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FAQ 2009 Hollywood Book Festival


Interview with David Farland, author of the novel “Nightingale”

1) What made you want to do a young adult book after exploring other genres?
I’m an avid reader, and enjoy several genres besides science fiction and fantasy. So I tend to write what I like to read. For example, I set the Guinness Record for the World’s Largest Book Signing in science fiction, hit the New York Times bestseller list in fantasy, and recently won the Whitney Award for Best Novel of the Year with a historical novel.

I have some history of writing young adult novels in other universes. I published a Star Wars young adult novel through Scholastic The Rising Force, under my science fiction moniker, Dave Wolverton. I was also asked to write several novels in the Mummy franchise, and I had a blast with those. So I’d considered writing YA in my own world as early as the mid-90s.

Then, back in 2002, I was having a conversation with one of my writing students, Stephenie Meyer, who went on to write Twilight. We were discussing what it would take to create a really popular young adult series, and I began thinking seriously about writing a contemporary fantasy thriller. At the time, I had so many novel contracts, I couldn’t think about writing Nightingale, but neither could I just let the idea slide. So I finally wrote it out a couple of years ago.

2) Cast the movie for “Nightingale.” Go on, be adventurous.
Okay, I don’t know young actor’s names that well, so I had to beg for help from my daughter, who works as a casting director on occasion. Here we go:

Bron- Nick Roux (he’s played on Wizards of Waverly Place, and in some movies)
Olivia- Olivia Wilde (From Tron, and In Time)
Lucius Chenzhenko- Christoph Waltz (From Inglorious Bastards, a wonderful actor)
Whitney-Emma Watson (from Harry Potter)

3) Are you a believer in conspiracy theories in real life? Is it possible for there to be a group that secretly manipulates the world?
Let’s face it, the world is a huge place, and I suspect that very few players really can exert any control over it. That said, there are always people who try. Last week, some newscasters were caught on an open mike trying to figure out how to embarrass Mitt Romney. Isn’t that a conspiracy?

But you have to ask yourself: Why is it that a few mega-corporations own all of the television stations, news stations, newspapers, magazines, book publishing companies, and television stations? Do you really believe that they’re not trying to manipulate public opinion?

So, I believe that there are conspiracies. It doesn’t keep me up at night, though.

4) You seem to have empathy for foster children. Any real-life experiences with it?
My wife was raised in foster care, and I tried to mine some of her experiences for the novel.
The abuse that Bron suffered, the incident with the kitten, was toned down from something that happened when I was young. It’s grotesque enough, that I don’t like speaking about it.

5) Why was Joe Satriani the guitarist referenced in the story? Are you a fan?
I like to listen to background music when I write, and I picked up on Joe Satriani years ago.
I once asked a friend, a guitarist in a band, to listen to some of Joe’s music. We sat and considered for an hour, and then he said, “I can’t decide if he’s the best player I’ve ever heard, or just one of the best.” That’s the way that I feel. I recognize that there are a lot of other great artists out there, but there’s something about Joe’s music that hits me down to the bone.

We recently completed an enhanced novel for Nightingale that has just come out on iBooks, and we had a composer, James Guymon, Vice President in the American Composer’s Guild, create a 45-minute soundtrack to go with the book. I was really impressed that he wrote some tunes in Joe Satriani’s style—fusing it with a bit of Pink Floyd and Alan Parsons. In fact, James got a great guitarist down in L.A. to play the music, and it really blew me away. At first, I wondered if they’d gotten Joe to perform for the album.

Right now, we’ve entered the album for a Grammy award. I don’t know if it will win, but I think it’s worthy of consideration.

6) So it sounds like you’re going all-out for this enhanced novel on the iBook.
Yes, for 300 years, technology for creating books has been pretty much the same. Now, in this new “enhanced novel” we can combine color images, animations, music, text, videotaped author interviews and other things to bring the book to life in ways that were unimaginable even twenty years ago. In fact, I was offered a job by IBM back in 1989 to create a new kind of electronic book, but at the time, I just felt that we weren’t there.

So with the enhanced novel, we’re trying to create something new. Reviewers keep saying, “I can’t describe what you’ve done here. It isn’t a book that you read, it’s a book that has to be experienced.”

7) You have more books coming in the Nightingale series. How fast will they roll out?
I have to finish the last book in my Runelords series, and then I can start the next in the Nightingale series.

I’d like to get the first draft of Dream Assassin before New Year, so I plan to write a novel every six to eight months until I finish. I should finish the series in 2014. The problem is that I do have so many other things on my plate. I’m creating a world and some stories for a large videogame, and I also recently took a position reading for a huge international writing contest—and I’ve got another couple of fantasy novels in the works. So we’ll see.

8) Who are some of the fantasy/sci-fi authors you admire?
I really admire a lot of authors for different things. I like Orson Scott Card for his plotting and argumentation skills, Brandon Sanderson for the richness of his worlds, Patrick Rothfus for his mastery of voice; George R. R. Martin for the way that his works resonate with others, Lucius Shepard for his style, Shannon Hale for her use of metaphors, and Suzanne Collins for her plotting. In short, there are a lot of fantastic writers out there!

9) Why do you use a pseudonym?
I started writing under Dave Wolverton, my given name, years ago and soon became a New York Times bestselling science fiction author. But a reviewer once suggested that readers “check out the bottom shelf of the bookstore, where Dave Wolverton’s books are shelved.” I realized that the reviewer was right. My books were on the bottom, all the time. A survey done by Campbell’s soup many years ago discovered that 92% of the people would not stoop over to pick up their favorite kind of soup from the bottom row.

I realized then that I needed a pseudonym. I’d wanted to write fantasy for years, and so when I wrote my first fantasy novel, it seemed like a good time to make a change.
I’d always liked the name McFarland, and it belonged to my maternal great, great, great, great grandmother. I just took off the “Mc” so that I wouldn’t be sandwiched between several other good writers, such as Anne McCaffrey and Patricia McKillip. I figure that there had to be a Farland back in my line somewhere, so granny’s spirit would be pleased. It’s been a good move, overall.

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