Thursday, August 8, 2013

Author Spotlight: Hugh Howey (Complete with Interview)

Afternoon, Beardies!

I stumbled upon a tweet from author Hugh Howey the other day, linking an amazingly heart-wrenching article written by his sister.  After reading, I promptly retweeted it, stating that we need more Mollie Howeys in this world.  I never expected to get a reply tweet from Hugh, who told me Mollie would love my Twitter handle (@beardedscribe—in case you didn't already know).  As fate would have it, Mollie judges Beard & Mustache Competitions, so she definitely Trusts the Beard.

On a whim, I decided to use the opportunity to torture an interview out of Mr. Howey; fortunately, no torturing was required, and Hugh told me to whip up a few questions and send them over in an email.  (Technology is amazing, n'est-ce pas?)

Though I have yet to read Howey's Silo Saga—I know, I know...shame on me and I should die a thousand deaths—the literary buzz it has received was (is!) too hard to ignore.  I know you're still hung up on me not reading Wool or its sequels, Shift and Dust (I can hear you huffing from here), but I can guarantee you that they are on my ever-growing To Be Read List—one that, I fear, will outlive me.  #readersproblems

But enough about me... onto Mr. Howey.

Follow Hugh:


Bio (from his website):
Born in 1975, I spent the first eighteen years of my life getting through the gauntlet of primary education. While there, I dabbled in soccer, chess, and tried to write my first novel (several times).

Out of school, I became fascinated with computers, repaired them for a brief stint, then moved to Charleston, SC and attended college. To save money, I purchased a small sailboat to live on, and nearly got myself killed bringing it down from Baltimore with a friend.

After my junior year of college, possibly out of fear of the real world, I left my safe little harbor and sailed South. I hopped around the islands for a while, went through two hurricanes, and spent the last of my cruising funds re-stepping my mast. It was time to head back to the States, where I began a career as a yacht captain.

This began an exciting phase of my life, traveling all over the East coast and Caribbean, from Barbados to Chicago. I worked on boats in New York, the Bahamas, even Canada. One of these adventures brought me together with my wife, who was able to lure me away from my vagabond ways, dropping anchor and buying a house.

Physically settled, my mind continued to roam, concocting adventures and whisking me off to fantastic places. Some of these tales seemed worth sharing, so I tapped into my love of books and decided to write them down. My first stories detail the life of a character that I’ve been mulling over for quite some time. Her name is Molly Fyde, and she draws inspiration from the awesome women in my life.

My Wool series became a sudden success in the Fall of 2011. Originally just a novelette, the demand from Amazon reviewers sent me scurrying to write more tales in this subterranean world. The resulting Omnibus has spent considerable time in the Amazon top 100, has been a #1 Bestseller in Science Fiction on Amazon, and was optioned by Ridley Scott and Steve Zaillian for a potential feature film. The story of its success has been mentioned in Entertainment Weekly, Variety, and Deadline Hollywood among many others. Random House is publishing the hardback version in the UK in January of 2013.

When I’m not writing, I like to go for hikes with my family, take a stroll on the beach, and keep up with my reading. I currently live in Jupiter, Florida with my wife, Amber, and our dog, Bella.

The Books


The Interview

The Bearded Scribe: Which book introduced you to speculative fiction?
Hugh Howey: The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Douglas Adams’s masterpiece blew me away. I gobbled up each of the sequels, and I even riffed on the book with the first story I tried to write as a teen. From there, I discovered Ender's Game, and I was hooked. Here was a genre that tied wild imaginations within the limits of scientific plausibility. It was all about realistic dreams, which are the best kind.

The Bearded Scribe: Do you have an all-time favorite book? What about it makes it your favorite?
Hugh Howey: It was Ender's Game for the longest time. Just this year, I read Lexicon by Max Barry, and it may have supplanted Card’s work atop my list. Just a brilliant idea coupled with masterful writing. It’s one I’ll read over and over, I’m sure.

The Bearded Scribe: Which author and/or book inspired you to start writing?
Hugh Howey: That would be Card and Adams. When I read Ender's Game and found out the author lived in my home state, it humanized writers for me. I started to think that this was an occupation open to anyone. Writers were normal people. I felt vaguely normal. I wondered why it couldn’t happen to me.

