Sylvain Neuvel burst onto the science fiction scene last year with his debut hit, Sleeping Giants, a 2016 Fantasy Literature favorite. The sequel, Waking Gods, is available on April 4, 2017. Tadiana and Jason were able to borrow a little time from the French Canadian author to learn about his passion for science fiction, backwards-bending knees, and the second novel in his THEMIS series, Waking Gods. After reading the interview, check out our reviews of of the new novel.

One random commenter with a USA mailing address will win a copy of Waking Gods. See below for details.

Jason Golomb: You reference that you’re a “Director of translation services and a software engineer for a Montreal company.” At what point do you become a” full time” professional writer, considering the success of THE THEMIS FILES and that you’ve also contributed to Star Wars ‘canon’?

Photo of Sylvain Neuvel, Credit James Andrew RosenSylvain Neuvel: Good question. I wrote books 1 and 2 with a full time job but it was a bit much. I work two days a week now. I’ve been self-employed for most of my life, had no retirement money. I have a house, a son. I try to be prudent. I actually like having something else to do besides writing. It helps clear my mind. If things keep going the way they’re going, that something could just be a hobby: more robotics, lion taming, part-time astronaut. We’ll see. I feel no pressure about the “full time” thing. I don’t think it means much. I live well. I do what I love. There’s no point in making it more stressful than it needs to be.

Tadiana Jones: It’s apparent you used your linguistics degrees in Sleeping Giants. How have you approached working your passion and profession of linguistics, and morphology, into THE THEMIS FILES? And have you given any thought to incorporating those concepts further in this series?

I made a conscious effort not to bring too much linguistics into Sleeping Giants. Linguist writing about aliens, everyone expects Klingon. That said, there’s plenty of room in that series to do things I didn’t do in the first book, and there is a linguist on-board Themis. I might put him to work at some point.

TJ: We were impressed with how you raised the stakes in Waking Gods, both on a global level and on an individual one. You made some difficult choices with two characters in particular. What was your thought process in deciding how and why to take some of the more controversial plot turns?

Some decisions are tougher than others. I love those characters. But my main concern is always the story, and part of what makes this one interesting is that it’s grounded in real life. I don’t want to spoil Waking Gods, but we can talk about Sleeping Giants. Vincent’s accident serves the plot in a very obvious way, but I could have kept a certain character alive. Killing that character in book 1 was heartbreaking, but I also felt I needed to remind everyone that what these people are doing is inherently dangerous. For the same reason, I chose to let nine years go by between the events of Sleeping Giants and the beginning of Waking Gods. I didn’t want these people’s lives to turn into Murder She Wrote, where something bad happens every single time the main character gets out of her house. The Themis discovery turned my characters’ lives upside down, but I felt they had to have a few quiet Tuesday nights in front of the TV before I put them through hell again.

JG: You’ve stated that you’re a big fan of science fiction. What top 4 or 5 novels or films do you look back on as the greatest influences in building the world of Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods?

I loved Close Encounters of the Third Kind when I was younger. I still do. It’s a movie about first contact with aliens, but half of it is one man playing with mashed potatoes and ruining his backyard. It’s very human. Contact is the same way. The alien part of the story really takes a backseat to the human element. It’s a book, or a movie, about us, not them. The concept behind The Andromeda Strain, by Michael Crichton, is somewhat similar to mine, documenting the work of a team of scientists, all with an alien twist. That book even has a fake bibliography at the end. I loved that. There are bits and pieces of other things I love in THE THEMIS FILES: Star Wars, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica. If I’m allowed to go outside of science fiction, there’s a bit of Tom Clancy in there as well.

TJ: Since reading Sleeping Giants I’ve been trying to figure out if backwards-bending knees in a two-legged humanoid being are actually practical for walking and running. Did you do any research or create any drawings to work out the concept?

Well, they have an extra joint. More points of articulation means more possibilities. They could walk better than we can. And I didn’t draw it, I built it. This whole thing started because I wanted to build a toy robot for my son. He asked too many questions and I had to come up with a story. I did build the toy. It’s not really fun to play with – it was supposed to hold together with magnets, but it keeps falling apart. At least I can look at it. For Waking Gods, I had to describe some of the movements the pilots would have to deal with, getting up when Themis falls down, etc. That was fun.

Finally, we have a tradition here at FanLit of asking authors if they have a signature drink. Maybe a go-to drink during the writing of Waking Gods? It can be alcoholic or non-alcoholic.

There’s a restaurant in my neighborhood that serves a drink called the Darth Vader. Of course, I ordered it. Rum, Earl Grey tea, Apple liquor, ginger. So good. Replace the apple liquor with apple juice for a more summery version. Try it!

Comment below for your chance to win a copy of Waking Gods. U.S. addresses only.


  • Jason Golomb

    JASON GOLOMB graduated with a degree in Communications from Boston University in 1992, and an M.B.A. from Marymount University in 2005. His passion for ice hockey led to jobs in minor league hockey in Baltimore and Fort Worth, before he returned to his home in the D.C. metro area where he worked for America Online. His next step was National Geographic, which led to an obsession with all things Inca, Aztec and Ancient Rome. But his first loves remain SciFi and Horror, balanced with a healthy dose of Historical Fiction.

  • Tadiana Jones

    TADIANA JONES, on our staff since July 2015, is an intellectual property lawyer with a BA in English. She inherited her love of classic and hard SF from her father and her love of fantasy and fairy tales from her mother. She lives with her husband and four children in a small town near the mountains in Utah. Tadiana juggles her career, her family, and her love for reading, travel and art, only occasionally dropping balls. She likes complex and layered stories and characters with hidden depths. Favorite authors include Lois McMaster Bujold, Brandon Sanderson, Robin McKinley, Connie Willis, Isaac Asimov, Larry Niven, Megan Whalen Turner, Patricia McKillip, Mary Stewart, Ilona Andrews, and Susanna Clarke.