Please welcome Alex Wells to The Qwillery as part of the 2017 Debut Author Challenge Interviews. Hunger Makes the Wolf was published on March 7th by Angry Robot.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. When and why did you start writing?
Alex: I’ve basically been writing as long as I have been able to write. My mom has actually given me some of my more memorable grade school efforts, such as The Very Hungry Dinosaur, in which a whip-wielding brontosaurus demands to be appeased with donuts. So I can’t really say why; I can’t imagine life without writing.
TQ: Are you a plotter, a pantser or a hybrid?
Alex: Plotter all the way. I tend to write extensive outlines. For the book I’m currently working on, the outline has 445 points and is over 10,000 words long. I find that it helps hammer out the major plot structure issues in a way that means less rewriting will be needed. Then I can catch smaller changes that will help with tension or continuity while I’m actually writing the draft.
TQ: What is the most challenging thing for you about writing?
Alex: Getting the rough draft finished. I do all right with outlining, and I edit like a boss. Sitting down and actually writing the rough draft is probably the part I enjoy the least, because even with an outline on hand, it’s extremely difficult.
TQ: What has influenced / influences your writing?
Alex: I’m sure I’m influenced a lot by whomever I’ve been reading recently, particularly Lois McMaster Bujold since she’s my comfort read that I come back to over and over again. I think film has probably had an even bigger influence on me, though. I tend to think in terms of visuals and scenes. I really love shooty-fighty-things blowing up spectacle films like many of the recent Marvel Cinematic Universe movies—because really, who doesn’t? I grew up watching Star Wars and Indiana Jones and those have definitely stuck with me and propelled my love for ridiculous adventure stories. Lately I’ve found myself really reaching for films that have a bit more going than explosions as well, particularly a lot of the science fiction we’re seeing out of the UK film industry (for example, Attack the Block, The Girl With All the Gifts, and Moon). When I was writing this though, I thought about David Lynch’s Dune and the animated film Akira for the most part.
TQ: Describe Hunger Makes the Wolf in 140 characters or less.
Alex: Dune, but with more space witches, gun fights, and a mercenary biker gang. So not really Dune. But lots of sand.
TQ: Tell us something about Hunger Makes the Wolf that is not found in the book description.
Alex: The major emotional foundation of the book is the extremely close friendship between Hob Ravani and her best friend, Mag. It’s a book that centers female friendship and never falsely pits women against each other.
TQ: What inspired you to write Hunger Makes the Wolf? What appeals to you about writing Science Fiction?
Alex: I started off with a single short story, because I had the image in my head, of a little girl tricked into almost dying in the desert. Then I wanted to write more about her and her life. What I really like most about science fiction is that it’s a setting rather than plot-based genre… so you can have almost any kind of plot structure in a setting whose only requirement is the element of “what if.” There is so much variation to be had in the genre, and it’s attracted lot of daring writers who want to push the envelope.
TQ: What sort of research did you do for Hunger Makes the Wolf?
Alex: I did a lot of historical research about the nineteenth and early twentieth century labor movement in the United States, particularly the 1913-1914 Colorado Coal Field Wars, which ended in a massacre at the town of Ludlow. At the time I was also in geology field camp, so got to make trips out to Moab and various areas of New Mexico for geological inspiration.
TQ: Please tell us about Hunger Makes the Wolf's cover.
Alex: The cover’s got Hob Ravani front and center. I think Ignacio Lazcano did a great job of depicting her character because there’s not even a whiff of cheesecake about her. I think we’re seeing less objectification on covers in general, which is great. He really nailed her look and her attitude. Also, he did a phenomenal job of depicting the desert landscape of the world, and you can see even more since the cover wraps around.
TQ: In Hunger Makes the Wolf who was the easiest character to write and why? The hardest and why?
