How did you become a writer?
I always wanted to be a writer for as long as I could remember. After a spate in my 20s trying to break into the industry (and failing) I decided it would have to just be a hobby. I wrote “The Martian” and posted it in chapters to my website for free. It got really popular and it was my ticket into the industry.
Name your writing influences (writers, books, teachers, etc.).
My holy trinity is Asimov, Heinlein, and Clarke. Those are the books I read growing up, even though I’m not from that generation. It was my dad’s sci-fi paperback collection.
When and where do you write?
Usually after lunchtime in my home office.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a sequel to Artemis – but not a direct serial sequel. This story will have a different main character.
Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
Not really. I never run out of ideas. But I do suffer from “writer’s laziness.” Where it’s very difficult to get my lazy ass to do work.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?
I forget who said it, but it basically comes down to this: Sometimes you have great flow and writing is a breeze. But other times it’s a slog and every word is torture. Thing is, when you look back at the writing later on, you can’t tell what part was easy and what part was a slog. You’re not wasting time during that slog – you’re getting stuff done. This helps me through the rough times.
What’s your advice to new writers?
1) You have to actually write. Like...put words on a page. Thinking about a story or worldbuilding in your mind is not enough. You have to sit down and start writing. And it sucks because it's work and it never turns out as awesome as you imagine it. But know that's the same for every writer.
2) Resist the urge to tell your story to friends and family. It satisfies your need for an audience and saps your desire to write. Make a rule for yourself: The only way anyone can ever experience your story is to read it. Use that as a motivator to actually write it. You can feed it to friends and family chapter by chapter for immediate feedback.
3) This is the best time in history to self-publish. There's no longer an old-boy network between you and your readers. If your story is good, it'll get around. And it costs you nothing to try.