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photo illustration by the globe and mail

Ernest Cline describes himself as "a novelist, screenwriter, father and full-time geek." His first novel, 2011's Ready Player One, was a New York Times bestseller, has been published in 40 countries, and is set to be turned into a movie by Steven Spielberg. His new novel, Armada, about a high school student tasked with saving the world from alien invaders, was published earlier this month.

What's the best advice you've ever received?

Treat others how you want to be treated. And write what you know. I think most of the success I've achieved in my life can be traced back to those two pieces of advice.

Which fictional character do you wish you were?

Luke Skywalker. Growing up, he was like Perseus or Ulysses to me. I dressed up as Luke Skywalker for Halloween four years in a row when I was a kid. Thirty years later, he's still the character that I probably most identify with the word "hero" – probably because he's the one who prompted me to read Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Would you rather have the ability to be invisible or time travel, and why?

Time travel, of course. I want to own a time machine so badly I bought a DeLorean. The possibilities would be limitless. You could go back and retake your SATs or see the Beatles play live. Anyone who picks invisibility over time travel is probably secretly a nudist, because your clothes almost never get turned invisible, too.

If aliens landed on Earth, which book would you give them to teach them about humanity?

The Internet for Dummies. And an English-to-alien dictionary would probably be helpful, too. Of course, after some thought, I'm not sure we want the aliens to know that much about us. Especially since we still haven't even established if these particular aliens are friendly.

Who's your favourite villain in literature, and why?

Hannibal Lecter. He's one of the most complex, devious, intelligent and interesting characters I've ever encountered in a book. Harris wrote four novels about Hannibal, imbuing him with enough evil to inspire five film adaptations and an acclaimed television series.

Lecter will be giving readers nightmares for centuries to come.