Cherokee citizen sells best-seller to DreamWorks

BY TESINA JACKSON
Former Reporter
09/26/2011 06:52 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Author and Cherokee citizen Daniel Wilson releases his New York Times best seller earlier this year. Shortly after he had written 100 pages of the novel, DreamWorks purchased it to turn into a movie production. “Robopocalypse” is expected to hit theaters July 3, 2013. COURTESY PHOTO
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – After writing novels for six years, Cherokee citizen Daniel Wilson will be able to see his New York Times best-seller “Robopocalypse” on the big screen as a Steven Spielberg-directed DreamWorks movie.

“Robopocalypse” is a science fiction novel that takes place in the near future after a robot uprising where several characters from across the world tell their stories and eventually meet and come together in an attempt to fight back.

At the time that Wilson found out DreamWorks wanted to purchase his book, he had only written 100 pages.

“My literary agent sent that to some publishing houses and then someone in a publishing house, without me knowing it, actually sent those pages to DreamWorks,” Wilson said. “So DreamWorks just called us and said ‘we want to buy this.’ We didn’t go out and try to sell it to anybody. I mean we would have after we sold it as a book. So that was really a fairy tale sort of situation.”

Wilson wrote the remainder of “Robopocalypse” while production of the movie was already underway.

“I ended up writing the rest of the book while they were doing their thing at the studio,” Wilson.

He had the opportunity to talk to the artist that was doing the pre-visualizations and illustrations and also to the screenwriter about his story.

“…That was interesting to hear their take on things as it was progressing and they were desperate to get more pages,” Wilson said. “They were constantly bugging me ‘come on just give us a chapter.’ Of course you know I have to get all of that cleared – you just can’t throw around book chapters. It was an interesting experience.”

The book title, “Robopocalypse,” really says it all, Wilson said.

“It’s a pretty descriptive title. It’s a story of a really desperate group of survivors who are living through, basically, a revolt. All of our technology turns against us,” Wilson said. “At the beginning, all of it is stuff that exists like cars that drive themselves, just various artificial intelligence. I know a lot about these robots so I was able to choose the kind of stuff that I’d think is really likely to be around in about 10 or 15 years.

“I didn’t want to have big, killer robots that came out of no where because I don’t think that’s really very likely; it’s not that interesting to me. So instead it’s very realistic.”

The book has several story lines that follow many different characters, and those story lines take place in countries such as Japan, the United Kingdom, Afghanistan and even the state of Oklahoma.

Wilson hopes the movie will stay true to the foundation of the book.

“I think the book is epic so there are a lot of different characters and the story is told through a lot of different perspectives,” Wilson said. “My feeling is that they’ll keep the core of the book. It’s up to them which of the other perspectives they choose to keep because there are a lot of story lines that they could drop.”

Wilson said the movie process isn’t really about him anymore.

“For the movie process the book is really just the beginning,” he said.

Originally from Tulsa, Wilson attended the University of Tulsa and received a degree in computer science. Wilson furthered his education to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh where he received a Ph.D. in robotics in 2005. It was in that year that he decided to start writing books.

“I had a choice of either writing books or working in a laboratory and so I started writing books and I didn’t really know if it would pan out or not,” Wilson said. “I thought I could always go back and work as a scientist if this doesn’t work out but it kind of did, it just kept progressing to the point where earlier this year I finally had a book that was a New York Times best-seller.”

Before “Robopocalypse,” Wilson had written seven other books including a short novel for children called “A Boy and His Bot.”

“I really like technology. I like learning about it. I like thinking about it and writing about it,” Wilson said. “I liked it enough to go get a degree in it and since then it’s just what I know about. It’s definitely a strength for me to write about technology and particular robotics.”

Wilson currently lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and daughter and continues to write. He expects his next book to be out next summer.

“It’s called ‘Amped’ and it’s basically about a near future when people start putting technology into their bodies,” he said. “At first these implants are things that can cure epilepsy and other disabilities and then they start getting better and better so it’s kind of a human rights story.”

“It’s about how society reacts when there’s a new type of person that’s a little bit smarter and a little bit faster than everybody else. And it kind of takes place in eastern Oklahoma. That’s what I know about so that’s what I write about.”

The movie “Robopocalypse” is set to be released in theaters July 3, 2013.

For more information on Wilson and his novels, visit www.danielhwilson.com.

tesina-jackson@cherokee.org • 918-453-5000, ext. 6139

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