Tag Archives: science fiction

Sylvain Neuvel talks about the Themis Trilogy, Favorite Books, and Writing His Own Language

This interview was done at New York Comic Con 2018. We caught up with Sylvain Neuvel to discuss the Themis Trilogy, alien languages, and a bit of cosplay.         Keith Rice:  All right, so Only Human came out in May and it closes out the Themis Files trilogy.  How does it feel to be done? Sylvain Neuvel:  Weird.  It’s very weird.  Finishing that book was an emotional moment.  There was  a lot of crying involved in the last chapters, just knowing that I might never see these characters again. And it’s kind of stupid, because they were there, they will always be there.  They’re in the books, they exist.  But it was strange, and also Sleeping Giants was my first novel, so I’ve spent my entire writing career in that universe.  Getting out of it is a scary thing, though it’s also exciting. KR:  Did you envision the story as trilogy when you started or did that come about – – SN:  Well, originally, I thought it might be more of an open series, but It’s a rarer thing in publishing nowadays to have just a like a real open-ended series like, say, James Bond. KR:  Sure. SN:  And so, well, quickly I figured out it would be a trilogy and I kind of knew how I wanted it to end, so I went for it. KR:  Given that do you plan to go back into the world of Themis Files at any point? Is that something you’ve thought about? SN:  I would love to someday.  There are other things I want to do.  I’m working on something now and so it’s nice to take a break and just let the story do its thing.  I’m not there [on revisiting Themis Files].  But if people want it, if there’s a demand for it, I’d love to come back to it someday. KR:  How would you describe the Themis Files to readers that haven’t had a chance to pick it up yet? SN:  It’s a strange one to describe.  It’s science fiction but it’s also very grounded, it happens here, and the format is, I think, as important to the experience as the story itself.  It’s told in the form of interviews, between a mysterious interviewer and the main characters of the book.  So, it’s pretty much three books of nothing but dialogue. It’s a very different reading experience than what most people would be used to.  In terms of story it’s like everything I do, it is grounded in science fiction. Book one is a search for giant metal body parts buried underground by an unknown civilization thousands of years ago.  And it has a lot to do with first contact, but it’s also an exploration of what it means to be human.  Human nature in general, or what makes you you and not me, and identity, and other themes that are very human.  So, even though there is alien life involved, it’s very much about us and not them. KR:  Your take on aliens was one of the more fascinating aspects for me.  They aren’t that different from us. SN:  No. KR:  What led you to that? SN:  Well, there’s advantages in making aliens closer to us, there’s a reason why, you know, every alien on a TV show, you know has at least two arms and legs, because we can hire an actor to do it.  This particular case I wanted them to be among us.  So, they had to be hiding in plain sight, it’s kind of difficult if you’re a giant amoeba or big blob of goo. KR:  And I know you’re a linguist as well.  Do you have any plans to dive into a language for any of your books? SN:  Well, Only Human does have some alien language bits in there. KR:  True, but I meant on a larger, or I guess more Tolkien-esque scale? SN:  Actually, I did write grammar and a lexicon. KR:  Oh? SN:  Well, I know that I’m a freak and I couldn’t just improvise those like ten lines [laughs].  So, I pretty much wrote the whole language just so I could put those two lines in the book.  Someday I’d like to share that lexicon and grammar with the world. For example, they could read the dedication at the end of the trilogy, which is in the language. KR:  I know you’re a big cosplay fan and we are at NYCC. SN:  Yeah. KR:  What’s your favorite or your best costume?  One that you’ve put together? SN:  That I made? I will say my Grandizer robot costume.  It was super fun. KR:  I imagine the proportions were a bit tricky on that one. SN:  Yeah, I mean, I made a Vader costume that I spent about a year on, but with Vader you have a costuming group, you can go with references online, you can know which actual parts of what were used to make it.  It gets tons of references, so you know things basically down to the millimeter. With Grandizer you’re looking at an anime made in the 70’s.  If you look at the show, in one scene, you’ll have say, seven spikes on his fist, and in another scene you’ll have nine and in another there’ll be three.  Because the guys drawing it, they’re just going super-fast. Plus there were a lot of technical challenges.  He has a tiny head, so, I managed to get the proportions better.  I realized that with a head so little my costume shoulders are about at my chin level, and I see through the mouth of the robot so the head can be higher, and it makes it more proportional, plus I have to build it from scratch.  There’s no references, no nothing. So, it was a lot molding, and sculpting, and fiberglass.  It was a lot of fun to make. KR:  Sounds like it. SN:  Yeah. KR: I’m going to put you on the spot just a little bit.  If you had to recommend three novels , three books, for fans of the Themis Files what would they be? SN:  Well if you’re in it for the giant robots, Mecha Samurai Empire by Peter Teiryas just came out and it’s actually pretty fantastic.  It’s book two of a series, but it’s more of a standalone novel. If you’re in it for the science, because there’s a lot of it in the Themis Files, I really like the The Flicker Men by Ted Kosmatka. It’s based on a simple sci-fi premise, but I really wish I’d come up with it.  I was jealous of the idea.  It’s a great, great book.  Similarly, Quantum Night by Robert Sawyer is another book with tons of science. Sawyer sort of researches everything.  He has a bibliography at the end if you want further reading on brainwaves and all sorts of interesting things.   The Gone World, by Tom Sweterlitsch, it’s a great book. It’s really a great book.  I was kind of wary at first because it involves time travel and it’s not usually my favorite, but it’s so well done, I think everyone should read it.   Check out Sylvain Neuvel’s Only Human! Keith Rice is a West Virginia native and a freelance writer residing in Philadelphia with his lovely, if oft exasperated wife and three cats. Keith fosters an enthusiastic appreciation for beer and scotch, collects comics, and most importantly is an avid reader and movie lover. Oh, he’s a pretty big fan of sci-fi and fantasy as well. Drop him a line @Keith_Rice1.

