Joy Interviews Greg Van Eekhout, author of COG!

Sometimes you fall in love with a book from the first line. Such was the case for me and COG, a delightful middle-grade novel about a very human (but not quite), very boy-like (but not quite) robot and his adventures. I love this book. It is funny and quirky and heartwarming and I highly recommend it for readers young and old. So imagine my thrill when I was able to snag an interview with COG’s author, Greg Van Eekhout! Here’s what Greg had to say about COG and sci-fi and writing and robots and more! 

Joy Preble: I know it’s such a typical question, but I really am curious. What inspired you to write COG?  And in a related question, because Cog’s voice is so specific and cleverly done, how hard or easy was it to ‘channel’ the voice of a very (but not quite) human-boy-like robot? Had you always imagined him as programmed to be like a twelve year old, as opposed to an older character? 

Greg Van Eekhout: I like writing broken robots, for some reason. There was one named Click in my novel, “Boy at the End of the World,” and others scattered throughout several of my short stories. They give me the opportunity to say things about the human condition and our programming, societal expectations, the way we deal with damage, and all sorts of stuff.

With COG, I just had the idea of a robot who makes a choice that results in him being taken away from home. So I wrote the chapter where COG saves a dog and gets hit by a truck, and for years, that’s all I had. I wrote other books, but I kept coming back to that chapter until the ideas for the rest of the book formed around it. So the book either took six months to write or five or six years to write, depending how you look at it.

The one thing I had in addition to the scene where COG gets hit by the truck was his voice. The voice and the basic notion of who he was were the only easy parts of the book.

JP: I love that that one scene --the key scene, really!--kept sticking with you, and your love for writing broken robots, I love that, too!  And speaking of the robots, I adore all five main characters so much.Other than Cog himself, was there one of the others who was your favorite to write? 

GVE: Trashbot! Trashbot was tons of fun to write. He’s a robot. He picks up trash. He loves his job. I want Trashbot to be my friend. 

JP: Seriously, who doesn’t want Trashbot to be their friend?! Shifting gears a tiny bit, what draws you to science fiction and fantasy? Who were your author and/ or film-maker inspirations?

GVE: I love science fiction and fantasy because it lets you tell any kind of human story you want, but you also get to add spaceships and dragons and zombie or whatever. You can tell human stories without spaceships and dragons and zombies, but that’s like eating a cheese pizza with no other toppings. It’s okay, it’s still pizza, but it could be so much more.

Star Wars was my biggest inspiration. It changed my brain. There aren’t many days that I don’t think about Star Wars at least once or twice. 

JP: Okay, so I kinda love cheese pizza, but I see your point! And Star Wars, yes. Star Wars!! Which, to segue a bit, is beloved by both adults and children. So!  You write for both children and adults. What differences are there in your creative process for each of these? 

GVE: The process is pretty much the same regardless of age. The voice and the themes and the language changes, but the main goal remains the same: Say something that’s important to me in a way that entertains people. 

Cog learns through making mistakes, a process that he relishes even as it gets him in huge trouble. Do you agree with Cog that we learn best through our errors? In what ways has that been true for you in life and as an author?

I think most of us learn by making mistakes, because that’s when we really feel the consequences of our choices and decisions. For example, I learned that, for me, it’s a mistake to write a book without an outline. I tried that with my first novel and ended up having to junk over a third of the book, which was super painful. But as I get older, I try to learn from other people’s mistakes as much as possible. It’s so much less painful to watch another guy walk into a hole than to do it yourself. 

JP: What else would you like our customers to know about Greg Van Eekhout and what’s coming next for you?

GVE: Right now I’m totally obsessed with the ukulele. I bought one this past summer and I haven’t been able to put it down. It’s interfering with my deadlines. Speaking of which, I have a new book due this month that’ll be out in early 2021 and I should probably be working on it right now, so thanks for the questions! Bye! 

JP: That is because the ukulele is totally cool and wonderful!! If you ever come to Brazos, you will have to bring it and play! *Begins plotting for this to happen* 

Thanks for such a great conversation, Greg! We are so excited about COG!!

Pre-order your copy of COG here:

For more about Greg Van Eekhout, click here:


Cog By Greg van Eekhout, Beatrice Blue (Illustrator) Cover Image
By Greg van Eekhout, Beatrice Blue (Illustrator)
ISBN: 9780062686077
Availability: Unlikely to Be Available
Published: HarperCollins - October 1st, 2019

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