Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Interview: Hugh Howey

Today, I have author Hugh Howey (author of Molly Fyde and the Parsona Rescue) here to answer a few questions about himself, Molly Fyde, and pretty much whatever else popped into both of our heads! I actually have quite a few more questions + answers from Hugh, but I'm saving those to post another time.

Where did the inspiration behind the Molly Fyde novels come from?

A lot of it comes from my own adventures. In order to save money while I went to college, I bought a small sailboat to live abroad. I was getting ready to start my senior year when I realized something: let's say I graduated, got a job, slaved away for forty years, saved up all the money I could...what would I want to do? I'd want to buy a sailboat and go live in the Bahamas! Well, why not skip a few steps? So I threw my dock lines and sailed off for a year. I went through two hurricanes, met loads of interesting characters, visited hundreds of islands, and basically had my retirement early enough to enjoy (but also early enough to run out of money).

As I physically left those adventures behind, I think my mind kept roaming. When I sat down to tell the story of Molly Fyde, it practically wrote itself. All the amazing thrills I encountered--the harrowing ordeals, the storms and break-downs, the wonderful people and the villains, the love and the heartache--the pages of these books seem to have a limitless capacity to absorb them all. So I keep pumping them in there.

What's the hardest part about writing the Molly Fyde novels? The easiest?
The hardest part has to be doing bad things to my characters. These people live inside me more vividly than a reader can imagine. I've gone on adventures with them that might never be written down anywhere. I know their entire life, all the amazing things that are yet to come. I know about future generations and past generations and how they're all tied together.

The other day I was driving down the road and I started thinking about the end of an upcoming book. I began writing the scene in my head--a really tragic yet beautiful one--and I completely broke down. I just had this huge emotional reaction, stronger than I imagine the scene will illicit out of any of my readers. That happens quite a bit when I'm in the writing stages, especially if I'm using my characters to deal with a tragedy similar to one I've experienced in my own life. Those days can be difficult.

The easiest part for me has to be the dialog. It comes so naturally for some reason. It's something my editor commented on early and often with the first manuscript. When my characters start jabbering back and forth, it's like I'm right there with them. My only challenge is making sure my fingers keep up.

Do you ever find it difficult to write about/create all of the different worlds/species in the Molly Fyde novels?
Yes and no. It's easy to come up with them, but it's difficult to make sure these worlds and people will be accepted by the reader. The conundrum is this: I'm trying to pull off believable fiction and write satire at the same time. That's a fine line to tread. You need to create and populate these lands that exaggerate some of our own failings, but you have to make those exaggerations internally consistent. You have to make them real.

If I wanted to go the comedic route (like Douglas Adams, Jasper Fforde, or Terry Pratchet), I would have the freedom to splash paint with all the care of Jackson Pollock. Ten foot cockroaches could come to life, even though (as Edison, one of my characters might put it): exoskeletons are non-optimal once volume and surface area exceed certain rations. Sure, those characters would be fun and entertaining, but they wouldn't satisfy my drive to make stories believable. But maybe I'm the only person who thinks Captain Kirk should be wearing a seatbelt.

So, I'm bound by logic but I want to be imaginative. I want to create fantastical lands like Oz, or the islands Gulliver traveled, but I want them to feel as solid as the Kansas we all live in, or the England we sail from. I guess you could say it's a self-imposed problem.

What are you working on right now?
A kick-butt interview.

Anything else you'd like to add?

Sure, I'll give that last question another go! I almost wasted it on a bad joke.

Let's see...right now I'm working on the third book in the Molly Fyde series: "Molly Fyde and the Blood of Billions." I'm hoping to have it ready by the end of the summer. The fourth book will wrap up the Bern Saga and be out around this time next year. It's be called "Molly Fyde and the Fight for Peace."

Squeezed into that schedule will be a non-Molly book that's close to finished. Entitled "Half Way Home," it tells the story of a young group of kids trying to settle a distant planet. Normally -- in this universe at least -- colonists are brought out of their growing vats at the age of 30, their training programs complete and their automated settlement ready to assist them. However, something goes horribly wrong on this one planet and the initial settlement phase is interrupted. Out comes a group of 15-year-olds who have only completed half their training. They find a colony settlement half-built and acting strangely. It's a harrowing survival story as these kids try to govern themselves while unlocking the mysteries of their new home. I think readers are gonna dig it.

Oh, one other thing I'd like to say since you've given me such a wonderfully open-ended question: I really appreciate the chance everyone has taken with these books. I know they are something special. I know they are as good, if not better, than the popular books out there right now. In a lot of ways, I see these books as the embodiment of many of the characters in YA fiction. The Molly books aren't the head cheerleader. They aren't the football star. There's no multi-million dollar campaign to make them the most popular. They're just wonderful books, inside and out. Sure, they're easy enough to ignore in the hallways because they don't have flashy advertisements and the most fashionable labels. However, I think people are missing out if they chose to walk on by, looking at whatever they are being told to look at. Reviewers and readers have been unanimous: once you stop and have a chat, once you get to know these books, you'll find a new best friend.

I think a lot of us can empathize with these types of characters. You see them in so much great fiction. And I think the kids who know what Molly must've felt like to be in that Academy with all those boys -- I think they'll not just appreciate the story, I think they'll appreciate what this entire series is about. Books, written by an avid reader, published by a small press, raved over by the bloggers that are just like them (rather than the big newspapers)...there's almost something meta about it. Something self-referential. A story that represents what it's all about, rather than being the very thing it internally rails against.

The best part? I feel completely free. I don't have to worry about how popular the books become. Those of us that stop and chat with them...we'll know. And that's all that matters.

Yeah, that sounds cheesy, but I really believe it.

Thank you for the interview Hugh! I bet taking time off to go sailing was incredible, and Half Way Home sounds awesome!

For those of you who don't know already, I love this novel, so please go check it out on Amazon! I promise you wouldn't regret reading Molly Fyde & the Parsona Rescue!



  1. This interview was very cool. . .he's inspired me to look for his book!
    It's really awesome that Molly's adentures wer ein large part based on his own adventures. He must have had a very cool life!

  2. hmm..detailed and an excellent interview..! I'll be very interested in Hugh Howey's autobiography or a book detailing his adventures...!!

  3. I've never heard of the Molly Fyde books, looks really interesting though. Awesome interview.

  4. Wow, I'm even more curious about this novel now. He seems like a cool author, and his enthusiasm is refreshing! I'll have to definitely find myself a copy of Molly Fyde!

  5. Great interview! I hadn't heard of the series, but I'm definitely going on Amazon now to check it out. And all I can say is: wow, those sea adventures sound intense, like right out of a book! Or maybe I should say right into one... ;)

  6. Great interview, Lea and Hugh! I've read both The Parsona Rescue and The Land of Light, and I can't WAIT for the next in the series!

  7. I have to agree with other commentators; Hugh should consider putting his adventures into a book.

    Great interview!


  8. Great interview! I hadn't heard of these books, they sound great!

  9. *Smiles* What a fun interview! I really love the fact that through blogging I can find out about less well known titles by independent publishers.