Monday, September 21, 2009

Author Interview with HUGH HOWEY

HUGH HOWEY's startling debut novel has burst onto the writing scene, capturing the attention of top writers and reviewers to generate considerable buzz months before its release. Drawing from his career as a yacht captain and book critic, Hugh's ability to pen vivid characters and tight drama makes him a young writing star worth keeping an eye on.
Who is the one person who most encouraged or influenced you to be a writer—and why?

I have to give equal credit to my mother and father (honestly, I might be cheating, here, but I’m not just being democratic). My mom made reading a priority from very early on, and always ensured my environment was thick with books, even when we couldn’t afford much else. My dad always seemed to be the most impressed with whatever I whipped up, and made me feel like I could do this on a larger scale. Together, they didn’t just make me, physically, they also made me into a halfway decent scribbler.

How long have you been writing? In what genres do you write?

I tried writing my first book when I was twelve. It was standard Dungeons & Dragons stuff, written in longhand in a spiral composition book. I still have the twenty or so pages I cranked out before giving up. Since then, I’ve tried writing a half-dozen or so other books. I’ve written accounts of some of my boating endeavors that people seemed to enjoy, and family members are often burdened with a sappy letter or story around the holidays. It wasn’t until I started reviewing books full-time that I realized I could really do this. Interviewing other authors, delving into their works on a mechanical level, those experiences really taught me what it took to complete a story. I owe a lot to the writers who were generous with their tips and encouragement.

What life experiences have contributed significantly to your writing?

There were two major experiences that shaped this book. The first was 9/11 in NYC, which occurred right over my head. In many ways, this book was my outlet for the bad things I locked away that day. It’s not something I like to talk about, but through metaphor, in this book, I was able to sort through some things. The other experience was a boating trip I went on with my wife. It was early in our relationship, and we didn’t know each other all that well. We had two weeks alone together while I brought a boat from Antigua to Florida. Jumping off waterfalls, swimming with whales, exploring diverse cultures... That trip planted the seed for this story.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?

Convincing myself that I know what I’m doing. I tend to doubt anyone who tells me they love my book, while obsessing over any negative criticism (most of it coming from myself). I’ve been told that this is a common trait for authors, but I’ve never really had to deal with anything like it before. At times, it makes me question my new obsession. Then I’ll hear someone rave about the book, telling me that it kept him up all night, and that’ll keep me pressing on for a few more days.

What is the title of your most recently published book? Briefly tell us what it’s about and let us know where we can buy it.

My debut novel is entitled Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue. It’s about a teenage girl in the 25th century who isn’t having a lot of luck in life. Orphaned at the age of six, she is being raised in the military with boys prone to unnecessary cruelty. Just when she’s thinking her life will never amount to anything, that she’ll never be given the opportunities that come to others, a great discovery halfway across the galaxy gives her a second chance. What seems like a blessing at first quickly leads her on a life-threatening adventure. One that will affect the entire Milky Way. Along the way, she meets and takes in other young runaways and misfits, and together they form a new family of sorts: the crew of the starship Parsona. The book is available on Amazon, but it’s wonderful when people buy directly from my publisher at

What are you working on now and when/where do you expect it to be available?

I’m dividing my time between three books right now. I’m putting the final touches on the second Molly Fyde book, I’m working on the draft of book three, and I just started a new project outside of her saga. I also try to keep my blog, website, and Twitter account fresh and interesting.

Writers, especially new writers, are always looking for tips and helpful information. What is the single most important “tip” you can give to a new writer?

Only one? I really want to give several. Here’s one that might seem obvious, but really is the key to doing well: Write! Seriously, just write. Letters, emails, blog posts, forum entries, short stories, rough drafts, character sketches, it doesn’t matter. Pick a block of hours each day or week and devote them to writing. Do not give up or flag. Don’t worry if every sentence is flawed. Keep writing. There’s no other way to improve and no possible way of creating substantial works if you don’t get in the habit.

Are you a member of any writer’s organizations? How do you think writer’s organizations help or hinder a writer’s career?

I’m not a member of any writer’s organizations. Should I be? If any of you will have me, please get in touch!

Do you have an agent? Care to share any advice about getting, or not getting, an agent?

I don’t have an agent. I was in the querying process when I received a request for a full submission by two small publishers. Bypassing the agent seemed like the right thing to do at the time, as I had a wonderful rapport with the publisher. I think this is a case-by-case situation, where the answer isn’t the same for all authors, manuscripts, or publishers.

Here’s your opportunity to tell us anything else you care to share.

What a unique gift! My own little soapbox. One thing that really amazes me about this industry is how brutal it is to “make it.” Even if that means having someone else foot the bill for the printing of your book. It’s been one of the most daunting tasks in my life, and I’ve had it a lot easier than most. That’s why it amazes me to see two things (anecdotal experiences, of course): those who have already “made it” are unbelievably eager to assist those who haven’t, pulling them up and doing extraordinary things to help out. The “haves” giving to the “have nots.” Contrariwise, those who are still struggling can often be the most incredibly hurtful, rude, and petty people you’ll ever experience. The bitterness and anger I’ve seen on some author forums made me run away, my head tucked down in my shirt. I point this out, not because I don’t understand the frustration of the latter group, but we too often hear that class warfare works the opposite way. What I see, instead, is that those who have been blessed, or had some good fortune, are always looking for ways to spread and share this. Those who feel jilted, or passed over, seem eager to retain as much company on the bottom as possible. These two experiences have shaken my worldview somewhat.

What are the addresses of your website(s) and blog(s):

My website:
Molly’s blog:
Molly’s Twitter:

1 comment:

  1. I haven't read this book yet because I am waiting for my signed copy to arrive (ahem...), but I can say this:

    I first found out about Hugh and Molly Fyde through some very interesting tweets which led me to a website Hugh was writing about writing about the book. (All those writings weren't a mistake - just bad writing).

    The thing is, I am not a sci-fi reader, and I didn't know Hugh from Adam (I don't even know an Adam), but I was totally enthralled with his writing.

    His characters were so amazing and real, and the story was fascinating. I was hooked, and it wasn't even the real book yet.

    Since then I've had the opportunity to read snippets of Hugh's writing, and it actually surprised me with how good it is. Call me a cynic, but I've read a lot of novice writers and debut novelists and many of those are poor writers.

    Hugh has real talent. He doesn't just tell a great story, he tells it really well. The writing - especially the dialog - of what I've read is superb.

    These were great interview questions, and I love Hugh's humorous answers. Thanks for taking the time to do this.