Tag Archives: Dean Hughes

Dean Hughes Teaching at WIFYR

and here’s an interview with him! BTW, I think he’s written a million books. AND had them published. Woot woot Dean!


How did you begin writing?

I’ve always written. At four I started scribbling on paper and telling my mom to read my “story.” (Too bad that I didn’t know all my letters.) She would pretend to be read what I it back to me, and I would say, “That’s not what I wrote.” (In case you’re wondering about POV on that story, I must admit, I don’t remember the whole thing. Mom told me about it later.)

I wrote a play in fourth grade, became a devoted reader, and by junior high was telling people I was going to be a writer when I grew up. In high school I had an amazing creative writing teacher who taught me the basics of fiction writing, and I got serious about trying to publish. I wrote a novel the year I graduated from high school (rejected), another in college (rejected), another when I first began my career as a professor (rejected), and then a fourth, which was intended for young readers. That one sold. By then I was thirty-five.


The Earth’s under attack, you go to the bookstore for one book to take with you during escape. Go!

I’m afraid I would stand in that bookstore, catatonic. The attackers would find me and shoot me down. I could never choose one book. I guess I’d take my Kindle, with a small library of recent reads, but that would be very satisfying. I’ve been reading books all my life and I’d miss hundreds of them. For one thing, I love many genres—fiction, history, non-fiction on all sorts of subjects, etc.—and I don’t even know which category is my favorite.

So who started this “favorite” thing anyway? When I used to visit schools, kids would ask me what my favorite color was, and I would say, “Blue,” because I’d been saying that for a long time. But then I realized, I had only chosen blue under duress. I was supposed to like one color more than all others. Does that actually make sense? I want the whole rainbow and chartreuse, mauve and ordinary old tan besides. I like colors; that’s what I like. I can’t choose one color, and I can’t choose one book.


When you’re not laboring over the keyboard, what would we find you doing?

I read a lot, of course. I love movies and my wife and I go off to afternoon films, when the prices are lower and the theaters are empty. (There are some good things about getting old.) I keep trying to learn to fly fish. I’m getting a little better at it. I live ten minutes from the Provo River, so I keep telling myself that this year I’ll fish a lot more. I just had back surgery, so this year I can’t ski, but I still plan to return to hills next season (I live about fifteen minutes from Deer Valley ski resort). I play golf (have a course in my back yard); I watch BBC series on Netflix; I teach an adult class at my church. I also clean house. Kathy and I have always divided that sort of work, and sometimes scrubbing a toilet actually seems more appealing to me than looking at more words on my computer screen. For Kathy and me, our big thing is travel. Lately we’ve made trips to Italy, England, and we took a cruise to South America and the Antarctic. We have some other trips in mind. We also do lots of family stuff. We try to attend events our grandchildren get involved in, and we gather once a month if we can to celebrate the birthdays in the family.


What’s the last book that made you do a spit take? Or at least laugh out loud?

Does it tell you anything that I had to Google “spit-take” to find out what it is? (Actually, I’m impressed that I found my answer that way.) Now I’m trying to think what has made me laugh lately. I obviously read too much serious stuff. I don’t remember spitting all over the place, but I did reread Catch 22 lately. The book makes me laugh and cringe and worry. It seems more real than the first time I read it.


Can you give us a typical day in the life of?

I’m known for being “prolific.” That’s really a back-handed way of saying that I’m a drudge who really “cranks them out.” I hate that image, but I will say, I have worked hard all my life. I’ve published 102 books in about thirty-five years. For most of my career I tried to be at my computer by 8:00 a.m., and I stayed there most of the day. But I have a good process, and I think I write efficiently, so I do find time for other things. And lately, I’ve begun to change. I’m afraid my new image may be that of the self-indulging artiste. I get up later than I used to, exercise before I write, and usually get to my computer about nine-ish, or some days, not at all. I’ve been writing a history lately—not just historical fiction, but actual history—and that gives me the excuse to read all day, sometimes for weeks. And since my wife and I are traveling more these days, we escape work altogether and run off to see the world, or we drive to California to see grandchildren. The fact is, I have no real schedule anymore, and I rather like that.


You’re at Carol’s dance party. Are you dancing in the middle? Head bobbing? Fly on the wall? Or do you apologize later because you got a sudden case of food poisoning?

