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Bestselling Author Hugh Howey on Life, Books and Success

25 March 2016

From The Huffington Post:

There was a time when bestselling author, Hugh Howey never thought he’d finish writing a novel, let alone get one published. There was a time when he lived in a tiny home in the mountains and dreamed of one day being published.

Now, everything has changed. Millions of copies of his books, including his runaway hit Wool have been sold, film rights have been bought and he has become a beacon of hope not only to other indie authors but anyone who has a dream and has had naysayers tell them they would never make it.

. . . .

 What was life like for you before your book series WOOL took off?
The worst part of my writing life was the twenty years where I dreamed of writing a book but never completed one. That’s been half my life. And it drove me nuts. Writing a book is such a reachable dream; anyone can do it. Most of us write a novel of words every month, in emails and Facebook posts and Tweets. So there was a lot of self-inflicted guilt and criticism all the years I dreamed of writing a book and simply refused to.

Once I wrote my first novel, MOLLY FYDE AND THE PARSONA RESCUE, the feeling of accomplishment and release really carried me for a while. I was so excited to have gotten this bucket list item out of the way, and so impatient to start the next book, that I didn’t really worry about sales. It wasn’t until HALF WAY HOME came out that I felt like a real novelist, and that I knew I was writing stories at least as good as the books we sold at my bookstore. That’s the first time I wondered if I could make it as a writer, and I felt the frustration of not being able to reach the audience that I knew would love my books. At this time, I was getting invited to speak at a nearby middle school, and the class was full of fans, and I tried to imagine my books really getting out there.

Within a year of feeling that, WOOL started taking off. Now, I don’t want to make it sound like it all came so easy. The years I spent writing with a day job were brutal. I lived in the mountains, and the mornings were cold in our tiny home, but I forced myself up before dawn, trudged to campus in the snow, sat in a chair up in the whisper section of the university library, and wrote until I went to work. Then I wrote on my lunch break, eating the same meal of half of a PB & J and water, and wrote until I had to check back in. And then I wrote at night and on the weekends. I managed 2-3 novels a year for those three years, and it was brutal. But I loved what I was writing. It was 20 years of frustration pouring out of me.

Do you still have moments of insecurity before you write or release a new novel? How do you overcome it?

It gets worse with every passing day and every release. Everything I write just sucks. And then I revise it until it’s just horrible. Then revise until I almost don’t hate it. Ten or more passes, and I can publish without feeling like I’m harming people with my words. It really is that brutal. And it is only getting worse. I think I remember my greatest passages, and I hold every single sentence up to that standard. I also feel like I shouldn’t be doing this if I’m not pushing boundaries with my stories and crafting prose that readers will really fall into. So I put a lot of pressure on myself, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

. . . .

Do you read your reviews? When people are especially nasty on social media or in reviews, how do keep it from affecting you?

I used to read every single one. I still glance at them when I can. I think it’s important to know what readers think about your work. I love the interactions and the feedback. I’ve really enjoyed commenting back and forth with readers on some Amazon reviews. I’ve made some great friends that way. Even dedicated a novel to a reviewer’s wife because of an interaction like that.

The negative reviews sting at first, but you get used to it. I just concentrate on the people who love my work, and I look for any constructive criticism among the negative reviews. I don’t want to “toughen up,” as J.A. Konrath always implores me to do. I want to still feel all the good stuff, so I worry about becoming calloused or ignoring the feedback. I’ve just come to accept that not every reader will like what I present them. That’s cool. I’m a reader as well, so I know how it works.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post and thanks to Randall for the tip.

Hugh Howey, Self-Publishing

3 Comments to “Bestselling Author Hugh Howey on Life, Books and Success”

  1. Wow, the HuffPo opening paragraphs have so much passive language it makes me wonder if PG ghosted the piece.

  2. There is so much to admire & respect about Mr. Howey. Happy for his well-earned success! Fine writer, intelligent blogger. Just a good soul all around. Best, K.

  3. I occasionally drop by and squeee all over his facebook page. It’s embarrassing but something kicks in when I try to be all cool and end up being fourteen years old again. I look forward to living my version of that life and, fortunately, I’m enjoying the journey because of Hugh’s inspiration, among others.

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