Dean Hughes has published more than 100 books. He has written fiction as well as non-fiction for all ages: children, young adults and adults. He is best known for Children of the Promise, a series of historical novels about the World War II. He and his wife Kathy have three children and nine grandchildren. They live in Midway, Utah.
Dean: I have always gone about writing as though it’s a regular job. I write most days, but keep my evenings and weekends free for family time, house-keeping, entertainment and church. My wife and I have had an empty nest for a long time now, so we do many things together. In addition, I play some golf, do some amateur photographic work, fly fish and read a lot.
VS: How long have you been writing?
Dean: I published my first book in 1979, so I’ve been putting out books for 35 years, but I was writing long before that. I learned most of what I know about writing in high school, from a great teacher, but even before that—in junior high—I was saying that I was going to be a writer when I grew up.
VS: What is a typical writing day like for you?
Dean: I used to start every work day at 8:00 a.m. Sometimes, now, I don’t get going until 9:00, but I often write for six or seven hours and then catch up on correspondence and take care of other such matters late in the day. These days I try to play golf one day a week, or my wife says, “Come with me, I’m going to run an errand,” and I go. I used to stay at my computer pretty much all day every day, but hey, I’m supposed to be retired now.
VS: Is your family supportive of your writing?
Dean: When my kids were young, they knew I worked at home, and they respected that. More than anything, my family thinks I’m no big deal—just a dad who writes for a living. The reason why they think that is that I’m no big deal—just a dad who writes for a living.
VS: Can you share with us a little about your current book(s)?
Dean: I just finished a trilogy of historical novels about early Mormon history: “Come to Zion.” The books follow a young couple that joins the LDS Church in England and migrates to Nauvoo, Illinois, and then makes the trek to the west. I follow the husband through the amazing trek of the Mormon Battalion. Meanwhile, I tell the story of a young couple that moves to Nauvoo in this era. I try to show parallels between the challenges of life in any era.
VS: What did you find to be the most challenging part of writing your book(s)?
Dean: Many of my books are works of historical fiction. I love the research, but at some point, I have to stop reading and start writing. It’s always tempting to put everything you’ve learned in the book, but that doesn’t work. The challenges is to remember that I’m writing a novel, not a history book.
VS: What part of your book do you feel really stands out to you personally?
Dean: If I have a talent, it is to create characters. I try to get in touch with the complexity of any individual I create in a book. I think my characterization is nuanced, reflecting the fact that no human being can be easily summarized.
VS: What tips can you give writing parents with children at home to help them see publication?
Dean: You have to make time to write—somehow. That was easy for me. I was a college professor and could carve out time, and then I wrote full-time. But I have friends who get up very early or stay up late, write during babies’ naps, or somehow create time somewhere in the day. It’s not easy, and it may not be worth it. I wonder at the pain some people put them through. But if you have stories in your head you really want to tell, you have to find time to write on a regular basis.
VS: What is required for a character to be believable? How do you create yours? (answer only if your book is fiction)
Dean: Before I start to write a book, I write brainstorming notes about my characters. I ask myself all kinds of questions about the character, so that when I start to write I’m not just inventing as I go.
VS: What do you feel as parents we need to do to help our children see success?
Dean: Too many people want to get their kids’ books published, and they seem to think of nothing else. If your child had taken two years of lessons on the violin, you wouldn’t march her up to Salt Lake to audition for the Utah Symphony. Young people shouldn’t be so eager to publish until they can write something that isn’t comparable to the off-tune screeching of a beginning violin player.
VS: Have you received any awards for your writing?
Dean: I’ve received various awards over the years, but lately I’ve started getting “lifetime achievement” awards. Does that mean they think my life is over?
VS: Where can the readers of The Writing Mama find out more about and your writing?
Dean: I have an author page of facebook called Dean Hughes, author. Readers can also Google my name and find a Wikipedia page and other materials.
VS: Is there anything else you would like to share with us about being a “Writing Mama or Dad”?Dean: I’ve always chosen to write in many different markets. I write for children, young adults and adults. I write mostly fiction, but I do some non-fiction. I’ve written sports books, humor, serious novels for young adults, and historical fiction. I have always published books intended for LDS readers along with books for a national audience, published in New York. My agent has often suggested I get a reputation for one kind of book, but that just doesn’t sound like much fun to me.
Dean Hughes will be the Keynote Speaker during the St. George Book Festival. Learn more, see events and sign-up at http://stgeorgebookfestival.org