As we mentioned in this space yesterday, Ready Player One author Ernie Cline has decided to give away a 1981 DeLorean automobile, complete with a Flux Capacitor, as promotional stunt for the paperback release of his novel.
Since we posted the news, Cline also posted a video on his site featuring him explaining more details about the contest and why he decided to give away the rare car. One tidbit: Turns out it’s not his original DeLorean that goes to the winner of the contest, but a second car he purchased just for this giveaway. Then he outfitted it with a Flux Capacitor.
I had a chance to ask Ernie a few questions about the contest, advice on how to win, as well as his life since publishing Ready Player One, the novel’s reception thus far, and if there are any plans for a Hollywood adaptation.
Gilsdorf: First, some more on the contest. You’re asking folks to read your book very carefully to find an Easter egg that will lead them to the first challenge. Are the Easter eggs in the hardcover and paperback different? Or the same?
Cline: They’re the same, hidden in the text in the same locations.
Gilsdorf: The contest talks about “three increasingly difficult video game challenges.” Where are folks completing these challenger? Are these games online? How are winners determined? Is it a high score kinda thing?
Cline: The Easter egg hidden in the book is a website address that leads to the first challenge, a new Atari 2600 game based on Ready Player One. The Atari game contains another hidden Easter egg — a QR code that takes you to the location of the Second Challenge. The Second Challenge (still top secret) won’t go live until July 1st. The third challenge goes live on August 1st.
Gilsdorf: You’re giving away a DeLorean. Wow. So it’s not the one you’ve owned and have been driving all over the place. And it’s fully working?
Cline: It’s a new one. Fully functional and in great condition. You can see it in the Contest Announcement Video I posted.
Gilsdorf: Now that Ready Player One has been out for almost a year, looking back, what does it feel like to have published a novel? Is the experience different than being a screenwriter and seeing your words transformed onto the big screen?
Cline: Yes, very different. My first movie, Fanboys, was altered quite a bit during its production, and the end product turned out very different than I’d envisioned. But with my novel, the story is exactly as I intended. There was no filter between me and my audience. So the amazing reception the book has received has been very gratifying.
Gilsdorf: What kind of impact or response have you received? My book Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks seemed to speak to a lot of 30- and 40-something nerds (or former nerds) who were nostalgic for their Reagan Era D&D days. Did your book strike any particular chord with readers?
Cline: Most definitely. A lot of readers tell me they feel like the book was “written just for them” or that I someone scanned their brains and crafted a story out of all of their favorite stuff. I’m always amazed to hear this, because I really wrote the book for myself. I’ve also been shocked by how many young readers enjoy the book — kids who weren’t even alive during the 1980s. For them, the book works just as a straightforward action adventure story. They read [Ready Player One] with Wikipedia to learn more about the references, or ask their parents what “Duran Duran” is. It blows my mind.
Gilsdorf: Why did you choose to make Wade Watts an orphan? That seems like a powerful archetype in literature and movies, to have the protagonist be without parents. Think of Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, etc.
Cline: I made Wade an orphan as an homage to one of my favorite children’s books, James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. James’s parents die on the opening page of the book and he’s sent off to live with his evil aunts (which is why Wade has to go live with his own aunt). I only steal from the best.
Gilsdorf: What is the status of the film adaptation of Ready Player One?
Cline: It’s still in development at Warner Bros. No director has been attached yet. I’m doing my best to be patient about the movie, because I know how long it can take for movies like this to get made. The film adaptation of Ender’s Game has been in the works for almost 25 years and is only being completed now. John Carter of Mars took 100 years to get made. I’ve got my fingers crossed that Ready Player One has a quicker path to the big screen than either of those books.
Gilsdorf: I also heard that you were working on a screenplay that’s a geeky coming of age story. Where does that stand?
Cline: That story is actual going to be my second novel, which I’m also writing as a screenplay that I plan to direct as my first film. Both the novel and the script are partially complete, but they’re on hold until I finish my paperback tour for Ready Player One.
Gilsdorf: Now that you’ve written a novel, can you talk a little about the differences between writing fiction vs. your first genre, screenplays? Harder/less hard? Which is more rewarding or enjoyable?
Cline: So far, writing a novel has been far more enjoyable and rewarding than screenwriting, for the reason I mention above.
Gilsdorf: Any changes or edits to the paperback? I had to make some changes in my book when some sharp readers spotted a couple factual errors. Ready Player One is full of hundreds of cultural references. Did you get any wrong?
Cline: Yes, a few. I somehow got Def Leppard’s record label wrong and corrected that. They were on Mercury Records, not Epic.
Gilsdorf: Any memorable disagreements with fans about a fact or an opinion about one of the gems from the ’80s you resurrect?
Cline: Not really. Some readers express joking disappointment if I failed to mention their favorite ’80s movie/video game/song, but I don’t mind. The book is less than 400 pages, so I was bound to leave out a few ’80s pop culture icons. Sorry, Garbage Pail Kids fans.
Gilsdorf: Advice on how to win this contest?
Cline: Read Ready Player One and you’ll know exactly what skills are required to win.
Gilsdorf: Back to the DeLorean. Does the time machine work?
Cline: It travels forward in time at exactly sixty seconds per minute.