Friday, April 05, 2013


On March 18, I hosted a Book Blast for Jill Hughey's book, VAIN.  Today, please welcome Jill Hughey, author of VAIN, for a personal inteview. I’m eager to learn more about Jill, so I’ll go right to our interview.

Jill Hughey, Author
Caroline: Readers enjoy getting better acquainted with authors. Where did you grow up?

Jill: I grew up in St. Thomas, PA on an apple and peach orchard. My two sisters and I started working summers on the farm when we were eleven or twelve, so we all learned how to work hard. Nothing like being coated with sweat and peach fuzz on an August afternoon! It is a great place to raise a family. The orchards have been sold, but my husband and I live just a few miles away. My two sons are in the same school district I graduated from, and it is still a very rural lifestyle.
I am a bookworm. I have always been more mental than physical. I like to be fit but athletic activities do not come naturally.

Caroline: Or with me. Who are your favorite authors and favorite genres?

Jill: I enjoy fiction, and find that I really want to go somewhere different when I read, which makes American contemporary fiction a hard sell to me. My favorite genre is historical romance. My favorite current authors in that genre are Madeline Hunter and Mary Balogh. I especially like Mary Balogh because she writes characters who aren’t perfect.

On a whole different plane of writing, I admire Isak Dinesen (Out of Africa) and Charles Frazier (Cold Mountain) for the way they craft words.

Caroline: Great choices, Jill. What’s your favorite way to relax and recharge?

Jill: Singing. I take lessons in classical soprano. Learning a song gives me a great sense of fulfillment and requires total concentration – gets me out of my own head for a while. Right now I am working on Lascia ch’io pianga by Handel. Most fun piece I’ve learned recently is Glitter and be Gay.

Caroline: I so admire you. I’ve always wished I could sing, but when I try, the family come running to see if I’m hurt. ☺ Do you have a favorite quote that sums up how you feel about life?

Jill:  “No matter where you go, there you are.” None of us can escape our internal challenges or tendencies, though many of us expend most of our energy trying to do just that.

Caroline: Very prophetic. How long have you been writing?

Jill: I started to really compose novels about ten years ago. I did not publish anything until 2011, and I had three manuscripts fleshed out by then so I put them out pretty quickly.

Caroline: Where do you prefer to write?  

Jill: I write on a MacBook Pro, usually at my kitchen table, though sometimes on the weekends, when it might be ok to sneak in a 15-minute nap, I let myself go to a comfy chair. I use a program called StoryMill for the first few drafts, then pull it into Word. I need quiet and I prefer solitude. I love my family, but a dream vacation for me would be to go off by myself and write for days on end. I can write for twelve hours without getting tired of it, and can be rather productive when I have no interruptions. I do not listen to music because I can’t let music stay in the background.

Caroline: I guess you can’t with your music background, but I listen to classical music when I write. Are you a plotter or a panzer?

Jill: I am a converted plotter. In my most recent release, VAIN, I forced myself to rough out the story and then write it chronologically. This makes the whole process much more efficient. It took me a long time to discipline myself, and I don’t know why!

Caroline: I found once I learned to plot that writing the story I dreamed became easier. Do you use real events or persons in your stories or as an inspiration for stories?

Jill: I use the real historical events of the time period in my books. My historical romance series is set in the 830s in Charlemagne’s empire. The empire endured three civil wars in that decade, and that upheaval provides some background, motivation, and conflict for my characters. The only real people I use are the royals who caused all this trouble.

Caroline: I imagine you did a lot of research for VAIN. Do you set writing goals?

Jill: I work part-time as an administrative assistant in my husband’s company, so my writing hours are sort of hit and miss. I try to set aside Tuesday and Thursday for writing tasks. Even those days gets interrupted by phone calls from my “real” job. I don’t set goals because my personality is such that I already put too much pressure on myself to produce. I do not need another layer of guilt in my life. So, Tuesday, Thursday, and as much of each weekend as possible are carved out, and when the book is done, it’s done.

Caroline: No, pressure threatens creativity for many of us. What do you hope your writing brings to readers?

