Andy Weir: From Space Nerd to Successful Author

Andy WeirBreakthrough author Andy Weir was first hired as a programmer for a national laboratory at age fifteen and has been working as a software engineer ever since.

He is also a lifelong space nerd and a devoted hobbyist of subjects like relativistic physics, orbital mechanics, and the history of manned spaceflight. The Martian is his first novel and you might say, it’s really taking off.

Andy talks about his journey from successfully self-published author to attracting the attention of agents and publishers when his work started selling well on Kindle.

Scroll down for a complete transcript of the interview or click the Play button below to listen to the interview now.

And don’t forget to leave a comment to let us know what you thought of this interview!

An excerpt from The Martian by Andy Weir

Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars.  Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first person to die there.

After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive.

Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to kill him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next.

Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Order The Martian now.

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Andy Weir Transcript

Tim Knox:   Hello again and welcome to Interviewing Authors.  Andy Weir’s new book is called The Martian.   It’s about an astronaut who’s stranded on Mars and reading this book, it’s highly technical and highly believable.   I was very impressed with Andy’s writing style as well as his depth of knowledge of the subject as well as his creativity.

Now Andy kind of did things in reverse.   He started off publishing chapters of his book on his website, giving it away for free, and created a fan base who demanded that he put the book on Kindle.   Once he put it on Kindle sales took off and he was noticed by a publisher and an agent, and now has a deal I believe with Crown and even has a screenplay opted on the books.

So, a great interview, lots of lessons you can learn here.   Andy talks about his process, how he writes, when he writes, how he develops characters – just a really good interview, good interview.   Andy opened up and told us everything asked so that’s always good.   Sit back, relax, enjoy and get ready to learn from Andy, author of The Martian, on today’s Interviewing Authors.

Tim Knox:   Andy, welcome to Interviewing Authors.   Appreciate you being with us today.

Andy Weir:   Thanks for having me.

Tim:   Now you’ve got quite a background.   I’ve done some research on you.   You’ve drawn web comics, you’ve written books, I think you were a prodigy when it came to programming.   Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Andy:   Well I mean I’m just sort of a general nerd and I enjoy kind of making all forms of entertainment.   I did a web comic for awhile.   I did another web comic after that for awhile.   I don’t know… I’m not a prodigy programmer.   I just started a little younger than most people did.   That’s all.

Tim:   At what point did you start to write? When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

Andy:   Oh boy, I was a kid.   When I was a little kid I was writing, you know, Henry Higgins fan fiction basically.   I was like 10 years old on my dad’s typewriter typing up these little one paragraph fan fictions about Henry and Bitsy.   Basically I’ve always wanted to be a writer.

Tim:   So you’ve always had a big imagination.   I know when I mentioned before the interview that I was starting to read your book and just fascinated by the level of detail in your imagination there.   Let’s go ahead and dig into it.   First of all, you’ve got a new book out called The Martian.   I don’t want to spoil anything but tell us a little bit about the book.

Andy:   Well the basic plot is an astronaut gets stranded on Mars because the rest of his crew thought he was dead and had to do an emergency evac during a sandstorm.   So he’s trapped there and nobody knows he’s alive.   The communications equipment is destroyed so NASA doesn’t know he’s alive and he’s completely on his own and needs to try to survive with just the equipment material that’s there for the mission.

Tim:   One thing that really struck me was the level of detail that you put into this.   Again, I don’t want to spoil anything but at one point there’s a [cuts out 3:  12] – his spacesuit and just how you came up with how he got through that was amazing.   Now how much of that is actual fact and how much of it is just your imagination?

Andy:   Well, I mean, I made everything as factual as I could and I would do the math and physics and chemistry or whatever was necessary but of course I’m just speculating on exactly what happens when you puncture a NASA spacesuit.   I don’t believe that’s actually ever happened in the field.   I’m sure they’ve poked holes in them in testing just to see what happens but I don’t know if the scenario I described is accurate but I certainly tried my best.

Tim:   Well the way you described it, I was sitting there reading it going how does he know this? It really is really well written.   Let’s talk about the process a little bit because you started selling this book I believe on your website first and then you published it on Kindle and then you actually got some attention from a traditional agent and publisher.   Take us back to the beginning when you came up with that story.   How did you come up with that story?

