Q&A with Laura McHugh


{photo from Goodreads}

Name:  Laura McHugh

Current City: Columbia, MO

What did you want to be when you grew up? A writer. Though I had no idea how to go about doing that, and didn’t pursue it for many years.

What are you now? Full-time novelist and mom

How did you get to this point? I got a degree in English, couldn’t find a good job, went back for degrees in computer science and information science, and became a software developer. After ten years in that field, I was laid off while pregnant with my second child. My husband suggested that I try to write a book, like I had always dreamed of doing. I spent a year and a half writing my first novel and six months figuring out how to get an agent to represent me. Once I signed with an agent, my book sold right away and my career began.

Are you paid doing what you love? If not, what would you like to be paid to do? Yes. I am fortunate to make a living writing books. There are no guarantees in this industry, though, so I always worry about the future. If your books don’t sell well enough, you might not get another contract.

Current project(s): I’m under contract with my publisher (Spiegel & Grau/Random House) for my third and fourth mystery/suspense novels. I’m currently revising the third, which is set in rural Missouri.

What are you reading/listening to/watching/making: I just finished watching the documentary The Keepers on Netflix, about the unsolved murder of a nun; listening to The Vanished podcast, about missing persons cases; reading I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh.

How do you express yourself creatively? Mostly through my writing—novels and short stories—and I enjoy working with architectural salvage. My husband and I are building a house using pieces salvaged from old homes that were torn down, and my garage is currently housing old doors, sinks, staircase spindles, a fireplace mantel, and an enormous cabinet that I’m refinishing.

Have you ever written a fan letter? If so, to whom?  Yes. When my first book was about to be published, I had to write to authors I admired and ask if they might consider reading my book and writing a blurb (the quotes you see on book covers) for it. I saw it as an opportunity to tell my favorite authors (including Laura Lippman, Gillian Flynn, and lots of others) how much I love their work.

Drink of choice? Mornings: chai latte. Night out: gin and tonic.

Who inspires you, and why? I recently had the opportunity to meet Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and bestselling author Anna Quindlen and interview her onstage. She’s always been a hero of mine, and she was even more fabulous in person than I had imagined. She has an incredible gift for connecting with people through her words, and she has accomplished so much professionally while raising a family and remaining kind, generous, and down-to-earth.

Favorite tool to stay productive (for example, a set of watercolors, a specific planner or app, an exercise program…) I finally came to the realization that I needed to invest in the tools necessary to do my job well. Trying to manage my career from the kitchen table, where my papers kept getting misplaced, wasn’t working. I bought myself a desk with file drawers, a giant wall calendar, and best of all, a Plum Paper planner with plenty of space to keep track of to-do lists, appointments, and goals.

Something you have learned this year? How to better balance my work and family obligations. I no longer try to squeeze in work when the kids want my attention—it was frustrating for me and for them. Everyone is happier when I make time to focus on the kids and time to focus on work and don’t mix the two.

How can people find you?

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/lauramchughauthor

Twitter – @LauraSMcHugh

Website  – http://www.lauramchughbooks.com

You can also find me on GoodReads.

What can people do to make the world a better place? It has been proven that reading fiction makes people more empathetic. If we can walk in someone else’s shoes in a novel, we can understand each other better. It’s a start.

Brag about yourself. It’s okay. If you don’t, I will. My first novel, The Weight of Blood, won the International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel, the Silver Falchion Award for Best First Novel, the Missouri Author Award for Fiction, and was also nominated for a Barry Award, Alex Award, and GoodReads Choice Award (Best Mystery and Best Debut). My latest novel, Arrowood, is a finalist for the International Thriller Writers Award for Best Novel. My work has been translated into multiple foreign languages, and The Weight of Blood was optioned for film/television by Warner Bros.


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