Today I’m pleased to welcome Anita Hughes back to Women’s Fiction Writers! Her newest novel, FRENCH COAST, whisks you far away without leaving the comfort of your favorite chair. Or bed. Or beach blanket. Anita shares with us how she chose the location for FRENCH COAST, and offers advice on choosing character names when you’ve used your favorites for your children (and Anita has five children)! I’ve known Anita since before our debut novels were published, and she’s as lovely as she is prolific. FRENCH COAST is her fourth novel!
Please welcome Anita to Women’s Fiction Writers!
Author Anita Hughes Takes Readers To France With An Exotic And Fun Summer Read
Anita: I chose the location of French Coast because I have always loved the French Riviera and Cannes. When I was young, my mother, who was European, always talked about the Carlton-Intercontinental in Cannes. I also watched How To Catch A Thief with Cary Grant and Grace Kelly a few times. It is set at the Carlton and it is one of my favorite movies. When I pick a location, I think where I want to spend the next few months, because while I’m writing I feel like I’m there. Then I pull up images on the internet and soak them in.
Amy: I have names on the brain since I’m writing a new novel and still deciding on some character names. How did you arrive at the names for some of your characters in French Coast?
Anita: Names can be a challenge, especially after you’ve written a few books! I have five children and I can’t use any of their names. I usually just let names come to me, but they really have to fit the characters. I sit with them for a few days and if it feels right, I start writing. A sign that a name is right is if I start not being able to imagine my characters having any other names – a bit like my own children.
Amy: Have you ever used the name of someone you know, even if the character was nothing like him or her? Can you tell us about that. (I do that sometimes, as a little nod to someone important.)
Anita: I think I have used names of movie stars but no real people. But that’s a lovely idea – to give a nod to someone important!
Amy: I know you’re a fast writer—so what’s your secret? Do you outline or do you write and see where the story takes you? What is planned out in your stories and what do you allow to happen organically?
Anita: I do an outline for my publisher and that helps me see the whole story and not feel lost. I definitely let the story go where it wants to and often have characters and plot lines that weren’t in the initial outline. I think some of the best work I do is not at the computer – I think about the story all the time and write what I’m going to write the next day in my head: complete with dialogue. Then when I sit down to write it is easy and I never have to think more than a day ahead.
Amy: What’s your best advice for aspiring authors of women’s fiction today?
Anita: I think the best advice is always to read. I have always been a reader and still read a couple of books a week. I think the most important thing to develop as an author (especially of women’s fiction) is a voice. You want your reader to want to spend time with your characters and care about them and the way to do that is through voice. Developing a voice comes from spending a lot of time at the keyboard until you feel confident in your writing and can really let the characters take over.
Thank you for having me on your wonderful blog, Amy! You are a real inspiration and guide to authors of women’s fiction.
Anita Hughes was born in Sydney, Australia. At the age of eight, she won first prize in a nationwide writing contest sponsored by THE AUSTRALIAN, Australia’s most prestigious newspaper. She graduated from Bard College with a B.A. in English Literature and a minor in Creative Writing, and attended UC Berkeley’s Masters in Creative Writing Program. She lives at The St. Regis Monarch Beach, where she is at work on her next novel.