Monday, May 20, 2013

An Interview with Polly Holyoke, Author of THE NEPTUNE PROJECT

Disney Hyperion and Puffin Books UK
May 21, 2013

What inspired you to write this story?
I’ve often wondered where our species would go if we so totally foul up the land of our planet that we render it unlivable. It’s always seemed logical to me that eventually we would try to live in our oceans. After all, five-sixths of our planet is covered by seas. But first we would need to figure out a few small technical problems… such as how to breathe water! Genetic engineering takes care of that challenge very conveniently for the characters in THE NEPTUNE PROJECT.

What was your publication process like from initial idea to sale?
I was fortunate to have a relatively quick trip for this particular project. I wrote ten chapters and started marketing a proposal for THE NEPTUNE PROJECT, and my agent’s assistant wrote back shortly after Sterling Lord Literistic received it. He said they wanted to see the rest of the novel RIGHT AWAY. The funny thing was, I had completed six children’s novels before this one, and they asked to see the one novel in my closet that I hadn’t completed! I wrote and wrote and had the whole of the story finished four months later. Then I had a nail-biter of a fall waiting to hear if the main agent liked it, and HE DID! He sat down and read it in a day, and he staged an auction for it a week later. Then he pulled off another wonderful coup and sold the book to Puffin Books UK, so I started off with a foreign sale. I still can’t quite believe I’m getting paid twice for the same work, and that kids in the Commonwealth countries around the world are going to be reading my books!

What books shaped you as a reader and writer, from childhood to present?
I have always loved fantasy and science fiction. I read lots of C.S. Lewis and J. R.R. Tolkien, and later I loved Ann McCaffrey’s dragon books. I think reading so many books with excellent world-building in them helped me to understand how important that aspect of science fiction is.

What is one thing people misunderstand/tend to misunderstand about science fiction?
Sometimes sci/fi authors have incredible premises, cool technology and non-stop action, but the very best sci/fi, in my opinion, includes unforgettable characters. THE HUNGER GAMES works so well because Katniss is such a strong and well-developed character with plenty of issues and flaws.

Are you working on anything new?
I recently completed Book 2 in the Neptune series for Puffin UK, and I’m hoping they’ll want a third book which I already have plotted. But in the meantime, I’m always jotting down ideas for new stories. I sometimes wonder if the creative well might run dry for me, but somehow my subconscious is most obliging and new concepts and premises keep bubbling up!

Thank you, Polly, for joining us today! Best of luck with your debut.


  1. Thanks for the interview! Just from reading your description of the story, I can see why it got snapped right up! This is one my daughters and I will wat to read!

    1. Hi Andrea,

      I hope you and your daughter enjoy Nere's adventures. I sure had fun writing them!
      Best wishes,
      Polly H.

  2. Excellent point about THE HUNGER GAMES working so well because Katniss is such a great character. Doesn't seem to matter what genre you write, as long as the characters are strong and believable.

    Polly, I'm glad to hear that new ideas keep bubbling up for you. This book sounds fascinating.

    1. I agree about strong characters. While a premise might draw me to genres I don't typically read, vibrant characters are what keep me there.

    2. Hi Joanne, I do worry sometimes that my creative well of ideas might run dry, but I'm very fortunate that it hasn't (and I'm no spring chicken!) I just think we all need to leave ourselves some quiet time to daydream, but that's awfully hard to manage some days!

  3. I love the premise and the cover. Polly was very brave sending out an unfinished manuscript--writing it to the end must have been a little nail-biting.

    This is definitely one I'd like to read. Thanks for highlighting it, Caroline.

  4. Hi Michael, actually Neptune almost wrote itself. It was just such a fun, action-packed story, I found myself cranking out 8-10 pages a day. I got so caught up in the writing, that summer just flew by. I just finished Neptune 2 a few months ago, and I had much the same experience. I think some books just want to be written, and it's lovely when an author has that experience!


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!