So Say We All: Mark A. Altman on the Oral History of Battlestar Galactica

This article was written by Swapna Krishna and originally appeared on Unbound Worlds. Oral histories have become increasingly popular ways to tell the story of important moments in pop culture. They take away the barrier between writer and storyteller; it makes you feel closer to the narrative because all you’re seeing are people’s own words, arranged in a way that tells a coherent story. However, despite the fact that an oral history may seem like an easy endeavor, it’s anything but. That aforementioned arrangement is key to being able to follow the narrative and understand opposing points of view. Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross have become experts at the enormous work that goes into these books; they edited a two-part oral history of “Star Trek,” The Fifty-Year Mission, an oral history of “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” with Slayers and Vampires, and now they’ve moved onto the sci-fi classic “Battlestar Galactica” with So Say We All, out August 21st from Tor Books. Unbound Worlds spoke with Mark Altman on how exactly they put these enormous books together and where they might head from here. Unbound Worlds: What first made you interested in conducting and compiling oral histories? Mark A. Altman: It all began with the 50th anniversary of “Star Trek.” We felt we in a unique position to tell the history of “Star Trek” in a way that no one else could. Even then, it took some convincing from Ed to bring me around. It wasn’t till after reading the wonderful oral histories of “Saturday Night Live” and MTV that I realized this was a great format to chronicle the history of Trek that had never been done and also be true to the Rashomon-like history of the franchise. To Ed’s credit, I’m delighted I did do the book with him and I keep trying to get out, but he keeps pulling me back in. UW: What’s the research and interview process like? What about the process of putting it all together into one coherent story? MAA: Years of intensive research and hundreds of hours of interviews are where we start. But you’re absolutely right, perhaps the biggest challenge is taking literally hundreds of thousands of pages of transcripts and turning them into a coherent narrative. We always say it’s like attending the greatest dinner party in the world with 200–300 people and then getting them to tell these amazing stories they’ve never shared before and prodding them to tell you more, even the things they don’t want to or might have forgotten about. UW: Is it ever hard to decide what makes it in versus what to cut? MAA: Yes, because these books could be thousands of pages instead of hundreds if we used all the great stories we had. Thankfully, Macmillan indulged us on the Trek book and let us bifurcate it into two volumes to do justice to the entire 50 years, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the reception we received. Otherwise, that would have been hard to distill down and we would have lost some amazing stories and anecdotes. Buffy and Galactica have been easier to keep at less than 1000 pages, but it’s still a challenge given the bountiful material we’ve had access to in terms of the candor and passion of the people we’ve spoken to. UW: You work with a co-author, Edward Gross. How is the work divided between the two of you? How do you collaborate? MAA: It depends on the subject. In the case of the first Trek volume, we really built on each others’ work and interviews. For the second volume, we divided up the series but then flipped everything. There was no way I was doing “Voyager,” I was very insistent on that fact. For Buffy & Angel, Ed primarily took “Angel” and I did “Buffy” but there was definitely a cross-over in interviews and we revise each others sections. BSG was definitely the most clearly defined. I did 1978 and 1980 primarily and he did Ron Moore’s series, which isn’t to say we didn’t both contribute to each section, but he did the heavy lifting on his section and vice versa. And when I was finished I was really unhappy with the 1980 section. I didn’t feel I had really added anything new to the story and I knew no one was ever likely to write about the subject of this dreadful series again, so I started from scratch intending to really do a deep dive, did a ton more interviews, and it’s one of my favorite chapters in any of the books now. UW: You’ve done oral histories for “Star Trek,” “Buffy”/”Angel,” and now “Battlestar Galactica.” Was there one that was your favorite? Not because of the property, but because of process or uncovered secrets? MAA: I agreed to do all these books, first and foremost because I’m a fan of all these shows. These books are primarily a hobby for me, my day job is as a writer/producer for film and television series which is quite time consuming so if I’m going to give up my hiatus, weekends, and