Alex: Hob is definitely the easiest character to write, because she’s extremely straightforward. She knows what she wants, and she’ll go through whatever is in her path to get it done. I wouldn’t say she’s uncomplicated, but she doesn’t play games. The most difficult character… it’s really a tie between the Bone Collector and Shige. The Bone Collector is hard because he has a completely different set of priorities from any of the more human characters, and he also operates on a completely different, much longer time scale. Shige is hard because he’s the guy working multiple angles at all times, and playing a role while he does it. So I always have to be clear with him when he’s acting genuinely and when he’s doing something to maintain his cover.
TQ: Why have you chosen to include or not chosen to include social issues in Hunger Makes the Wolf?
Alex: The only issue I really consciously chose to include were the themes about the labor movement. Workers have lost a hell of a lot of ground since the unions won their war at the end of the Gilded Age, and I don’t think it’s a controversial statement to say we’ve entered a new Gilded Age, with companies finding new ways to exploit workers at every turn. I grew up in a union house, and was in a union during my first job, and I’ve noticed the endless smear campaign against unions has been upsettingly successful. I want to remind people that there is power in a union, not because the union is some kind of life unto itself, but because it’s made of a multitude of people choosing to speak with one voice and stand together to lift each other up. It’s easy to feel disempowered when you stand alone—it’s the union, it’s solidarity that makes us strong. And solidarity is more than just for unions—and it’s not real solidarity if it costs you nothing.
TQ: Which question about Hunger Makes the Wolf do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Question: So why is the sand orange?
Answer: In the book, I talk a lot about the “rocks” and “outcrops” the mines are in as being black. That generally means (assuming a geology similar to Earth’s) that there are high concentrations of magnesium- and iron-rich minerals in the rock. Over time, the iron-rich minerals, which are not stable at surface conditions, break down and oxidize. Coincidentally, the mineral that survives the best at surface conditions like that is quartz—which rounds really nicely after being blown around by the wind for a couple million years and becomes sand. Because we’re in a desert environment, most of the ferrous oxides are going to be anhydrous, which has a very characteristic red-orange color—it’s rust. The quartz sand I mentioned earlier gets stained by the rust. That gives it a red or orange color. I was heavily inspired by the Red Desert in Wyoming (US) and the Simpson Desert in central Australia.
TQ: Give us one or two of your favorite non-spoilery quotes from Hunger Makes the Wolf.
“That will change,” he said, turning to leave. He gingerly touched his nose. “Though with less of this, I trust.”
Hob smiled crookedly. “Depends on how fuckin’ mysterious you gotta act.”
“I got plenty of choices.” Mag felt her throat beginning to close up and gritted her teeth. “Just might not be the choices you’d make.”
TQ: What's next?
Alex: I’m writing these answers as I take a break from writing the rough draft of the sequel to Hunger Makes the Wolf. So I’m excited about that. I also will have a short story with Tor.com later this year, which I’m extremely proud of.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery.
Alex: Thanks for having me. It was fun!
Hunger Makes the Wolf
Angry Robot, March 7, 2017
Mass Market Paperback and eBook, 464 pages
The strange planet known as Tanegawa’s World is owned by TransRifts Inc, the company with the absolute monopoly on interstellar travel. Hob landed there ten years ago, a penniless orphan left behind by a rift ship. She was taken in by Nick Ravani and quickly became a member of his mercenary biker troop, the Ghost Wolves.
Ten years later, she discovers that the body of Nick’s brother out in the dunes. Worse, his daughter is missing, taken by shady beings called the Weathermen. But there are greater mysteries to be discovered – both about Hob and the strange planet she calls home.
File Under: Science Fiction [ Road of Fury | Hob’s Angels | Ghost on the Highway | The Weatherman Says ]
Alex Wells is a writer, geologist, and sharp-dressed sir. They’ve had short stories in Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Daily Science Fiction, Shimmer, and more. Alex is a host on the popular Skiffy and Fanty podcast, where they talk about movies and other nerdy sci-fi and fantasy things.