Andy:   Well I’m the sort of dork who sits around and imagines space missions, not stories specifically but I was just thinking, okay, how could we do a manned mission to Mars? Okay.   I was kind of putting together that mission in my mind.   Okay, you put the things there first then you send the people.   You have the ship that will bring them back already there and making fuel out of Mars’ atmosphere, et cetera.   I had to start thinking about scenarios where things go wrong.   Okay, how do you make sure the crew doesn’t die if this happens or if this happens what do they do in this case? A mission plan needs to account for mishaps.   Then I started to realize that those mishaps are pretty cool and they, you know, might make a good story so I made a poor main character and had him go through all of them.

Tim:   Again, I’m fascinated.   You remind me – and this is a compliment – of Tom Clancy, the level of detail that you put in your books.   How important is research to you? How much research did you do for this book?

Andy:   Oh tons and tons.   I wanted everything to be as scientifically accurate as possible.   All the technology that you see in the book is stuff that exists today, like right now.   So, like, that mission as it’s described could be done right now.   Now a lot of the tech that’s there is a, you know, improved versions of it – more efficient, more effective at what they do but that’s, you know, write that off to a few decades of advances.   But there’s no fictional tech in it.   It’s all real so I had to research everything and I had to make sure that, you know, like okay I know how much power his little habitat on Mars has based on how much solar cells he has and how much light is hitting the surface of Mars.   So the things he has I needed to design from the ground up to make sure they won’t using too much power.   I tried to make everything fit together.

Tim:   And you did so well.   Do you do a lot of reading? Do you like science fiction in general?

Andy:   I do.   I love science fiction, although I’m woefully uneducated on modern science fiction because what I really like are the classics from the ‘50s and ‘60s and stuff.   In a few ways they don’t stand out, especially on things like gender equality, but in other ways they’re still really fun to read and just good old-fashioned space adventures.

Tim:   Right.   I was interviewing Homer Hickam the other day.   I don’t know if you know who Homer is but he wrote Rocket Boys, which the movie was October Sky, and he likes a lot of detailed space type stuff.   I asked Homer what his best advice to an author was and that was to read.   If you’re going to write in a genre you need to read in that genre every day.   I think that’s what you’re saying.   You read this and it kind of inspires you to go on and maybe even take it a step further.

Andy:   Well, yeah, I guess the – I don’t know if you’d call it a secret but that’s the thing about my writing is basically I’m writing 1950’s juvenile’s, what they called juvenile’s science fiction.   What they meant by that was the target audience was juveniles, like 12 to 17 year old boys.   I’m just writing those but I’m giving it the modern setting so now all of the things that they used to speculate about in the 50’s really exists so suddenly it’s just kind of less high-minded Sci-Fi and more hard Sci-Fi now.

Tim:   Well you know that’s probably why I connected with the book because I do have the mind of a 10 year old boy at times.   It’s really well written and I highly recommend it.   I can’t wait to get back.   Let’s go back and talk about the process.   What was your first published work, either self-published or something you did on the website or via Kindle? What was the first thing you put out there?

Andy:   Oh boy, I don’t know.   It would have been a long time – I mean if you’re including just me posting stuff online.

Tim:   Is that how you really got started, how you started gaining an audience?

Andy:   Absolutely.   Well originally I was writing just the web comic called Casey and Andy.   I didn’t write narrative fiction so actually… sorry, I’m going to go back a little further in time.   So I’ve wanted to be a writer all my life and I wrote a book when I was in college, and it was awful so I never even tried to show that to people.   Fortunately that was before the days of the internet so it’s not out there, it didn’t survive.   No one will ever find it.   Then I wrote another novel and that one I did post online.   It’s okay but at the time I thought, okay, I’m going to take my shot at this.   This was in my late 20s; I’m in my early 40s now.   I actually left my job.   I had been laid off so it was a convenient time and I had some money from the severance.   I said, alright, I’m going to take some time off and try to make it as a writer.