nights for a book, it has to be something I’m passionate about. “Star Trek” was no-brainer, but “Buffy” was super fun because it not only gave me a chance to write about a show I loved as well as my family, but also talk to several people I worked with in my other capacity like Felicia Day and Sean Astin, who were guest stars on an episode of “The Librarians” I wrote and, of course, Christian Kane. But then “Galactica” was also a big deal for me because I grew up on the 1978 series and always felt it was the Rodney Dangerfield of sci-fi series. Despite its many flaws, it was a really significant and impressive series that had a lot to do with influencing the future of television, even if people don’t recognize that. And, of course, Ron Moore’s series is just a major milestone in genre storytelling and one of the greatest TV series ever produced so to have the kind of access we had thanks to Ron and tell the real story behind this show was really remarkable and we were honored to do so. UW: “Battlestar Galactica” had a long-lasting impact on science fiction as a genre. What does it mean to you personally, and how do you interpret its legacy? MAA: It was the sci-fi “Sopranos.” Ron and David Eick created a series that will stand the test of time and really was part of the dawn of peak and binge-able television. It’s very significant and a really remarkable accomplishment. The original series deserves more respect but is often derided because it was perceived as a “Star Wars” rip-off. But it actually, if sometimes clumsily, dealt with some very heady themes and had some of the most remarkable production design and visual effects in any genre film or TV series ever. It was also a show about a literal family unlike “Trek,” which was a figurative one, which made it unique as well and there are some remarkable episodes and an ingenious premise that made “BSG 2004 possible. It was one of the few sci-fi series to deal with theology and spirituality as well. What we also chronicle is the unique place Universal Television was at the end of the ‘70s in the waning days of the studio system when talent was under contract and half the show creators were either drunk or on drugs, and work was done by a small coterie of largely white men who all knew each other and would all get hired on each others shows. I found that period absolutely fascinating and it’s amazing to see how dramatically TV has changed. UW: You’ve traced quite a bit of Ron D. Moore’s career through “The Next Generation,” “Deep Space Nine,” “Voyager,” and now “Battlestar Galactica.” What was it like to work with him, and what do you think these books say about his career? MAA: Ron is a remarkable talent. That’s no secret. But what people might not know is what a great guy he is. A total mensch. I first met Ron back in the heyday of “TNG” when I used to interview him for the late, great Cinefantastique magazine. He has remained steadfast and loyal even when I was less than effusive with my praise for his films like “Generations” (which I savaged) and yet he remained very supportive of my own career. I think he’s incredibly savvy and smart and has a passion that is unparalleled among genre creators. He has been incredibly supportive of Ed and I. With the “Trek” books, he spent literally tens of hours on the phone with Ed speaking to him with complete candor and thoughtfulness. When it came time to do So Say We All, he literally reached out to the entire cast and crew on our behalf and told them to speak to us honestly about the show and it really opened the floodgates so that we were able to talk to everyone involved in the new series from Eddie on down to the grips — okay maybe not the grips, but mostly everyone. UW: This is the last book in your oral history trilogy. Why is that, and if you could open the door to exploring more shows and properties, what might they be? MAA: Well, that’s not quite true. When I wrote [the introduction to So Say We All], I thought it would be. That I said everything I had to say. And while it’s likely to be our last oral history of a genre TV show—although never say never again—we’re already committed to another oral history of a major film series for Tor that we’re writing now and have a few other projects that we’re discussing so like I say; I keep trying to get out, but they keep pulling me back in. A big part of this is how much I enjoy my working relationship with Ed Gross as well as my fantastic editorial team at Tor, but also how much I love these TV series and films we’re writing about. There’s a great line in the mediocre Michael Crichton film “Looker,” when Albert Finney is asked to do plastic surgery on a really beautiful girl and he wants to turn down the assignment and he’s advised by a colleague, “You better do it or someone less competent will.” That’s kind of how I feel about these oral histories too.
Photo by Felix Mittermeier on Unsplash

