash the check. I had no say over anything whatsoever. However they chose to involve me as a science advisor. So I answered technical questions for them about Mars and spacesuits and stuff like that.
For Project Hail Mary I am technically a producer. So I actually do have a little bit of say. But the reason I’m a producer is mainly so I get to be part of the gross profit sharing. So I try to stay out of the way of the real producers who know what they’re doing.
How has your life changed since the success of The Martian and continuing success of your following two novels?
Yes, dramatically. I have a bunch more money now which is awesome. And I get to spend all day writing instead of coding. Don’t get me wrong, though. I liked programming computers. I miss it. I miss being part of a team.
When did you start reading? And what books/series did you read over and over again?
I was reading as far back as first grade when I would read Beverly Cleary books. I got really into science fiction probably around age 11 or 12. I plowed through my dad’s collection of Heinlein, Asimov, and Clarke.
It’s rare for me to read a book more than once. Although I have read most of Terry Pratchett’s books multiple times.
What are some of your favourite recent reads?
What do you enjoy doing outside of writing and reading?
I like woodworking. Making furniture and stuff like that. Also I like clockwork.
If you only had one piece of advice to give to an aspiring author, what would it be?
You have to actually write. Daydreaming isn’t enough. You have to put words into your document or you’re not writing.
Are you working on any new books or other projects at the moment?
Yes but I’m not talking about them publicly. 🙂
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