As author Dean Hughes writes his 100th book, he has two files open on his 27-inch monitor: one is the current draft — the fourth, at the moment — and the other is a 60-page file of historical notes.
Other books are close at hand in case the details of England or Nauvoo, Ill., in the 1840s need checking for his new series, “Come to Zion.” The recently released first volume of the series, "The Winds and the Waves" (Deseret Book, $24.99), is Hughes’ 99th book.
And, too, there is a large file container with files of his research, also on the early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“With LDS readers, they know about Nauvoo,” Hughes said.
He and his wife, Kathleen, served as public affairs missionaries for two years in Nauvoo, where the early Saints settled after leaving Missouri and Ohio and worked to build a city out of the swamp in the bend of the Mississippi River. “It challenges you to give them new insights and new depths to understand.”
Also, there are clichés or stories taken out of context about those early Saints, and while some stories — like the one that they all left via Parley Street by crossing the ice in February — are true for some families but not for all of the pioneers.
“If you tell the story differently from what they’ve heard, they’ll get upset with you,” said Hughes, who also traveled to England, where his and his wife’s ancestors lived and joined the LDS Church, to research the “Come to Zion” series.
'The Winds and the Waves’
In “The Winds and the Waves,” Will Lewis and Jeff Lewis, relatives in different time periods, are frustrated with their current situations. They have jobs that they don’t love and feel like they are in a dead-end situation. Both have dreams that seem nearly impossible to attain.
Will is the son of a tenant farmer who lives in 1840s England and wants nothing more than to own land and do better than just getting by each year, with so much hard labor from his family. And he has his eye on a pretty girl whose family is socially above his, and, unless he can improve his situation, she’s out of reach for him.
In the present day, newlywed Jeff pursued a degree in computer programming, as it seemed more sensible and easier to support a family with than an advanced degree in history.
Hughes parallels the life of Will with that of his descendant Jeff and his wife, Abby, as they face the challenges that life has to offer in “The Winds and the Waves.” The title of this first volume comes from the hymn "Master, the Tempest is Raging" (Hymns, No. 105), which he felt was a metaphor for difficulties and hardships.
“The idea (of showing the parallel stories) was that some things don’t change very much,” Hughes said. “One is stuck out on a farm where he has no chance. One young man has an education but doesn’t feel like (he has) a chance, either.” Hughes developed outlines for Will’s and Jeff’s stories independently. Then he integrated the two outlines and wrote according to this combined outline to make sure the stories fit together. Yet he still revised “The Winds and the Waves” nine times.
Both Will and Jeff lose their jobs and set out to find another — only to find that their situations don’t look much brighter until unexpected unemployment opportunities come that are no less than an answer to prayers.
“We all go through hard times,” Hughes said. “One way or another, people find a way through it.”
Jeff is a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and likes to delve into the history and gospel, while Abby is a more recent convert and the only Mormon in her immediate family.
Will initially doesn’t see much point to religion, but his family are members of the United Brethren, as is Elizabeth “Liz” Duncan, whom Will would like to marry but can’t unless his situation improves, and her family. Missionaries, including one Wilford Woodruff, come to visit the congregation. Many are baptized and look to join with the Saints in America, particularly in Nauvoo, which would mean sailing across the Atlantic Ocean.
After Jeff’s company downsizes, he is left without a job and the family moves in with his parents, until they are offered an opportunity to renovate a home in Nauvoo while the owners are serving a mission elsewhere.
Even after answers come at these two crossroads, both find there are still challenges and struggles, along with joy in the successes and friendships they make along the way.
Living in Nauvoo
Because of Hughes’ mission assignment in Nauvoo and the time he and his wife have spent there, “every street means something to me.”
The couple would take visitors across the Mississippi River to a bluff to see the rebuilt Nauvoo Illinois Temple, and the two missionaries experienced the historic town through all the seasons of the year.
As both Dean and Kathleen had ancestors in England who joined the LDS Church and came to Nauvoo, those pioneers were some of the last to receive the endowment in the Nauvoo Temple, during the last 48 hours it was open.
Sister Kathleen Hughes was called to serve in the Relief Society general presidency right before the dedication of the Nauvoo Illinois Temple in June 2002 and the two went to the dedication. And they were able to attend the second session for the newly dedicated temple.
“It was a just a beautiful experience for us,” Hughes said.
With “The Winds and the Waves,” Hughes hopes that he tells a good story that people enjoy and the book will show that in the journey of life, “we all have our own struggles — and we can do it.”
“The Winds and the Waves” is currently in stores, and the second volume in the series is expected to be released in the summer of 2013.
Author Dean Hughes shares about writing
Author Dean Hughes, whose new book "The Winds and the Waves" is his 99th novel, shares about writing.