Hugh Howey is the author of the award-winning Molly Fyde Saga and the New York Times and USA Today bestselling WOOL series.
His short story, PEACE IN AMBER, just came out, and I was thrilled to chat with Hugh about the new story, and more!
Kristin Centorcelli: Your new short story, Peace in Amber has quite an unusual premise! Will you tell us more about it?
Hugh Howey: Peace in Amber is a work of fan fiction that takes place in Kurt Vonnegut’s SLAUGHTERHOUSE 5. Vonnegut used his masterpiece to discuss the bombing of Dresden, which he survived as a German POW. My work deals with my 9/11 experiences in Lower Manhattan. In this story, I bounce back and forth between autobiographical accounts of that day and the fictional character of Montana Wildhack, who is a prisoner on Tralfamadore. The two threads intertwine in that both explore free will, forgiveness, and our reaction to violence.
HH: My favorite Vonnegut work is Cat’s Cradle, which is just pure genius. It’s the best build-up and final paragraph in any book ever written, in my opinion. All of his works are philosophical, hilarious, irreverent, and reward multiple readings. He was a master of layering metaphors throughout his works. There will never be another like him.
KC : You spent time as a yacht captain and have traveled extensively, but have you always wanted to be a writer? What inspired you to start writing fiction?
HH: I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was twelve. I started dozens of novels over the years but gave up on them. Something changed five years ago. I got through my first manuscript, and I was hooked. I became as addicted to writing as I was to reading. I think what inspired me was the feeling I got after a good novel: I just wanted it to go on and on. I never wanted any great story to stop. So I start imagining the next chapters for myself. That exercise got me wondering if I could write my own story.
KC: The success you’ve seen for the Silo series (Wool, Shift, and Dust) has been huge! How has your life changed the most since it was published?
HH: I’ve been able to quit my day job. That’s a huge change in my routine. It means spending a lot more time in my underwear. I used to get in trouble for doing this. Now, no one cares. Much.
It has also meant a crazy amount of travelling. I spent over half the year away from home in 2013. Over fifty flights and nearly a dozen countries. As someone who enjoys seeing the world and meeting new people, this has been a lot of fun.
KC: What do you enjoy most about writing SF, and who have been some of your biggest influences?
HH: I love exploring the human condition, and no other genre allows this quite like science fiction. We can tweak the world, exaggerate it, ruin it, make it better, and then explore how this might impact humanity. In all the ways that characters don’t change, those are the things that make us human. Those are the things that we carry through time.
As for influences, I think Heinlein and Asimov were two of the masters at doing this. Jonathan Swift as well, though I don’t think he gets the credit for being a science fiction author quite like he deserves.
KC: If you could experience one book again for the first time, which one would it be?
HH: Battlefield Earth by L. Ron Hubbard. This is a book that gets a bad rap because of the film and because of scientology, but it’s a ripping yarn. I’ve read it several times, and while I love the story with every pass, I would love to once again not see what was coming.
KC: What’s one piece of advice that you would give to aspiring writers?
HH: Write every single day. If you aren’t doing this, everything else is going to be nearly impossible. If you are doing this, everything else will sort itself. Make it a habit. Carve out the time. No excuses.
Once you have something you’re proud of, get eyeballs on it. Start with friends and family. Reach out to other writers by joining a writing group. Submit to agents. Post chapters and scenes online. Get as much feedback as you can and improve your craft.
And while I’m abusing the call for “one piece of advice,” let me add this third one: Don’t be afraid to self-publish. The stigma is rapidly vanishing. If you look at the top authors in science fiction right now, many are self-published. The readers of this genre are looking for great stories. They don’t care where they come from.
KC: You have quite a few projects going at any one time! When you manage to find some downtime, how do you like to spend it?
HH: What’s “downtime”? I don’t understand. Is that when we close our eyes at night? I call that “The Little Death.” I do as little of it as possible.
KC: What’s next for you this year?
HH: I just released my latest novel, sand, which opens up a brand new world. I’m now working on an anthology with John Joseph Adams called The End is Nigh. It releases in March. Oh, and I’m putting together a children’s picture book. And working on a pitch for a TV series. I’m all over the place right now—and I’m loving it.