Posted August 25, 2014 by in Interviews

Author Interview with Robin Sloan


A couple months ago I read Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore for a book club and absolutely loved it. (You can read my entire review here.) I recently had the opportunity to ask author Robin Sloan a few questions.

Robin, thank you so much for taking a few moments to spend with our Bookkaholic readers. Your novel Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore appears to have been a huge hit across multiple genres. Congratulations! As a software engineer by day, Google is the mothership for me (as it is for most IT geeks). Your descriptions of the inner workings of Google projects and processes was so well crafted that I have to ask how much is fact and how much is fiction?

It’s definitely not a documentary portrayal; I’d call my depiction of Google an affectionate exaggeration. I took lots of little bits of the culture that I knew about, added some ideas of my own, and used that collection as a sort of construction kit. But, it’s a funny thing to fictionalize a company that is in fact quite science-fictional: every few months, Google will reveal some new project that makes the fanciful projections of ‘Penumbra’ look quite tame indeed.

This novel has such a great cast that work well together. When the idea for this story was gelling in your imagination, which character developed first? Is that the one you felt closest to throughout the story?

The novel’s narrator, Clay Jannon, was be necessity the first character to develop, but Mr. Penumbra was hot on his heels. For all the weird stuff that happens later, I think their first encounter is the kernel of the story. They seem very different, the wizardly bookstore owner and the callow designer who’s sort of up for anything…but I think you realize, as the story progresses, that they’re actually very similar in a lot of ways. And I like that. A lot.

In your downtime, are you a reader? If so, who would you list as your top three favorite authors?

Of course I’m a reader! I’d be suspicious of any writer who wasn’t. So, I couldn’t possibly pick an eternal top three, but I can mention three authors that are on my mind right now: Octavia Butler, the tremendous science fiction writer whose book The Parable of the Sower is, in fact, the Great American Novel; M. John Harrison, the British writer whose Kefahuchi Tract trilogy is my favorite sci-fi in recent memory; and William Gibson, who has a new book coming out in the fall that I am very excited to read.



Rachel Storey

Software engineer by day, bookworm by night. I love reading. I love writing about reading. I love talking about writing about reading. I joined Bookkaholic to have great conversations about literature, so please feel free to leave comments and discussions.