I spent three years trying to break into the industry and I couldn’t get any interest in the book.   I couldn’t get an agent so I went back to programming computers and I figured, well, I gave it a whirl.   I’m not going to sit around wondering, you know, what would have happened if I tried.   I gave it a shot.   And then as the internet got more and more prevalent I realized well I can just write my own stuff and post it online and I don’t need to try to make a career of it.   I can do this as a hobby and without any personal financial risks to myself.   Anyway, having said all that, I had already written two books when I started writing the web comic and stuff like that.   The web comic got a bunch of readers.   I had something like 50,000 readers for the web comic.   It was fairly popular in its heyday.   Then I decided I didn’t want to do the web comics anymore and I just wanted to do narrative fiction.

So I made a little website to hold all my short stories or kind of like serialized novels that I was working on.   I just posted [indecipherable 9:  56] and I had a mailing list and, yeah, I slowly accumulated readers over a long time basically.

Tim:   A couple of things here, let’s go back and touch on because you talked about you actually quit your job, you write full-time and you were rejected by agents and publishers.   Rejection is a big part of the deal.

Andy:   We all know how that is.

Tim:   Well we do.   How did you handle it?

Andy:   Well, I mean, I knew going into it that there was going to be a lot of rejection so it didn’t bother me.   It’s just eventually at some point I had to kind of give up and I mean it’s a sad thing but that’s… you have to chase your dream for awhile but you also have to know when to say when.   I am not a person who likes to take financial risks.   I don’t do a lot of speculative investments.   I don’t do this.   So I set myself a time limit.   I said based on my savings and stuff like that this is how long I can go before I start getting into the danger zone in terms of savings.   I reached that point and then I said, okay, it’s time to get back to work in the computer industry.

Tim:   Did you get discouraged at all? Did you stop writing for awhile?

Andy:   I did, yeah, I’ll admit.   I just felt like well what’s the point? But this was all kind of, this was in the early ‘90s-ish and so this was before the internet had really taken hold.   I mean we kind of forget how fast that all happened.   In the early ‘90s it wasn’t common for people to sit around and browse the web.   It wasn’t common for people to read stories online.   I mean there was Usenet stories and stuff like that.   So at the time the internet wasn’t a very good way of reaching an audience.   By the time I gave it another shot, you know, after the web comic and just doing my own site it was pretty common for people to follow a fiction writer online just by his website and through a mailing list.   That’s what I did.

And then at one point I think one thing that really helped a lot for me, and it was just pure luck, in 2009 I wrote a short story called The Egg.   It was just like a page and a half long.   It was about 1,000 words long.   People really liked it and it got shared all over the internet.   The page that I have The Egg on still gets many thousands of hits every day and it’s been viewed millions and millions of times.

Tim:   Wow.

Andy:   So that drew a lot of people to the site.   So then they all… I gained a lot of kind of regular readers that way.

Tim:   How did that happen? How did it go viral and get the audience built like that?

Andy:   I’m not sure because at the time I wrote it I didn’t imagine that it was like that great a story.   I thought oh this is a short story that I’m writing.   It wasn’t even that big a deal to me and it took me about 40 minutes to write it.   I just wrote it, posted it and thought, okay, that’s just a story I wrote.   I think it’s because it kind of makes you go ‘whoa’.   The ending of it kind of makes you sit back or that was the intent to make people go whoa, weird and think about it for a bit.   Then it’s also really short so it’s nicely digestible for like an internet audience.   It doesn’t require a big time commitment.   A lot of people take the entire content of the text, the whole story, and post it to their blog.

Tim:   That was called The Egg?

Andy:   The Egg.

Tim:   Okay, I’ll need to look that up.   You’ve got my interest piqued here.   Let’s talk a little bit about how you get your ideas for stories.   Do you pull them from everyday life or just that imagination you’ve got? Where do they come from?

Andy:   I think probably the same answer as every author would say is just daydreaming, you know.   Every main character starts out as either yourself or someone you want to be pretty much.   So from there… obviously Mark is started out as, you know, me in my mind.   As the story progressed I started developing a unique character for Mark.

Tim:   That’s great, Mark being the hero of The Martian.

Andy:   Right, sorry I didn’t make that clear, yeah.

Tim:   Right, right, so as you develop these characters… I do the same thing.   Every character I’ve ever written stems from me somewhat but then it takes another direction.   Do you find these characters taking on a life of their own as you write them?

