When I won Writers of the Future last year, I interviewed my fellow winners in the weeks leading up to the workshop and it was so fun and such a nice introduction, I decided to do it again! So continuing with our Meet The Winners series, this week, come get acquainted with a writer you are sure to here more of in years to come, brand new Writers of the Future winner, Amy Hughes.
Stuart: Welcome Amy, and congratulations on your win. Why don’t you tell us a little about yourself?
Amy: In the past 17 years I’ve lived in Nevada, Arizona, Ontario Canada, Colorado, California and Utah. We move a lot. This summer we’ll be moving overseas to Saudi Arabia.
I love to write, I’ve been writing since I can remember being old enough to hold a pencil. I loved to read. In high school I was the shy, quiet kid who spent the lunch hour hiding under the stairs reading fantasy novels so I wouldn’t have to actually speak to anyone. Because Orcs were cool. Talking was scary.
Talking is less scary to me now. I still think Orcs are cool.
Stuart: Empirically, Orcs are cool. It’s the deathly pallor, I believe. So what got you into writing, Amy?
Amy: I’ve been writing all my life. I have a series of stories from second grade about a magical bunny rabbit named ‘Tricksy’, who could fly and grant wishes. They’re illustrated and everything.
Stuart: That’s awesome! The only thing I remember from second grade is this girl who moved to our little town from the exotic land of Alaska, and making a paper-mache turkey. Where do you do your writing?
Amy: My writing space travels, actually. I write on a laptop, which in theory means I can take my writing space with me wherever I go. I have two very active little boys though, so most of the time, if we go somewhere, I’m wrangling, not writing. But I do find that my writing space floats around the house quite a bit. I have an office space set up with books lining every wall and an herbal apothecary in the closet. I have postcards from all the places I’ve been tacked up all over. But I tend to get distracted fairly easily, and once I’ve gotten too distracted in a space, it gets hard for me to treat it like a place where I can just sit down and write. So I migrate around the house. I’m currently writing at the kitchen table. It has good light and a view of our chicken coop. Before that, it was the couch in the living room, before that it was my bed. Eventually I’ll make it back around to the office. I usually do.
Stuart: Ha ha. Really following the muse, eh? I write on netbooks for the same reason—and to utilize the bits of free time that would otherwise be wasted in transit and waiting lines. I remember writing most of my winning Writers of the Future story in the car on the way to and from Galveston, in fact.
So tell me, do you have any talents or hobbies?
Amy: I knit, bake artisan bread, garden, dabble in herbal medicine, homemade soaps and lotions and I can do one heck of a turkey gobble imitation.
Stuart: Hey, Megsn O’Keefe, WotF winner from my year is a soap maker too. You guys should chat. I should warn you, though, turkey calls are best avoided in the Lowes hotel where the winners are put up. It attracts SpoungeBob SquarePants imitators in from Hollywood Boulevard. No one knows why.
How long have you been entering WotF?
Amy: Actually, I only ever entered the contest once. I’ve known about the contest for years and always intended to enter, but I’ve been busy raising kids for the past while. About two years ago, I realized the youngest was finally approaching kindergarten age and I was going to be able to start writing again. It was time to enter. I tried writing a few short stories and failed miserably. My own mother couldn’t have found anything nice to say about these stories. So I started studying short stories intensively. I read nothing but short stories for over a year and must have burned through a couple hundred before something in my head clicked and I finally started understanding how a short story was built. I wrote ‘The Graver’ and went through a massive number of edits trying to get it right. I was shocked when I won. I honestly thought I was going to spend the next couple years entering, so I’m feeling sort of unprepared now. This all happened faster than I thought it would.
Stuart: Very impressive! And smart. I always tell folks, study the form and the market and you’ll have better results.
Star Trek or Star Wars?
Amy: Star Wars hands down!
Stuart: “These are not the droids you are looking for.” “Yes they are, Look at’em!”
