Hugh Howey Talks to The Down Deep About Wool and Fan Moments
Today is the big day! The day Wool is released simultaneously in hardback and paperback in the United States. Did you pre-order your copy yet?
I have to admit it’s crazy to remember that I first picked up Wool when it had under 500 reviews, and now it’s passed 3,800 and will surely pick up hundreds more with the book’s wide release.
To coincide with Wool’s big day, The Down Deep sent some questions in to Hugh, which he graciously answered for us.
You just spent some time over in the UK and Europe. What was the biggest highlight of that trip for you?
There were quite a few awesome moments. Seeing posters of my book on the tube, seeing a guy on the flight back from Dublin reading a copy of WOOL, meeting awesome fans like radio host Rick O’Shea, spending time with the Random House team . . . but one moment really stood out. And that was getting off the plane, checking into the hotel, and then walking straight to Foyle’s — a famous bookstore in London — and walking through the door with my wife on the phone while I saw my book on store shelves for the very first time. It very nearly moved me to tears, both the realization of a dream and also being so far away from home when it happened.
What are you most looking forward to in your upcoming book tour? What are you most nervous about?
I’m most looking forward to meeting readers, shaking hands, signing copies of books (especially the occasional oldie they might bring in, the Plagiarist or Molly Fyde book). I’m most dreading the airports and airplanes. Twelve flights in the next two weeks seems inhumane, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.
What’s the craziest thing a fan has ever said to you during a meet-up or random encounter?
I had a guy stand up during a Q&A in Wales and say that he has read thousands of books in his life and WOOL is his absolute favorite. That blew me away. I’ve also heard of people naming their pets after a character from the book, which is very flattering.
What are your personal favorites in the science fiction genre?
The FOUNDATION saga. Neal Stephenson’s DIAMOND AGE. BATTLEFIELD EARTH. Card’s ENDER’S GAME. DUNE. Mostly the classics.
When you traveled to California to talk about the Wool movie, what was your biggest personal fan boy moment?
Meeting Danny Glover (and getting my picture taken with him!). I grew up with his films. Talking with him in the flesh was awesome.
In your recent WSJ interview, it was mentioned that the idea of re-naming Wool came up. While we agree that would have been a bad idea, did any of the new title suggestions seem like they would have worked well if you went back in time to before you published Wool 1?
Sure. If I could go back in time, I might have called the first book SILO or DUST or any of a number of things. But I can’t imagine repeating the success I’ve had. It has all been serendipitous. Perhaps the quirky title is one of the reasons so many people have picked up this work.
You seem to have fulfilled so many of your dreams. Do you now have new dreams?
I have old ones unfulfilled. I want to sail around the world. And I will.
You’ve mentioned that Wool was a story that had been in your head for a while. Do you have any stories like that rattling around right now that give you that same writing itch that Wool did?
Oh, yes. I have one called INVARIABLE that’s actually my very oldest story idea. I’m dying to get this one written. Maybe in 2015.
You do such an incredible job of making the reader invested in every character, even for those that only have brief appearances in the book. As a writer, how do you approach your characters and make them so compelling?
It’s hard to describe. I just see them in my head. I can hear them. I feel their exhaustion or their merriment, and I make sure I describe this, that I capture the essence of what they’re feeling. I don’t know why or how it works. It just feels natural.
Wool is already in the top 50 on Amazon just 3 days before release. If it hits the top 10 or #1, how are you going to top your ballet dance?
Oh, no! It’s #13 right now. I hope it falls. Please fall. The dance videos are never a good thing.
I think my next video will be of me performing a front flip. I’ll take out insurance, first.
We want to thank Mr. Howey for taking the time to answer our questions!
The Down Deep Interviews Hugh Howey
Warning: This interview contains WOOL spoilers!
Last week, we sent in some interview questions to Hugh Howey and even though he was recently traveling, he got back to us with impressive speed! Read below for more on Second Shift’s release and some cool details on his past work.
Thanks to Hugh for taking the time to answer our questions!
You’re doing NaNoWriMo now on top of your regular writing. Do you participate every year and how many times have you succeeded?
This is my fourth year in a row participating in NaNoWriMo. In 2009, I wrote HALF WAY HOME. I wrote THE HURRICANE in 2010. Last year, I wrote WOOLs 2, 3, and 4. So, I’ve been successful the past three years. This year has been the biggest challenge thus far. I’m completing one book (which will be released this week) while starting a new one. I’m just barely hanging in there!
You posted that you just finished Second Shift. When can people expect to be able to pre-order and what is the release date?
There won’t be any pre-order for SECOND SHIFT. It should go live on Amazon before Thanksgiving. I’m hoping to have it uploaded by the 17th.
You’ve said previously that you didn’t believe in Wool at first. Which of your current works is your personal favorite book or story?
