New Interview with Hugh Howey, author of WOOL

Hugh-Howey1

I’m quite thrilled to have as my guest today author Hugh Howey, whose WOOL books are as popular as chits in a Silo and are making international headlines… including in the UK, where WOOL was officially released in hardcover recently. If you haven’t read them, go grab the WOOL Omnibus, First Shift, Second Shift, and Third Shift (or the Shift Omnibus), and get ready for audio books, comic books, and a possible movie! Here’s Hugh himself to answer my questions. I’m in italics; he’s not.

WOOL cover

Hi Hugh! Thank you SO much for being willing to talk to me about the phenomenon that is WOOL. I’m going to try to concentrate on questions that I haven’t seen answered elsewhere… I’m not going to ask you what your writing desk looks like, or how many words you write a day. But feel free to tell me if you want to!

You have been very open with fans from the beginning and have a rare connection to readers. How do you manage to find the time? Do you enjoy blogging and making dance videos, or is it just a cynical ploy to sell more books… no, seriously, are you a gregarious kind of guy?

Yeah, this is just who I am. When I’m out in public, I make an effort to talk to strangers. And I’ve never really grown up. Besides, writing is such a solitary endeavor. I get antsy for social interactions. So it isn’t really about finding the time to connect with readers; it’s something I enjoy. Long before I thought I could make a living as a writer, I was driving two hours to sit and visit with middle school classrooms or conduct writing workshops. It’s not about making money. It’s about feeling happy and fulfilled.

The Wool universe is complex for a reader to follow, the way you move around in time and spotlight different characters in each segment. Is this tough for you to figure out even as you write it? Do you have to go back and reread the old books to remind yourself what is in each book?

I have notes I can refer to, but I rarely do. Each book feels self-contained to me in a way. I know where the beginnings and ends are, so all I have to do is shade in the middle bits. I have thought about putting together a timeline for readers so they can see how the stories overlap. Maybe when I’m done with the writing. :)

Do you ever regret something you did in an old book and wish you could change it? Will you change some of those books, since you can do so easily with ebooks?

I don’t have any regrets on plot and structure. If I could go back and change one thing, it might be to give the first Wool a subtitle. At the time, I thought it would be a single work. It creates some confusion when there’s a novelette called “Wool” and a full novel from Random House and Simon and Schuster called “Wool.” But there’s no way I could have predicted the success of the series.

Are the indie published ebooks going to be very different from the print books you’re now doing through S&S? Do you think they’ll try to make editorial changes? How much control do you have over your material?

I’m going to update the ebooks to reflect the changes made to the physical books. Most of the changes are very minor. The only big one is the inclusion of a new chapter to give some backstory on Juliette. I love how seamless this chapter slotted into the story. If I told readers who have only seen the print version that it was an addition, I think they’d be shocked.

Two of my favorite novels have origins similar to Wool. Ender’s Game and Fahrenheit 451 both began as short stories that grew due to demand into full-length novels. Ender’s Game was later re-released in an “Author’s Definitive Edition” years after winning the Hugo and Nebula. This process goes back to Dickens, who expanded his serialized works before combining them into a novel. Heck, it goes back to the books that came together to form the Bible, which has been edited and changed over the years. If it was good enough for the greatest works of literature, it should be fine for my scribblings.

Why are you allowing fans to publish (and charge for) books based on the WOOL series? Is someone at some point going to yell at you for doing this?

The world of Wool is ripe for exploration. I won’t be able to scratch the surface. When readers got in touch to ask about fan fiction, I not only gave my blessing, I insisted that they charge for the work. Even if it’s just a dollar. I know what it’s like to struggle as an artist. If I’m now in a position to give someone else a boost, I’m going to. And yeah, I’m sure my lawyer is going to have a fit when he finds out. But I don’t care. I’m a fan of open-source, someone who hates DRM, and someone who thinks we shouldn’t go around suing one another. I’m making enough money. It warms my heart to see Ben Adams selling Wool prints and keeping 100% of the profit. The same goes for fan fiction.

Do you have ideas for a new universe after you finish the WOOL series? Will you stick with post-apocalyptic dystopian worlds, or are you going to switch to hot teen romances?

I started my first erotica story a few months ago! I also have a vampire novel I’m dying to write. Plus, another Molly Fyde book to wrap up. Then there’s another dystopian world I want to explore, and a fantasy novel I’ve had in mind for ages. I’ll keep bouncing around and writing whatever excites me. I know that goes against certain rules and formulas in the publishing world, but my primary motivation is to enjoy what I’m doing. I never thought I’d make a living at this. I’m fully prepared to go back to a day job while I write for fun.

Do you worry that you might never have such a spectacular success again?

I don’t worry about it. I just assume I won’t. Nothing about my success feels natural or normal to me. I marvel at it. I don’t have the feeling of: “Finally! Everything I’ve always wanted and fully deserved is now at my doorstep! What took so long? Give me more!” Instead, I’m feeling: “What in the world is going on? Is the universe going to get back to normal? Soon?” My focus is to enjoy it while I can.

Can you believe it… are you pinching yourself with amazement every day?

Every hour of every day. I wake up amazed and go to bed amazed.

