kathrynlinge (kathrynlinge) wrote,

2010 Snapshot Interview: Scott Westerfeld

Scott Westerfeld is the author of five science fiction novels for adults. He has also written many books for young adults, including the 'Midnighters' and 'Uglies' trilogies, a companion novel to the 'Uglies' trilogy, 'Extras', and three stand-alone novels set in contemporary New York. His most recent book, 'Leviathan', was published last year and won the Aurealis Award for YA Novel. He blogs at: http://scottwesterfeld.com/blog/

1. One of the things that I loved most about reading ‘Leviathan’ was the afterward, in which you describe the real history upon which the book is based, including Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie and, of course, Charles Darwin and his theory of natural selection. I can’t imagine that the rich alternate history set out in ‘Leviathan’ came to you fully formed (or did it??) so which tiny scrap of real life first inspired you?

I've always loved Boy's Own Adventure books, and the history of the Great Game as well, and I was reading a lot of nonfiction about Darwin (like Annie's Box) and it all sort of came together. I wanted to do a world in which Darwin had discovered DNA, but far enough in history along that the Victorian biotechnology had advanced to the point of contesting with mechanical tech. So the Great War seemed like the right place to start, with German and Austrian machines versus British, French, and Russian fabricated species.

The real slice of history that made it work was probably Franz Ferdinand morganatic marriage. Imagine being a fifteen-year-old boy who will inherit nothing because your mother's blood isn't royal enough. That's just a great YA plot, and one with no real modern equivalent.

2. The hardcover of Leviathan is also a beautiful object, particularly the 50 internal illustrations produced by Keith Thompson. How important do you think the illustrations have been in creating the world of ‘Leviathan’ - both for you as you were writing the book, as well as for your readers now? Do you think you have more influence on the design/illustration of your books now that you’re an established author?

About 60 pages into the writing, I realized that all the Boy's Own Adventures I was reading for inspiration, the ones published in the early 20th century, were illustrated. So for the book to have the right feel, it simply had to have pictures in that style.

I then looked around for the right artist, found Keith, and told the publisher that I would be working with him, and would pay him. (This helps in terms of control, of course. As does being established with my publisher.) Penguin Australia have been amazing in that they've published the book as a very affordable hardcover, with lots of effects on the jacket. It's gloriously old-fashioned bookmaking.

We started with the idea of 20 or so images, but wound up with 50, just so we could have one in (almost) every chapter. Keith created a historically based style for the images, which is a very accessible take on Punch magazine of the 1910s. I call it Victorian Manga.

3. On your website ‘Leviathan’ is described as a series – does this mean we should expect more than three books?? From its title, ‘Behemoth’, can we interpret that the second book in the series will be even bigger than the first? What else are planning for 2010?

Leviathan will be a trilogy of novels and one book that will be all art, larger format and all color. (The "deck plans," I call it.) And yes, Behemoth is about 10% bigger than book 1, both in terms of art and text, which is nice. It comes out October 2010, and Goliath in October 2011. Not sure about the art book's schedule.

My only other publication in 2010 is a story in Justine Larbalestier's and Holly Black's antho, Zombies v Unicorns, which also has Garth Nix and Margo Lanagan. (Oddly, they're both Team Unicorn and I'm Team Zombie.)

This interview was conducted as part of the 2010 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We'll be blogging interviews from Monday 15 February to Sunday 22 February and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at:


If you're involved in the Scene and have something to plug, then send us an email at snapshot2010@gmail.com and we'll see what we can do!
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