By Leslie Lindsay
I am absolutely, 100% thrilled to welcome Laura McHugh, debut author from my home state of Missouri! “Show Me Girls” (and boys; see Matt Wertz’s interview on song writing) have gotta stick together…kind of like family, as they do in Laura’s new release THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD. This literary thriller will knock your socks off with the carefully crafted sentences, attention to detail, and the family saga McHugh deftly weaves throughout the pages. [Be sure to check out the end of the interview for a chance to WIN a complimentary copy of the book!]
A busy mom of two young daughters, a background in library science, and stellar reviews from prominent authors, Laura seems to have it made. But I am guessing it wasn’t an overnight success.
Laura, can you tell us how you went from idea to published book? Time involved? Critique Groups? Agents? However your journey unfolded…
Laura McHugh: I decided to write The Weight of Blood after I lost my job, and my goal was to finish the first draft in a year, which I did. I had two small children at home with me at the time, and I did not get much sleep. I worried that I was pouring all my time and energy into something that would never be read by anyone, but I wanted to see the process through to the end. After completing the first draft, I probably spent a year revising the manuscript, researching agents, and learning how to query them. Once I signed with my agent, everything went very quickly. The book sold at auction less than two weeks later. I feel incredibly lucky with the way things worked out. I love all the folks I work with at Random House.
L.L.:What is your biggest inspiration for writing? In other words, what gets the juices flowing? Piques your curiosity?
Laura McHugh: I’m a people watcher. I notice someone at the store or walking alongside the road, and I come up with a backstory to explain their behavior and appearance, and sometimes those characters or details end up in a story. I’m also inspired by true crimes. I try to figure out why people do the terrible things they do.
I spend a lot of time thinking through a novel before writing anything down. Once I start writing, I sit down in my chair every day and work, whether I’m feeling inspired or not. I think the best method might be to write the first draft quickly and then go back and revise, but I actually revise a lot as I go, especially at the sentence level. It bothers me if a sentence doesn’t feel right. I probably waste a lot of time rewriting sentences that I might cut later, but I can’t help myself.
.L.L.: What’s your fondest book-related memory?
Laura McHugh: For birthdays and other special occasions, my grandma would give me a book—Dr. Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Nancy Drew. I used to wonder why she wrote so much on the inside cover—my name, my address (we moved a lot), the date, the occasion, my age, her full name and Grandpa’s, etc.—but now I treasure those books and her lengthy inscriptions. She was not a big reader herself, but she saw books as the most valuable gift, and that had a lasting impact on me. I always remember the last lines of the poemThe Reading Mother, which she kept in a frame in her living room:
You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be —
I had a Mother who read to me.
McHugh, a first-generation college student who also holds a Masters in Library & Information Science, was working as a software and web developer when she was laid off while pregnant with her second child and took the opportunity to start writing full-time. Building on her own experiences as an outsider in the small, rural community, and inspired by a true incident that took place in Lebanon, Missouri, where she attended high school, McHugh started the novel that would become THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD. She proves herself a masterful storyteller who has created a harsh and tangled terrain as alive and unforgettable as the characters who inhabit it. Her mesmerizing debut is a compelling exploration of the meaning of family: the sacrifices we make, the secrets we keep, and the lengths to which we will go to protect the ones we love. You can connect with Laura via social media:
And now for the…..Laura has graciously agreed to give away not just one, but TWO complimentary copies of THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD (Random House, 2014) to TWO lucky blog winners. Here’s what you have to do:
- Share this interview link on social media and email me so I know you shared (email@example.com with subject line, “I shared!”)
- Leave a comment on this blog about this book/interview/Laura McHugh/the Ozarks…
The Fine Print: Winners will be selected at random Saturday, April 5th 2014 at which time the give-a-way will be over. If you are a selected winner, you’ll be contacted via email, so be sure to check your junk/spam folder for an email from Leslie Lindsay. If you did not win, you will not be contacted. Books will be mailed directly from Ms. McHugh’s publicists. Please be patient as you wait your book’s arrival. Good luck and happy reading!! With special thanks to Laura McHugh and Random House for this interview opportunity. Book cover image courtsey of Random House. Author image courtesy of Taisia Gordon.
Thanks to all the interest in THE WEIGHT OF BLOOD.