Here is our interview with Sylvain Neuvel, science fiction author of The Themis Files and Take Them to the Stars trilogies.
His latest novel, For the First Time, Again, will be released April 27th 2023, so preorder it now!
How do you get the ideas for your novels?
There’s no one thing. I got the idea for the Themis Files when I asked my son if he wanted me to build him a toy robot. He asked a bunch of questions about it (What kind of robot? Does it fly? Does it have pilots?) and I started thinking about what was then a background story for a toy. My latest series, Take them to the stars, was born after I read an article about a self-cloning fish in Texas.
What does a typical writing day look like for you?
It varies, but I usually start around 8:00 AM. If I have no other obligations, I’ll write until I run out of juice, maybe noon or 1:00PM. I’ll spend what’s left of the day doing research for what’s next.
What makes a great character?
I think you have to recognize a tiny bit of yourself in them, whether it’s a hero or a villain.
What is your writing process?
I tend to write thin. I write the essential bits of a chapter, sometimes one line of dialogue that I want to get to, or a small paragraph. I do that for as many chapters as I can. Then, I go back and I add to it and edit, then I do it again, layer by layer, like a lasagna.
The Themis Files trilogy was written in an epistolary form which made it feel like a found footage film in book form! What made you choose this format, rather than third-person, for example?
I tried it in the first from a different POV each chapter but I didn’t like it. Then I got the idea for the interviewer and it clicked. He was the thread, the glue that held everything together, a good literary device, and an important character.
Your final book in the Take Them to the Stars trilogy is wrapping up with the release of book three, For the First Time, Again in April 2023. What can you tell us about it and how does it feel to be finishing your second SF series?
It’s so weird! I wrote six novels! I can’t wait for people to read For the First Time, Again. All my books, even in a series, tend to be quite different from one another but this one is a whole new kind of differentl. I really focuses on one character and I had the greatest time writing her. I can’t wait for everyone to meet Aster.
Are you working on any new books or other projects at the moment?
Yep. Can’t really talk about it. I’m also working on a TV project for someone else. Can’t talk about that either.
What elements of science fiction make you like reading and writing in the genre?
I have a fairly literal definition of science fiction. It’s fiction where science plays an important role. The science part is really what drew me to it. I also like less sciency things, like space fantasies à la Star Wars, probably because I loved watching the sky as a kid. I envy my son because he’s growing up in fascinating times. If you go out at the right time, the brightest spot in the sky after the sun and moon is something that humans built. It’s incredibly cool and inspiring.
If you could be any fictional character, who would it be and why?
Oh, good question. I live a really cool life so it would take a lot for me to trade. Someone in space, for sure, maybe John Crichton in Farscape, Elma York from the Lady Astronaut series.
When did you start reading? And what books/series did you read over and over again?
Dunno. I learned to read early, not sure when I read my first book book. The first two books that really knocked my socks off were Dangerous Liaisons and the Andromeda Strain.
What are some of your favourite recent reads?
The Violence by Delilah Dawson, Face by Joma West.
What do you enjoy doing outside of writing and reading?
Other than the usual (TV, movies, etc.) I like playing Yugioh with my kid, building physical things (robots, toys, costumes). I love toys. I have a good collection fo action figures, model rockets…
If you only had one piece of advice to give to an aspiring author, what would it be?
Write something you’re proud of. That’s it. Sounds simple, but I mean something you’ll still be proud of if every single person who reads it says it sucks. That won’t happen, but some people will think it sucks. Books are like food, or clothes, or whatever else that is purely a matter of taste. Anyway, the proud part is the only thing you have any control over, so work and work and work until you get there, then let it go. It’s not in your hands anymore.
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