Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Day in the Life of… Lynne Hugo


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A Day in the Life of.....

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Lynne Hugo is a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship recipient who has also received grants from the Ohio Arts Council and the Kentucky Foundation for Women.  She has published five previous novels, one of which became a Lifetime Original Movie of the Month, two books of poetry, and a children’s book.  Her memoir, Where The Trail Grows Faint, won the Riverteeth Literary Nonfiction Book Prize. Born and educated in New England, she and her husband currently live in Ohio with a yellow Lab feared by squirrels in a three state area.

Ms. Hugo has taught creative writing to hundreds of schoolchildren through the Ohio Arts Council’s renowned Arts in Education program. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Connecticut College, and a Master’s from Miami University.

A Day In The Life Of Author Lynne Hugo…


…begins with an exuberant yellow Lab leaping onto the bed between my husband and me to encourage whichever one of us appears least comatose. Most days, after I stagger to the kitchen and revive myself with coffee, Scout gets his first romp of the day before I head to the writing room. My computer desk is in front of a large window. I can see the four raised beds of our vegetable garden out in the sunny part of the yard near the roses. To my right through a door onto the deck are pots filled with shade-loving red and pink impatiens and yellow begonias, even some blue flowers I planted but can’t identify. Hummingbird feeders hang in the lowest branches of the Chinese elm that towers over the house; we brought that tree home, bare root, in the trunk of our car, close to thirty years ago. Now, like the children we raised here, it’s fully grown.

So I spend the day writing. I try not to be distracted by phone or email—or Scout, especially when I’m working on something new. When a book is coming out there’s a lot of work expected on publicity and marketing and sometimes it’s difficult to balance that with focus on the new project—what I most love to do—and often the new work ends up on the back burner for a while.

There are tasks that only an author can do that are important to give a book its best chance to find its readership. Today I went through pictures to send to the publisher because they are making a video trailer for A MATTER OF MERCY, which has just been released. The novel is set in a place I love, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, in a town named Wellfleet out near the tip. Shellfishing (oysters and clams) has flourished there for generations and is hugely important to the local economy. In 1996, the owner of one of the large, expensive vacation homes on the bluffs above the harbor filed a lawsuit to shut down the aquaculturists (oyster and clam farmers) because he objected to how their apparatus affected his view, although the cages are only visible for an hour before and after dead low tide. The basis for the lawsuit—and how it was finally resolved—were so bizarre, so fascinating, so unbelievable, yet so true, that when I heard about it by simply walking on the beach and by happenstance making friends with one of the women aquaculturists, I knew I wanted to use it as the basis for a novel. I needed to invent the characters, a gripping story for their lives, and extract a meaning for the characters that fit with the unfolding story of the lawsuit. The lawsuit was real even though my characters weren’t, and I wanted the novel to be authentic. I’d fallen in love, and I wanted to take readers so into that world that they would, too.

When you have such a beautiful setting, and have pictures of the real thing—a trailer is a natural. So I’ve spent one day winnowing down the text, and now, today, sorting out the best pictures from the last time I visited my oyster farming friend on the shining shallows of Cape Cod Bay, in July. Here are a few:



What I didn’t do today—again--was work on my next novel. But I think that’s the life of the writer now, back and forth between working on something new and what we do to help bring our books into the world and find their readership.

At about 3:30, Scout starts to get impatient. I can hold him off until 4:00; if I’m being productive. By then he’ll be impatiently nosing my left arm, making it impossible to type. If I put him off much longer, he puts his front paw into my lap and jams his head between me and the keyboard. I’ll give up and load him into the back seat of the car, drive the two minutes it takes me to get to the nature preserve near my house where off-leash dogs are allowed to run if they’re under voice command. I’ll have arranged to meet my friend Barb and her chocolate Lab Maggie, and we’ll hike along the little singing river and then through the fragrant high pine forest we call The Cathedral, where our ritual is to name a gratitude for the day. Sometime during the hour I’ll doubtless shout, “Scout, leave it! Don’t eat it, and no! Don’t roll in it!” (He particularly loves anything that will make him stink enough that I have to hose him down immediately upon returning home.) clip_image013

Afterward, a glass of wine, talk, and some music out on the deck with my husband when he gets home from work; then one of us makes dinner while we catch the evening news. The other cleans up. Ideally, I mean, on that “clean up” part. My standards might be somewhat higher than his. Then sometimes it’s back to the computer if there’s a deadline to meet, or an episode of a something we’ve taped on TV: The Good Wife is a favorite, and so is Parenthood. Always, always, then an hour or more of reading—almost always a literary novel.

I count it an excellent day when it includes contact with one of the kids. And I’m glad to say that’s more days than not. The day circles its tails and settles to sleep for the night with Scout having done exactly that, first up on the bed with us for some final treats, and then down on his own, everything—at least for a few hours—in place.

Thanks so much, Aislynn, for having me on your blog—and thank you to all of Aislynn’s readers! I hope you love A MATTER OF MERCY. I’d love to hear from you.


Caroline Marcum thought she’d escaped the great mistake of her life by leaving Wellfleet harbor, but is forced to face it when she returns, reluctantly, to care for her dying mother. Ridley Neal put his past-and his prison term-behind him to return home to take over his father’s oyster and clam beds. Casual acquaintances long ago, when a nor’easter hits the coast, Rid and Caroline’s lives intersect once again. When Rid and two other sea farmers are sued by the wealthy owners of vacation homes who want to shut them down, and Caroline accidentally meets the person she most wronged, they each must learn to trust-and love. Inspired by a 1996 lawsuit, A Matter of Mercy is a riveting novel about treasuring the traditional way of life in the shallows of beautiful Cape Cod bay by discovering where forgiveness ends. And where it begins.

“A richly detailed, intimate look at the struggles of love and hard work and hard choices. With wisdom and compassion, Lynne Hugo explores how we sometimes find our homes in the places and people we’ve left behind. This book draws you in and won’t let you go. A Matter of Mercy is the kind of novel one longs to read – beautifully written, full of crooked fates, terrible loss and hard-won second chances.” ~ Laura Harrington, author of Alice Bliss, winner of Massachusetts Book Award for Fiction

“Lynne Hugo’s novel A MATTER OF MERCY is full of intrigue and heart, as gritty as the inside of a clamshell and tender as a beach sunset. You won’t soon forget this story of two Cape Cod residents struggling against the tides for mercy and reaching out for each other despite the dark currents of their own pasts.” ~ Jenna Blum, New York Times and internationally bestselling author of THOSE WHO SAVE US, THE STORMCHASERS, and “The Lucky One” in GRAND CENTRAL.

“Through her exquisite use of language and deft storytelling, Lynne Hugo has rendered a universe so precise it sings of truth and so human it plucks at all the right strings.  She is that rare fiction writer who truly understands the music of good writing, conflating the worlds of prose and poetry into something exalted, a symphony for both the heart and the ear.”    — Kim Triedman, author of The Other Room

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