Andy:   Absolutely and that’s – I don’t know how to put it – enviable.   When you get to that point it’s great because now you don’t even need to think about it.   You’re just like, okay, I can just follow him around with a pen and paper basically, and that’s great.   What’s hard is getting characters to that point and I’m actually pretty bad at that.   Mark turned out as a reasonably likable character I think because he’s basically just my own smartass personality minus all the bad parts of my personality.   So you know my anxieties, my fears and just all the things that make me a pain in the ass to people, he doesn’t have that.   He only has the good things.

Tim:   So basically Mark is Andy without all the warts.

Andy:   Yeah, basically the distilled, improved version of me.

Tim:   Great point, great point.   Let’s talk a little about writer’s block.   Do you ever get writer’s block? If you do, what do you do about it? How do you plow through?

Andy:   Well so I don’t know if you’d call it writer’s block.   I never have a problem figuring out how a story should progress.   I often have problems because I’m like I know how to move this forward but that’s boring.   I’ve got to make it interesting all the time so how can I make this better? Or I have like four different ways to go and I need to pick the right one.   Where I get stuck is in the details.   Okay, now I’m actually writing this scene and it’s a clumsy transition to get from this to that.   It’s like how do I do this? How do I exposition all this information to the reader without looking like a Wikipedia page got copy and pasted into the text? That’s where I get stuck.   Sometimes I’ll be stuck on that for a long time.   So what I try to do is I just I put bracketed notes in front of myself, like in the text when I’m writing.   If I get stuck on something I’ll just put a bracket and what I need to do there, closed bracket and then move on as if I’ve done it just to keep myself writing, keep the flow going.   It will be something like bracket, explain why this blah, blah, blah, bracket.   It’s a problem that I’ll have to solve later and it won’t be pleasant but at least I won’t just stop dead.

Tim:   Right.   Do you ever finish writing and look at a page full of brackets?

Andy:   Yes.   Well yeah and another thing is… what I’ve found, and this is another thing that I’m sure is really, really not new and lots of people say it is.   When you stop for the day, try to stop somewhere that is interesting to you, where you’re eager to get back to writing it.   If you stop for the day at a point that you’re kind of dreading and you’re like oh I’ve got to do this thing and I don’t know how and it’s going to be awkward and I’ve got to put a lot of thought into it, and then you stop there then it’s hard for you to start up again the next time you do.

Tim:   Right and that leads to my next question and I probably already know the answer but is writing a pleasure for you or is it a chore or is it a little of both?

Andy:   It’s definitely both.   When I’m cruising along I feel great.   I’m like, oh yeah, this is going great.   I come up with a good zinger or a good gag to put in there and then I’m like, oh yeah.   I’ll do five pages of setup just to get a joke that appeared to be casual and just a side note just to get the reader laughing.   I feel great about that.   But boy when I’m stuck I’m just feeling miserable and just like how do I get from here to here?

Tim:   Right.   What is your process? When you’re writing a book do you outline or do you just plow in and start writing?

Andy:   Well for The Martian I actually just plowed in.   I only had a vague notion of how the ending would go when I started it.   I just kept kind of plugging along.   The Martian tends to be like problem and then resolution and then the next problem is often related to the resolution of the previous problem so I really had to do it linearly.

Tim:   Right.   Did you ever come up with something that he couldn’t get out of and have to back out?

Andy:   Yeah, I sure did.   Several times I came up with… I was imagining problems and then… I would come up with the problems and then try to come up with a solution.   Sometimes I would say no, no that would kill him.   Fortunately he had the right [indecipherable 18:  29] so he just wouldn’t run into that problem.

Tim:   So Mark is screaming, “Andy, what are you doing? Quick, what are you thinking?” Let’s talk a little about the process that you went through because I mentioned earlier you started out putting your work on your website and then you published it on Kindle.   That really is when things started to happen.   Is that right?

Andy:   Yeah that’s right.   I didn’t really want to do that either.   I was kind of forced into it bit by bit by my readers.   It started out as I had it on the website and I finished the whole novel so I was posting it one chapter at a time.   I had all the chapters posted up there and then I finished and I said, okay I’m done and I’m going to move on to something else.   So people were saying, “I like your story and I’m enjoying it but I hate reading it in a webpage.   Can you make an eBook version?” I said sure so I figured out how to do that and made an ePub version and a MOBI version and posted it to the website and said here you go; you can download them.   Knock yourself out.   Other people said, “I love that there’s an ePub and a MOBI but I’m not very technically skilled.   I don’t know how to download an eBook file from the internet and then get it onto my Kindle.   I don’t know the steps,” and a lot of people don’t.   So they said, “Can’t you just post it up on Kindle?”

