He’s me. I’m him. Oh! I see what you mean. Let’s see… These days I’m a full-time author. Perhaps more accurately I’m a full-time author and a full-time father, since I’m always doing both to some extent. Before that I designed video games, did 3D animation, made mobile software that utilized machine learning and contextual awareness, and other things not quite as interesting.
Your next novel, Zero World, is published by Titan Books (UK) and Del Rey (US). It looks pretty excellent: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a planned series?
Thanks! The quick intro is that it’s a bit like “James Bond meets Total Recall”, though of course such things are always lacking. So let’s say it’s a futuristic spy thriller featuring a assassin who, upon completing his missions, has his memories reset to the pre-mission state. He’s sort of embraced this “feature” about himself, and lives his life to give himself the best chance of success when he’s out doing… whatever it is he does.
What inspired you to write the novel? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?
I get my inspiration from all over the place. This particular idea started out as more of a straight up sci-fi story, about a scientist who takes the collective knowledge of the human race to a “parallel Earth” 100 years behind us in order to pass themselves off as a genius. While planning the details, I happened to have a random conversation with another author while we were waiting for flights at Heathrow. We discovered we shared a mutual love for Korean action cinema, and geeked out about it for a few hours. This chat ultimately inspired the main character.
And of course there’s a lifelong love of the Ian Fleming Bond novels, which is infused throughout.
But what really inspired me to write it was when my publisher said, “Cool idea. Here’s money, go write that.”
How were you introduced to genre fiction?
Well, it came about in waves, I guess. First was seeing Star Wars, way back in the 70’s when it came out in theaters. I was six, and reacted pretty much how all children did.
Then, when I was 13 or so, I inherited a box of comic books. That was my first experience in that realm. Oddly it didn’t turn me into a collector myself, but it did lead me to become friends with all the geeks at my school. Finally I’d found my people.
Maybe a year or so after that a friend of mine recommended I read a book called The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks. That was the first genre novel I read, and I pretty much never looked back.
How do you like being a writer and working within the publishing industry?
It’s a great gig! I’m really not trying to brag here but I was something of an overnight success. Writing wasn’t something I’d ever really dreamed about doing. When I finally started as a hobbyist, things came together pretty quickly (compared to the average). Which is all to say I still feel like a total newb.
Overall it’s been rewarding, stressful, and fascinating in equal proportions.
Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?
This is related to the previous answer. As I still feel pretty new to this craft, I have to say yes and no. I do have specific practices, but they’re evolving and I suspect (even hope) they’ll continue to do so.
When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?
When I finished my first practice novel in 2007, I at least knew I’d found a hobby I loved. That was also my first real foray into writing. I don’t think I really ever decided I wanted to be a full-time author, it just sort of happened. Sure, I dreamt about it now and then, but it was never really a serious plan.
That said, I did co-write a novel with a friend of mine back when we were kids (one of the friends I made while seeking out comic book experts in the school cafeteria). We wrote it over a summer, and I do still look back on that quite fondly, mostly because it was rather ambitious for two thirteen year-olds. We were too ignorant to know what we were doing wrong, so we just went for it. Much like how I felt when I wrote The Darwin Elevator, my first published book.
What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?
Honestly I think this is a great time for the genre. There has been an explosion of diversity lately, which is great. There’s loads of interesting books coming out all the time, and self-publishing has created a fertile ground for “unpublishable” works to find readers and even flourish into mainstream popularity.
Things had become stagnant for a while in the late 90’s and early 00’s. For me that changed when Scalzi came on the scene, and that’s when I fell back in love with sci-fi. Like John, I’ve made a fairly conscious effort to try and write science fiction that is accessible and fun.
Do you have any other projects in the pipeline, and what are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on a new book in my first series (The Dire Earth Cycle), plus a few other things too early to talk about.
Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen, which comes out later this year. It’s brilliant.
What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?
That I set my first three books in Darwin, Australia despite having never been there.
What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?
Finally visiting Darwin, Australia! I’m headed there in October to speak at a conference. Cannot wait!
Technologically enhanced assassin Peter Caswell has been dispatched on a top-secret assignment unlike anything he’s ever faced. A spaceship that vanished years ago has been found, along with the bodies of its murdered crew — save one. Peter’s mission is to find the missing crew member, who fled through what appears to be a tear in the very fabric of space, emerging into an even more confounding reality: a world that appears to be Earth’s twin.
The author’s Dire Earth Cycle is published by Titan Books in the UK, and by Del Rey in the US. Below are the US covers (in the body of the interview, earlier, are the UK covers). For more on Hough’s writing and novels, be sure to follow to check out his website, and follow him on Twitter and Goodreads.