Andy Weir, author of The Martian, has a new novel coming in November!

Artemis, a near-future thriller by Andy Weir, author of the # 1 New York Times bestseller and international blockbuster The Martian, will be published November 14, 2017. Said Andy Weir, “I’m really excited about Artemis. I got to do the science-dork stuff I love, but this time with a much more complex and character-driven plot. It’s a big stretch for me, but I think it came out well. Hopefully the readers will agree.” An adrenaline-charged crime caper that features smart, detailed world-building based on real science and the charm that makes Weir’s writing so irresistible, Artemis introduces a protagonist every bit as memorable asThe Martian’s Mark Watney: Jasmine Bashara, aka Jazz. Jazz is just another too-smart, directionless twenty-something, chafing at the constraints of her small town and dreaming of a better life.  Except the small town happens to be named Artemis—and it’s the first and only city on the moon. Life on Artemis is tough if you’re not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire, and Jazz is decidedly not a member of either category.  She’s got debts to pay, her job as a porter barely covers the rent, and her budding career as a smuggler isn’t exactly setting her up as a kingpin, much to her disappointment. So when the chance at a life-changing score drops in her lap, Jazz can’t say no, even though she’s sure there’s more to the setup than meets the eye. And indeed, pulling off the perfect crime is just the first of Jazz’s problems as she finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself.
Andy Weir Photo: © John Weir
Andy Weir Photo: © John Weir
As first reported by Tracking-Board.com, movie rights to Artemis have been acquired in a preempt by 20th Century Fox and New Regency, with Simon Kinberg and Aditya Sood, two of the producers of The Martian, attached to produce for Genre Films. Starring Matt Damon and directed by Ridley Scott, The Martian was nominated for seven Oscars and won both the Best Picture and Best Actor awards at the Golden Globes. The movie has grossed more than $630 million worldwide. Hailed as a new science-fiction classic,The Martian book has sold more than three million copies in North America, spending over a year and a half on the New York Times bestseller list since its February 2014 publication by Crown. To date, the book has been published in forty languages worldwide. Learn more about the book here;

The Life of a Book: An interview with Gemina authors and praise from talented book instagrammers!

We’re going deep inside the making of a book, with interviews from Penguin Random House employees in editorial, marketing, sales, and more.  If you’ve ever wondered about all the behind-the-scenes work that goes into making your favorite books, this is the series for you.  Take a look at the first post in this series here Gemina is now on shelves! We’re wrapping up this series with an interview with the authors! Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff stopped by the studio to talk about their book tour and much more. Listen here: 
“Getting out and meeting readers is honestly the best part of the job” – Jay Kristoff
Fans have been raving about Gemina, and book instagrammers have a lot to say! From Hikari of Folded Pages Distillery:
Gemina: 10/5 Stars. Explosive, Brutal, Hilarious, Unforgiving, Fist Pumping, Jaw Dropping. These are the words I’m using for Gemina. I started Gemina on Thursday and stayed up last night until 3 a.m. finishing it because I COULD NOT STOP.”
From Vilma of Vilma’s Book Blog:
“I think the whole world knows how much I loved #Illuminae and so far I’m loving Hanna and Nik’s story too! Anddddd the book features illustrations by @marieluthewriter! How awesome is that?!!!”
From Ursula of ursula_uriarte: “I present you guys my favorite book of the year!!! If you haven’t read this series please do yourself a favor and get on it! If you do it simultaneously on audio is even better!” Thanks for following along with Gemina’s Life of a Book series! Follow the authors on Twitter (@AmieKaufman, @misterkristoff) and Instagram (@amiekaufmanauthor, @misterkristoff) Visit the website here: illuminaefiles.com Check out more Young Adult books here Get the book here: 

