Linda Hughes - Unexpected Happy Endings and New Beginnings
Happy endings and new beginnings - but not as you expect. Even better. That's what Linda Hughes' books are all about, whether historical romantic suspense, mystery, or second chance romance. When Linda was 12 years old she wrote in her diary that she would be a "writter" when she grew up. With 20 books and a passel of writing awards, her dream has come true. She is a #1 bestselling co-author. As our Author of the Day, she tells us all about her book, Lilac Island.
Please give us a short introduction to what Lilac Island is about.
Lilac Island, a later-in-life romance novel, is set on real-life Mackinac Island, a perfect place for "getting away from it all." Leah Paganelli visits the island while struggling to adjust to widowhood. Lester Lange is hiding from the world after a nasty divorce. Cassie Evans has been sent to the island against her will to write a magazine article. Their lives intertwine in the most unexpected of ways as long-lost loves and families secrets are revealed.
What inspired you to write this novella?
The truth is COVID. I usually write gritty mysteries and historical romantic suspense. But during lockdown, I needed to write sweet, hopeful stories. I was doing it for my own self-preservation, figuring that was what others needed to read, as well. So I started my "Shades Of Hope" collection. Each book stands alone, but all contain characters who face tough times, and with strength and resilience they prevail. Lilac Island is the third in the collection; three more are on the way.
Why did you pick Mackinac island as the backdrop for your story?
Being a native Michigander, I've been visiting Mackinac Island since I was a kid. I've traveled the world many times - for a former job and on my own - and there are many places I love. But that little island remains nearest and dearest to my heart. If you've never been there, no motor vehicles are allowed. You walk, ride a bike, ride a horse, or take a carriage taxi to get around. It's like stepping back 150 years, especially with the wonderful Victorian-era village. Watch the movie Somewhere in Time, which was filmed there. You'll see what I mean.
Tell us more about Cassie Evans. What makes her so special?
Cassie reminds me of myself at that age. A college graduate, doing what I thought I should be doing. Not happy with it but not having a clear picture of what else I could do. At the beginning of the story, she doesn't have enough confidence in herself to explore options. She needs to get out of her small-minded world, which is the busy lifestyle of NYC. A cowboy on the island helps her get over that.
What makes Lester Lange tick?
Lester is a good guy, a Vietnam veteran who has been beat down by life. Complications from having fought in war destroyed his hopes and dreams. After a miserable marriage, he's given up on happiness and has decided that being content is the best life has to offer him.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I'm a great dog walker (my dogs love me and vice versa); my grandmother taught me to write cursive backward with my left hand and I'm still good at it (a skill seldom called for); and I can fold fitted sheets (my husband marvels at that - or maybe he's just trying to get out of doing it).
Have you always wanted to be a writer? And was there a particular moment where you realized that you have fulfilled that dream?
When I was 12, I wrote in my diary that I would be a "writter" when I grew up. Ha. When I published my first novel in 1999, Homecoming Queen, I felt like I had arrived.
Interesting cover. Tell us more about how it came about.
I've learned over the years to let talented people, who are masters at doing what I can't do, do it. I hired a cover designer for the entire "Shades of Hope" collection and said, "Go for it." The only thing I had to change was the lilacs. She or he (I don't know which, as it's a company with many designers) didn't know what lilacs looked like, so I sent photos.
Then they nailed it. I love all of the covers. (The other two so far are Gold Mountain and Black Forest.) The company is MiblArt.
Which character was most challenging to write.
I had a great time with Shirley, the Jamaican woman. But I had to work hard to get her accent just right.
Lilac Island forms part of the "Shades of Hope" novella collection. Tell us more about this.
As I mentioned, each story stands alone but all offer a promise of hope. Different characters in different times and places, and all survive. We can, too.
What did you have the most fun with when you wrote Lilac Island?
Cassie being a rather snooty city girl and then falling for a cowboy. I had a great time getting her off her high horse and onto a real one.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I start my day by walking my dogs and being back home by seven (CDT) so I can pop into the Clubhouse (live chat app) room The Authors Conference to see what other writers are up to. Lots of good questions and helpful answers. Then I sit down to write. I take breaks but don't let myself stop to do errands and chores until mid-afternoon. In the evening, I seldom let myself go back to my laptop but carry a notebook around because my brain hasn't shut down yet. Sometimes it doesn't even shut down after I go to bed, something I think many writers identity with.
What are you working on right now?
I've started a new trilogy, The Burly-Q Girls. Funny, saucy, and heartwarming, it's about former exotic dancers who are out to find their manager, who has disappeared with their retirement funds. It's an homage to a dear friend who died last year of Covid, at age 89. I'm weaving her wonderful tales of working burlesque into the story.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
FB reader group, Linda's Book Lounge: https://www.facebook.com/groups/519222725974193