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Author Jobie Hughes to talk about his career Saturday

Medina County Gazette—November 12, 2012

After completing a grueling book tour to promote his novel “At Dawn,” Jobie Hughes is coming back to Medina County to talk about his work in progress        

Hughes, a former resident of Spencer, plans to share some excerpts from his latest work, “The Gates of Pyrrhus,” at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at the Medina County District Library, 210 S. Broadway St.

“At Dawn,” released Oct. 16, has received praise from authors like James Brown (“The Los Angeles Diaries,” “This River”), who described Hughes’ work as “the brave, rare sort of novel that finds extraordinary meaning in ordinary lives.”

Although Hughes might make it look effortless, his success has not come easy or overnight. He earned a business degree at Ohio University but discovered he hated the business world.

“I was fired from some of my jobs,” he said in a telephone interview.

So he started to write. He was 24, and New York City beckoned.

“I always wanted to live in New York. It’s a hard place to make it, and I’m not quite sure why it attracted me, but that’s where I wanted to be.”

Columbia University’s School of the Arts was his ticket to the city. By 2009, the 32-year-old earned his master of fine arts in creative writing.

“I came late to creative writing,” he said. “I always worked a full-time job and then wrote three or four hours a night. It’s been a long, arduous road, but it has paid off in the end.”

Hughes wrote his first published work, “I Am Number Four,” a novel for young adults, while finishing his last semester at Columbia.

The book was the first in “The Lorien Legacies” series for young adults and was quickly followed by “The Power of Six.” But Hughes wanted to focus on more literary fiction.

He already had completed many drafts of “At Dawn” when “I Am Number Four” was accepted both for publication and as the basis for a movie script.

“When I was writing ‘At Dawn,’ there was an urgency to get book published, but it wasn’t really ready. It was rejected by everyone,” Hughes said in a telephone interview. “It was good to walk away from the series to work on it.

“I don’t consider myself a good writer, but I’m a good rewriter. It took several more drafts to get it right.”

True art, he said, shows up in the rewrites.

He likes to pound out a thousand words a day when hammering together his first draft.

“I need to get the story down,” he said, adding that he doesn’t work from outlines. “I’m liberated from quality at that point, I’m just writing from the heart, pushing to get it down.” Once he gets the frame of the story built, he sets it aside before beginning rewrites, adding nuances and symbolism, fleshing out characters.

“That’s part of the fun, creating characters and then cutting them loose, turning them out into the world and seeing what develops. I never know what’s going to happen.”

When people ask him how to get published, he tells them to read voraciously and simply keep writing.

“I really don’t know where to begin. They have to have a level of passion, to live and breathe writing, to learn everything about the process. They need that passion to take on the mundane parts themselves. I can talk about the process, but I can’t tell you in a few hours what I’ve learned in eight years.” That, he said, is something writers must discover for themselves.

At the library program, he plans to talk about his work on “At Dawn,” and the art of writing.

“No one sees what goes into the process, what goes into art,” said Hughes, who began writing his stories in coffeehouses. Now he prefers to work at home with a single cup of coffee for company. “To be a good writer, you really better like spending time alone in an empty room.”

Hughes’ words echoed a quote of James Arthur Baldwin he posted on his website: “Beyond talent lie all the usual words — discipline, love, luck — but most of all, endurance.”

In addition to reading from his new work Saturday, Hughes will have copies available for purchase and autographs.

“At Dawn is the brave, rare sort of novel that finds extraordinary meaning in ordinary lives. The characters are beautifully complex, honorable and compassionate, and yet, like so many of us, deeply flawed and emotionally scarred. The writing is clean and sharp and vivid, and in reading Jobie Hughes I’m reminded of the tremendous power of simple honesty in storytelling. This is a fine book by a fine writer.”

James Brown
Author of The Los Angeles Diaries and This River

“Hughes' debut novel, At Dawn, follows a former All-American wrestler, and is there any better metaphor for contemporary American life? We're all wrestling, tussling with the economy, no jobs, doing the best we can. Hughes doesn't flinch from the tough existential questions. He embraces them.”

Joshua Mohr
Author of Damascus

“Hughes combines coming-of-age tale, portrait of the artist as a young man, and father-son saga in a well-crafted novel...[with] pathos, wit, and insight into the relationships that define our lives.”

Publishers Weekly