The Life of a Book: Cover and Interior Design

We’re going deep inside the making of a book, with interviews from Penguin Random House employees. Take a look at the first post in this series here You can preorder the book here. For a Q&A with the authors, click here… and for you superfans, join First In Line here to see the full uncensored version. Follow along: #Gemina, #Illuminae, #IluminaeFiles Gemina is a beautifully and complicatedly designed book. We spoke to Ray Shappell, Senior Designer at Random House Books for Young Readers and Stephanie Moss, Art Director at Penguin Random House, to find out more.  Did you interact with the authors when planning your design?

Stephanie Moss: The interior design process is very collaborative and we work closely with the authors. When the manuscript is submitted to editorial, the authors also share art, design notes and reference material for the different types of pages throughout the book. Our first task is to then flesh out those ideas into the designs for the pages that appear most frequently. Afterward, we’ll focus on the more unique pages throughout the book. These pages often involve partnering with talented illustrators, like Marie Lu, Meinart and Stuart Wade, to create Hanna’s diary pages and the ship schematics and logos. Each set of designs is then shared with the editor and authors where we’ll discuss possible changes and finesse each idea until it best captures the vision for the book. After the main pages are approved, we’ll begin bringing all the different components together and lay out the entire book. This is also the time when we fine tune some of the one-off page designs.

Ray’s Gemina supplies

Ray Shappell: Yes, indeed. The Illuminae Files are ultimately their brainchild, so our goal in designing the series was to enhance their unique storytelling with a one-of-a-kind package. This series is more technically complicated than any other, and requires a huge collaboration with everyone involved. Once editorial and design approve a cover, we share it with the authors and value their opinions through each step of the process. 

Creating the cover for Gemina was actually a breeze, compared to the process for Illuminae, because I already had an established series design. When I start a new series, I always think about how the current design would work for a second and third book. (Or more if we’re lucky.) So when we finally nailed down the concept for book 1 in The Illuminae Files—a brightly colored explosion interacting with the redacted documents from the story through acetate and a printed case—I also had a rough proposal for Gemina and the third book in the series. When Jay and Amie were in the offices celebrating Illuminae’s launch last November, I shared the proposed visuals for Gemina and they loved it!!! Coincidentally, the color of the blue explosion fits perfectly with the description of a black hole in Gemina. And the proposed image for book three is…XXXXXXXXX (redacted).

The Illuminae FilesWhat is your favorite part of your job?

Ray Shappell: My favorite part of the job is creative problem solving. After reading the manuscript, I have so many concepts and design ideas. I love sketching them all out—picking out typefaces, colors, textures, illustrations, hand lettering, or hiring an illustrator, photographer, or CG artists—all to match the tone of the story. But since I’m not the only one involved, there will be multiple moments throughout the cover design process that require finding a new solution that addresses the needs and concerns of everyone involved, while maintaining creative integrity of the original concept and designThis is extremely fun and rewarding when you are able to make a final piece of artwork that becomes the book jacket. The Illuminae Files is a great example of this working at it’s best – the end product is a much better version of the original concept. 

Ray Shappell lettering

Stephanie Moss: The best part of my job is collaborating with a lot of talented people. Particularly with Gemina, it was exciting to pull together everyone’s ideas then work with artists and a wonderful designer, Heather Kelly, and see those ideas get interpreted in really neat ways.

What would surprise a layman to know about your work?

