Last week, we talked with Michael Kent, the lead character and hero in the novel Dancing Priest. This week, we talk with Sarah Hughes, the lead female character.
Sarah Hughes: Like your father is inside your head at all times. It’s strange at first but you get used to it.
FFF: Can you tell us a little about your background, and where you grew up?
SH: I was born and raised in Denver, Colorado. Likely the biggest impact on my life has been being a twin. My brother David was born two minutes before I was, and he never tires of reminding me he’s my older brother. We have an older brother, Scott, and there was quite a gap between us – 12 years. My father was an investment banker and then founded a venture capital firm with his best friend from college, Tyler Zimmer.
My childhood was fairly normal, I think, for a family that was financially blessed. My parents sent us to private schools. David and I spent a good chunk of our summers with my paternal grandparents in Santa Barbara, although we didn’t see my mother’s parents that much. She was originally from Chicago; she met my dad when they all attended the University of Colorado. David and I were seniors in high school when our parents separated. Actually, that’s not quite accurate. My mother left my father, walked out on the whole family, in fact, and later married Ty Zimmer, Dad’s business partner.
FFF: I detect some hurt there.
SH: Yes, you probably do. (Silence)
FFF: Okay, then, how did you end up at the University of Edinburgh?
SH: David and I went as exchange students. We were both attending UCLA, David for its British history program and me for its fine arts program. David had already planned to attend the University of Edinburgh for his junior year; he was specializing in the history of Scotland. At the last minute, and it was really the last minute, I decided to tag along.
FFF: Wouldn’t staying at UCLA made more sense for your fine arts degree?
SH: At Edinburgh I could take a lot of elective courses I needed and I decided it would be a good experience. I also wasn’t ready to be separated from my twin, to be honest. That was the main reason, I suppose. David and I had grown up together and been through a lot together, especially with my mother leaving the family. My dad was able to pull some strings to get my application reviewed; one of the professors there was a consultant for my dad’s business.
FFF: What was your first reaction to seeing Michael?
SH: We had just finished the first meeting of our medieval art class. Medieval art was about the last thing I was interested in, but the lecturer had a reputation for being an outstanding speaker and teacher. And he was, a wild Irishman who passionately loved his subject. I was leaving the building when this young man called out to me. He was in a cycling outfit – polyester jersey with “EUCC” across the front and spandex shorts, and dragging his bike along with him. He rather clumsily asked me out for coffee and I thought I was being hit on for the fourth time that day. I’m afraid I was rather rude. But he was nice looking, I will say that.
FFF: What’s your most vivid memory of Edinburgh?
SH: I know I should say something about the city or Scotland, but my most vivid memory is Michael. Everything about Edinburgh I now associate with Michael. Once we got past our problematic first meeting, it seems we did everything together. He even sat in on my art class just to watch me draw and paint and I attended his cycling practices. If I had to pick a most vivid memory of the city, it would have to be a kind of non-memory – when Michael and I danced the tango at MedFest. I was oblivious to everything during the dance except him. It was if we had known each other forever, and we had met only two days earlier.
FFF: Are you looking forward to being in the sequel to Dancing Priest?
SH: I have a yes-and-no answer. I’ve read the manuscript, and the best part for me is my life with Michael. But things are going to happen that I find frightening. We’re both going to face severe tests, and our lives will never be the same afterward. It wasn’t what I expected at all.