How did you get into writing and what attracted you to the story of an astronaut marooned on Mars?
Well, I guess I’ve just always wanted to be a writer. There was never a time where I didn’t want it. I grew up reading my dad’s infinite science fiction collection. He had a huge bookshelf full of classic sci-fi from the 50s and 60s. As for The Martian, I’m a big space geek. I love manned and unmanned space flight and I was sitting around one day and I was designing a Mars mission, because I do that sort of thing, going how do we get there, how do we get them back, trying to use real technology, and then I’m like, okay, any mission plan needs to account for failures and problems that could happen; How do I make sure this doesn’t kill the crew, and the increasingly desperate things the crew would have to do to survive, and I began to realize [that] it would probably make a really interesting story, so I created one really unfortunate protagonist, and subjected him to all of it.
Explain the need for two different covers – one for the U.K. and one for the U.S:
That’s all just marketing by the various publishers. So, Random House owns the worldwide rights, […] and so Del Ray owns the U.K. rights. […] When you buy the regional rights, you basically get to do whatever you want with the marketing and whatever the cover is. There are actually a lot of different covers to The Martian. […] There [are] a lot of different regions [and] they have their own way of doing it and they know how to market to their region, so different publishers will use different artwork.
What’s the easiest way to get an autographed copy of The Martian?
On my Facebook [page], I have a post where I give instructions on how you can mail me a book and I’ll sign it and send it back. Also, you can order it from the local Books, Inc. in Mountain View – that’s the bookstore that I go to and so whenever I’m there I sign all their stock and you can mail order a book from them.
The attitude that people are willing to sacrifice to do the right thing, and that comes through over and over again in the book.
That really does kind of represent my worldview. Maybe I’m a bit of a Pollyanna, but I really do have this pretty positive opinion of humanity. I mean, it’s easy to get bogged down in all the negative stuff that goes on when you watch the news, because the news doesn’t tell you good things, right? But, I really do think that we are a species that are inherently cooperative and it’s just the way we are.
[…] I think I say in the book, if a hiker gets lost in the mountains, hundreds of people go and look for him. If there’s a disaster, people line up to give blood. If there’s an earthquake, every country in the world offers assistance. It’s just fundamental to how humans are.
If you could rewrite The Martian today, would you make any significant changes?
Not significant changes. There are areas of the book where I thought you know, in retrospect, this drags on too long. I would shorten things and there are a few, like, things that I now know are scientifically inaccurate that I would go back and fix, but for the most part, I’d leave it pretty much as is. I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.
Do you have a title for your new book?
Yeah, it’s tentatively titled Zhek, and it’s more a soft science fiction – it’s got aliens and faster than light travel and stuff. […] We’re shooting for early 2016.
You’ve got The Martian as a major film, how did they approach you?
The first thing is [that] a movie studio or production companies will buy the movie rights, it’s actually a movie option, and they’ll buy those like breath mints. They’ll option hundreds of books for every one movie they actually make out of a book. So, at the point that they secured the movie rights, it wasn’t like this huge ‘pop the Champaign cork’ kind of moment, it was just like oh, they want to make sure that they’re the only studio than can make the movie if they so choose. You don’t get the big payoff unless they actually green light the movie – you get a little bit of money for allowing them the exclusivity, but that’s it. And then, slowly over time, you just kind of watch as that project progresses or doesn’t progress.
And so at first it was just like okay we have the rights – thanks. And then later on it was like okay, we’ve got Drew Goddard who wants to write the screenplay. When I say ‘we,’ it’s like the studio. Now we’re a little more interested […] we’re slightly more likely to green light it – still a single-digit percent. […] And then it turns out Matt Damon’s interested in playing the lead, and they’re like oh! Well, now we’re much more interested. And then Drew Goddard left to go work on the next Spiderman movie and they’re like oh, well now we don’t have a director – that’s too bad. And then Ridley Scott came in and said, oh, I’ll direct it.
[…] It’s weird, there’s no point at which you’re like yay, this is happening! It just kind of eases into yeah, ok, this is gonna happen. […] I think an even bigger surprise for me [than Ridley Scott directing] was when I found out that Matt Damon wanted to play the lead.
Tell us a little bit more about the movie.
The movie comes out November 25th of this year, […] and they’re done filming it. They’ve got all the fotage in the can – it’s in postproduction now. […] They did all the studio work in Budapest, and they filmed the on-location shots in Wadi Rum, Jordan, which is a desert that looks like Mars. If you ever do an image search on Wadi Rum, you’ll be all wow that looks a lot like Mars; I can see why they picked it.
[…] Things went pretty smoothly on that from what I gather. I keep getting told by everyone involved in the process they say, this never happens – it never goes this well, things never go this smoothly. So, that’s a good sign.
Have you watched a cut of the movie yet?
I haven’t seen a cut of the movie yet. I doubt they have a cut of the movie yet. They’re still in postproduction. I don’t know if they’ve even got it together yet, but I definitely hope to. […] They don’t have to involve me with anything. They’ve satisfied the contract the day they handed me the check. But, they choose to involve me just ‘cause they’re cool. I’ve been excited. I hope to get to see an early cut. I will be at the première, so [if not] I’ll see it then.