Interview with Sylvain Neuvel, Author of Sleeping Giants
27 Apr 2016
It starts with an eleven-year-old girl who falls through the earth in the Black Hills of South Dakota and wakes up in a strange room filled with gleaming symbols, lying in the palm of a giant metal hand. Seventeen years later, she’s reunited with the hand as the physicist tasked with finding its origins. When she suspects there might be more of these giant body parts lying around, she devises a method for finding them and leads a team of pilots and scientists scouring the planet for what could be the greatest discovery in human history.
The story is told as a series of interview transcripts led by a mysterious interviewer, as well as journal entries, newspaper articles, mission logs and other documents. It’s part sci-fi, part political thriller. It’s a quick read. It’s fun and fast-paced.
What’s your favorite thing about writing?
Everything. I know it sounds silly, but I’ve been finding reasons to do it all my life. I love the physical process, pressing keys and words appear on the page. I love research. I may not do it for a living, but I’m a scientist at heart more than anything else. I love reading something I just wrote and smiling because I think it’s good. I love it even more if it’s not and I can come up with a simple idea that makes it better. I feel… worthy when I’m writing. It’s totally undeserved because I’m lying on the couch with my laptop, and there are people out there doing real things, helping people in concrete ways. Still, I feel like a fireman when I’m writing.
What fictional literary world would you most like to visit?
Same one I’d like to visit in real life. Space. I just want to get up there, because, well, it’s there. I don’t remember how old I was but I had made a list of things I wanted to accomplish in life. There were three: get a degree (I was a high-school dropout), have children, go to space. I’m two for three.
What’s rocking your world this month?
I’m going to sound like a raging egomaniac, but this is what rocks my world right now: doing interviews, meeting people for my book. I’ve been waiting for Sleeping Giants to come out for what feels like six hundred years, and it’s finally here. This is my first novel so just about everything is new. I’m having a blast.
Who are your literary heroes working today? Why do you admire them?
I have an event coming with Robert J. Sawyer. He just published his twenty-third novel. Twenty-three! I have one. I have more agents than books! Longevity is what I find most amazing. To write good books year in and year out for twenty, thirty years. These guys are my heroes.
If you could invent anything, what would it be?
There are a few things I’m angry for not inventing: pasta pot with a straining lid, eBay. If I could make a new thing tomorrow, it would be a machine that lets you be in someone’s body for a short period of time. I’d like to see the world as someone else. Even something as simple as colors would be interesting. Blue for me doesn’t have to be the same thing it is for you, so long as we agree it’s blue. You could experience blue the way I do green and we’d never know. Our bodies probably don’t produce the same quantities of drugs or react to them in different ways, so your emotions would likely feel different as well. Also, my back hurts. It’s been hurting since I was 19. I have a bad knee. I’d love to spend a few moments without any pain, remember what that feels like.
What’s your favorite quote or scene from Sleepin Giants?
I don’t think it’s the best scene in the book, but the walk in the Korean Demilitarized Zone was the most interesting to write. The format of Sleeping Giants is unique, and it makes writing certain things a lot easier, and some a lot harder. This is an action scene I have to create using only dialogue. There are four people talking to each other during the events, but only two are on paper. It was so much fun.
Do you have a motto, quote or philosophy you live by?
Never a problem, only opportunities. That’s a joke. In one of the bazillion jobs I held, we had some computer meltdown one night and the company sent some VP from head-office to save the day. When he showed up, we had the situation under control, so he cleaned the desk a little, took credit for everything and, just as he was leaving, he smiled and said: “Never a problem, only opportunities”. Seriously, the only rule I try to live by is: don’t half-ass anything, ever. It makes life a lot simpler. No matter what happens, I know I did my best. No regrets. Funny thing is it’s easy. Everything is more fun and satisfying if you try to do it well. That’s also the only advice I have for writers, even if it has nothing to do with writing. If you have a day job, give it your all, find new ways to get better at it. If you can’t find satisfaction in what you do all day because you think it’s beneath you, it’s going to be hard to find success anywhere else.
Sylvain Neuvel is the author of the new book Sleeping Giants.Buy The Book
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