By AK Dale
JUPITER, Fla. – It has to be understood…right here, right now.
One need only communicate with author Hugh Howey to get the impression he is like so many of his kind. He is respectful, polite, and has a nice sense of humor.
And, like many of his ilk, he has had plenty of detractors. When he began writing three-plus years ago, Howey was told that his self-publishing exploits were hogwash and he should never pursue them.
The next question that comes to mind is: Will those same people be buying tickets to the first Hugh Howey book to be made into film?
Considering the explosion Howey has made on the scene as a self-published author maybe those naysayers should stay home and watch Jersey Shore instead?
“There are always cynics who have had their own dreams dashed or who have never dared to dream in the first place,” Howey said. “I’ve been told numerous times that I can’t make it as a writer, certainly not as a self-published writer. They didn’t hold me back, but they did make me feel sorry for them.”
Don’t feel sorry for Howey, because he would be the last person to.
In the past few months, Howey’s name has been everywhere. You can read about him in entertainment magazines, online publications, and in Hollywood gossip circles.
That’s because behind the success of his novella series, WOOL, Howey has caught the attention of multiple publishing houses to the point of a bidding war and was recently attached to interest from film director Ridley Scott (Alien, Gladiator, Black Hawk Down, Prometheus) to add WOOL to his creative library.
WOOL tells a story of mankind clawing for survival, of mankind on the edge. The world outside has grown unkind, the view of it limited, talk of it forbidden. But there are always those who hope, who dream. These are the dangerous people, the residents who infect others with their optimism. Their punishment is simple. They are given the very thing they profess to want: They are allowed outside.
“I am shocked and humbled,” Howey said. “What’s weird is that I’ve dreamed of something like this happening. Maybe everyone dreams of stuff like this, but I never thought there was a sliver of a chance. So, even though I’ve imagined it all, it still feels surreal. I imagine every lottery winner feels something like this – disbelief – but with all these former dreams staring at you, trying to convince you you’re awake.”
According to various reports the WOOL series has sold a couple hundred-thousand copies over the course of just less than the past year.
“The best part of all this has been the freedom to write more,” Howey said. “I don’t know what could be better than making a living at doing the thing you love. I was writing in Union Square a few hours ago, and I met a young kid from Nigeria. His dream has always been to come to the US and work in a kitchen, learning to cook, to one day be a chef, maybe have his own restaurant. And that’s what he’s doing. The two of us chatted for a half hour about how awesome it is to be paid to do what makes us happy. That’s the best part.”
Using “silence and darkness” as motivation, Howey writes in a way that allows readers to jump right in to his stories as if they were a bed slept in for years. The acclaim and reviews say it all.
“I write in an attempt to fashion the stories that I, as a reader, wish already existed,” Howey said. “I find the process to be just as exhilarating and addicting as reading has always been.”
This meteoric rise to heights many dream of, but only a few actually ever realize, didn’t come without its toll.
“Before I quit my day job, it was brutally difficult,” Howey said. “I would get up at four in the morning to write, write on my lunch break, and write at night and on weekends. It was a strain on me and my wife.”
His wife Amber is one of a core group of supporters who rallied around the man’s works. That fraternity just grew from The Waltons to Tau Kappa OH-MY-GOD.
“The toughest part is the increased expectations,” Howey admitted. “I’ve always written with my wife and a handful of readers as my intended audience. I try to keep them in mind when I write these days, to ignore the number of people that might read what I’m writing. I want to keep doing what I’ve done, which means not changing a thing, even as so much else changes around me. The challenge for me is to duplicate this success when I have no idea what caused it. Believe me, if I knew, I’d be selling how-to e-books on the subject. But I’m right back at the ground floor, hoping to emulate whatever it was with the next release.”
For those who may need convincing, Howey truly has had the WOOL pulled over his eyes as to figuring out what led to him becoming a sensation.
“I wish I knew,” he said. “If I knew, I’d be able to reproduce its success. WOOL took off with no promotion on my behalf. Of course, once it was up and going, I did everything I could to amplify what had begun without me. There’s no telling if any of that worked or if the success would have grown in a vacuum. It makes the author, as a work’s publicist, feel confused and impotent at times. WOOL has gone wild because of word of mouth. I’m convinced of that. There’s something about the story that engenders chatter and reviews. There’s just something infectious about the book. It’s like the flu. I’ve even heard rumors of people staying home from work until the series has run its course.”
Howey, who would take, “a solar powered inverter, a laptop, and a satellite dish,” if left on a deserted island, hopes to one day win a HUGO Award due to it being handed out by fans of his genre.
“It would be the pinnacle for me,” he said.
It took Howey three years, a dozen works, including eight novels and a few novelettes to hit the jackpot.
He has a U.K. release forthcoming with Random House and film rights are now in Scott’s possession.
Alas, many of his kind must realize these types of tales of great fortune arise only as grains of sand in concrete jungle.
But if were to have a tale of the good guy’s getting the ‘W’ then Howey’s tale is Hall of Fame material.
“I’m just a guy,” Howey said. “I’ve been an avid reader my whole life, have always dreamed of being a writer, and I just made a habit of sitting down and writing every single day. Words accumulated. WOOL captured people’s attention and now here I am. Yeah, it’s baffling and brilliant at the same time. I’m dizzy, and I’m grinning from ear to ear. It’s just been a wild ride, and I’m not ready to get off. Not yet.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION on HUGH HOWEY and his WORKS,
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