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Hugh Howey p2

Author Hugh Howey talks about the history of his post-apocalyptic novel Wool...

Hugh Howey said his favorite authors were the ones who’d just written a book and were trying to get it published. Even if nothing happened and they only sold one copy to Mom “you’re a successful novelist in my eyes,” he said. “No one can take that away from you.”
Hugh Howey had had seven or eight novels written and was working in a book store when he started writing Wool. He wrote a short story and put it online. He didn’t promote it. He said he didn’t bother because, he said: Who would read a depressing story about the end of the world? He said people liked it and wanted more, so he kept developing the story. Hugh Howey thought the Wool e-novella would sell maybe 500 copies, but it’s sold 500,000, he said. Amazon reviewers wanted him to continue the story, so he wrote four more novellas. The five stories were collected into the 550-page Wool Omnibus, released in January, 2012. It made the Amazon top-100. His agent courted publishers. The paperback novel Wool is based on the Wool Omnibus.
Hugh Howey said he learned two things from the experience: Firstly, it’s good to write in a number of genres and he was glad he had; and secondly, that he knew nothing about what people wanted to read.
20th Century Fox bought the film rights, and he’s met with executives from 20th Century Fox about the script. Ridley Scott might be directing it. Hugh Howey said he has a one-week on-set vacation written into the contract. He didn’t want any creative control of any movie.
Wool is set in the Silo, where thousands of people live in a 200-tiered building. The old world has been destroyed by a disaster 60 years previously. There are many rules of the Silo, and one of the punishments for criminals and other breachers of Silo etiquette is to be sent outside to do a cleaning. They don protective suits and clean the sensors for the Silo’s video view of the outside world.
The story starts with the sheriff of Silo-18, Holston, being sent outside, just as his wife Allison had been. The sheriff had watched as his wife cleaned the sensors for the Silo’s video screens, waved at him and walked off only to be killed by toxins.
Later in the book Juliette becomes a main character, questioning the rules of the Silo.
Mr Howey said people had always thought the end of the world was nigh. He said post-apocalyptic settings were good for stories. “These stories have always been popular.” The stories had a lot of in-built tension from page one. There was conflict and drama and things for characters to overcome.
He said the danger in post-apocalyptic stories or disaster tales didn’t come from things like zombies staggering around chasing people. You could easily out-run zombies. The danger arose from the other people the character is walled in with. He gave the example of Lord of the Flies, where the ship-wrecked kids all turned on each other, and things devolved into a blood-bath. He cited Stephen King’s The Stand from the 1980s, and Lucifer’s Hammer. He said the philosophical and political ideas of Hobbes and Rousseau on human nature and society came into play in Wool. “In Wool I kind of explore that.” Perhaps this came from his reading of The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature.
He said he had been writing a young adult series and horror, but when he wrote Wool things really took off.
His young adult fiction was “more edgy” than his fiction for adults: older readers didn’t want some of the horrors teenagers regarded as normal.

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– copyright Simon Sandall.