Tell us about your publishing journey…
I spent years writing without thinking of being published, so I had a hefty backlog of short stories, novellas, and novels by the time I worked up the courage to give publication a shot. I didn’t go to college for writing—or anything, really; it didn’t take long for my laziness to get me booted, which is funny considering how hard I work on my writing. Using the Writer’s Market, Duotrope, and various articles, I learned how to revise, format, write queries and synopses, find publishers, and submit. It was frustrating not having any writer friends or mentors at that time—even my family wasn’t that supportive yet—but with my would-be husband’s encouragement, I threw myself into the deep end and tried to get my Arthurian Legend novel, “Camelot Lost” published. I encountered a lot of issues with presses thinking it was too similar to “Mists of Avalon,” however, and in the end I took the easy way out by submitting to PublishAmerica. (ducks rotten tomatoes) I know, I know, PublishAmerica is awful, but it turned out to be a good decision. They didn’t require payment like other vanity presses, and they did all the formatting and printing, so I was fairly happy with how things turned out. Plus, being able to put a publication in my bio boosted my confidence enough to submit other stories to more reputable publishers. As I learned and grew as a writer, I received more and more novel acceptances and began networking with other authors and presses. It was a snowball effect, really. The more I put myself and my work out there, the more confidence and joy for writing I exuded, the more positively the universe responded. The rest is history. I’ve gotten to work with some of coolest small presses out there today, and I have no intention of stopping any time soon.
What do you love about being an author?
I could go on for hours about all the things I adore in the writing life, but my favorite thing is the magic that happens when I’ve created characters so real it feels like they’re leading me through their world rather than the other way around. Sure, writing makes me feel godly powerful at times, but I prefer feeling like I’m a tourist transcribing the stories of real people…even when they’re shapeshifting jelly creatures from the planet Bajin like in my sci-fi novella “Home Birth.” I love when a character’s decisions surprise me, though it can wreck the hell out of my outline sometimes.
If you could have dinner with any literary character, who would it be and what would you eat?
The Big Friendly Giant from Roald Dahl’s “The BFG.” I assume we’d probably eat snozzcumbers, but I think all the whizzpopping frobscottle would make up for it.
If your book was to be made into a movie, who would you cast as the leads?
My newest release, “The Train Derails in Boston,” would make quite the scandalous film, but I can picture a few badass ladies in the Rebecca Malone role. Cate Blanchett would kill it, as could Kerry Washington or Famke Janssen. Aaron Paul would make a great Peter, and I’d love to see Emma Watson or Jena Malone play a devilish, tortured Taylor Malone. Lucien Marchand isn’t a lead, per se, but I don’t think I’d accept anyone but James Spader playing him.
Vampires – do you prefer them as sexy leads or blood hungry monsters?
Blood-hungry monsters. Or maybe a happy medium, like The Lost Boys.
If you had a time machine, which era would you go back to and why?The Roaring 20s, baby. I’d be a hooch-swilling jazz girl for sure.
What life advice do you wish you’d been given sooner?
I wish I’d started writing sooner, but I feel like the life advice I’ve received has either been well-timed, or the timing wouldn’t matter because I would’ve ignored that advice anyway.
If you were a supernatural creature, what would you be and why?
I could dig being a shapeshifter, but I’d probably use my powers for financial gain just so I could go somewhere beautiful and secluded to live, and then rarely use the abilities again.
Where do you write best?
I do most of my work in my Writing Hut (a glorified second bedroom), there’s something about the mad cacophony of a bar that gets my inspirado going full-steam. I suppose the beer doesn’t hurt, either.
What was the last book you read, and what were your thoughts on it?
Bird Box by Josh Malerman. My most prominent thought upon completion was: “Why didn’t I think of that?” It’s a chilling and brilliant piece of fiction.
If you didn’t write in your genre, which other would you prefer and why?
If I’m compelled to write in new genre, I go ahead and follow that impulse. I have never and will never limit myself to one genre. I’m too inquisitive for those kinds of fictional restrictions. I am hoping to write a cyberpunkish bizarro novel next year, and I’m really excited to explore new territory.
Where can fans find you online?
I’m pretty active on social media, especially my FB author page at www.facebook.com/author.JessicaMcHugh. You can also find me on Twitter & Instagram under @theJessMcHugh or at my website http://www.JessicaMcHughBooks.com