So I went and found out how that works and I did.   I posted to Kindle.   One thing is you can’t post to Kindle for free.   You can ask [indecipherable 19:  52] and stuff that are free.   I wanted to post it up there for free but Amazon’s not a charity.   They want to make money off of this.   So I had to charge at least $0.  99 so I charged exactly $0.  99, the minimum.   I told my readers, okay, for those of you who wanted it available directly on Kindle, here it is.   It costs $0.  99 because that’s the minimum so just consider it a $0.  99 surcharge to have Amazon put it on your Kindle for you, you know.

Tim:   Right.

Andy:   They did and more people bought it from Kindle than downloaded it for free from my site.

Tim:   Isn’t it funny how that happens? Why do you think that it?

Andy:   I think it’s because Amazon has a tremendously successful reach into the readership market.   They’re just that good at it.   I think most of the people who downloaded it or rather bought it weren’t even aware that it was available for free.   Amazon has its own rating system and it started to sell well so it started moving up the top 10 lists and things.   It kind of exploded exponentially from there, which is great.   I have no idea what magic was involved to make that happen.   A lot of people ask me, “Oh, how’d you market the book? How did you do it?” I didn’t do anything.   I did nothing.

Tim:   That’s interesting because you’re not the first person to tell me that.   You really don’t know what the hell’s going on.   People are buying it and it’s great but you don’t know why.

Andy:   Right.   By the way, now I’m going full-time writing because The Martian was successful enough that I’ve quit my job to be a writer again.

Tim:   Congratulations.

Andy:   Thank you, thank you.   So now I’m working on my next book and I’m like I don’t know what I did right on The Martian.   I hope I do it right on this book.   I don’t know.

Tim:   Right, exactly.   Well you were so successful on Kindle that you actually got the attention of a, I think a publisher who recommended an agent to you.   Is that correct? Is that the process?

Andy:   That’s right.   It was Julian Pavia at Crown Publishing, which is part of Random House.   He liked the book.   I don’t know the story of how he ended up seeing it.   I think they have scouts but I’m not sure.   One way or another he saw it and he liked it.   So he talked to a colleague who was a literary agent and said, “What do you think of this?” and then the literary agent, who’s David Fugate who is now my agent, came to me and said, “Hey, do you have a literary agent? Because if you don’t I bet you I can get you a deal.  ” So this is interesting to me because after three years of not being able to get an agent I just get one coming to me, which is great.   So I’m like sure, sounds good.   He said, “Okay, I bet I can get you a deal with Crown.  ” So that was all basically a publisher and an agent came knocking, which is a fantasy come true.

Tim:   Right.

Andy:   So that’s how I ended up with the print deal.

Tim:   Okay, stupid question.   Did you play hard to get at all?

Andy:   Well no, certainly not with my agent.   It’s an agent.   It’s a fairly standard deal.   My agent negotiated the contract with Random House.   He did all the negotiating.

Tim:   Do you think that you necessarily have to have an agent, to go that route? Do you think you would have ever been traditionally published without one? Do you think you would have gotten the attention of a publisher if the book wasn’t doing so well on Kindle?

Andy:   I don’t think I would have.   Of course, bear in mind I’m still a novice at this whole industry, right.   I kind of bumbled into it.   I don’t think I would have.   There’s just so much signal to noise ratio in there.   You look at it from the publisher’s point-of-view.   They get sent more books than they can possibly even consider, let alone publish.   You just kind of – I don’t know how to put it – you’re just kind of like raising your voice in a crowd and no one can hear you.   I don’t know.   Of course everything’s easier with an agent because agents have direct contacts to publishers and they know which publishers, which editor, which specific people at publishing houses would be most likely to be receptive to any given story.   The agent, him or herself, can tell you this story won’t fly as it is.   I can go ahead and give it a shot but if you make these changes it will be more likely.   Definitely an agent is great.   Yeah, my agent and I have been going back and forth on my next book.   We went back and forth, he pointed out faults and problems with it and I’m like oh yeah.

Tim:   How is it having that relationship with an agent?