I like them all for different reasons. My favorite might be SECOND SHIFT, which is a risky book but with themes that I really enjoyed exploring.
Your detail in Wool 2 about knitting seemed almost as if it was written from experience. I’m guessing you don’t knit yourself (or do you?), so how did you “research” into the mind of a knitter to write the start of Wool 2?
I can knit, but I can’t purl! My mother and sister started a yarn shop in Charleston, SC called “Knit.” I’ve turned out a couple of scarves, but nothing fancier. Maybe when I get done writing, I’ll learn a few patterns.
In Wool 2, you very subtly reference past sexual abuse with Mayor Jahns. Was there a reason you put this into the book?
It just felt like part of her character to me. She has this resiliency, this drive to be a good person in a bad place. There’s also the desire to show that life in the silo is a lot like life in our world, which means children play and chase one another, and bad things happen as well.
Did you look to anyone in particular for inspiration in creating Juliette’s personality?
I have a lot of strong women in my life. My wife, sister, and mother are all inspirations. But my characters come just as much from all the other stories I’ve absorbed through my life. There are certain tropes we absorb, recombine, and regurgitate. She’s probably just as much Han Solo and Wookie as she is Ripley from ALIEN.
When you self-published in e-book form, did you ever think you’d see Wool in print? What went through your mind the first time you held the UK hardback published by Random House?
Absolutely! I make physical versions of all my books. I paginate them with InDesign and use CreateSpace to print them. What I never expected was that I’d sell so many or hear that these books are being picked up by libraries and bookstores. And now with Random House in the UK, I’m able to hold a hardback version, which is very cool.
Is there any specific significance to having the silos located in Atlanta?
There is a little symbolism and a little logic. Atlanta is the home of the CDC, which adds an aura of mystery behind the cause of the world’s end. It’s also an urban setting that seems removed from the major US cities. I wanted it to feel a little random and unexpected. As in, you finally discover what city that is over the hill . . . and it’s Atlanta?
You mentioned in your recent Ustream that you are working on a TV show. Can you share anything with us about that?
I don’t think so. I’ll check! Basically, I’m helping set up the world for a new TV show. It’s been pretty exciting so far.
Where did the idea for Wool come from? Did it start with a character or line of dialogue, a specific image, or just a vague premise for the story?
It started with the idea of the wallscreen. I wanted to explore the fact that our view of the world is distorted, because we get it through a filter. We watch 24-hour news and think we’re getting a clear view of reality. WOOL asks whether the world outside might be better than that.
You talk about children’s books several times throughout Wool. Were any of the books you mentioned modeled after ones you enjoyed as a child?
Possibly GO, DOGS, GO! My favorite books as a child were HAROLD’S PURPLE CRAYON and everything by SEUSS. The idea was that children’s books might survive because nobody would expect to take them seriously, anyway. But there would be shades of the truth in their zany stories.
When you wrote the character Solo, you could easily have made him a serious threat to Juliette, instead of you made him in an endearing ally for her. What made you write him this way?
Oh, I thought Juliette had been through enough at that point! And I liked to think of her bringing help to another. It was also unexpected, which is always an aim of mine. I like for plot points to be both logical and unexpected, which is a challenge.
Back in March you posted some casting suggestions should Wool end up making it into production. Now, eight months later, do you still stand by that fantasy casting or have your picks changed at all?
These days, I lean more toward having unrecognizable actors play the various roles. I get pulled out of movies sometimes when the star is bigger than the role, or when I feel like I know that actor, and therefore they couldn’t possibly be living underground hundreds of years from now. There’s also something appealing about giving fresh actors a new start. That’s what readers did for me!
You picked Evangeline Lily as your Juliette. Are you by any chance a LOST fan and if so, what was your take on the ending?
I loved the first season of LOST. I saw a handful of episodes after that, but I never saw the ending. My favorite way to watch TV is to wait until it’s all out and then watch the entire seasons all at once. I just haven’t felt the urge to do that with LOST yet.
You have four more books planned for the Wool series. What made you want to stop there?
I see the story playing out in three acts. Act I is WOOL. Act II will be SHIFT. The final act will be called DUST (I think). There are so many other stories I want to write that I don’t want to get stuck just cranking out an endless stream. That’s one of the reasons I took a step back with SHIFT and did a prequel. WOOL has such a nice ending. I want it to stand on its own.
Do you have plans to write from the Molly Fyde universe again?
Yes! I was about 95% done with the fifth Molly book when WOOL took off, and I started writing the rest of the Omnibus. I took a break this year to write I, ZOMBIE and a short story, but as soon as I wrap up the WOOL series, I’m going to finish that Molly book. It’s a great story. I can’t wait to get back to it.
Hugh has also generously offered us the chance to give away one of his UK hardbacks, so keep watch for that this week!