This week’s guest on Marcie’s High Heels and Book Deals blog is Pernille Hughes. She’s here to tell us about her book.
Tiffanie Trent is not having a great week. Gavin, her boyfriend, has dumped her unceremoniously on their tenth anniversary, leaving her heartbroken and homeless.
Frank Black, the owner of Blackie’s boxing gym and where Tiff has been book-keeper for the last decade, has dropped dead. He’s not having a great week either.
And if that wasn’t enough, Mike ‘The Assassin’ Fellner, boxer of international fame and Tiff’s first love, is back in town and more gorgeous than ever. Tiff can’t seem to go anywhere without bumping into his biceps.
When she discovers Blackie has left her the gym, Tiff, with her saggy trackies and supermarket trainers, is certain she’ll fail. Can Tiff step up and roll with the punches, or will she be down and out at the first round?
Punch-Drunk Love is a second-chance romance, about getting back up again when life punches you in the face.
What was the idea behind it?
Punch-Drunk Love was originally called Sweatpants At Tiffanie’s and this was one of those instances where the title came first. I’d been writing short fiction for a couple of years and had decided to give a full-length romantic novel a go. But where do you start? I’d noticed that some books used puns on film or song titles and, loving a pun, I was bouncing that around in my head. A trailer for Breakfast At Tiffany’s, a film I love, appeared on the telly. I made a pun on that which was Sweatpants at Tiffanie’s and thought, ‘What would that story be about?’ after which lots of notes were scribbled about who Tiffanie might be and what conflict she has to face in her sweatpants. They are very different stories of course, but both Tiff and Holly Golightly in the film have to take a hard look at how they are living their lives.
Can you tell me one positive trait of your main character?
Tiff’s a capable woman, but she’s lost sight of it. She has vision and, in the end, tenacity. I like to write about women who aren’t ditzy or clumsy, women who are capable, but have been knocked by life or who haven’t caught a break.
Can you tell me one negative trait of your main character?
Tiff lets other people define her and tell her what she is capable of. She needs to overcome her self-doubt to succeed. Oh, and she’s never spotted her boyfriend is an asshat…
Why did you chose this genre to write in?
It took me ages to work out where I should be writing! I started writing after my twins were born and I finished working at a Children’s TV company. I tried children’s novelty books, picture books, Middle Grade, Teen books and Young Adult. Randomly I spotted a regular column in a Sunday paper of short holiday romances and spent a little while dissecting it. I thought I’d have a go and sent one off for the fun of it. They actually bought it. And then they bought thirty five more over the next two years. During that time I saw a Tweet for a writing competition, which was offering three story slots in an anthology to sit alongside a raft of known romance writers’ holiday-themed short stories. I wrote one, entered and came runner-up. At that point, I realised perhaps romance was where my writing voice lay. (Yes, yes I know, I am slow…)
What is your favourite book?
I don’t think I have one favourite. There are books and writers I love from various points in my life and across genres. The one book I do return to is a by historical crime writer Lindsey Davis. It’s a stand-alone romance she wrote a long time ago called The Course of Honour and I just adore it, for no other reason than the characters existed and it depicts a love that spans decades and long absences. My husband used to be away for a longer stint every year for work, and I always read it then. Gaahd, I am such a sap.
What is the book you are reading now?
I’ve just finished The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver. After having read One Day in December, I was keen to get my hands on this one. It didn’t disappoint. Josie simply knows what she is doing when it comes to uplifting comfort reading. It’s a wonderful love story, but primarily a tale not of overcoming grief, but learning to live with it, growing from it, and seeing that even from tragedy good things can come. The next one on my TBR pile is The Unhoneymooners by Christen Lauren.
What is your favourite romantic film?
Possibly not a popular choice but Mr & Mrs Smith is my default film and I also love The Thomas Crown Affair, the Pierce Brosnan version. Maybe it’s the skirmish-on-the-dance-floor scenes that get me...
How do you get over writer’s block?
If blocked, I restart really small. With pen and paper. A sentence a day if necessary. An opening line perhaps. Then a paragraph a day, maybe the opening para, or – most likely – a segment of dialogue. Then two paragraphs, and so on… I do the task and walk away, then come back the next day and do a little more, gradually building up and letting the ideas come again. Essentially, I’m rebuilding the habit.
What is your first draft process?
I visualise my process as sculpting (Sorry, I don’t want to sound knobby, but that’s what it seems like to me). First I’ll write what I call a Vomit draft, just spewing words onto the page, only writing forwards and chronologically, not going back to correct anything, even if it means writing ‘something about XX, here’. That feels like choosing the material, like clay or stone.
The next draft will be looking at the ugly lump of words and deciding what the form of it is, what the essence of the piece will be and beginning to shape it. Each draft is then shaping the clay/stone until the sculpture is defined and the final draft will be the polishing.
I like to have everything rounded off in my stories, ideally no loose ends, so when I’m asked to make edits, I find it really hard. In this analogy it’s like having to add an arm or something to a contained piece and then having firstly to make it look like it was always supposed to be there in the balanced piece and secondly smoothing the edges so no one can see the joins.
My stories start from an idea and then conversations around that idea come into my head. Until now my Vomit drafts have been extremely loosely plotted, after which I’ve found that when starting the first proper draft, I work best if I have a fully plotted plan and know the arcs of my key characters so that the choices they make from the start are true to their needs.
Do you ever suffer from self-doubt? How do you overcome it (if you do?!)?
All. The. Time!! My Inner Critic is a real cow. But I either tell myself not to listen to her and plough on, or I reason with myself that she does it to stop me putting myself out there and risk getting hurt, but that I’ll be able to cope with the reviews and rejections, my skin is thicker than she thinks. She’s like those girls at school you just had to learn to ignore or never show that they’d got to you.
What ways do you overcome procrastination?
Bahahahahaha! I don’t. I wish I did. In the end I get on with things because I’m running close to a deadline (by which I mean bum-clenchingly scared) or I feel guilty for spaffing the time away.
Have you always wanted to be a writer? And if not, what prompted you?
I always loved telling stories and I dreamed of working as a writer in some way. As a teen I wanted to be a journalist, but my English teacher, who was also my careers teacher advised me that she didn’t think my writing was good enough to base a career on. And it totally threw me, as I had no idea what else to be. It put me off writing for ten years too. I picked it back up when I finished work to have my twins and it was lovely to write again, to keep my brain from shrinking. Getting my book deal was lovely to prove her wrong.
What’s your poison – high heels or flats?
I love the idea of a high-heel, but I wobble like a baby giraffe in a really high stiletto. Instead I pick something with a wider heel. Also I’m quite tall, so being too high becomes difficult when you like to talk to people and your hearing is getting worse with age.
So really, kitten heels work best for me, but I love these ones from Ruby Shoo, and the platform means they aren’t quite as wobble-inducing for my inner-giraffe.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Pernille Hughes is a romcom author and mum, who has written two books so far, PROBABLY THE BEST KISS IN THE WORLD and PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE. Previously her writing has been printed in The Sunday Times and the fabulous SUNLOUNGER summer anthologies.
Pernille (pronounced Pernilla) studied Film & Literature at uni and took her first job in advertising, having been lured by the temptation of freebies, but left when Status Quo tickets was as good as it got. After a brief spell marketing Natural History films, she switched to working in Children’s television which for a time meant living in actual Teletubbyland, sharing a photocopier with Laa-Laa.
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 romCcom stories in order to maintain a shred of sanity.
You can find Pernille on Twitter at @pernillehughes, on Facebook at @pernillehughesauthor, on Instagram at @pernillehughes or visit her website here.