Today I’m delighted to feature author Jane Elizabeth Hughes. Jane has recently made her UK debut with The Long Lost Jules, and it’s attracting great reviews. She published her first novel, Nannyland, (Simon & Schuster Pocket Star Books) in 2016 and that is still available in the US.
Jane is an obsessive reader with two fully-loaded Kindles; she buys so many books that Amazon sends her a gift every year for the holidays. Unfortunately, reading novels all day is not an easy career path, so Jane has a day job as professor of international finance at Harvard Extension School, and previously at Simmons College School of Business. She has also consulted with multinational corporations and governments for nearly three decades, including the Rockefeller Foundation, Inter-American Development Bank, and Asian Development Bank. An engaging and accomplished public speaker, Professor Hughes has written and lectured widely about international finance throughout the world. A mother of four and granny of eight (the eldest is only seven, so she’s a very busy granny), she is fortunate enough to live on beautiful Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
Over to Jane:
Which piece of music/song would you include in the soundtrack to your life and why?
Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen, because I couldn’t live without it! (Runner-up: “Thunder Road”)
We Shall Overcome by Peter, Paul & Mary, because I’m hopelessly in love with folk songs, and because I keep finding new reasons to sing this song – COVID, politicians, and who-knows-what in the future? (Runner-up: “Blowin’ in the Wind”)
Fur Elise by Beethoven, because I still like to play piano sometimes and it’s my old standard
Leaving New York by R.E.M., because this song just speaks to me: I was born and raised in “the city,” and even after thirty years in New England, still consider myself a New Yorker
Hey, Jude by The Beatles, of course, because I still remember the chills and thrills I felt when I first heard it, and how my sister and I kept playing it over and over again on our cheap record player. (Runner-up: “While My Guitar Gently Weeps”)
What (apart from family and friends) would you find it hard to live without.
The ocean! I could never live too far from the water; it’s calm and exciting and rough and gentle; salty and sweet, high and low – it’s all human emotions in one huge body.
Books! I’m an obsessive reader, always reading at least four books at once depending on what mood I’m in – two on my Kindles, one hardcover or paperback, one audiobook in my car. Before Kindle, I used to take at least ten books per week on a trip; I still take two, just in case (heaven forbid) my Kindle breaks.
TV medical dramas! It’s funny, because I’m an absolute coward when it comes to doctors and hospitals (don’t get me started on dentists), but I devour TV medical dramas. Grey’s Anatomy, New Amsterdam, Chicago Med, ER…you name it, I’ve binged on it. In fact, I re-watched Grey’s from the very beginning during the first months of coronavirus, though I had to stop when (spoiler alert) they killed off Derek.
Writing! After years of fighting Imposter Syndrome as an international banker, consultant, and finance professor, I took a sabbatical to pursue my dream of writing novels. And here’s the funny thing: As a novelist, I’ve never struggled with believing in myself. Never. No matter how many rejection letters I got or how many discouraging setbacks I encountered, I’ve always believed that my books are good. I’ve always believed that women will enjoy my books – the historical and current-day mysteries, the romance, the suspense – and will want to read more. I have no idea where I got this confidence; I just know I believe in my books. It’s amazing, because I doubt myself in virtually every other area of my life!
Zumba! When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a ballerina even more than I wanted to be a novelist. But I never quite topped five feet tall, with some extra inches around my waist and flat feet – also no talent. Now I get to dance in my Zumba classes and pretend I’m in A Chorus Line!
Can you offer a piece of advice for your younger self?
Keep Writing! You get better at it as you go along. My first and second novels never got published and, with the benefit of hindsight, didn’t deserve to get published. I didn’t have that clarity of hindsight at the time though, and it was just pure slog to keep going.
Don’t be Alone! Have cheerleaders in your corner (my husband and sister were phenomenal), and don’t quit your day job. Sometimes my finance gig actually propped up my writing; it inspired Amy’s banking career in The Long-Lost Jules, and informed the money laundering subplot.
Remember: This can take a long time, and a lot of rejections along the way. My favorite rejection story isn’t mine, but Jennifer Weiner’s. When she was trying to find an agent for her first novel, she got plenty of rejection letters and terrible advice, including a letter from one agent who told her that nobody wanted to read a book about a fat lonely girl. Good in Bed, of course, went on to be a huge bestseller and Ms Weiner is one of the most popular women’s fiction writers today. Lots of people, it turns out, wanted to read about a fat lonely girl.
Invest? Think about putting away a little money to invest in your writing career – writers conferences and publicists are your best friend. The latter is especially a biggie for me, since I’m super-uncomfortable promoting and marketing my books.