All of these questions call attention to my age. I went from the foxtrot and jitterbug to the twist, the pony, the mashed potatoes—all that stuff. And then it all got away from me. I tried to jump around for a few years, but I was always amazed at what people called fast dancing, which was a little too “free-style” to get my head around. Somewhere in time I gave up most dancing, but when Kathy and are at a party or dinner dance, we usually revert to our old high school foxtrot, and we throw in a jitterbug a couple of times. But no head bobbing—absolutely no head bobbing.


What’s the best advice you’ve been given concerning writing?

Spend 20 percent of your time composing and 80 percent revising. And when you publish, enjoy the moment, but don’t conclude that you’re now a big deal.


What’s the number one writing tip you can give aspiring authors?

Don’t ask too much of writing. Getting published rarely brings you fame and fortune, and you won’t walk around in a state of euphoric bliss from that day on. Write because you like to write. If benefits follow, enjoy them, but don’t focus on the benefits and forget the hard work of working until you “get it right.”


And last but not least: you’re a teenager again, what song is playing in the background, or in your head, during your first kiss?

“You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound dog”?  Well, no, but my first kiss was in the Elvis era.

When I met Kathy, she had a cute little red dress that just knocked my eyes out.  When I would see her in it, I would sing “Hey There, Little Red Riding Hood (by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs).  That became “our song.”  But let’s see; for a romantic song I’ll take “The Nearness of You,” or maybe, “Moonlight Becomes You.”  I know.  I know.  Those are really old songs.  But hey, I keep telling you, I’m an old guy.

And last but not least: you’re a teenager again, what song is playing in the background, or in your head, during your first kiss?
“You Ain’t Nothin’ But a Hound dog”? Well, no, but my first kiss was in the Elvis era. When I met Kathy, she had a cute little red dress that just knocked my eyes out. When I would see her in it, I would sing “Hey There, Little Red Riding Hood (by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs). That became “our song.” But let’s see; for a romantic song I’ll take “The Nearness of You,” or maybe, “Moonlight Becomes You.” I know. I know. Those are really old songs. But hey, I keep telling you, I’m an old guy.

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Just Write

1. In the works for TUP– interviews with authors, agents and publishers.

2. Dates for Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers is June 16-20, 2014.

3. The keynote speaker is . . . James Dashner!

4. Names of other faculty will be released as soon as I find my notes so I can tell you all everyone at once.

5. No one has said where they would like to gather for the dinner,  so I am saying Olive Garden (Provo) again. They have a room for us. Ann Dee and I will choose a date and let everyone know as soon as we do. Remember: we will read from our work–depending on the number of people–about 500 words. So start thinking about what you’ll read. NOTE: You don’t need to have completed your goals to get together. You just need to want to have dinner with us.

6. November is just around the corner. And that means NaNoWriMo. We will take part of October to get ready for this but Kyra and I have another fun suggestion: groups. Not critique groups but writing groups.
Form groups that meet weekly to JUST WRITE. Not talk, not read, not critique. Kyra and I have only done this twice but both meetings have been successful. Once we brainstormed. And once we timed ourselves going for the most words possible during our time together. I know Matt Kirby had (has?) a writing group that met weekly and wrote together and look at how successful HE is. In fact, there may be several published people in that group. Ann Dee knows.

7. I have one week left before school starts at BYU. (Yes, I get to teach another creative writing class. It should be a lot of fun. I do love my students. Many become good friends.) So I have a few days to JUST WRITE. And two books to work on. (Maybe three, depending on when one editor gets back to Laura and me.) So, I am making an-end-of-the-month goal for myself.  Number one: finish this huge rewrite with Cheri. Number Two: Write fifty pages on the new ghost book. And then maybe number three: do a rewrite with Laura.  Anyone want to join me for one week of play and silent goal making (that’s from an LDS Song. Anyone know what it is? Yes, I changed the words some.)?

8. For those of you who want to write chapter books we have the amazing Shawn Stout coming to the conference next year! (Yes, another peek into the conference line up!)