Jill: Total immersion. We have all finished a book with the feeling of having been in another world. If I write well enough to take a reader on that trip, I am thrilled.

Caroline: Me, too. What long-term plans do you have for your career?

Jill: I want to keep writing. I see myself continuing it as part of my retirement in twenty years or so, and my dream is that my books might help support me in that stage of life, too!  I may try some contemporary fiction, not romance.

Caroline: Would you like to tell us what you’re working on now?
Jill: I am writing two short stories or novellas that augment my Evolution Series. These will tell the stories of two servants from the series who also deserve their happily-ever-after.

Caroline: What advice would you give to unpublished authors?

Jill: Keep writing and trust your gut, though I am hardly a poster-child for how to be an independent author.

Caroline: What’s a fun fact readers wouldn’t know about you?

Jill: I was the Franklin County Apple Queen in 1984 or 1985. I had a tiara and a sash. My job was to go to public events and represent the apple industry. It sounds kind of hokey but it was great fun and good experience for a high school kid.

Caroline: I believe it would have been an invaluable experience. What’s something about you that would surprise or shock readers?

Jill: Oh lord. My weakness seems to be beverages. I love coffee and require a cup of decaf in the morning and a cup of caffeinated in the afternoon. I love wine, too. White wine is like heroin to me. I don’t even bring it in the house anymore. I can sip a single glass of red with utter enjoyment, but white? Look out.

Caroline: The opposite is true with me. I can handle white wine, but not red. Is your book a series? If so, how long? Family saga, other?

Jill: Yes, the Evolution Series has three books, all set in the 830s. You don’t have to read them in order because each stands on its own. The titles describe a characteristic of the hero. They are UNBIDDEN, REDEEMED, and VAIN. The hero of UNBIDDEN is the common denominator in the books. He is brother to the hero of REDEEMED and best friend of the hero of VAIN. None of them are perfect. In fact, the villain in the first book is the hero in the second. He was fun to write.

Caroline: I used to be fascinated by Charlemagne. Can you give readers a blurb about your book?

Jill: I’d love to!

Lily had her life planned, neat and tidy as thread on a spindle, until her mother died and her father snipped at the seams of her future by abandoning Lily in their shop. A nobleman unexpectedly gives her hope when he brings fabric for a special garment. Lily survives on his first payment, and immerses herself in sewing and embroidering an incomparable tunic for him, as her tidy plan continues to unravel.

Theophilus, Lord of Ribeauville, takes his responsibility to his townspeople seriously and, therefore, does not dally with local women. Desire wars with duty when Lily glances up at him while adjusting the hem on his Easter tunic. As her deteriorating circumstances push them together, Theo and Lily learn that the path to his heart just might be through his wardrobe, though the exquisite outfit she creates is the only part of her that fits in his precarious aristocratic world.

Caroline: That was intriguing. How about an excerpt?

Jill: This scene is during the first fitting for a tunic Lily is making for Theo. He experienced an unsettling attraction to her and has abruptly ended her work.

Lily did not know what had changed. For just a moment, her lord had appeared angry, and now he jerked at the tunic like it did not fit properly when, in fact, she had done admirably well. “Please, my lord,” she interjected when the pins and threads tacking the tops of the shoulder became visible between the pieces of fabric. “You do not have to decide now. You also do not have to destroy it. I will fix whatever has displeased you.”

He froze. His hazel eyes, heated instead of droopy with kindness, flicked onto her. “Will you?”

She retreated another step, unsure of his meaning. The distrust on his face oddly combined with sudden, intense interest. This fitting had become very strange. Her insides had sparkled when she touched him. Could he have sensed that? “My lord, if you are satisfied with the general fit, I will have plenty of work to do. You can decide about the sleeves and hem another day.”

He straightened, finally letting the hem drop, but kept his narrowed eyes on her. “I like the sleeve where you have it. I am undecided on the hem,” he finally intoned with careful enunciation.

She lifted her hand to indicate his arm. “Can I just mark it, sir? The roll will come undone when you take the tunic off.” His eyes narrowed even further. He nodded curtly. She scurried to find her chalk and made one quick streak of white on the sleeve. “Should I help you?” she asked, trying to recover their professional manner of dealing with one another.