Andy:   It’s great because, as I keep saying, I’m still a novice to this industry.   He knows all the business side of everything and he knows how people respond to things and I don’t know.   It’s just great to have a person to take care of that.   It’s hard to get an agent but I definitely recommend getting one.

Tim:   If you can, get one.

Andy:   If you can get one, get one, yeah.   It’s nice.

Tim:   When you were publishing on Kindle did you ever do the CreateSpace, the publishing on demand so people could get hard copies or was it strictly on Kindle?

Andy:   Strictly Kindle, just KDP, Kindle Direct Publishing.

Tim:   Was there a reason why you didn’t go to the hard copy?

Andy:   Again, it didn’t occur to me.   I was just using Kindle at the time as a way of distributing it to people who couldn’t figure out how to download the ePub from my website or couldn’t figure out how to put it on their Kindle once they downloaded it.   I absolutely understand it.   I’m not denigrating people for not knowing all the technical details.

Tim:   Right, yeah, not everyone knows how to do that.   A lot of people still like to have the hard copy.   My daughter’s a big reader and she has a Kindle and it’s overloaded but when she finds a book that she likes, she likes to get an actual copy of the book so she can hold it and keep it.   I’m hoping that, you know, the traditional paper books never go away but so much is going to the internet.   Let’s move into the topic of social media on this.   Now that you are in the position where you are, are you doing any promotion yourself via Facebook, Skype, anything online pushing the book?

Andy:   I’m not doing things myself per say, although I do have a Facebook account for my kind of – I don’t know what you call it.   It’s a Facebook page I guess.   It’s not just a personal Facebook account.   It’s a thing where… I don’t know exactly what it’s called.   I wasn’t a Facebook user before this.   The publisher asked me to set it up to help promote the book.   Pretty much everything I do related to promoting the book is directly told to me by the publisher.   They pretty much set all that stuff up.

Tim:   Yeah and hopefully they know what they’re doing.

Andy:   I most certainly do.   I figure it’s best to leave it to their large and experienced publicity and marketing group, rather than try to guess for myself.

Tim:   Exactly.   Let’s talk a little bit more about the process of writing itself.   Do you write on a schedule? Are you at the computer at a certain time every day? Do you write for a number of hours or do you wing it? What is your process?

Andy:   Well it used to be I’d just wing it.   Back when I was writing The Martian, for instance, remember that was my hobby.   I had a day job.   So I’d write some evenings and wouldn’t write other evenings.   I wasn’t on any particular schedule.   It took me three years to write the book because I wasn’t in a hurry.   Now I’m trying to do it professionally so recently I have changed that.   Now I try to write during the work hours.   I kind of set myself a goal of getting a certain number of words done per day.   They don’t have to be great but I have to crank them out.   I can edit them later.   But yeah, I now have set hours.   I try to work during the work day.

Tim:   How are you at editing your own work?

Andy:   I think I’m reasonably good but you reach a point where you can’t go any further.   You have your own way of looking at it and you’re not going to see anything different.   You need more eyes on it.   That’s why it’s much, much better to have an external editor.   But that happens much later.

Tim:   Do you have someone that reads your work before it goes to your agent or your editor?

Andy:   Well, no I don’t.   I do that amount myself but the editing process, for instance, for The Martian I did get a copy editor to do a pass through it before I put it up on Kindle.   I figured if people are going to pay for it I should make sure [indecipherable 28:  54] and then once it went to Crown we went through a full kind of editorial thing with the editor with actual content changes and stuff like that.

Tim:   Did you have to do a lot of rewriting?

Andy:   Not much, not much.   They were really happy with it the way it was – just detailed things here and there, places that are frankly just, you know, exposing how inexperienced I am as a writer.   So, you know, one of the things was all over the book I had originally… I’m sorry.   In the, before the publishing contact I had lots of places in the book that were just floating dialogue.   I introduced the characters that are talking and from then on it’s just text, text, whatever, quotes, quotes, quotes, quotes.   The editor’s like you got to break that up.   It gets boring.   I don’t even know where these people are.   You just opened the scene with them talking.   I don’t know if they’re in a conference room or on the phone or in bed or what.