9.If you had eight hours a day to write, how would you fill the days? Could you write like Dean Hughes who has made a living writing full time? Would you be like Neil Gaiman and swear off email because it takes too much of your creative time? Would you be like Rick Walton and hire someone to help you so you could double your output? I’m gonna see what I would do.  🙂

10. What are you reading this for? Get to your own writing. BYU starts in a week!


Filed under Kyra, Writing Marathon, writing process

Day of Accountability

Questions to answer:


1. Do you give yourself a goal at the beginning of each week?

Each Sunday night I write out the goals I want to accomplish for the week. I need a guide. A map. My goals help me know the direction to go.

2. How do you try to reach your goal?

It’s easy to let writing time slip away, to let other more ‘important’ things get in the way. So decide how you will accomplish your goals. If I know I have big stuff ahead, I break the ‘stuff’ into smaller, bite-sized pieces. I write how I will do what needs to be done.

3. Is the goal attainable or impossible to reach?

You may want Simon and Schuster to buy your book but you can’t control that. You can, however, make your goal to submit to S&S. See the difference? My dear friend, Rick Walton, taught me this. Never give yourself a goal you can’t control. You can control how much you write, if you write, how you rewrite etc. But you can’t control the publishers. Otherwise I would have far bigger advances.

4. Are you giving yourself enough time to accomplish the goals?

Be fair to yourself as a writer. So here’s the deal with me. I always overbook myself in the goal area. That’s okay for me. I like a lot of goals and I like pushing myself hard. And I don’t mind if I fall short. That said, the important goals are always given priority.

5. Are you treating your writing like a job and not like a hobby?

I’m still not writing like a professional. I am not like Dean Hughes  who writes eight plus hours a day no matter what or like Stephen King who writes until he reaches his page number goal. I let my laziness get in the way.  And when stress gets heavier in my life, I let the writing be set aside as I try to put out flames. If I were a dentist would I skip drilling teeth? No. We are like Independent Study students. There is no one to direct us but ourselves. And we have to see our work as a job–IF that’s what we want. Is your writing a part-part time job? Part time? Full time? You decide and then give yourself permission to treat it as such.

6. Do you still let the little ‘things’ come between you and your writing?

This is so easy to do. Again, if you were drilling teeth and your kid called you at work because her sister was a bother,  would you call back?

The truth is, writing is hard. And many times writers welcome an interruption because  . . . writing is hard.

Mette Ivie Harrison is very good at drawing lines in the sand about her work. Check her out on her blog. (http://metteharrison.livejournal.com/) She’ll be at WIFYR (www.wifyr.com) this year, teaching the Full Novel Class.

7. Do you know when the best time of day for you to write? Or where the best place for you to write is?

Sometimes, when you have a big deadline, you have to work all day and late into the night to reach the goals your editor has set for you. But on a normal day when is your best time? When are you most creative? When do you get the most done? When can you tune out the rest of life and really concentrate? Find this time, know it and use it. I don’t write well at night. I’m too tried. And so when I spend time trying to create in the late evenings I find that I write slower, not as many words, not as many good words.

Experiment. Find your best time and let people know this is when you sit down to work.

For me, that’s when people are in bed in the mornings. My mom. My girls. Even the dog. They are all sleeping. That’s when I write.



I’m still working to find a house

And I for sure am NOT getting my dream home  (thanks for all your good thoughts and well-wishes yesterday).

I’ve sort of run into this scary place where I don’t know what to do at all. Not at all. I have a lump in my throat always.

Many of you may know I am a believer in God, but lately I have felt truly abandoned. It’s a hard place to be but a place I think most people wind up every once in a while. I  must have more to learn than others because I have been in this place a lot lately.

My writing has failed as I have used excuse after excuse to not sit down and write because I’m scared.

And the fear is big enough to have immobilized me.

I’m really, really tired.


But, this week Cheri and I met with our Familius editor. We were called to order a couple of times. Me and Cheri. Geez gives us a camera and a mic and we are two funny people. Or two people who think they are funny.

I have one chapter half written.

I’ll write the rest this morning.

And I will do a Skype visit with a school on the east coast.

Because writing is my job.

And I have people to take care of. To support.


The truth is–I love to write. Even when I really hate it.


This is something I have allowed myself recently. It’s important.

Some days are just too hard to accomplish anything because my fear of the unknown. Will I find a home?

So when I feel the burden, I tell myself, “Just one step. Take just one step.”

