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
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,
4) You seem to have empathy for foster children. Any real-life experiences
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
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
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.