You made a rare deal to have your books published traditionally in print while holding onto all of the electronic rights. Will this become more common? Where do you see the indie/traditional book scene going?

I hope it becomes more common. Bella Andre had a similar deal from a smaller publisher. Colleen Hoover just followed with a similar deal from Simon and Schuster. I don’t think I deserve any credit for breaking through any boundaries. It was just going to happen. It had to be someone, and I just happened to be publishing and gaining attention at the right time. The key for all of us and for everyone who comes after was saying no to contracts that simply weren’t fair. The reason we were able to do that was because we were already making money on our digital rights. So we owe a lot to the indie authors who came before us, to the e-reader revolution, to readers who embraced this technology. It’s been a gradual change with a lot of people involved. I’m just one person.

Congratulations on your success, Hugh, which continues to grow. You deserve it.

Thanks for taking the time to answer. And don’t let me keep you from writing! I’m now holding my breath for the next book in the series!

Thanks, Patrice! I’ll get back to work on DUST. Keep an eye out for March 12th. I think that’s when WOOL hits bookstores here in the U.S.

Patrice here: Having been swept up into the world of WOOL, I couldn’t help coming up with ideas of my own. I ran the synopsis of a short story past Hugh, who gave me his blessing. “My Name is HELEN” should be out at the end of February.

For a fun, quirky take on another version of the future, try my short Till Death Do Us Part.

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“I Dream of PIA” (for The Robot Chronicles anthology, available July 25, 2014)

3149/ 3000 words. 100% done!

"Sand Song” (a novella set in Hugh Howey’s SANDbox)

8,627 / 10000 words. 87% done!

"The Terminal” (a dark futuristic short)

2383 / 2000 words. 100% done!

“ROCKS 1” (the first episode in a dystopian series)

5675 / 10000 words. 57% done!

“Salt & Pepper Mystery #1” (Book one of a cozy mystery series)

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Karma of the Silo: the Collection (Karma Omnibus)
Karma lives in the Silo, deep underground. She lives with a man whom she barely knows and with a name she doesn’t remember choosing. When visions come to her about another husband, another way of life, and another world, Karma struggles to discover what came before.

Cleaning Up: a Silo story (Karma)
Five years have passed since the airlock slammed shut on the 4,000 souls condemned to live in the Silo. Karma can remember now that there was a time before--before she was locked into this cylindrical tomb under the earth. But all she can see of the outside are dead hills and the dark clouds swirling through what remains of a toxic world.

The Sky Used to be Blue: a Silo story (Karma)
Karma lives in a Silo deep beneath the earth. She isn't sure of much else… only that the wallscreen shows an outside view that is barren and swirling with toxic clouds. Most of the other residents seem content. Except for the ones who jump to their deaths from the hundred-level spiral staircase. And the ones who are pushed.

Last Walk: a Silo story
The kids are fighting in the Silo—gangs engage in battles between the Up Top and the Down Deep, with the Mids caught in between. There are too many young people without work. They ink themselves with primitive face tats and guard their territory against incursions from below or above.

Deep Justice: a Silo story (Karma)
Karma has endured twenty-five years underneath the earth. Her path in life—a path she never bargained for—has included marriage to a man she never chose, whose powerful position forces her to hide her memories of the time before.


Rising Up: a Silo story (Karma)
After a hellish three months locked in the private inner sanctum of IT, Karma and her family emerge, bloodied and forever changed. Rick is a man who is no longer in control. Mars has become the power in the Silo.



Silo Saga: SILO SECRETS: Daniel
Daniel is sixteen now, and he can count up to one hundred. He can go all by himself up and down the two levels of the Silo between his home and his job. Daniel knows he's not as smart as some people. But his mother told him he was smart enough to help her, so it must be true. He always believes his mother. His mother is a doctor.

Running
THE NEXT PRESIDENT IS GOING TO BE A WOMAN... Catherine Young, Vice President and newly-anointed Democratic nominee, is surging in the polls. The race is on against GOP candidate Jerusha Hutchins, folksy charmer and blonde beauty, who is the darling of the far-right Liberty Party.

Till Death Do Us Part: a short story
Join Harold and Rosemary as they bring together their family and friends for a night of celebration before a long-planned trip... and see just how this journey ends. Mix a little Dorothy Parker and a little Shirley Jackson, add a twist of David Sedaris and a pinch of O.Henry, and out comes a satirical romp. "Till Death Do Us Part" is a 3,000 word short story. This is a sophisticated take on the way people fool themselves. More New Yorker magazine than Asimov.

The Terminal
To be published next week!





Looking for Lance
A pinch of Dorothy Parker and a twist of O.Henry go into the mix to make this Fitzgerald short a bracing sip of satire. There is a free sample of RUNNING, her best-selling Kindle political thriller, at the end of this story.

Jungle Moon
Another quirky short story from Patrice Fitzgerald about love and the ways people connect. When Felicia gets a special birthday request from her husband Herman, she can't believe what he's asking her to do. Will she say yes? This 3,000 word short story explores the nature of a happy marriage, compromise, and passion. A four-chapter sample of Fitzgerald's best-selling political thriller, RUNNING, is also included.

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