Ryan Thomason

An Interview With ‘Wool’ Author, Hugh Howey

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hughhoweymedHugh took the time while he was riding in the back of a cab in London (not kidding) to answer some of my questions. In case you haven’t checked out any of his books yet, check out my Review of the first 5 Wool books (Omnibus 1). This is an incredible Science Fiction series that we think everyone should be reading, so, with that, we hope you enjoy the interview and decide to check his books out (if you aren’t reading already of course).


WPR: Do you go by Captain? Or, just Hugh? Or, that Self Pub guy everyone is talking about?

HH: I go by Huge Howley most of the time. But I also get Howie, Howe, Hug, and about 10 minutes ago, I was picked up at Heathrow airport by a man holding a sign that read “Hugh Howes.” I kid you not. I’m actually pecking this out from the back seat of a car with “Complimentary Wi-Fi.”

In London, I’m going to try to go by “Sir Hugh” and see if my editor will comply. I’m guessing not.

WPR: Did you know it was going to take you until the Wool 3 to have a main character that drove the story and well…doesn’t die?

HH: I knew when I started writing Wool 2 that this would be the case. I wrote the first Wool never expecting to return to the silo. Fans had different plans. They accosted me until I submitted, but I had a bit of a fix. I had no main character! So I decided to do two things at once: Introduce the silo and Juliette through the eyes of Jahns, and also set up the expectation that every main character would go kaput. The plan was to break hearts while I made them fall in love. It’s a trick I learned from girls in high school.

WPR: How much do you hate IT people and was it easy to make them the “bad guys” in way for a closed silo society of humanity?

HH:I love IT people! I was one. I just figured it would be a new twist and not much of a stretch to have those who control technology and information to be in charge. But I also wanted to give them shades of grey (I’m in London, so I’m adhering to Queen’s English). I hope by the end of Wool that readers will question whether or not their cruelty serves some purpose.

WPR: Did you do any research or have anything that you used as inspiration for the Silo?

HH: I used my years as a yacht captain as inspiration. Keeping a large yacht afloat requires a talent for whacking things with wrenches until they submit. You have to know how to wire things, plumb things, change oil, replace impellers, swim under the boat and patch leaks, and so on. I’ve been in quite a few scrapes as a yacht captain, and they really allowed me to inhabit Juliette’s world and her head.

WPR: Seriously, if you had to live in a Silo which one (Silo) would you pick and what would your job be?

HH: I’d be the guy who serves coffee in Silo 1.

No, seriously, if I have to be perfectly honest, I would like to think of myself as a wrencher in any of the silos. I spent two years roofing and another year pulling wire in houses, and I’ve never been so happy as when I worked manual labor jobs. I would be a greaser and fiercely proud.

WPR: You’ve recently finished the First/Second/Third Shift prequel trilogy (which I have to read still) will the next Wool books bring us back to Silo 18?

HH: They will. There will be more Jules than a reader can handle. Absence makes the heart grow fonder, which was part of my deliberate torture with the SHIFT books.

WPR: Man, what is it with IT guys and their servers, ESPECIALLY the Silo servers?

HH: They need to go ahead and weld breasts on the things, don’t they? It would solve so many problems.

WPR: What made you use a main metal grand stairway as the only means of transportation in a 140+ leveled silo system? Why not install an elevator?

HH: The same reason we have border guards. The same reason they didn’t want people reading and writing hundreds of years ago. The same reason some countries restrict phone and internet access. Easy transport and communication are the stuff of revolutions. The classes are meant to be kept apart. The neighborhoods need gates. That sort of thing.

WPR: Please tell me we’re thinking of doing some crazy kind of Silo on Silo war, or, maybe I’m just over complicating the world.

HH: Not so grand and big, I’m afraid. That will come long after my trilogy, and I probably won’t write the work.

WPR: I have this feeling that after The Pact and The Order, that there is still something beyond them out there that someone holding onto, waiting to use it. Is there a command center type silo?

HH: Read SHIFT! It’s all there, man. :)

WPR: If you could start again with Wool and working through a publisher, would you take that route? Or do you enjoy the freedom of being the man behind the curtain running the show? (As exhausting as it can be)

HH: Here’s a hint: I self-published my next four books after Wool’s success. I didn’t hesitate. Readers should get these works when they are ready, not be made to wait. My strategy is to do everything possible for the reader and let everything else play out however it may. If publishers want to read a book upon release and come up with a plan for broadening its audience, I’m easy to reach.

WPR: How many times can you bang a fist on a table and tell people that if they want to be a writer, “Just Write!” before you just get tired? It’s such a simple notion, but as a core, it’s so true, yet, people hold themselves back all the time (myself included). What did it take for you to have that moment when “Just Write!” finally sunk in?

HH: It was when the mother half of the Charles Todd tandem banged her fist at the Virginia Festival of the Book and said “Just Write!” Seriously. I mean, you’re either reading my mind or you’ve seen one of the numerous interviews where I credit her with the courage to write to the end. Leaving that conference, I was possessed. I knew I was going to finish a book. I did, and I haven’t looked back since.

WPR: How did the concept for Wool come about?

HH: It was a mix of Plato’s cave analogy and my sense that we have a warped view of the world from our 24-hour news cycle. A single screen informs us of what lies over the hills. Few are brave enough to go out and see for themselves. After traveling by boat to dozens of countries and then settling down and seeing what passes for news, I started thinking about a society where this was taken a step further.

I also grew up around grain silos. My dad was a farmer and had two of them. And then there was the Cold War, which loomed large over my childhood. These things all just came together.

WPR: Thank you for your time, you can consider WPR as having your back from here on out, just…don’t make us have to put you out for a cleaning, OK?

HH: Dude, I never clean. Ask my wife. And thanks for having me (and having my back).

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