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Interview with Laura McHugh

Laura McHugh  promo image

With a successful history of short story writing to fall back on, it is a little wonder that Laura McHugh has finally turned her attention writing a full-length book. The Weight of Blood is that debut crime novel and it is clearly a labour of love, built on a solid foundation of resolve mixed with more than a splash of trepidation. Here, Laura tells Chris High about the difficulties she faced in writing the novel and, also, how she overcame them.

How did you find the experience of writing a debut, full length novel?

There were good days and bad days. I worried that I didn’t know what I was doing. I worried about pouring so much time into something that might end up in my drawer. I was determined to finish the novel, but I wasn’t sure that I would be able to get it published when I was done. I’m grateful that everything came together in the end.   

The Weight of Blood  is a also a deeply personal novel on many levels. Did it at take on at times something of a life of its own? If so, how difficult was it to keep on track?

Sometimes I wrote scenes and backstories that I knew wouldn’t end up in the book, but I wrote them anyway in order to better understand the characters and how they related to one another.

There isn’t a weak character in the book, but Lucy and Lila are the two engines that drive proceedings. How long did it take you to get to know them as characters? 

Lucy came to me first, and her voice felt very natural from the start. Lila took more time and evolved from one draft to the next. She started out much more innocent and naïve in the first draft, and it didn’t feel quite right, though I wasn’t sure why. She became more troubled and troublesome before her voice really solidified for me. 

How much planning and research do you undertake when writing a novel?

I tend to do most of my research as I go, rather than upfront. With The Weight of Blood, I didn’t have a plot when I began. The story unfolded as I went, and then about halfway through, the rest of the story came together in my mind and I knew how it would end.

You have had several short stories published. How does the process differ when it comes to getting your story across?

You have to make every word count. You don’t have a lot of space to build atmosphere and setting and character, so you find creative ways to accomplish that within the story. I might write a story in one sitting, but I spend a great deal of time revising it.   

Why – to you – are short stories an important format?

The shorter form allows you to play with stylistic choices and ideas that might not translate well to a longer format. As a reader, I’m a huge fan of short stories. I love how a story can have such an impact in very few pages.

What was the biggest thing you learned from writing The Weight of Blood?

That it’s never too late to change the course of your life and pursue your dreams. I had been working as a software developer for an insurance company for many years when I unexpectedly lost my job and decided to write this novel.

If you had to save 3 novels, what would they be and why?

As I Lay Dying, Something Wicked This Way Comes, and Beloved. These are books I have reread many times and I never get tired of them. Each one is dark and beautifully written. I love the nostalgia in Bradbury’s work.

What is the single biggest problem with the publishing industry today?

I’m not sure what the biggest problem is. I do try to keep up with what is going on in the industry, but for the most part I am busy trying to keep up with things on my end—writing, revising, and doing what I can to promote my work. It’s my great hope that the publishing industry stays healthy and that people continue to buy books.

What’s next?

I’m finishing up my second novel (working title: Arrowood), which is a bit dark and suspenseful like The Weight of Blood. Also, The Weight of Blood has been optioned by Warner Bros. Television, so I’m waiting to see what will happen on that front.

See also: Chris High's book review for The Weight of Blood

If you would like to comment on this interview with Laura McHugh in 2014, please feel free to contact me - GUESTBOOK

“Writing gets me away for a while' from this world and into one where I, alone, can make or
break the rules as I see fit.” - Chris High 2003.
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