The Bearded Scribe: What would you say is the most important lesson all writers should learn?
Hugh Howey: To write even when you don’t feel like it. The secret to publishing quality material and a lot of it is to make a habit of writing. You have to do it every day. You have to love it and seek it out. Sit down and open your manuscript. Stare at it. Massage it. Forget your email and the internet and get some joy out of creating new worlds, and do it every single day.

The Bearded Scribe: As an aspiring Fantasy author trying to shop his first manuscript, I've briefly considered the self-publishing route. Did you submit your manuscript to agents, or had you known already that you wanted to self-publish your work?
Hugh Howey: I went the traditional route with my first book. Soon after it came out, I decided to go on my own. I bought the rights back to that original work and began self-publishing. Far from feeling shame, I feel nothing but pride when self-publishing. The saddest thing I’ve ever felt is when I took money and gave the rights and control of my work to someone else. I feel bad for any author who decides to do that. I’d much rather own my work forever, because I’ll be the only person who cares about it five years from now, much less fifty.

The Bearded Scribe: Your publishing career is one of which most self-published authors only dream. What was your reaction when you received the communication from Nelson Literary Agency saying they wanted to represent you?
Hugh Howey: I got the email early in the morning, and I woke up my wife to tell her about it. There are few things for which I can wake up my wife early in the morning. At this time, I had heard from other agents, but I recognized Kristin’s name, and I was excited about the nature of her discovery of Wool. She was coming to me as a fan of the work, unsolicited and full of excitement, and that was incredibly thrilling.

The Bearded Scribe: Of the entire publishing process, which would you say is the most difficult aspect to endure?
Hugh Howey: Waiting for feedback from readers. I just mailed out the first 100 copies of Dust to the first people who pre-ordered the book, and another few hundred copies will go out in a few days. In another week, hundreds of thousands of readers will download the work digitally. This is a dream come true for any author, but it’s also terrifying. Those readers could all hate the work. I expect they will. I always expect they will.

The Bearded Scribe: From where did the inspiration for the Silo Saga arise? Were there specific events that sparked it?
Hugh Howey: It began with ruminations on the nature of 24-hour news. I wondered what this does to us, being told nothing but bad news around the world and around the clock. I liken it to Plato’s cave analogy, except rather than seeing shadows of the true form of things, we see the dark side and none of the good. I came up with the wallscreen and a society where people are given a single and dreary window on the world and asked what would become of those who dared to hope for something better.

The Bearded Scribe: Do you have a favorite character (to write) from any of your series? If so, what sets them apart the others?
Hugh Howey: I enjoy the troublemakers and outcasts. Walter from my Molly Fyde series is a blast to write. So is Solo from Wool. Both practically write themselves.

The Bearded Scribe: I know that Dust is about to release soon, but are there any other projects you're working on at the moment?
Hugh Howey: I’m working on the next Molly Fyde book. It’s great to immerse myself in this world again, to hear these characters speaking to one another. I didn’t realize how badly I was missing them.

The Bearded Scribe: I'm not sure of the topic or in what capacity, but would you consider writing a guest post on The Bearded Scribe at some point?
Hugh Howey: I’d be delighted! But what in the world would you all want to know from me?
The Bearded Scribe: Let's just say any wisdom you'd wish to impart upon our readers would be welcomed and well-received.

The Bearded Scribe: And lastly, because I have asked this of all of my interviewees... Is there anything else that you would like to share with The Bearded Scribe's readers that I did not ask you (and you wished I had)?
Hugh Howey: You should have asked me about my dog. She’s being adorable right now, curled up on the sofa beside me. It’s unreal how uncomfortable I’ll make myself just so she isn’t disturbed.
The Bearded Scribe: As a lover of animals, you're absolutely right; I should have...
But, to redeem myself, here's a mug shot—hmmm.. *cough* mud shot?—of Hugh's beautiful dog, Bella:

Well, Beardies, that's it!  Be sure to stay tuned for a guest post from Hugh—hopefully soon!  


Until then...
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