Pernille Hughes talks about writing and her latest novel, Probably The Best Kiss In The World.
1. Tell us more about your latest book, Probably The Best Kiss In The World.
It’s my second book, following my debut Sweatpants at Tiffanie’s which came out last year. Probably… is the story of Jen Addison, who likes to have absolute control over her life. She’s an app, spreadsheet and to-do list fiend. On a trip to Copenhagen, she loses her phone, which starts a chain-reaction of her safe and orderly life being turned on its head.
2. Where did you get the inspiration for the novel?
I have family in Copenhagen and love the city. On a trip there with my husband I drew up a one-day route around the city just visiting micro-breweries. It started at 10 am, ended at midnight and I couldn’t feel my teeth by mid-afternoon. It was a fabulously funny day and it got me thinking about using the city in a story, but also a character who dreams of being a Brewster.
In terms of character, I wanted to look at being in control vs being controlling. I had four children in a small space of time, and thought I’d only survive it by striving to be in control all of the time. Eventually, I had to look at that and see whether it had really been for the best. So, I wanted to examine that a bit. Jen has to learn that sometimes you have to relinquish control in order for things to turn out right.
3. Do you have a favourite part or scene from Probably The Best Kiss In The World? Could you tell us why you love it?
No doubt I should say The Kiss, and I do love The Kiss because I worked hard to make it (hopefully) properly swoony, but I particularly love the end scene and the end snippet (you’ll know what I mean by that if you read the book.) I like things being resolved, and I hope readers feel I’ve done that for the main characters, in a way that’s both satisfying and amusing.
4. Can you describe Probably The Best Kiss In The World in 3 adjectives?
Funny, Modern, Swoony
5. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I’m a mum of four teens including twins and I live in Buckinghamshire, writing while the kids are in school. I believe that love and laughter go hand in hand, so that’s what I write.
6. What does your average writing day look like?
I try to write in the morning, but find it hard not to get distracted by all the jobs that need to be done around the house. I’m trying to be better at that. I’m also trying to not be as distracted by Twitter. (Not doing so well there, tbh …)
Ideally, when drafting, I’d like to hit between 1500 to 2000 words a day, but definitely 10k a week, with the weekend to make up any shortfall. I tend to write on my laptop wherever the sun is in the house. If I’m out and about (or if I’ve been particularly distracted and need a wifi ban,) I sometimes use my AlphaSmart Neo to write on, (it’s like an old Speak & Spell machine if anyone remembers those, and crucially it doesn’t link to the internet).
7. What is your favourite and least favourite thing about writing?
Favorite would be those times when I’m almost in a trance with the writing, and snap out of it to find a lot of time has passed and there’s loads of words on the page. Least favorite would be the first edit, as I walk around in a teenage strop about it being IMPOSSIBLE to break up this perfect-fitting thing I have labored over and constructed. Then I have a very ungracious sulky attempt, – and instantly forget about the original. Fickle, right..?
8. Is there any particular author or book that influenced you in any way either growing up or as an adult?
Judy Blume’s books definitely influenced me as a young teen. Her writing spoke to me, without being judgmental. I think many women of my generation feel that way about her writing.
One that subconsciously influenced me was The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong which my class teacher read to us when we were eight years old. I loved it and always remembered it, so when I had children, I bought it to read to them. Only then did I realize that I’d named one of my kids after the main character.
9. What are some of the challenges in getting your first book published?
There just seems to be a lot of patience involved in getting published and as my husband will attest to, that is not one of my virtues. There was lots of getting on with ‘other things’ and not thinking about it, while the book was out on submission with the publishers, and then when it did get picked up, I had learn a whole new industry – which was fine, but because it happens at a distance, it felt like starting a new job with a blindfold on. So a big learning curve for me.
Also, the stories I have written so far, have had slightly less usual premises for women’s fiction, so various publishers didn’t know what to do with them. Sweatpants at Tiffanie’s was set in a boxing gym, for example. Harper Impulse were willing to take a punt though, for which I will always love them.
10. What are your plans for the future?
Really it’s just to keep writing and hopefully get more books out there. I’ll be staying with the romcom genre for now, but if I ever venture anywhere else it would still have a comic lilt to it. I need the funny in there!
Jen Attison likes her life Just So. But being fished out of a canal in Copenhagen by her knickers is definitely NOT on her to do list. From cinnamon swirls to a spontaneous night of laughter and fireworks, Jen’s city break with the girls takes a turn for the unexpected because of her gorgeous, mystery rescuer.
Back home, Jen faces a choice. A surprise proposal from her boyfriend, ‘boring’ Robert has offered Jen the safety net she always thought she wanted. But with the memories of her Danish adventure proving hard to forget, maybe it’s time for Jen to stop listening to her head and start following her heart…
Pernille Hughes is the author of Sweatpants at Tiffanie’s and Probably The Best Kiss In The World. Previously her writing has been printed in The Sunday Times and the fabulous SUNLOUNGER summer anthologies. Now, she lives in actual Buckinghamshire, sharing a photocopier with her husband and their four spawn. While the kids are at school she scoffs cake and writes RomCom stories in order to maintain a shred of sanity.