In The Illuminae Files, transcriptions, official reports and even the point of view of an artificial intelligence are combined. How did you and Amie Kaufman organize yourselves to keep the plot aligned with the different media used to tell the story?
The important thing for us was always telling a compelling story with interesting characters – the media we used to deliver that story was always secondary. So, we’d figure out what needed to happen in each scene of the story, then ask ourselves what the coolest way to show that could be.What we could get away in terms of design often depended on the complexity and goals of each scene.
How was it like to collaborate with another writer in the creation of a whole series?
Amazing fun. Writing is often a very solitary and lonely process. Having someone to share the journey with (and another brain to solve plot problems) is a huge advantage.
How did you get to find the voice of an artificial intelligence?
Working out how AIDAN would sound was an organic process – initially, it was far more impersonal and cold. But after our first draft, our editor gave us some advice and I let a little more of my personality and general nihilism/existentialism creep in. I’m kinda dark, basically.
Taking a look at your previous work, we can easily say that your preference for fantasy and science fiction is quite clear. What do you like the most about these two genres?
Unlimited potential. There’s an amazing sense of liberation in creating a world out of nothing. It can be intimidating too—there’s very little that’s more frightening than a blank page. But in fantasy (and to a lesser extent, sci-fi) the rules that bind us in this world no longer apply, and through it, you can explore issues and themes that relate to our world through a different lens, and often find a different perspective. Plus, you know, I’m just a fucking nerd.
Both in The Illuminae Files and The Lotus Wars, we can tell the good from the bad. But in Nevernight, this clearly defined line becomes blurrier than ever. Why did you smudge it? And, how was the work with this different approach?
I like anti-heroes. I like broken characters. I like exploring the dark places that exist in all of us. The existence of pure evil and pure good is actually quite rare—even the world we live in is usually drawn in shades of grey. And morally grey characters are often the most fun to write, and the most compelling to watch/read about. The two most popular characters I’ve written—Mia and AIDAN—are totally grey.
The Nevernight webseries hit YouTube last December. How does it feel to see your characters come to life on screen?
Amazing! I love what Piera and her team did with it! I had very little to do with the production—the success of it is all down to Piera and her amazing crew. But I’m super proud of what they pulled together.
Lifel1k3 and The Aurora Cycle —cowritten with Amie Kaufman as well— have not yet arrived in Spanish bookstores. However, both series will get sequels next year, when your new series, Empire of the Vampire, will be released. How do you manage to work on so many books at the same time?
I treat writing like a job. I work 8-10 hours a day, 6 or 7 days a week. Writing isn’t blood sorcery or an unknowable mystery. The math of it is ultimately quite simple—if you sit your ass in the chair and write 8 hours a day (and stay the hell off social media), you’re gonna end up with a lot of words. Of course, some of those words might suck, but that’s what second drafts are for!
We could not help but noticing the contrast between Empire of the Vampire and Nevernight. While in Nevernight the sun never sets, the people in Empire of the Vampire have not seen daylight for twenty-seven years. That said, did Empire of the Vampire's worldbuilding came up somehow in opposition to Nevernight’s, or was it just something that the new series coincidentally needed?
It’s mostly coincidence. I was reading about a famous incident back in 536 and 540 ad where a couple of volcanic explosions essentially cut the sunlight on earth down to a fraction, and that got me started thinking about the monsters that might take advantage of a world like that. I loooove vampires, and I’d always wanted to write a vampire book. So away I went.
But, Empire is still very much the spiritual successor to Nevernight. It’s goth as hell.
It is undeniable that you are very active on social media. What are in your opinion the advantages of being so close to your readership?
I think a lot of people nowadays feel a need to “know” the artists they like, and I like to know my readers a little, too. I have an amazing job, and it’s my readers who let me live my dream. I couldn’t do any of this without them and I want them to know I appreciate them. So, social media is a way to let my readers know just how grateful I am to them.
Fanart is also an incredible way to spread the word about a book. I think half the reason Nevernight got so popular was because so many incredible artists were creating works for Mia, and social media was a great way to share the amazing work that people were producing.
And last but not least, we would like you to create some hype for your readers: what projects are you working on right now?
It’s mostly Empire of the Vampire! This book is a beast, the biggest book I’ve ever written. But I’m having a lot of fun with it, and it’s pushing me as a creator, which is a scary but great feeling. I really think it’s going to be something special.
Amie and I are also working on Aurora 3, which is a blast. I love the ragtag band of misfits we built, so being back writing them again is a great feeling.