Starr’s Mill graduate making a name with sci-fi mystery


In a dark, future Atlanta, a disgraced telepath must stop a serial killer who murders with the mind. That is the plot behind Alex Hughes’ first novel, “Clean,” published this fall by Penguin Publishing. The sequel, “Sharp,” comes out this April with an e-novella that bridges the two books, hitting the web this March. The books are what Hughes calls Mindspace Investigations novels and fans of all types of genres are calling the series a hit.

“It appeals to mystery readers and fans of urban fantasy,” Hughes said, adding, “If you like cop shows, you’ll like my book.”

Hughes, a graduate of Starr’s Mill in 2001, did a lot of research on police procedures for the novels and because of things that have occurred in the world of the novels, some elements of modern technology aren’t available to the protagonist.

Hughes was introduced to science-fiction when her grandfather introduced her to Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonrider series.

“I knew then that I wanted to be a writer but I didn’t know how to get there,” Hughes said. She started attending writer’s conferences and eventually sat down at 14 years old and began working on a novel. She finished it but found it to be unpublishable.

“It will never come out of the trunk,” Hughes joked.

She kept at it though. She began to write and submit short stories to magazines specializing in science fiction and fantasy literature and though she got rejection letters she did not get discouraged.

“One of the letters was very nice saying we love your story but we have one on a similar theme this month by Ray Bradbury,” Hughes recalled.

Hughes went to Agnes Scott College and minored in creative writing. She was later invited to join a writer’s group and has been a member for eight years. Her work with the group and also in an independent study with Dan Marshall and some time with the Odyssey Writing Workshop helped get the novels that would become “Clean” and “Sharp” what they are today.

It was at the Odyssey Writing Workshop that Hughes got the news that Penguin was interested in publishing her novels. “Clean” had been submitted to the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards and she made it to the semi-fianl round. All of the semi-finalist entries were read by Penguin that year and, although she didn’t make it to the finals, her book was selected for publishing.

“They said ‘We love this book’ and I said ‘Eep,’” Hughes stated. “They asked if i was planning a sequel and I said, ‘Of course.’”

Hughes went from a struggling author to one with an agent, a publisher and a two book deal in a matter of days. There is still, and always will be, plenty of work. “Sharp” was written in nine months, much faster than “Clean” was written. Hughes has also done a lot of marketing, appearing at conferences, book signings and being part of what’s known as a blog tour.

Book blogs are very popular, particularly for genre books, and Hughes sent out letters to 250 book blogs around the country, talking about her book, asking if they would like a review copy and offering to be a guest blogger for a day on their site. She got a great response and soon found “Clean,” was among the top sales for sci-fi books for three of four weeks.

This is an exciting time for Alex Hughes and she has made some appearances in her old stomping ground. Last week, she spoke to students at Starr’s Mill and on Saturday, Feb. 23 from 1-3 p.m. she will sign copies of “Clean” at Omega Books in Peachtree City.

After devouring all of the sci-fi books she could get her hands on at the Fayette County and Peachtree City libraries growing up, Hughes now finds her books on the shelves alongside some of her heroes of the genre. Perhaps one day a student will pick up her book and decide that he or she would like to do that some day too, write a novel and tell a story that captures people’s imaginations all over the world.