We like to cover all kinds of interesting projects on THN, and when it comes to self-made creative success through sheer talent then it’s something we like to share with you as well. WOOL is the new hardback by Hugh Howey but it’s been an impressive road to writer-stardom after the book has captivated readers across the globe since Hugh first released it on Amazon, and was one of the most talked about books of 2012, selling over 250,000 copies through good old-fashioned word-of-mouth. It has drawn comparisons to the likes of THE ROAD and THE HUNGER GAMES and now, legendary film maker Ridley Scott has acquired the film rights earlier.
We caught up with him last week to talk a little more about the novel (no spoilers!), along with his thoughts on that question about self-publishing and some pointers if you’re a budding writer or novelist. Don’t forget WOOL is released in lovely hardback on January 17th and can be ordered now!
For those who haven’t read it yet, tell us a little bit about Wool (#ThisIsWool)!
Wool is the story of humanity condensed down into a bottle. The last of mankind lives in an underground silo, and there are only legends of people having lived anywhere else. To manage the population, every birth requires a death. And no one is allowed to talk of the outside.
The story begins with a sheriff who has lost his wife to banishment. He decides he can no longer live without her, so he breaks the most important of the rules he swore to uphold. He exiles himself in order to search for his wife, which leads to the promotion to sheriff of an unlikely mechanic from the depths of the silo.
What Wool explores is the danger and the necessity of hope. People are kept apart and stratified. They are told to expect nothing better out of life. But this new sheriff, Juliette, acts as a sudden catalyst for change.
What are your personal inspirations and influence in writing…and also on film as well?
I get my inspiration for storytelling from a gamut of sources. It’s not just the thousands of books I’ve read in my lifetime, it’s the TV and films I watch, the comics I flip through, video games, people-watching, daydreaming. What makes for an interesting plot or character is a synthesis of everything I’ve absorbed and been entertained by.
The serial nature of the original release of Wool owes a lot to TV and comics in particular. There’s a need to tell a small story while pushing along a larger story. I think that’s the key to keeping readers engaged. It’s the magic of avoiding the boring middle bits of a story, which often serves as nothing but padding to keep the conflict away from the climax.
Sometimes self-publishing can come with a certain cloud from cynics, but this is the future, right? And surely, this proves that good writing can start from anywhere? This may be a leading question…
It’s like a slow underhand toss of a beach ball, that question! Yes, I do believe self-publishing is a huge component of literature’s future. It’s amazing to see the discomfort this elicits, especially after watching TV and film become revolutionized by inexpensive cameras and editing software and distribution platforms like YouTube. Music went through this before when mixing software, home recording, and websites like MySpace made the dissemination of tunes feasible for a wide variety of artists. But for some reason, literature seems sacrosanct. “Regular people” shouldn’t partake.
I liken books to other forms of self-expression. Take a webpage. Anyone should be able to create one. If it doesn’t draw in viewers and create buzz, nobody will find the webpage. It’ll be invisible. But it serves a purpose to its creator and to whatever limited audience it enjoys.
Books can be the same. Anyone with the ambition to write should enjoy the same freedom of distribution that YouTube provides videographers and musicians. We shouldn’t fear this transition; we should embrace it. If a book is too niche or not appealing to a wide enough audience, it will impact your life as a reader just as horrendously as the millions of websites you will never see nor hear of. Ah, but the gem! The chance of a friend stumbling upon something cool, a new song, a Twitter feed, the sample of a book. How cool is that possibility? The democratization of publishing means every voice has a place. I can’t imagine being cynical about that.
How’d you feel about the legendary Ridley Scott stalking your book and now taking it onto big-screen adaption and, furthermore, how much would you like to be involved with that development?
I danced around my house like a fool when I heard he was reading Wool. It was foisted on him by Steve Zaillian, one of the great screenwriters of all-time. When you look at the challenge of turning a book into a film, Steve is one of the absolute bests. I went ballistic when I heard how much he loved Wool and that he was passing it along to his friend and collaborator, Ridley.
We would get updates as he made his way through the book. I’ve never been so nervous in my life. Thinking of someone who’s seen truly great writing suffering through my work was brutal. But he loved it. And even though we had some other amazing offers from great people at the time, it was a no-brainer when Steve and Ridley teamed up to secure the option.
As for being involved with the development, I want to leave it in the hands of those who know what they’re doing. I’m flying out in a couple of weeks to spend a few days with the team they’re assembling, so that will be my first taste of what the process is like. My attitude is that they know more about making films than I ever will. I’ll answer questions and lend whatever ideas I can come up with, but I want them to have final say.
It’s a cliché of a question, but could you give a one word answer to hard-working writers to encourage them to keep writing? This, of course, can be followed up with explanation…
This is the most important step. Finish that rough draft. Ignore the mistakes and flaws. Stop tweaking those sentences. Get to the end of your book or screenplay or short story. It’s only then that you’ll see what’s missing, what you need to work on, what chapters should be re-written. Finish. Keep the rough draft rough. The jubilation you’ll feel at reaching the final page will power you through the revisions, and that’s where you’ll make it shine. Trust me.
Thank you so much, for your time!
Thanks for having me!