From Wool To Dust And Beyond: An Interview With Hugh Howey

The outside world is dead, the air poisoned, the last traces of civilization lie crumbling on the horizon.  Humanity has…

Dwight Wade



The outside world is dead, the air poisoned, the last traces of civilization lie crumbling on the horizon.  Humanity has taken refuge in a giant silo buried in the ground.  The only view of the outside world is a video screen on the uppermost of 144 levels.  Society is divided by proximity to the surface.   The working class trudges through life in the down deep while those in charge live up top. History of the outside world has been reduced to quickly fading memories.  The silo is the only history worth remembering and it is filled with uprisings that are not spoken of openly.

This is the World of Wool.  Hugh Howey’s self published 2011 post apocalyptic story takes us deep inside a world that is limited by available space and what little information is available is strictly controlled.  How would society react?  Would they seek out the truth?  These are just some of the questions Howey tackles.

Wool isn’t your typical success story.  Howey was working at a book store when he penned the short story that started it all.  Disenchanted with the current publishing model he recognized an opportunity within the current slate of e-pub tools and decided to self publish his next story.  Readers loved the book and it made its way onto the bestseller lists.  Fans clamored for more so Howey sat down and penned five more chapters, eventually publishing the entire series as the Wool Omnibus.  By crafting an incredible world, a unique story and a brilliant cast of characters Howey created a story that shot up the bestseller lists almost exclusively by word of mouth.

A prequel, the Shift series followed shortly thereafter and the final book in the saga, Dust, is slated for release on August 17.

Ahead of this latest release Mr. Howey granted an interview with to discuss the success of Wool, his characters and upcoming projects among other topics.


What was it like for you when Wool first started to become a major success?  How did your life change?  

“It was insane. You can’t imagine something like this ever happening to you. I was working in a bookstore, making $10 an hour, only able to work 30 hours a week, and just living this very simple life.

“I shelved other people’s books all day. My co-workers watched me hole up in the conference room every day to write in utter darkness. When the books started marching up the bestseller lists, none of us could believe it, and we were all waiting for it to come to a crashing halt.

“Instead, I’m getting calls from Hollywood producers and literary agents, and it seemed like every day was some new piece of startlingly incredible news. It makes no sense, even as you’re living through it.”

Since Wool was published outside the traditional system the book had little to no advance press and readers typically found the book by accident or word or mouth.  Do you think the mysterious nature of the self published story contributed to the experience of the book?  

“I do, I think you really nailed something. The low expectations really can add to the enjoyment.

“There’s a sense of having discovered something, having stumbled upon a secret – I get this with indie music and small-budget films and video games. When I saw Moon for the first time, I felt like I’d been inducted into a club and I now knew the handshake.

“That’s so much more powerful than seeing billboards and a dozen trailers and feeling like you “have” to see or read something. I think it’s also more difficult to be critical of a self-published work.

“You understand that it’s a labor of love done on a shoestring budget, just like how I forgive an indie album for some pops and hits.”

Wool started as a novelette which you then turned into a multi-part omnibus due to the massive response.  How did you transition from the finished product of the original to the immense world you’ve created across multiple series?  Was the overall plot something you had in mind when you first started writing or did it come about after the success of the first story?

“I didn’t have the rest of the series in mind when I wrote the first novelette – I began outlining the rest after Wool took off.

“The transition was tricky because of the way Wool ends, but I decided to use the second entry as a bridge to the real star of the show, and I think it worked out okay.”