When things are harder than normal I  allow myself to wait until tomorrow.



So, then, how did the week go for YOU? Tell all.

Did you get everything you planned  done?

I hope so.


Tomorrow will be better, right?

I mean, write?




Filed under CLW, Family, Life

Can I Just Get the Writing Done?

So, if you could change one thing about your writing life, what would it be? I mean, if YOU could change it. That kind of knocks out the answer, “I’d sell my book to (insert publisher’s name here) for (insert a huge amount of money here).”

What I’m wondering is, what is it that’s holding you back, what is it that’s keeping you from being a success as a writer? Now, we all know there are different definitions of success. Today, I’m going to talk about a sliver of what I think is success. To answer this question, you’ll have to change up the definition to match you. Make sense?

Anyone who has read this blog knows that I am The Whiner between Ann Dee and me. (Tomorrow, Ann Dee can tell you what she is. And Kyra–she may be following in my shoes!) There are several things that I let get in the way of my writing and my business of being a writer.  A few months ago I got a strong feeling that I was going to have to figure out a way to support the girls and me. It was an uncomfortable feeling–a warning really. I had thought our finances might be a little different by this time in my career. But we cannot control other people–which is why I asked you what YOU could change about yourself as a writer.  The deal is, I’ve had this feeling more than once–that I am responsible. And that means I need to take action.

My profession? I’m a writer. It’s what I’ve always wanted to be. I’m proud of the work I do and I’m pleased that I have the opportunity to publish. There’s nothing like typing “THE END,” nothing like positive words from an editor who loves your books, nothing like holding that first hardcover copy in your hands. There are so many sighs of satisfaction related to writing.

But there are some drawbacks. We are our own boss–even when working under a deadline. We spend a lot of time alone. We can’t control the outcome even when we have a terrific product.

So I’m asking this question of myself–the what-is-holding-you-(meaning-me)-back question. And I see some problems. Like, every time I sit down to write, I seem to freeze. Is it because in the olden days I could get away with writing a chapter a day? My book money helped support us, yes. But we never depended on it. Did I get used to writing an hour a day, and that’s it, and so now when I write about a thousand words, I have something in my brain that clicks and I just stop?

I think of Dean Hughes who wrote at least eight hours every day. Dean (who’s on an LDS mission with his wife right now) worked as a writer. He went into his office and wrote. He put down hours of notes. He connected the writing dots and he is a successful writer of all kinds of fiction and non-fiction, too. Like close to a hundred novels–some of them as thick as five of my own novels put together.

And what about Stephen King? King writes every day. He writes to a specific number of words and he sits at his desk till he’s done. At least, that’s what his excellent craft book ON WRITING says. King treats himself like a writer and expects himself to write.

I haven’t quite gotten there yet.

We can’t leave out Ann Dee Ellis (you all know her, right?). For three weeks straight she plans to write 2,000 words every day. I’m betting she has hit pretty close to her mark at the close of each evening. She’s a mother to two young boys, she teaches classes at the college level, she’s a wife, she helps care for her mom, she works with me on this blog, she’s a great friend–the list goes on and on.

What else might it be that stays my hand? Is it the fear of the blank page? The truth is, writers look at that blank page in different ways. Some see it as a challenge. Others see it as a threat. I LOVE a new book–a fresh start–a discovery of characters and where these characters might go. However, right now, the blank pages I have to fill feel more like an enemy. “Just get to 200,” I think. “You’re fifteen pages away.” Does this number scare me because I know I really have more than 200 pages to finish the book?

The truth is, I could go on and on why I’m not doing what I should do. The fact is, excuses or not, I’m NOT working like a real writer (who needs to support her family) would. I’m letting my emotions control me. And instead of pushing past those fears, well, I’m giving up.

Last week, Ann Dee issued a challenge to herself and encouraged anyone to join her. Today I am trying to figure out, a bit, where I am as a writer. I think I’m beginning to uncover, a little, what I am up against–the Me that is holding Me back. Today, I can’t tell you exactly what I will do to change these problems, but this exploration should, hopefully, leave me where I want to be–really writing as a full-time writer like Dean Hughes, Stephen King and Ann Dee Ellis.

So I ask again, what is it that’s holding you back from becoming the writer you want to be?


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