Interview with New York Times Best-Selling Author – Hugh Howey


I would like to welcome Hugh Howey, New York Times Best-Selling Author of Wool, to my blog. Thank you, Hugh for the interview! Hope you all enjoy this interview with him.

1.) What gave you inspiration to write Wool?

It started with the concept of the wallscreen. In Wool, the remnants of humanity live underground, and they only have this one view out on the world around them. The wallscreen gives them that view, and it isn’t a pleasant one. I got the idea from seeing what 24-hour news does to us, this steady stream of bad events, which has many people convinced that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. That view of the world is, I believe, untrue.

2.) Who is your favorite character in your book Wool, and why?

Solo. He has lived alone for decades, and that has frozen him in time in many ways. He’s grown old without ever growing up. He’s also a little mad. I really empathize with him.

3.) What are you currently working on?

I just put the finishing touches on DUST, which wraps up the trilogy that begins with WOOL. After this, I’ve got a new MOLLY FYDE book I want to release before year’s end. And then I’ll start a new series.

4.) Has anyone ever told you that you won’t succeed at writing? If so, how did you deal with that?

Yes. I’ve heard this a million times. From myself.

I have always been and remain my biggest detractor. I keep telling myself that it’s all downhill from here. And I thought from the beginning that my work wasn’t good enough for a wide audience. But rather than beat myself down with this, I just kept my expectations low and went into writing for the personal enjoyment. There was no ambition to become a bestseller, just the joy of writing a novel to completion. It’s something I’ve always wanted to accomplish. And now I’m hooked on the process.

5.) What was the most difficult period in your life?

High school. I didn’t want to be there. I was uninterested in the things I was learning. I had a powerful curiosity, and I was doing a ton of reading on my own, but school was just boring to me. And I didn’t have much in common with my peers. I never got into drinking or partying. I knew even then that this wasn’t the high point in my life but just a waystation before I discovered who I was on my own. Graduation was this powerful relief, this freedom to guide my own life.

I’ve made a lot of odd and unusual choices since then, and I don’t regret a single one of them. They were mine to make.

6.) What were some of your biggest struggles when you started on the journey of self-publication?

The stigma for sure. In 2009, I was working in a bookstore on a college campus, and we had all of these author events and professors who wrote on the side. I love talking craft with other writers, because it’s such a solitary endeavor, but I found it difficult to broach the subject of my own work because of how it was published.

7.) What does your writing day look like?

I get up, grab the newspaper off the driveway, eat a bowl of cereal and read the news, and then launch into my writing. I sit on the sofa or in my office with my laptop and peck away until lunch time, take my dog to the beach for a long walk, and then come home to answer emails and do more businessy stuff. It’s amazing how quickly the days fly by.

8.) What are some things you’d recommend a writer do if they were looking into a successful self-publishing career?

I have a post on my blog detailing some of my advice. My biggest advice is to write because you love it or because you feel compelled to. Success with any artform is very difficult, no matter how you go about it. Self-publishing gives you better chances than traditional publishing, but the chances still aren’t wonderful. Unless you’re in it for the love of creating stories and making them available, in which case . . . you can’t lose.

book-wool-omni-182x3009.) What would you say are the pros and cons of self and traditional publishing?

The main con of traditional publishing – and I think this gets too little attention – is the very narrow window of potential you are given. Let’s say you get past the agent gate and the publishing gate (which is the vast, vast minority of books written). Let’s say you get in that bookstore, finally! You’ll be there for a few months, half a year at the most, and then the book is gone. That was it. Your chance is that slim.

The greatest pro of self-publishing is that there’s no hurry for your book to succeed. It could sit on virtual shelves for years before it takes off. That really compounds your chances of finding an audience. It also makes it easier to write, publish, and move on. At least it did for me. I got my works out there and just kept writing. I never agonized over whether or not a book was selling. I didn’t grow frustrated or disillusioned. People often think the disillusionment is greater in self-publishing, but that hasn’t been my experience. I have friends with major publishers who were dropped after a book or two, and now their career is over. For a self-published author, your career has just started warming up with your second or third novel.

