In his novel Sleeping Giants, writer Sylvain Neuvel told his giant robot sci-fi story through a series of interviews and journals, which made for a quick and fun read. Now he’s continuing the story, and the format, with Waking Gods (hardcover, digital, audiobook), the second book in what he calls The Themis Files. Though in talking to him about the new book, and this series, it seems like he’s more concerned with baby cats and plastic toys.
Photo © James Andrew Rosen
To begin, what is Waking Gods about, and how does it connect both chronologically and narratively to the previous book in The Themis Files, Sleeping Giants?
Waking Gods takes place nine years after the events of Sleeping Giants. Themis has become a part of everyday life. There are Themis action figures, t-shirts. Rose is still struggling with what happened to her, and for Vincent and Kara, it’s mostly parades and photo ops, as the interviewer suggested. We open with another giant robot materializing in the middle of London. Waking Gods is darker than the first book, faster. The stakes are higher this time, for everyone.
Sleeping Giants was told through interview transcripts and journal entries. Is that true for Waking Gods as well?
The series is called The Themis Files, so you can expect…files. If there weren’t any, the universe would be unbalanced, kittens would die. Think of the kittens. From the start, I knew I wanted to tell this story in an epistolary format. I thought…I still think it fits the story well, and I’m having too much fun writing these books. The types of documents we see from one book to the next will vary a bit, but the format of Waking Gods will feel familiar after Sleeping Giants. Also, kittens.
Now I can’t speak for everyone, but I find novels written in this style to be quick reads. Was this why you decided to write Sleeping Giants and maybe Waking Gods that way?
The only rule I follow is to write something I would want to read. I started Sleeping Giants without any thought of publishing it. I just wanted a cool story I’d enjoy. It might be my age, or having a family, but I really like quick reads. I’m constantly short on time, so if I invest an hour into something, I’ll enjoy it a lot more if I feel I’ve made some progress during that hour.
In our previous interview about Sleeping Giants [which you can read here], you said you didn’t know how many books this series would ultimately include. Do you have a better idea now that you’ve finished the second book?
Yes. We’re making this a trilogy. That’s not to say there couldn’t be more afterwards, but book III will probably not end on a cliffhanger. I’d love to go back to that universe, and I have ideas for at least twice as many books, but we’ll see how it goes. I might take a break to write something else.
So when did you figure out what Waking Gods would be about?
Oh, I had the plot for Waking Gods when I finished plotting Sleeping Giants. There were things I purposely didn’t put in the first book because I thought they fit better in the second one.
And how close is the finished version of Waking Gods to what you originally envisioned?
Pretty close. Very close? Extremely close.
So without spoiling anything, what can you tell us about the next book in this series? Like do you know when it will be out, what it will be called, etc.?
I’m writing book 3 right now. It’s more ambitious than the first two. It’s a lot of fun to write but it’s a challenge. I have no idea when it will be released, but probably around spring of 2018. There’s a working title, but I’m not telling you because you didn’t ask any questions about toys.
Dang it. So has anyone made any good jokes about possible titles? Like Dying Titans? Dancing Demigods? Cooking Immortals?
We spent so much time working on the title for book one. We went through synonyms of big things that are asleep or buried until our eyes bled. I knew we’d go through the same process for book 2, so I submitted a few possible titles when I turned in the manuscript. My favorite was Hey, Big Guy! Waky waky!
In writing Waking Gods, were there any instances where you wished you had done something differently in Sleeping Giants?
Not really. As I mentioned, these two books were pretty much planned at the same time, so there were no surprises. There are plenty of things I did in Waking Gods that I have to live with now, but I can’t talk about them.
As you know, I like poking around your website, neuvel.net. In doing so, I noticed that five months ago you posted an unpublished chapter of the Themis Files. But was it a chapter of Waking Gods or a separate short story?
It’s a separate short story. I call them the Lost Files. There are two out in the world now.
Is that short story be included in the physical and digital versions of Waking Gods? And if not, do you have other plans for it?
Both chapters take place during the events of Sleeping Giants, not Waking Gods. There might be more later with a yellow hand down the road but it would be hard to collect them in one book since they take place at very different times.
Now, when we last spoke, the movie rights for Sleeping Giants had been bought by Sony, and David Koepp was writing the screenplay. Where does the film stand now?
There are a bunch of things happening right now on that front, very exciting things. Unfortunately, I can’t talk about them, even if you ask a hundred toy-related questions. Soon.
Finally, if someone’s enjoyed Sleeping Giants and Waking Gods, what would you suggest they read while waiting for the third book and why?