CSQ&A: Bloomberg Businessweek’s Ashlee Vance

Ashlee Vance The prominent technology writer and author of Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, on what it was like getting the story of a lifetime and writing the biography of the planet’s most innovative entrepreneur.

December 30, 2015

bhyr-square-orig

Ashlee Vance The prominent technology writer and author of Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future, on what it was like getting the story of a lifetime and writing the biography of the planet’s most innovative entrepreneur.

CSQ How did you convince Musk to “let a reporter see the inner workings of his world”?
Ashlee Vance Elon doesn’t take no for an answer. I think he respected that I kept going, I wore him down with my persistence. I interviewed about 200 people, including some of his friends and family, before Elon agreed to cooperate. It also helped that Elon and I always had a good rapport; I covered him for news articles in the past and he respected me as a reporter.

CSQ Did you find there were topics that were “off limits”?
AV Not really. I give Elon a lot of credit. He’s an amazing interview, authentic and honest at answering questions.

CSQ What are you most pleased with? What do you hope the book accomplishes?
AV I wanted to tell an honest tale. Elon is ultimately the hero of the book – but there’s certainly a lot of good and bad in there, objectively written. I’m a fan of the companies and technology – Elon is a super complicated guy bringing it about – so I tried to express that. The book is in some ways a critique of the current culture in Silicon Valley, which tends to focus on consumer services, entertainment apps, etcetera. I hoped to get people excited about machines and manufacturing. I hoped to inspire, and it seems I did.

CSQ Were there any aspects of the story that you were unable to chronicle?
AV I would’ve loved to hang out at SpaceX and Tesla for one or two weeks, as a fly on the wall, to get a feel for the day-to-day operations. Even though I had access to executives, which I appreciated, I didn’t get to do that last bit. Otherwise I’m satisfied with the ground we covered.

CSQ What’s next for you?
AV There’s a possibility of a movie, which I can’t say much about. There’s also a Young Adult version of Elon Musk on the horizon.

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future
Ashlee Vance
Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers
392 pp.

The Plot
Learn of the man whose, “vision and execution seem to combine the best of Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller.” Vance brings us a precisely reported account of Musk’s life, his startup companies, and also of the space, automotive, and energy industries.
The Meat
An engaging journey into “Musk Land.” Get to know Musk, one of the richest men in the world, and his companies – Tesla, SpaceX, SolarCity, PayPal. Musk’s motivating quote: “I would like to die thinking that humanity has a bright future.”
The Twist
You’ll likely feel compelled to buy a Tesla Model S or to reserve a Model X (their SUV).

Ashlee Vance

Ashlee Vance

Technology Writer | Bloomberg Businessweek

Want to get ahead with exclusive updates from CSQ? Join today.