Author Interview: Pernille Hughes

Are there therapeutic benefits to modeling a character after someone you know?

Absolutely. I modelled the lead of my second book Probably the Best Kiss in the World on myself, in terms of exploring my need for control. I had had four babies within five years, including twins and the only way I got through the very early years was by being quite controlling. I used this character to work through that, albeit with a different plot line, and to see that there comes a time to let go in order to achieve what you really want.  I think the MC in my debut Punch-Drunk Love was also my working through letting other people tell me what I was capable of. (See the next question.)

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

 I wanted to be a journalist, until at fifteen I was told by my English/Careers teacher that my writing wasn’t good enough. I didn’t write for ten years. And then I did. And I got published. And I dedicated my second book to her;

‘To the naysayers.




Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?

It’s great to have a fantastic scenario for your story, but your characters are key. They need to feel real and rounded to your readers. They need to be flawed, even the goodies, not just the baddies. My tip;

  1. Get a big glass of wine.
  2. Shut yourself away from people with said glass of wine, a pen and a pad.
  3. Take a long hard look at yourself and write down all your flaws on the pad. Be merciless. No one else needs to ever see this list.
  4. Drink the big glass of wine.

You now have a list of flaws (if it isn’t a list then you haven’t been merciless enough, or you’re a saint, or deluded, or both) that you can mine for your characters and dig really deeply into when you write, because you have an understanding of them and what they feel like and possibly why they exist. This is writing what you know…

How important was professional editing to your book’s development?

 Someone else editing your book elevates it, no question and is absolutely worth the investment if you don’t have traditional contract. You are too close to the story to see what isn’t working, or which of your darlings you should cut. You need a fresh pair of eyes, someone who understands story structure, who isn’t as wedded to/obsessed by it and who has the ability to communicate the issues in a careful way. Every time my drafts have been edited the book has improved massively, because I have a fabulous editor.

How much research did you need to do for your book?

My new book Ten Years is based on two people who hate each other completing a bucket list. Most of the tasks needed researching, but the book was mainly written during Lockdown, so I flogged the hell out the internet and Youtube, and also relied on places I’d already been to. For example, I had been up mount Snowdon, but not on foot as Charlie and Becca do. I watched a Youtube film of two young men walking the exact path, with my note pad, noting terrain, features and particularly what they were moaning about as Becca doesn’t enjoy the experience. For the chapters set in Cannes, I deliberately chose that location and used my memories from when I used to work the TV markets there twice a year. Like so much, necessity makes you revise and adapt.

What do you think is the best way to improve writing skills?

Read!! Twice. Once as a reader and once as writer. Just enjoy a book the first time around and the second time when you aren’t trying to work out the twists or how it will be resolved, think about what the author is doing to invoke feelings in you, or perhaps think about their turns of phrase, or how they keep you turning the page. All of that.

What is the most valuable piece of advice you’ve been given about writing?

‘If you think it might need cutting, it probably does’. I can’t remember who said it, but it is annoyingly true.

What part of the book was the most fun to write?

 In Ten Years, the bickering between Charlie and Becca! Although I did write a scene where Becca gets gastric poisoning, really went to town on it, using all the senses like the craft books tell us and the editor’s note came back “this is hilarious but too gross for romance.” Sadly, it got cut…

What was your hardest scene to write, and why?

The first proper scene in Ten Years. It’s a funeral. In a romcom. It needed to show so many emotions and set up so many things, but also show some levity in a deeply sad situation. It was a difficult balance, hoping that while readers might not have expected this, that they’ll hang in there and not DNF it before the second chapter when the fun really kicks in.

What would you say to an author who wanted to design their own cover?

I would ask if they were a qualified designer! Anyone who thinks readers don’t judge a book by its cover, is deluded. They make their minds up in a second. They see a thumbnail on Amazon and need to ‘feel’ the kind of book it is. Cover designers know how to do this in a detached way that the author can’t. (Again, the author is too close to the story, often they want to show elements of the story on the cover, when really it’s a mood you need or to look like other books in the genre.) Like editing, I would say this is the other place you should invest. You could have the best story, but an amateur cover will kill it stone dead. Don’t skimp here, at the final hurdle, when you’ve invested so much time and effort in your story.


Before she moved to writing full-time, Pernille Hughes studied Film & Literature at university. After she graduated, she went on to market Natural History films before working in Children’s television, which meant living in actual Teletubbyland for a while. From 2011–2015, she was a regular contributor for The Sunday Times column ‘Confessions of a Tourist’.  Pernille lives in Buckinghamshire and while the kids are at school she scoffs cake and writes stories in order to maintain a shred of sanity.  


Twitter; @pernillehughes

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Ten Years

They’re perfect for one another.

They just don’t know it yet.

Becca and Charlie have known each other since university.
Becca and Charlies have also hated each other since university.

Until now. Until Ally’s bucket list. The death of their loved one should mean they can go their separate ways and not look back. But completing the list is something neither of them can walk away from.

And sometimes, those who bring out the worst in you, also bring out the very best…

Over the course of ten years, Becca and Charlie’s paths collide as they deal with grief, love and life after Ally.

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