News & Views

Mug Shot: Nancy A. Hughes

Nancy A. Hughes earned a Bachelor of Science in English with emphasis in journalism and advertising at Penn State, and a certification in corporate community relations at Boston College. Living in rural Pennsylvania, she started her own public relations business, followed by corporate work in media, public, and community relations. All of which she later abandoned for murder and mayhem.

Tell us about your latest work.
I’m thrilled by the enthusiastic response to my mystery novel, The Dying Hour, which was published last fall. The timing was perfect to showcase the excellent work of our VA hospitals and to introduce the mindset of a typical Vietnam hero. In the novel, hospice patient Charlie Alderfer survives a medical catastrophe, only to discover that he faces three final battles — an inoperable aneurysm; a mute and despondent five-year-old visitor; and an intruder who is murdering Charlie’s roommates.

In 2017, the first in my series of romantic suspense novels, A Matter of Trust, will be published in late spring this year. Two more Trust novels will follow. Finally, a sequel to The Dying Hour, titled The Innocent Hour, will follow the Trust series in 2018.

When and how do you find time to work?
Very early retirement gave me the time, but that time must be fiercely guarded from well-meaning people. There's a sense that writing is a hobby that can be fit into spare moments, which makes me the perfect candidate for others' projects. I chose the volunteer work that called to me and schedule it. Self-discipline is key — there's always a plant that needs a bigger pot. I write in sweeps of time, in isolation, to retain my story's continuity. I love the creative process and hate being dragged from it. My husband jokes that in the morning he leaves me home in my bathrobe, coffee on my desk, and finds me still writing when he returns for dinner.

How much and what kinds of marketing do you personally do?
Personally, the Internet is my friend! A professionally designed website; Facebook, both private and public; Twitter; email. Using the latter, I contacted family, friends, associates, and acquaintances who aren't on social media. I generated buzz six months before launch.Book signings are great fun, the most important benefit being the advance advertising the venue. I should blog and write a newsletter — they're on my 2017 to-do list.

My local newspaper, The Reading Eagle, published a story about my book and me in January. I highly recommend finding which of your local paper editors handle local author stories and pitch them. I'm also considering newspaper ads.

And word of mouth! I work the news of publishing a novel into conversations, even with strangers, who eagerly accepted my bookmark which I’ve shamelessly shared. I do not and will not sell books myself.

I owe the MWA so much and urge writers, regardless of genre, to join professional organizations. MWA-NY's meetings, programs, and friendships have surfaced opportunities and expanded my knowledge of mystery writing. I also joined Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers, which have many opportunities for promoting.

Finally, assuming my book is worthy, word has spread word-of-mouth to strangers, book clubs, and out-of-state readers. What joy!

What authors have inspired you?
Nancy Drew authors, Daphne duMaurier, Harper Lee, Sue Grafton, Lisa Scottoline, Jack Bickham (The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes and How To Avoid Them), John Grisham, Stephen King, countless others, especially mystery writers. On craft: the Howdunit series, Zinsser, Strunk and White, D.P. Lyle, M.D, and Elizabeth Lyon.

In five words or less, what advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Never give up! Keep learning!

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