Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Interview with Hugh Howey

Hugh Howey’s novel Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue was recently reviewed here at Luke Reviews, and I had the opportunity to ask Hugh a few questions. Enjoy!

Hugh, thank you for the interview!

Congratulations on having your first novel published, Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue, out from NorLights Press! You have been pretty open about your progression into becoming a published novelist over at your site, but for the readers here, can you give us a brief overview of what it is like getting your first novel published in today's market?

The great thing about publishing a book today is that it can be as grueling a task as you want it to be. If your goal is to have your first novel released by Random House and featured on Oprah, I would liken that to climbing Mt. Everest and finding a winning lottery ticket swirling around up on the summit. It takes an enormous amount of hard work and good fortune. I think the reason so many writers are jaded and cynical is that they all set off with this dream, despite the odds of them making it to the top.

I chose to go with a small publisher primarily because of my impatience. I was less than a month into the querying process when NorLightsPress expressed interest. They also said they could release the book in six months, which is half the time a larger house would take. The reason books have a long delay to market is because the finished product spends several months in the hands of reviewers before it’s released. The big publishers have to gauge a work’s reception before they know how many books to print, and also how much to spend on marketing. I think it’s sad that readers are left in the lurch, especially in the era of Amazon reviews, GoodReads, and blogs like Luke Reviews. With a small publisher, I can release the book as soon as it’s complete and get my feedback from readers. Flexible printing technology allows us to scale according to demand, rather than printing tens of thousands of books and pulping the unread ones.

There are, of course, other options for the aspiring writer. If you can’t find a small press, you can self-publish. Last year, for the first time in the modern era, more self-published books were released than those published traditionally. Of course, the quality is probably not as consistent, and you aren’t going to become rich and famous by going this route, but the option is there.
The key to publishing these days is to accurately gauge the quality of your work (which is harder than it sounds), and then determine which peak to strive for. I think most people that set off on this trek falter because they can’t handle that first step. Everyone thinks they are in better shape than they actually, and naturally set off for a summit they’ll never make.

Now, with all of the (justified) hype over your new novel, what is being lost in the shuffle is that you are also a very apt short story writer, with a few available for free over at your site. Do you have any plans to write more in the shorter lengths, and maybe release a collection, or are you going to just stick with novels for now?

I’m going to keep writing both. I try to put together one short story a month, on top of my other writing and editing duties. The reason I haven’t had anything new on my site the last two months is partly because of the launch of the Molly Fyde series, and partly because the last short story I wrote is too controversial for print. I’m almost done with another Melanie/Daniel story entitled “Mouth Breathers” that should be up in early October.

I would love to release a collection of my short stories. Once I have enough of their lives written out, Melanie and Daniel will probably get an anthology. I also have a collection of four novellas planned that I would like to turn into a book.

With the wide range of genres you are using in your novel, who are the inspirations for your work, both literary and not?

I’m inspired by an entire mob of creative people. I’ve read thousands of books, and all of them inspire me to some degree. Looking back on the first Molly Fyde book, I think I can pick out a few of the sources that I pulled from or was inspired by. The brilliant Scandinavian crime writer, Håkan Nesser, certainly helped me voice the darker moments in Molly’s story. I had just finished GIRL WITH BIRTHMARK, and was able to borrow from his dark and dreary angst. The satire and social commentary surely came from my love of Swift and his GULLIVER’S TRAVELS. My treatment of young characters was probably a result of a childhood spent with Orson Scott Card. The action and adventure that drives the novel ever-forward may have been inspired by my fondness for action films such as ROMANCING THE STONE and RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARC. Oh, and I’m probably one of the few geeks out there that loves Star Wars and Star Trek equally, so I wanted the space opera from the former and the ethical considerations from the latter.

Do you have any non-Molly Fyde writing plans in the near future?

I’m already outlining two non-Molly books that will come out after book three. One is a contemporary novel about a young girl raised by a cruel father. A psychologist shunned by his peers, he now performs his experiments on his twin daughters, one of whom he named Constance, the other he named Experimental Variable. The book is going to give me a chance to explore parenthood and developmental psychology, while maybe highlighting two facts: no parent really knows what they are doing, and most kids turn out just fine, anyway. The book will be entitled “INVARIABLE” and I can’t wait to get it wrapped up.

I have another science fiction novel in the works as well, tentatively called HALF WAY HOME. It’s about a human colony on a foreign planet, a sci-fi staple. However, I think people are going to be blown away with the premise for this story. I got goose bumps while outlining it.

After the cliff-hanger ending of Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue, can you tell us a little bit more about the sequel, Molly Fyde and the Land of Light, than the epilogue hints at?

I can tell you that the second book focuses on Molly’s mother. It also fleshes out what’s going on between the humans and the Drenards. The Bern are also introduced (formally) in the second book, giving the reader a glimpse of the saga’s scale.

My goal with the Molly books is to introduce a new audience to the magic of science fiction. The genre can be just as compelling and moving as fantasy, but with the added bonus of plausibility. Each book is going to expand the scope a bit, easing the readers into a complex universe without overwhelming them at any point.

Your first novel is subtitled "Book 1 of the Bern Saga." Do you have a plan for the number of volumes this series will be, and an over-arcing conclusion, or do you hope to keep this an ongoing series, at least for now? When will we learn about these Bern and the Bern Seer, and how they relate to Molly Fyde?

There will be four books in the “Bern Saga,” and several other Molly books afterward. I have six total Molly books outlined right now, and I’m sure more will come to me.

The saga definitely has a conclusion. The end of book three (Molly Fyde and the Fight for Peace) will wrap up a lot of the story, forming a mini-conclusion of sorts. I think readers will be extremely satisfied with where things stand at that point. It’ll allow me the time to get out a different book before returning to conclude the saga with book four.

Any final comments, Hugh?

Just to thank you for the excellent questions. You did a great job of pulling secrets and spoilers out of me. I’m really proud of myself for going back and deleting them before returning these to you.

Keep up the great work on your site!

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