A chat with Anita Hughes

When PEOPLE WHO KNEW ME was released in May, I realized I didn’t know much about the publishing industry. My publicist suggested I rebel against my introverted tendencies and talk to other authors to get their take on the business of writing. Thankfully, there are quite a few authors in southern California. There’s even one who lives ten minutes away from me–Anita Hughes.

hughes-1135Anita was my first author coffee date. I liked her immediately. I was nervous that wouldn’t be the case, nervous that the conversation would be awkward. The opposite was true. In fact, when our time was up, we both wanted to keep talking…so we’ve been meeting up on a regular basis.

Anita is with the same publisher as me–St. Martin’s Press. Since 2012, she’s had eight books published. EIGHT. Her latest is CHRISTMAS IN PARIS, a charming story about love lost and found in the city of lights. I asked her some questions about her prolific writing and here’s what she had to say:

Since 2012, you’ve released eight books.¬†And I know you have a few more in the queue. Does the pace of your writing career come with a certain pressure, or is it a motivating force that keeps you coming back to the computer every day?

CHRISTMAS IN PARIS is my eighth book and I have another book coming out next April, WHITE SAND, BLUE SEA and next August, EMERALD COAST. I think the faster pace comes with the same pressure no matter how many books I release. I want each book to be the best it can be and for people to really like it. I enjoy the actual writing process, so I like writing under contract. At least then my family thinks I have a proper job!

Speaking of “every day,” I’ve heard you say that you aim to write about 1,000 words per day. What is the biggest “threat” to your daily word goal?
The biggest threat to my daily word goal is not writing in the morning. If I write as soon as I wake up, no matter what else happens during the day, I can always get back to it. But I need to start the process to keep it going. I usually take one day off a week because I never want to write tired. I like to refresh myself with a good movie or the Sunday New York Times.

Christmas in Paris_Final CoverCHRISTMAS IN PARIS is your newest novel. Have you always wanted to write a Christmas-themed story, or did the idea just come to you? How would you describe the book in one sentence?
CHRISTMAS IN PARIS is about believing in love and in a little bit of magic. I hadn’t really thought about a Christmas story but I have always loved Paris. So the two ideas came together at the same time. And now I’m addicted to Christmas stories. They can be a little lighter than a normal book, and I love writing about festive foods and clothes and decorations.

I know you outline your books before you write them. Do you find outlines confining or liberating?
I really like outlining. I write a ten page synopsis for my publisher and it’s a great way to know that the story has a good beginning and middle and ending. As long as I keep coming back to the synopsis (even if I add and change things along the way), I can’t go wrong.

Of all the books you’ve written, which is your favorite? Why?
That’s a hard question, having written ten! I love CHRISTMAS IN PARIS because Alec might be my favorite character. He is funny and self-deprecating. And I love Gus, the imaginary dog. I also loved the relationship between Yvette and Bertrand in FRENCH COAST, and I loved writing about Audrey Hepburn in ROME IN LOVE.

You write about so many exotic destinations. How much of the writing is based on personal experience of those places, and how much is based on research?
I traveled to Europe a lot when I was younger, but these days much of it is based on research. But I truly try to capture the flavor of each place I write about.

You have 5 children. Many writers lament that it’s difficult to write with children in the house. What are your thoughts? Are any of your children writers?
So far there aren’t any children writers in the house! I do think it must be hard to write when young children are around, because there is so much as a parent that you don’t want to miss. My youngest two are now in high school so it’s fairly easy to balance everything.

What would be your advice to a new writer looking to get published?
My advice is the same as many writers, I think. Write a book that you want to read. Work very hard at finding an agent – don’t be afraid to query a lot of agents. Taste is so individual and it only takes one!

What do you wish you had known before publishing your first book?
I’m glad I didn’t know anything before I published my first book! I think it takes a lot of courage to write a first book and it’s best if you write it for yourself. Then, if it gets published it is a huge bonus.

What’s the best part of being a writer? The worst?
The best part about being a writer is creating characters and their worlds. I really live in their world while I’m writing and miss it when I’m finished (much like when I read). The worst part is hoping and worrying that other people enjoy my books!

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