Yesterday I reviewed Andy Weir’s debut novel, The Martian. Mr. Weir graciously agreed to be interviewed via email.
When you were writing The Martian, how did writing and science go hand-in-hand? Did you stop to make calculations as the plot came along, or did you have the science planned out parallel to the plot? Or did you have another method altogether?
AW: I did a lot of stuff in advance. But as specific plot points came up I usually had to get much more detailed information. So there was pretty much constant research throughout the process.
What kinds of books did you read while you were writing, if any? Survival stories? Sci-fi? Nonfiction about the space program?
AW: I actually didn’t read much at all during that period. I had a full time job during the day and I was sinking most of my spare time in to writing. I just didn’t have the time for other leisure activities.
What would be on your data stick if you were headed to Mars? For that matter, what’s on Watney’s?
AW: It’s funny, but I never defined what was on Watney’s data stick. Presumably not a lot of entertainment; probably botany papers and articles. As for me, I guess I’d want tons of TV shows and movies.
AW: Dad and I would make model moon-bases and such when I was a kid. And his collection of classic sci-fi paperbacks is what got me interested in the genre. Mom always pushed me to take my shot at writing. It’s kind of backwards from the usual dynamic. I was usually the one saying I need to be cautious and have a stable career and Mom was encouraging me to take a chance.
What would wisecracking, ingenious (and sweet) Mark Watney give his mom for Mother’s Day before taking off on a mission to Mars?
AW: I hate to cop out, but if I were going to write that in to a book, I would engineer a sweet backstory for the present. Some childhood story that makes a mundane item the perfect gift for his Mom. Off the top of my head: When he was a little kid, he wanted an expensive toy. His mom got it for him and he immediately broke it and she was mad. He found it later in an old box. Knowing his mother is worried sick about him going on the mission, he repaired the toy (he’s good at that sort of thing). He gives it to her and asks her to hold on to it for him till he’s back.
After the success of The Martian, what’s next on your writing horizon?
AW: I’m working on my next book. I’m keeping the details quiet at the moment because I haven’t pitched it to the publisher yet. I’d like them to hear about it from me first.
My thanks again to Mr. Weir for his time and his thoughtful answers.