Tuesday, June 18, 2013

In praise of Hugh Howey

Every now and then on this blog, I'd like to talk about writers who I find particularly inspiring. Some of them can be self-published, but they don't have to be. My blog, my rules. But, since I publish my work through Kindle Direct Publishing, I'd like to highlight another author who went the e-publishing route: Hugh Howey.

Sure, you may see Howey's Wool on sale now in stores like Target and Barnes and Noble, but if I've got the story right, he first found success e-publishing his work for the Kindle. In my mind, his example is inspiring, simply because his work is really, really damn good. Listen, I want to make a living as a writer, and so do a lot of other people who try to make some money via the Kindle Direct Publishing. So, it can seem easy to compromise. I'm not naming any names, but a lot of popular self-published authors write crap. Generic, run-of-the-mill, "let me grab your attention with a generic tagline and an expensive cover, because the writing ain't that good" crap.

Maybe my writing isn't that good, but I can honestly say that I write what I like. Serialized horror-comedy about cults, the end of the world, and college. Maybe I'll make a ton of money off the books, Netflix will turn it into a series, and I'll show up at a high school reunion looking smug and insufferable. Maybe not. But I'll know that I tried to create my best work. I don't write paranormal romance, even though it is popular. I emphasize style and character over plot. I cater to a very specific set of fans, and I pepper my work with pop culture references that will turn off a lot of readers who don't like that sort of thing.

In short, I write for me, not for money.

It seems like Hugh Howey did the same. His writing doesn't conform to what is currently popular, his title doesn't grab your attention, and the cover of his book doesn't catch the eye. Instead, he relies on originality and talent. And that's praise-worthy, because that means that he's willing to give readers what they deserve: quality. I strive to provide that type of work, but it's not easy to do. Hugh Howey makes me want to try.

I download a lot of self-published material for my Kindle, and most of it isn't impressive. The language is stale, the stock characters don't interest me, and the plots. . .well, that's all they are. Plots, with nothing deeper or more meaningful to add to my life than some cheap thrills. And plot is important, sure, but who cares what happens in a book if the characters aren't compelling and the writing lacks life?

Hugh Howey's work is a breath of fresh air. Why? Because it's actually really good.