“No. Wait outside while I change,” he ordered.

Oh, dear. She rushed out the door, flustered. What had happened? Everything had been fine until she’d begun making adjustments to his hem. That had felt horribly awkward to her. Had it bothered him too? She had been trying to do her job briskly, just as her father had always done. Maybe a man did not mind another man touching his hem but very much minded a woman doing so. Lily sighed, pressing her back against the wall, then resting her head there, as well. Even though she occupied the same world she always had, every day brought unforeseen and unfamiliar questions and challenges. She did her best to guess and fool her way through it all. In truth, the only time she felt comfortable in her own skin was when she worked on the lord’s tunic. Or at least she felt comfortable when her lord was not in the tunic as she worked on it.

She sighed. If only her father had returned. He would have that hem rolled and marked in a thrice. He would explain Riculf. He would talk to Cluny and set her life on the right course again.

Her lord emerged, once again smartly attired in the green tunic and mantle she had sewn last spring about this time. He did not know she had sewn it. Her father had done the fitting. She had made every cut and stitch. “Father is never coming back, is he?” she blurted.

The question did not surprise him. He stood straight and proud and confident in his own comfortable life. “Not soon enough,” he said.

At first she did not understand the answer. Then it clicked. Not soon enough to help you. Not soon enough to manage Riculf or Cluny. Not soon enough to return you to normalcy or even respectability. 

“He lives with a woman?” she asked, eager to familiarize herself with all the ugliness at once.

Her lord cursed softly under his breath. “Yes. He misses your mother desperately.”

Her hand flew up, and she pressed the back of it to her mouth, stifling an unwanted sob of distress. She turned away to compose herself. “It must be very difficult for him,” she observed with the feeling of seeing things from a great distance.

“I did try, Lily. I reminded him of his duty to you. I reminded him of your mother. I tried every argument.”

Unwarranted resentment boiled up in her. Who was this Theophilus to involve himself in her life? Why should she feel gratitude when he stood so calmly to tell her how bad things were? Why should he be allowed to make her uncomfortable in her own shop? How dare he? She bit the inside of her cheek against the angry, unfair slander she wished to shout at him. 

“Thank you, my lord,” she gritted as meekly as she could manage. “I appreciate your efforts today. I am sure you have pleasanter plans for tomorrow. Now, I must continue my work.”

She forced herself stiffly through the door. She did not close it until she heard her lord’s retreating footsteps. 

The tunic waited, lovingly spread on the worktable. Her strange, quick anger receded, replaced with the more sane and familiar despair. Her fingertip traced across the slightly overlarge shoulder to the clever neckline. This neckline was the only perfect thing left in the entire world, as near as she could tell. Tonight, she would rework the shoulders. Tomorrow, she would sew the pleats and join the body pieces and sleeves. 

Soon, she promised herself, she would make tiny invisible stitches around this neckline, and that would be one right thing. And she must consider the embroidery. She must devote some time to the pattern.
Blessedly immersed in her work, she did not let herself think about Father anymore.


Caroline: Oh, poor Lily. Now we have to learn more about her. ☺Where can readers find your books?

Jill: All my books are available on Amazon, and most are on Barnes and Noble, Kobo, iTunes, and other eBook vendors.  Print versions are available from CreateSpace and Amazon. The following links will take you to Vain at a few of those vendors. Amazon      Barnes and Noble     Kobo

Caroline: How can readers learn more about you?

Jill: I maintain a blog, am on Facebook, and Twitter @jillhughey.

Caroline: Is there anything else you’d like readers to know about you?

Jill: If you like my books, I’d really appreciate your reviews, either where you purchased or on reader’s sites like Shelfari or Goodreads.

Thank you so much for having me to visit today!

Readers, I hope you enjoyed meeting Jill as much as I did. Thanks for stopping by!


Jill Hughey said...

Thank you so much for giving me such an enjoyable interview, Caroline. I look forward to any questions and comments your readers might have.

Caroline Clemmons said...

Jill, thanks for stopping by to share with us today. I enjoyed your interview.

Unknown said...

I loved the interview! Thanks for having Jill Today!