Andy Weir, author of The Martian, has had a pretty wild few years. One day he was working a 9-5 job (which he liked, incidentally) and the next, he had a book atop the New York Times list of bestsellers. A movie based on the novel will be released this fall — with Matt Damon starring and Ridley Scott directing. All told, it’s a dream scenario.
Like many “overnight successes,” Weir’s breakout story was years in the making. He had always longed for the chance to be a full-time writer, he’d even given himself a career break to chase that goal. When agents and editors didn’t latch onto his early efforts, Weir never quit. Tenacity and optimism are qualities the man values deeply.
In 2009, frustrated but not despairing, Weir started a new project. It was to be a survival story — classic man versus nature. The kicker was that it happened to take place on Mars. He wanted to stay completely realistic, which meant research. Lots of research. Weir began writing and serialized the book chapter-by-chapter on his website.
Then a funny thing happened: The Martian‘s compelling first chapters inspired Weir’s regular readers to share his writing with their friends. Those friends shared it with their friends and the number of readers exploded.
After awhile, someone asked the author if he would assemble it into one cohesive book so that it could be read on a Kindle. Weir agreed and made the document available on Amazon for the lowest possible price ($0.99). Once again, people found themselves hooked by the very first sentence (“I’m pretty much fucked.”).
Weir sold 35,000 copies in four months.
This time around, the worlds of publishing and film took notice. Print and movie rights sold in the same whirlwind week. The film’s release date was recently moved up to October 2nd and the trailer has gotten giddy responses.
Recently, the self-described “space nerd” even got a VIP tour of the Jet Propulsion Lab and Johnson Space Center. Without specifically intending it this way, Weir wrote a book that looks likely to push NASA and the idea of a manned mission to Mars back into the spotlight.
Like a NASA launch, Weir’s lifelong dream of being a writer had taken enormous amounts of work — then rocketed into orbit suddenly and with tremendous velocity. We spoke to him this week about books, movies, and how it feels to be the “next big thing”.