Both men also feel the pressure of providing more for their families — Will from the promises he made to his father-in-law, who is from a higher class than Will’s family, and Jeff as his East Coast mother-in-law comes to visit.
“The idea is that when you marry, you marry into the family and the family has a big effect,” Hughes said. “One of the challenges of being young and getting married is that you then have to meld all of your backgrounds together where you didn’t even realize how different you are in some ways."
In pioneer-era Nauvoo, Will and Liz see the poverty, sickness and the effects of some people’s human nature — both in and out of the church — around them as they try to carve out a living and keep their faith while doing what they can to help others. It includes the uncertain time around the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.
Hughes introduces new characters, including Abby’s mother, who comes to visit after her grandson is born and who has never really thought much of Jeff, and in Will and Liz’s story, neighbors who, like them, are excited about the gospel, but struggle to make a living in Nauvoo.
The first book’s title, “The Winds and the Waves,” is from the hymn “Master the Tempest is Raging” and this one, “Through Cloud and Sunshine,” is a phrase from “Abide with Me!” (Hymns, No. 166).
The third volume includes the pioneer era of the exodus West, going to Winter Quarters and the Mormon Battalion, and is due out next year. As it’s in a series, the characters are already established, but it’s impossible to assume a reader picked up the first book.
Hughes and his wife, Kathleen, served as public affairs missionaries in Nauvoo after she was released from the general Relief Society presidency, and Dean Hughes also had an ancestor, Robert Harris Jr., who took a similar path from England to Nauvoo and also later participated in the Mormon Battalion.
And while this isn’t a re-creation of Harris’ story, he’s trying to accurately portray the era.
“It’s hard to think yourself into another century,” Hughes said.
Writing historical fiction from any era does come with its challenges. It requires meticulous research to get the facts correct and to not apply present-day values and make assumptions about what it was like.
“These have been some of the hardest books I’ve ever written,” Hughes said of the Come to Zion series.
“A lot of my readers are LDS and a lot of them feel they know that history — and they do know quite a bit,” Hughes said. “You’ve got to get it right.”
However, while people know this history of the pioneers, the stories are at times simplified or one well-known story that only happened to a few people is applied to just about all pioneers. And when the historical facts differ from what is widely accepted, readers start to wonder how much is fiction or fact.
“We have an understanding of the early Saints and we get it wrong most of the time,” Hughes said. Also, they weren’t much different than members of the LDS Church today in terms of human nature, faith and struggles.
“They all struggled with the same kind of stuff that we do,” Hughes said.
Book publishing, writing
One of the biggest changes Hughes has seen in the book publishing industry is the switch to digital formats for books and how there are many avenues for self-publishing. About a third of his income from his books is from electronic downloads or e-books.
“Everything is changing fast,” Hughes said.
Digital books have helped keep older titles that might have ordinarily gone out of print available longer
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