Accept that writing is a job, not a hobby! Hobbies are fun and relaxing; writing a book is work. It can be fun along the way, but much of the time it’s just hard work. When I was writing The Long-Lost Jules, I suddenly realized there was no climax – no moment when everything comes together and the reader gives a sigh of pure pleasure – and I spent a few weeks feeling sorry for myself and writing very forgettable prose. Then a former banking colleague got invited to spend a week on her client’s yacht in Marseilles – and bang! There it was. I erased the very forgettable prose and banged out the scene in a warm flush of sheer pleasure.
Tell us something that most people don’t know about you
I worked for the CIA, once upon a time, which helped to inform my next book, The Spy’s Wife
When I’m in a Zumba class, I pretend I’m at a Broadway dance audition
I’m a member of the Richard III Society, which is dedicated to rehabilitating this much-maligned monarch’s reputation
I’ve never met a bookstore I didn’t love
Disney World is my happy place (runner-up: Cape Cod)
Tell us something you’d still like to do or achieve.
Learn to use Instagram and/or Twitter
Learn to speak Spanish
Reread Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Madame Bovary, and Middlemarch
Live in Provence
Memorize all of the kings and queens of England, in order (spouses’ names are a bonus)
Many thanks for joining me today Jane, it was a delight to discover you’re also a Ricardian, as a proud Yorkshire lass, I’ve always believed, and maintain that Richard III was innocent! Great music choices, let’s hope we really can overcome the challenges currently besetting the world. Great to discover your also a Zumba fan, I miss my class (it closed due to hall hire costs) though I’m not sure I’ve got the stamina now to re-start, I’d have to take it slowly! I l know you’re uncomfortable promoting your books, but don’t be afraid to reach out, I’d be happy to give you some help with Twitter. It’s a very useful place to meet readers. bloggers and other authors. I hope you get to tick off the items on your achievement list, I’ve been struggling with Spanish for years, but still live in hope. Provence is a beautiful area so I can see the appeal, an ideal location to put down roots, relax, read, write and enjoy life – perfect!.
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The Long-Lost Jules
She thinks he’s either a stalker, a nutcase, or a harmlessly eccentric Oxford professor. He thinks she’s the long-lost descendant of Henry VIII’s last Queen, Katherine Parr. Amy is living a cautious life as a London private banker to wealthy oil sheikhs, but her quiet solitude is upended by the sudden appearance of two people: a half-sister who is virtually a stranger to her, and Oxford don Leo. Both need something from Amy, who has been emotionally frozen for years and isn’t sure she has anything left to give. She also harbors deep secrets—as does Leo. Even so, the two join forces to investigate the mystery of Queen Katherine’s lost baby, and soon long-suppressed emotions start to surface—and enemies start to close in. As they crisscross Europe in a quest for answers, Amy and Leo find themselves in danger of losing control of their secrets, their hearts—and maybe even their lives.
The Spy’s Wife (coming in 2022 and available to pre-order)
How would it feel to wake up one morning and discover that you’re married to James Bond? Shelley had always believed that her husband was a mild-mannered management consultant — until one morning his picture appears on CNN above the headline: “CIA Spy David Harris Is Source of British News Leak.”
Quiet, self-possessed David a spy? Impossible! But while Shelley is still reeling from the first revelation, David’s photo is again splashed across the news – and this time he’s not alone. This time he has his arm around a beautiful, sun-streaked blonde, and this time the headline screams, “CIA Superspy and British Reporter in Romantic Relationship!”
Together and apart, David and Shelley dodge foreign agents and international media hounds (not to mention his desperate ex-lover) from Paris to Bogota to Jerusalem. Most alarming of all, she finds herself fascinated and deeply, disturbingly attracted by the dangerous stranger her husband has become. Can Shelley reconcile her dream of domestic tranquility with the fierce emotions that have suddenly taken over her life? Can she become the perfect spy’s wife?
This delightful, romantic debut follows a sophisticated Manhattanite who trades her fast-paced Wall Street life for the English countryside, and unexpectedly becomes a nanny to the children of a widowed British lord. Who is as infuriating as he is intriguing…
Jordy Greene has it all—the high-powered job, the high-octane New York lifestyle, the powerful lover—until she’s suddenly forced to flee the city. Running to avoid false charges of illegal trading and a destructive relationship, Jordy escapes to England. There she finds refuge in a cottage on the estate of the icy Lord John Grey—a descendant of the Nine Day Queen, Lady Jane Grey.
The four rambunctious Grey children are in desperate need of a nanny, and Jordy is in desperate need of a purpose—so they plunge into an investigation of the Tudor queen’s mysterious life and shocking death. Amid flying subpoenas, willful adolescents, outraged aristocrats, and an unexpected attraction to Lord Grey, Jordy struggles to regain control of her life. In the midst of the chaos, can she find the kind of happiness she’d never thought to have?
If The Sound of Music and The Wolf of Wall Street had a child, it would be the captivating Nannyland!