Posted on June 15, 2015 at 12:00 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

It’s certainly common for other authors’ characters to appear in novels — but less so for the living authors themselves to do so.

Enter Hugh Howey Lives, a sci-fi novella from Daniel Arthur Smith that places the titular author at the center of its plot: In 2174, with artificial intelligence generating all new fiction, one woman begins to believe in the existence of a living, human writer.

Daniel recently answered a few of the Fussy Librarian’s questions about himself and his relationship with Hugh.

SADYE: You say Hugh “inspired” your novel — to what extent?

DANIEL: There are articles we all read that compel us to express feedback, sometimes with an emotive response, other times with commentary, and every so often we will read an article that elicits a contribution. That was the case with Hugh Howey’s article “Humans Need not Apply.”

He began the blog post by declaring, “Computers will write novels one day,” followed with a demonstrative YouTube video and his own insight, and then expanded the conversation through the comments section. The comments section was what drew me in.  ...

Rather than reacting to an impulse and posting about the intriguing assumptions and future speculations that I was reading I decided to offer up an example in the way of a short story.

SADYE: Was Hugh involved in any other way as you wrote Hugh Howey Lives?

DANIEL: Hugh was powerfully involved by offering six words of encouragement that affected the entire project.

I pitched the story to Hugh via email. I included a synopsis, a few titles I was playing with, and said, “I would love your blessing to use your name as a homage.” Hugh kindly responded, “Absolutely! Best of luck with it.”

I was rightly excited ... , (but) then the shadow cast over the story.  In discussions with my editor, I had the realization that I was putting Hugh Howey’s name on my story, and since that was the case, it had better be good. And not just good — stellar.

In that way, the subtle phrase, “Best of luck,” took on a heavy connotation.  The short story became a novella, and the tone shifted from campy to dramatic.

SADYE: You mentioned on Amazon that Hugh has been a great friend to authors — what in particular have you learned from him/how has he helped you?

DANIEL: Indirectly, Hugh has helped me in the same way he has other authors — most significantly by legitimizing the indie author.  ... 

When I discovered Hugh, I had already had the fortune of having my work reach the desks of publishing house editors, I received compliments and advisement, but ultimately I was told that one novel did not have enough sex and another was outside of genre because the hero was a celebrity chef and ex-Legionnaire. The editor cited that the reading audience wouldn’t accept cooking and military together.

So I followed Hugh’s lead, employed an editor, designed a cover, and published the book on Amazon. In six months, that book was an Amazon UK bestseller.

Hugh has also worked hard with others in understanding author earnings data, supported authors by sharing his platform — directly and then through the Kindle Worlds program — by teaching them how to format and edit through software tools they can use at home, and demonstrated how to interact with readers at a time when authors weren’t accessible by social media.

SADYE: What prompted you to get into writing and, then, speculative fiction?

DANIEL: The two driving arts in my life have been computer science and writing, both themed with the human condition. I suppose the computer aspect is a generational thing, coming of age in sync with the desktop devices.

I wrote my first Turing program on a RadioShack TSR-80. The program was conversational with whoever was using it, responding with one of a set of pre-written answers. At twelve years old it seemed obvious that computers could one day achieve artificial intelligence. I have always written and pursued a career path in technology to fund that endeavor.

I excelled in my technology career, ... but it was never something I loved. Tiring of the corporate world, I was drawn to the idea of spending time with my family and working at home. I have written slice-of-life stories and action adventure, but extensive travel and a career spent designing global technology systems led to me to speculative fiction. 

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Learn more about Daniel Arthur Smith on his website, where his books can also be purchased; follow him on Twitter; and like him on Facebook

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Categories: Author Interview

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