Ray Shappell: I love keeping physical authenticity of design over digital effects when possible. So in the case of Gemina, I actually set the files up clean on the computer first. However, once copy is approved, I then print out the covers and take a bunch of Sharpie markers, highlighters and tracing paper over to a light box. I cross out everything, scribble over the redacted areas, and make it messy. Then I scan it back into the computer and continue to line up all if the sharpie marks over the type on a different layer. I think it looks more realistic than if I used a digital marker. 

Ray Shappell at work

What did you most want this one to convey?

Ray Shappell: I think that a successful jacket does a few things: 

  1. It intrigues you and draws you in, making you pick it up and want to learn more about the story. 
  2. It has great design (visual balance of graphic elements, typography, artwork, color, etc.) 
  3. It stands out from the competition in a new and fresh way 
  4. It informs you about the content from a very quick glance.  

For The Illuminae series, our goal was to portray as much of the interior as we could on the cover, since it’s such a creative and unique story telling experience. Using the acetate to reveal and redact text from the case underneath was our solution for showing pieces of the story—with layers of actual text and phrases—in a new and exciting manner. I hope you enjoy the secret messages that are printed in the negative of the opaque white ink! 

How has your approach to designing covers changed over time?

Ray Shappell: I’m hoping to push what’s possible in our YA market. I know how to make covers that will be liked and approved easily. But I prefer the challenge to create covers that push the limits of what we have seen before. Yes, they may require extra convincing and more energy, but the end result is a cover that really stands out from the rest.

I also have been incorporating more technology into my designs. I’ve created animated gif covers for Illuminae and Gemina, but I just finished working with a CG studio to create a fully animated cover for an upcoming series. Along with an augmented reality app, it brings the print book to life! It’s AMAZING and should be out shortly!!  

Ray Shappell

Follow the authors on Twitter (@AmieKaufman, @misterkristoff) and Instagram (@amiekaufmanauthor, @misterkristoff)

Visit the website here: illuminaefiles.com  

The Life of a Book: The making of an audiobook

We’re going deep inside the making of a book, with interviews from Penguin Random House employees. Take a look at the first post in this series here Ever wonder how an audiobook gets made? Especially one as complicated and visual as Gemina? Read on for interviews with Audiobook Producer Janet Stark, Project Director Erin Spencer, and Audio Engineer Patrick Billard.  You can preorder the book here. For a Q&A with the authors, click here… and for you superfans, join First In Line here to see the full uncensored version. Follow along: #Gemina, #Illuminae, #IluminaeFiles Listen to an excerpt of the audio book now! What is your job title, and what does that mean for your daily work?

Janet Stark: It’s funny, many people I meet in daily life don’t understand what an audiobook producer does. Senior Producer is on my business card. We producers are a bit like casting directors working in collaboration with authors. Hiring actors, scheduling recording studios, basically managing a group of contributors (directors, sound editors, sound design people), all the way to QC notes and delivering the final audio. The production process always begins with reaching out to the author or authors to get a sense of ideas or expectations for the audio, and take it from there.

Janet Stark

Patrick Billard: I’m the Audio Engineer here at Penguin Random House studios in Los Angeles. Our facility is made up of 10 recording studios designed for the purpose of recording audio books. I setup recording sessions and make sure our actors have good recording levels that match our specs, I assist the directors with any issues they may be having during the recording process, I maintain the studios to make sure they are clean and in working order and I book actors to come back to the studios after recording is finish to do pick-up sessions to fix any outstanding issues that remain after the books have been edited and proofed. 

Patrick Billard

How did Gemina sessions compare to the usual audiobook session setups?

Patrick Billard: The Gemina session was quite different from our typical session here at PRH Studios where most books have one to two readers at most. Gemina was a large project with many actors so our setup was tweaked to have 3 microphones ready to record in our largest booth. Working with Ok Hee Kolwitz, Assistant Director of Technology and Post Production, we spent a couple days setting up the studio to accommodate the 3 mic setup, which required pulling backup gear from our storage closets and arranging the mics, chairs and music stands for optimal audio quality and sight lines for the actors. Erin Spencer, the director for Gemina, was amazing and did so much prep work to make the session run smoothly. We had to work on the fly as actors were going in and out of the studio to do their lines and we had to keep the levels consistent so we always had a good match

How long did it take to cast this book? 

