Jeremy Harmon, Deseret News archives
Utah author Dean Hughes’ first published book was for children. Titled "Under the Same Stars," it was about the early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Jackson County, Mo., near where Hughes and his family were living at the time in 1979.
This year, his 100th book, “Through Cloud and Sunshine” (Deseret Book, $25.99), the second volume in the Come to Zion series, rolled off the presses.
“It’s been a way to make a living that I’ve loved,” Hughes said of writing.
The 70-year-old author doesn’t have plans to stop writing.
His writing career has included sports, humor, historical fiction, nonfiction and books for a variety of reading levels, from series for beginning and middle-grade readers to adults.
“I’ve never really stuck with one thing,” Hughes said of the genre of books with his byline.
Hughes has worked with several publishers, those that cater to the LDS niche, including Deseret Book, and those who have a broader audience, including imprints for Random House and Simon and Schuster.
“The first book that got accepted — it was an enormous thrill,” said Hughes, who wanted to be a writer since junior high and had also taught university-level English. “Then you start to realize that a lot people do this.”
It was a children’s literature class in college that put him on the path to writing middle-grade books, which included several series.
Through his writing career, he has gravitated toward historical fiction and has written the Children of the Promise and Hearts of the Children series, set in World War II era, and the recent Come to Zion series that parallels newlywed and pioneer couples.
“I’m fascinated by the topics I’ve written about,” Hughes said of Mormon history and World War II. "I love the research part of historical fiction.”
‘Through Cloud and Sunshine’
His 100th book, “Through Cloud and Sunshine,” continues the parallel stories of young couples Will and Liz Lewis, as they make their home in pioneer-era Nauvoo, Ill., and their descendant Jeff and his wife, Abby, as they live in modern-day Nauvoo.
The Come to Zion series started with “The Winds and the Waves” where both men, Will, then in England, and Jeff, in the United States, faced employment challenges. Jeff, a lifelong member of the LDS Church, and Abby, a convert and only Mormon in her family, moved to Nauvoo after Jeff became unemployed. There they could live in a home of a couple serving a mission elsewhere for free while renovating and updating it.
“I want to show the parallel of any young person or any young couple in time is that the basic human emotions don’t change that much,” Hughes said of the 417-page novel. “Deep down, we’re human and we’re going to go through the same emotional experiences.”
Both are struggling to start their families and both women have complications with their pregnancies. Both Will and Jeff struggle with their faith as they want to bless their families along with protecting and providing for them. Both are asked to serve in ways that challenge them — Will is called to serve a mission during the winter months, having to leave his wife and young children for several months, and Jeff is called to serve in his ward’s elders quorum presidency — and both recognize their shortcomings.
“Will and Jeff are versions of myself. You can’t help but do that as a writer,” Hughes said. “Doubt is a big part of their lives. You join the church and then wonder about (things), like can I have the faith to heal?”
They don’t just absolutely believe everything and have absolute faith at all times.
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