Friday, January 27, 2012

Interview with Vonnie Hughes

We’re delighted to have with us today, Vonnie Hughes, who is a New Zealander living in Australia. She tells me that from the age of seven she wrote poetry and short stories for various publications. She now writes Regencies and romantic suspense novels and short stories.

Vonnie, some writers need silence, others prefer the bustle of a coffee shop, TV, or music playing. What is your favourite mode of working?

Silence. I just love silence, even though I have a musical background, music annoys me when I write because it intrudes. Also, sometimes I read some of my phrases out loud if they are giving me trouble, so music doesn’t work for me.

How do you begin when you start a new novel?

Usually a new novel has rolled around in my head for some weeks—just before going to sleep at night, when I am driving etc. So when I come to begin, I use some of those thoughts. I type out a quick story line (which will change a hundred times) and I also do character sketches for all my characters. The character outlines are quite detailed, since I’m a writer whose plot often springs from the characters’ motivations and background e.g. in LETHAL REFUGE my female protagonist is quite stroppy, hard in fact, and also secretive, because she’s had to be to survive. However the male protagonist is a deep thinker since he’s gone the privileged school-university-professional work route.
Which authors would you say have most influenced your work? And which do you choose to read for pleasure?
As a Regency writer, the obvious answer is Georgette Heyer. I was introduced to GH at the age of eleven by my brother. With my romantic suspense books, the influence is much more eclectic. Writers such as Karen Rose, Nora Roberts (JD Robb), Jayne Ann Krentz, Lee Child and Kay Hooper spring to mind. I’m much more open to new authors in this field for some reason.

For pleasure, basically I’ll read anything written by Jayne Castle/Jayne Ann Krentz/Amanda Quick because I utterly love her quirky, troubled heroes and her (usually) assertive, troubled heroines. She has the gift of writing into her books weird alternative worlds and introducing character traits that with another writer you might think: good grief, what rubbish! But with JAK you don’t even blink, because she writes so well.
Have you ever redeemed and published a piece of work you thought might never see the light of day?

Yes, THE SECOND SON which is to be released on December 16 by Musa Publishing as an e-book. This was the prequel to a hardback published by Robert Hale Ltd last year named COMING HOME and it covers the same group of people. I began writing it first and my Regency critique group thought the hero was too harsh.

How do you relax? What interests do you have other than writing? Do you think it is important for a writer to take time off?

Heavens, it’s essential to take time off from writing. Staleness creeps in otherwise and for me a certain resentment about it eating up my life and how stressed I’m becoming with deadlines etc. Remember that deadlines are not necessarily book publishing ones. Often writers get them for blogposts, library talks, attending or helping with conferences, online classes etc. Being overwhelmed is not conducive to happy writing.

I exercise since I’m a long distance runner from way back. Now I’m way too old to be pounding the pavements for marathons and ultras, but I’m a member of a 24 hour gym (very handy as you can come and go as you please) and our labrador needs a jog/walk every morning for at least an hour. Otherwise I read and read. Getting pickier though. Once I had a sort of Puritan idea that whatever I bought, downloaded or borrowed I had to read. After all, I’d paid for them. Now if I think the book falls short for any reason or if I just don’t like it, I no longer persist. As they say, life is too short to read bad books.
What do you enjoy about your particular genre? Are you a specialist or do you have another identity?

I write in two genres - Regency and Romantic Suspense and using the same name for both at the moment because that is my brand - Vonnie Hughes. I wanted to retain the name I’m known for.

With Regencies I enjoy the challenge of writing with restrictions. There is always a huge controversy going on about what Regency heroines could and couldn’t do. However I write less about the ton and more about the emerging middle class which gives me more scope. My Regencies contain a lot of suspense as I’m not that fond of comedies of manners. I like to have my heroines and heroes getting their hands dirty solving crimes.

For the contemporary Romantic Suspense I can set myself free with no behavioural restrictions, no plot restrictions, and really enjoy myself.
Are you involved in social networking and blogs? Any tips for other writers?

Way too many for my liking. Musa Publishing like their authors to be on Facebook, and The Wild Rose Press encourages their authors to do so as well, so kicking and screaming I ended up there. Then there are the blog. Each publisher has one main one plus others for their subgenres. I have one. You can spend hours dithering around on blogs but you can learn a lot from them. Skip the recipes and the Man Candy ones and spend time on those that advise about the craft of writing, or where to research something. Read interviews with respected authors. I am also on many writers’ loops and they are a great fount of knowledge. They are also great time-wasters, so I’d suggest go on Bulletin for most loops except the ones you consider to be most important, and then use your delete button.
Do you edit and revise as you write, or after you have completed the first draft?

Both. I write for about an hour, take a break, then I come back and write some more. After that I either write the book in my alternate genre or do some networking. The next day I open the document and go back to check. Sometimes I have an idea overnight and have to go back to the beginning to fill in relevant details here and there to tie it in before carrying on with fresh writing.
But when the book is ‘finished,’ that’s when the work really starts. The first draft is just a pale, empty thing, screaming to be filled with characterisation and layers. I do around four-five drafts before sending it to a publisher.
Tell us about your latest book and what inspired you to write it.
This is difficult, because I have three ‘latest books’ all coming out within six weeks of each other.

On 16 December, Musa Publishing will epublish a Regency. THE SECOND SON is how Lord John Trewbridge inherits a marquessate for all the wrong reasons. I found it a difficult book to write, since the sequel had already been published.

On 13 January 2012 Wild Rose Press will release as a paperback my New Zealand-set Romantic Suspense LETHAL REFUGE. I’d been thinking of writing a suspense novel set in my home country for a couple of years and this is the result. NZ is a small country rich in diversity. Its police force is based on British lines.

Finally, on 27 January 2012, Musa Publishing will release another Regency MR. MONFORT’S MARRIAGE. Matthew Monfort has two excellent reasons for loathing members of the ton, but thanks to his father’s machinations he finds himself inveigled into offering for Lady Verity Tristan. Anyway it’s time he married and she’s...well, different; in fact quite delightful...and intelligent...and sweet...but she needn't think she’s going to win him over. I had fun writing this book because Matthew had a lot to learn!
Thank you Vonnie for taking time to talk to us today.
To find out more visit Vonnie at


Henriette said...

Vonnie, fabulous interview, and of particular interest to me as I write romantic suspense too, plus I have a great love for the Georgian/Regency period. I think we must be two of a kind :0

Evonne Wareham said...

Hi Vonnie
I'm a fan of Jayne Ann Krentz too - her style is deceptively simple and spare - I've learned a lot from her. Loved the interview - especially the comments on social media - a delicious way to waste a morning and call it work!

Beth Elliott said...

I'm all admiration for your energy, Vonnie. writing in two genres at the same time, with all the research and the blogging, etc. And you make time for exercise and more - no wonder you have three books coming out so close together. I wish you good luck with them all. I'll add a comment or two on your FB page... and that's a bit of work as well.

Susan Bergen said...

I, too, have to fit in the demands of walking a large dog amongst everything else. I learnt to read books and walk at the same time (off road, of course). It's my party piece! Lovely to hear about your career, Vonnie.

Vonnie Hughes said...

Thank you, ladies. Can't answer you all individually since our internet connection is having conniption fits at present. Lovely to hear from you all.