Janet Stark: The best way to describe Gemina: a casting marathon. Amie & Jay provided character descriptions for the primary characters. Secondary voices, maybe ten more, were cast as the book was taken apart page by page. Erin Spencer was project director, and she and I spent long meetings with the pages to nail down the session strategy. Separating out individual page sets for each role, using Gemina’s chat style format of multiple characters per page, we more or less dissected the book to make the most of each actor’s time. Then came the many minor voices with only a few lines each. People in the studio’s vicinity were being asked to get behind the mic for a line or two, resulting in a long list of uncredited voices. Being in the moment during sessions, ready for the unexpected, was basic to this production.

Erin Spencer

What was your favorite part of this project?

Janet Stark: Recording the pop song snippets! Amie & Jay put the lyrics in the text, then the music actually found me as I listened to a blast of new selections. The melody sung by Erin, well, I can’t imagine a session more fun than that.

Patrick Billard: Engineering the pop song part of the session was fun for me since my background is as a recording engineer at music studios in Manhattan for the past 10 years before moving to Los Angeles and starting to work here at PRH studios. Janet Stark, the producer for Gemina, also has a background in music studio engineering so we worked together during the session. I used my extensive experience tracking vocals for pop songs to coach Erin to get good takes and to help hone the parts as the song was being tweaked during the recording process, which is quite typical for most vocal tracking sessions for pop songs. We all had a lot of fun recording the pop song.

MacLeod Andrews
Steve West

How long does an audiobook of this complex take to produce? Is that similar to a standard audiobook production?

Janet Stark: Comparing the complexity of Gemina to a standard audiobook, I’d have to say it was more like producing a film on audio. So many voices, evolving characters, sound effects, it all adds up to an experience I hope people enjoy.

Were you comfortable contributing voices here & there? Had you done something like that before?

Patrick Billard: Yes, Erin and Janet recruited most of the staff here at PRH to do wild lines and it was a lot of fun. For me it was a good experience being on the other side of the glass, as it makes me realize what it’s like to be a voice actor and that it’s not nearly as easy as it may look or sound. It also made me appreciate Erin’s skill as a director- she really knew what she was going for with my lines and did her part coaching me through the process. My particular lines were rather loud and vulgar which made me step out of my comfort zone which was exciting.

Lincoln Hoppe, voice of “AIDAN”

Project Director Erin Spencer’s take on the process: 

Erin Spencer: Working on Gemina was a truly unique experience and unlike any other audiobook that I have directed.  To begin, I read the entire book to get an overall sense of storyline and character arc.  From there, it’s a matter of going over each page individually to see what is happening in each ‘scene’, which characters are speaking and how the art work and graphics can be adapted into an audio format.

We needed upwards of 20 actors for Gemina – with only a handful recurring from Illuminae, so it was up to Janet Stark and me to find the right actors for the roles we had available. Casting is very important and it’s a lot of fun to have so many actors on one title!

Erin Spencer

Studio time is really the most fun but equally the most stressful time for me, the project director.  We had up to three actors in the recording studio at one time because Gemina was recorded as if we were doing scenes in a movie.  The actors are able to engage and play off of one another, which really brings a sense of realism and keeps the tone very organic. As the director, I ran a very tight schedule each day. I may have had 15 actors coming in to read in a single day and the organization and scheduling had to be precise.  My mantra on those days is TRUST!  Trust that I did all the prep work needed to ensure we have every page covered, that all the actors are prepared with their pages, and that I have done everything I can do to make the process smooth and that the end product will be amazing!  We don’t read this book like you would do with other books – in order, page by page.  It’s read completely out of order based on which actors I have scheduled together that day.  So, I have to trust that it’s all there.  And honestly, when it’s all over, it’s simultaneously a relief and a little grief at the same time!

After Illuminae came out, I received the CDs so I could listen to it on my commute to the studio.  I literally cried when I heard it.  Cried out of sheer pride for all the actors who worked so hard, for the editor who did such a phenomenal job and in my mind has one of the toughest jobs of all, cried for the post-production team, and especially for Janet Stark who pulled it all together.  I can’t wait to cry over Gemina, too.

Follow the authors on Twitter (@AmieKaufman, @misterkristoff) and Instagram (@amiekaufmanauthor, @misterkristoff) Visit the website here: illuminaefiles.com