Tim:   I really think that’s how we write though.   When I write, and a lot of people I interview do the same thing.   They’ll create the dialogue first and it’s so easy to get wrapped up in the dialogue you kind of forget the semantics of it.   That was to the next question.   Any thoughts of turning this into a screenplay or is your agent looking at the movies for this?

Andy:   Well so 20th Century Fox has already optioned the rights.

Tim:   Congratulations.

Andy:   Thank you.   I mean that doesn’t mean they’ll make a movie but it means that they’re the only ones who are allowed to.

Tim:   Right.   It’s a great step though.

Andy:   It is great.

Tim:   It’s certainly something to brag about.

Andy:   Yeah I’m pretty happy about it.   They have got a screenplay and they’ve got Drew Goddard to direct.   He wrote the screenplay also.   I haven’t seen it.

Tim:   Did you work with him at all on that process?

Andy:   We talked on the phone a lot and he had questions for me and stuff but for the most part they don’t have to involve me at all.

Tim:   Right.

Andy:   He’s chosen to involve me in some ways but really my only job there is to cash the check.

Tim:   Yeah.   Do you at least get to go hang out with the actors?

Andy:   If they make a movie, if they green light it, then yeah I imagine I would get to go see it or I would certainly ask.

Tim:   Now if it were up to you who would you tap to play the lead?

Andy:   I like Bradley Cooper.   He was the guy in The Hangover and he was in Silver Linings Playbook.   I think he does a smartass really well.

Tim:   He does, he does.   I’m looking at your picture.   I actually found you in Reader’s Digest Magazine.   You have a bit of Bradley Cooper about you so maybe that will work out well for you.   Any final words of wisdom? Any advice? Again, the audience for this is typically authors who are writing, authors of all varying degrees of talent and success who are struggling to do what you have done, if you will.   Any advice just across the board?

Andy:   I feel like I just kind of got lucky.   I almost feel guilty.

Tim:   Don’t ever feel guilty.

Andy:   The best advice is the same advice everyone gives and everyone gives to everybody – if you want to be a writer you have to write.   So a story that’s only in your mind is not a story.   You need to put it down.   So people often have like, oh I’ve got this great idea for a five book series.   Let me tell you all about it.   You have to say no, don’t tell me about it.   Write it down and I’ll be happy to read it.

Tim:   Right.   That actually weeds out a lot of writers, asking them to write.

Andy:   Yeah.   So a lot of people say, oh I’ve got this great idea for a story and I wrote a synopsis and I’m not getting any traction on it.   I’m like, well, maybe you should write it.   Nowadays I guess the other piece of advice I’d give is nowadays with the internet you don’t need anybody.   You don’t need a publisher.   You don’t need approval from large organizations that don’t know who you are.   You can post to Kindle.   There’s no vetting process at all.   If it’s a good book people will buy it and they’ll refer it to each other.   You can make short stories and post them on your website for free and that will accumulate readers for you.   I think that’s a big part of being a writer is getting people who like your stuff and who will go out of their way to read whatever you come up with.

Tim:   Building that audience is very helpful.

Andy:   Yeah.

Tim:   Andy, who is the author of The Martian, which again I’ve read the first couple of chapters.   I will read this book quickly.   I find it fascinating.   Great book, Andy.   Let’s talk about where can they find out more.   I assume the book is on Amazon.   Do you have a website?

Andy:   Yeah they can go to AndyWeir.com or AndyWeirAuthor.com and see more about the book and more about me.   Also I have a website where it’s just a bare bones website where I dump my various writing concepts, little short stories, even fan fiction.   It’s not professional at all.   I can tell you the URL but it’s easier just to search, just to Google for Andy writing.

Tim:   Is that Galactanet?

Andy:   Yeah, Galactanet.com, but if you say the word Galactanet nobody really knows how to spell it.

Tim:   Exactly.   Well I’ll put links to all of your sites on our site.   This has been great.   I really appreciate your agreeing to do this.   I love the perspective and the passion and when the movie comes out I will be front row center.

Andy:   Thank you very much.

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2 Thoughts on “Andy Weir: From Space Nerd to Successful Author

  1. What a great interview. I love his writing and have downloaded his books on my kindle app. Thank you Tim for such interesting authors. Good Luck!

  2. timwknox on May 8, 2014 at 11:43 pm said:

    You’re quite welcome! Keep coming back for more.

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