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Tech Q&A

Dan Lyons

Describe your latest project.
Dan Lyons My latest book is called Options: The Secret Life of Steve Jobs. It's a humorous novel set in Silicon Valley and draws on the world created in my blog, The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs. I started the blog as a lark in the summer of 2006. Today it has more than 1 million readers from around the world. In addition to riffing on tech news I use the blog to tell made-up stories about Steve Jobs and his pals in the Valley, like Larry Ellison of Oracle and Bono of U2. I've been covering Silicon Valley as a reporter for the past 20 years and I find it really fascinating, full of wild, larger-than-life characters. I've always thought it was great material for satire or parody, and at last I've had a chance to take a crack at it.

  1. Options: The Secret Life of Steve Jobs: A Parody
    $6.50 Used Hardcover add to wishlist
    "A funny send-up of Apple's CEO, the go-go culture of Silicon Valley, and the cult of Mac, iPhone, and iPod." The Boston Globe
What inspires you to sit down and write?
When I'm writing fiction, I always want to find out what happens next. And I'm pretty good about sitting down each morning and working. I like the work. I carry the book around in my head even when I'm not writing, and I jot lots of little notes to myself. At night I'll go to sleep thinking about what I'm going to work on in the morning. So I get up ready to get cracking. The material is already there in my head; I just need to get it down on the page. Or the screen, actually. With my new book I was operating under a very tight deadline. I sold a proposal in February and needed to write the entire book by May 1. That's not really inspiration as much as motivation; but the two aren't so different.

Describe your favorite childhood teacher and how that teacher influenced you.
My mother was a schoolteacher and taught me how to read when I was very young. All through my grammar school years I'd say she was the biggest influence on me. She taught me to love reading and encouraged me to express myself in wriitng. I was writing small stories even as a child. In high school I had a Latin teacher, Eric Baade, who was very important to me. I loved reading Latin and even acted in some Latin plays at our school.

Chess or video games?
I'm afraid I'm terrible at both.

What do you do for relaxation?
I'm an avid skier, mostly in Utah. Before my wife and I had kids (we have two-year-old twins) we spent a great deal of time at Alta and Snowbird. This winter we're hoping to get back out there, this time with the kids. Running also helps me relax.

What's your favorite Blog right now?
Andrew Sullivan's blog.

What new technology do you think may actually have the potential for making people's lives better?
All the stuff being done in biotech and with the human genome. I think computer technology to some extent has become less interesting than it used to be; the more interesting stuff is happening in the life sciences.

If you could be reincarnated for one day to live the life of any scientist or writer, who would you choose and why?
I'd like to be Chekhov. I love his short stories, and I'm fascinated by his life story. He was a medical doctor and practiced medicine even while he wrote. He died very young after a long illness and yet his writing always contained a sly humor. Years ago I visited his small estate outside Moscow. It was a huge thrill for me.

What was your best subject in high school? Your worst?
Best subject was Latin. Worst was calculus. My school had a policy that said if you flunked any course in your senior year you couldn't graduate. The idea was to keep you from slacking off in your final year. Unfortunately I finished my senior year with a 58 average in calculus. Things were looking pretty grim but after two or three attempts I managed to pass the final exam for the course and the teacher passed me for the year. Whew.

What are some of the things you'd like your computer to do that it cannot now do?
I'd like better touch interfaces, like the interface on Apple's iPhone. And I'd like applications to be easier to use. I think it's appalling that computers are still so difficult to use and so unreliable.

By the end of your life, where do you think humankind will be in terms of new science and technological advancement?
I expect to live about thirty more years. By then I hope certain diseases that trouble us today will have been eliminated.

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Fake Steve Jobs (a.k.a. Dan Lyons) is an award-winning writer of fiction and nonfiction with something of an insider's knowledge of the high-tech industry. He decided to use his powers for good by starting up the wildly popular blog The Secret Diary of Steve Jobs, which created the persona and voice for this novel.

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