Pantser or Plotter?
Amy: Panster all the way. Though I have recently figured out how to outline very short distances ahead of myself. It’s helping. But I honestly can’t see far enough ahead in the story to ever really outline.
Stuart: You and I can grow together. I am still trying to mash my brain into a productive instrument of composition. Some days are better than others.
Tell me, what’s the nuttiest thing that ever happened to you?
Amy: I crashed in a hot air balloon.
The wind pushed us the wrong direction and we were about to cross over an amusement park. That’s federally restricted airspace.
The pilot thought he’d found a nice city park to land in, but it turned out to be a fully fenced golf course and they couldn’t get the support vehicle in. The baskets are too heavy to lift without the trailer close by. He had to try to pop us back up and over the trees around the golf course. We scraped our way through the top branches. I actually grabbed a handful of leaves on our way up.
He decided he was going to have to set down in a neighborhood. His wife jumped out of the support vehicle to grab the rope. We nearly drifted into someone’s house. She wasn’t big enough to control the balloon in such a tight space and we dragged her quite a ways before our pilot started yelling at the neighborhood residents to jump in and help. Several people got on the line and brought the balloon more or less under control. All the while, we were drifting closer and closer to the cross street, and the dead end row of houses along it.
When the basket finally touched down, we hopped and skidded and the basket turned over, dumping us out onto the pavement. It was a very rough landing. Our pilot was a whole lot more worried than he’d let on. Someone had broken a collarbone and ended up in the hospital on a similar landing in his balloon a few years earlier. We were lucky to have been merely jostled.
But it turned out to be a local resident’s birthday and he got to spend the morning taking down a hot air balloon in his pajama’s. And for the rest of my life I get to tell people that I crashed in a hot air balloon. So I’m pretty happy with the way things turned out.
Stuart: Wow! Amusement parks are restricted airspace. Hold on while I note that in my checklist of world domination tips…..
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
Amy: The ability to freeze time. That way I could take a nap, clean my house, fold my laundry and still have time to get my writing done. Plus, I could mess with people without them ever knowing I was there. That’d be cool.
Stuart: Okay, the judges tell me that technically, as described, that is the same power as “super speed” so when you get the chance, be looking for either on the application. And make sure I get an application, will ya?
When you were a kid, what was your favorite toy?
Amy: My brother’s truck. It was an old metal truck that I finger-knitted a leash for. I used to drag that thing around with me everywhere. My mom kept trying to get me interested in Barbie’s and Cabbage Patch dolls, but I never could get into them. The truck was useful and nobody cared if it got covered in mud.
Stuart: Ha ha! I’m just picturing a little girl out walking her truck. For a moment I thought you meant a real truck. My mother taught school and had a third grader steal a school bus once, but you could never get a leash on one of those.
What would your distinctive wardrobe tag be, if you dared adopt it?
Amy: If I dared, it would probably be a cloak. I love the way a hood looks. Plus, it’s useful. It keeps off the rain, hides your face from the bad guys, and you can sleep in it if you happen to spend the night under a tree.
Stuart: Cloaks are cool. I have worn a cloak. I have been told I have ligth footstep…
Tell us about your winning story.
Amy: My story is ‘The Graver’.
It’s set in world where people have discovered a way to harvest and reabsorb the energy of the human soul after death. This can be used for everything from curing cancer and extending life, to just getting a really great high. Daniel allowed his wife’s soul to be harvested to use her memories to catch the man who killed her, but he’s not sure if in doing so, he destroyed her soul forever. He’s taken his daughter to a family ranch in an effort to escape his past and keep his daughter safe. But the past will always catch up, and nowhere is ever really safe.
Stuart: Sounds amazing! Well thanks Amy! And enjoy your time in Hollywood!
Amy: Thanks Stuart!
If Amy crashed any more heavier than air craft, you can read about the casualties at amybrandonhughes.blogspot.com.