10.) If you could pick a mascot for your life what would it be and why?

A bobble-head. Any bobble-head will do. My life has been a nonstop adventure, and it’s been like that because I say “Yes” to every opportunity. I take on any crazy offer that comes my way. I want to live life to the fullest, learn as much as possible, see as much as possible, and so I nod my head every chance I get.

11.) What is your revision process?

I enjoy revising more than I like writing. I simply start back over at the beginning of my rough draft and read. Anything I stumble over, I fix. I do this seven or eight times, until I’m only tweaking one thing a page, and that’s when I know I’m done.

12.) Do you write the story straight through? Or in pieces?

I’ve done both. Sometimes I know a later scene, and I’ll skip ahead and write that, then fill in the gap. But I prefer to write straight through. I find it lends a more consistent voice to the work.

13.) If you were told you couldn’t write anymore, what would you do?

Go sailing. My dream is to sail around the world. I hope to embark on that adventure in the next few years.

14.) What advice do you have for amateur writers?

Read a lot and write a lot. And don’t set out to write a masterpiece novel your first go around. You get better with practice. I recommend cutting your teeth on short stories and novelletes, get used to writing a work to completion, and then make those works available. Get some feedback. Find your voice, your style, as you flex muscles and work your way up to larger goals.

15.) What has been the toughest part of being a writer? A self-publisher?

Self-motivation. I spent three years writing every day while working a day job and taking care of my family and home. It would’ve been easy to watch TV or play a video game, but I spent several hours every day, week after week, for three full years. No one was forcing me to put in those hours; I was having to do that for myself.

16.) I’ve talked to other writer’s who have learned something new about their lives after having finished a novel or series. Was there something that you learned about yourself or the world after writing Wool?

I’ve been shocked at how widespread shared tastes can be. I’ve always written with the US market in mind. I assumed other countries were primarily consuming their own culture. But I’ve found that many works cross pollinate beyond borders. WOOL has been picked up in over 30 countries, which is allowing me to tour the world and see places I never dreamed of visiting. It’s been amazing to see how much we all have in common.

17.) Did you always know you wanted to be an author? If so, when?

Since I was twelve, yeah. I’ve always been an avid reader, which made me want to get into writing. It was ENDER’S GAME and the works of Douglas Adams that made me really want to write for a living. But I never thought I really would.

18.) Our lives have all been touched and challenged by various people. Is there one person who has most influenced your life? Your writing?

I couldn’t pin it down to one person. I would put my parents and my wife up at the top, just because of how close I am to my family and how much time I’ve spent with them. I consider my dad and mom two of my best friends. I really value the bond we have. That has influenced me greatly, and so it must’ve influenced my writing.

19.) What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?

I can clear a rack in a game of billiards. I spent a lot of time in pool halls when I was younger. And I used to play tournament chess. Two things that normally don’t go together. I was going to point out how bad a dancer I am, but I think that’s common knowledge by now.

20.) Many writers are also avid readers – which books have been on your reading shelves lately?
I highly recommend LEXICON by Max Barry. And I’m finishing the WWII trilogy by Rick Atkinson, and it is absolutely brilliant.

Find out more about Hugh Howey and his books, at his website.

What about you? Have you read Wool?

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12 thoughts on “Interview with New York Times Best-Selling Author – Hugh Howey

  1. Devin, haven’t read “Wool” but after this interview I’m intrigued. What great questions you asked. Awesome!

  2. One of the best author interviews I’ve read in a long time! Thanks for the advice. I loved learning about your day to day activity as well!

  3. Like the author’s heart: “There was no ambition to become a bestseller, just the joy of writing a novel to completion.” Great interview- interesting and informative.

    1. Thank you Sarah! Yes, his heart definitely shows through his words, doesn’t it? Something every writer should strive for. I am glad you enjoyed it and thanks for the visit! 🙂

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