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By Agota Justkaite
This year’s Gothic Manchester Festival welcomed newly appointed Manchester Met Lecturer in Creative Writing Andrew Michael Hurley to speak about his award winning debut novel The Loney.
The popular annual Twisted Tales of the North event in association with Manchester Writing School, presented Andrew in conversation with Senior Lecturer in English and Film Dr Xavier Aldana Reyes to discuss his novel.
The event was chaired by Dr David McWilliam and took place at John Ryland’s library in Manchester, which added a perfect Gothic ambiance, setting the tone of the evening.
During the interview Andrew expressed his happiness that, after a long time of hard work in writing and trying to publish his work, he was finally noticed and recognized for his writing talent. Reminiscing about his childhood, he said that he had always wanted to do something creative in his life. As a child, drawing as well as writing were the ways in which he would express himself.
Andrew explained that when he came to sit down to write the novel, the idea of a classic Gothic story came to him by sheer serendipity. The concept of Gothic, according to him, is uncertainty as “one cannot be sure of the genre”. He said, “People are interested in talking whether it is Gothic or in what ways it is. Gothic allows to approach identity, sexuality in a really interesting way.”
Andrew went on to reveal that it always interests him, and other writers, to discover what others think of their work as it gives them a better understanding of how the story is interpreted by the audience.
The author chose to explore the setting of the Lancashire coast and its surroundings due to the area’s rich history and it is also a perfect setting for a Gothic novel. According to him, this place is full of unwritten stories. He has also explored many different places in this area and he decided to share that with his readers. According to Andrew, the world of Gothic is “real but there is an otherness to it”. In other words, there is more than just horror.
What interests Andrew about the Gothic characters is a “moment where they don’t have the language to explain.” As one of the characters in the novel is a mentally disabled boy, Andrew said he found it very interesting to write about this character since he has not had the experience to feel what the character himself would. What really fascinated him about exploring this section of the book was the way the disabled boy is treated by his family as well as the relationship he has with his brother. “The boys have very different ways of communicating”, Andrew says.
As an author, he chose to write about someone else’s life rather than creating something he is familiar with and, according to him, this way of writing is “very interesting to explore.” He is able to express the character’s emotion without actually going through them.
The story of The Loney is set in the 70s. Andrew said, “I wanted to set it in a time where the loney would exist.” Indeed, the setting seems to work because the plot of the book takes place in a different period of time when the use of technology was not necessary, and there was no Google or Facebook. Moreover, the 70s was when Andrew was born and grew up so he felt close to this era. “The 70s are known as the time full of evil,” he said.
Asked who he would play if he could star in the film, Andrew laughed, “One of the locals or strange people who would just turn up. Or an old priest.”
So, what’s next for Andrew?
He explained that The Loney is set on the coast so his next novel is going to be set between Lancaster and Preston, another area that he is familiar with. This time he is going to cover folklore and expressed that it is “not easy not rewriting The Loney.”
And what about inspiration and ideas for further novels?
Andrew said that he is reading more of non-fiction novels, and that writing about nature is what interests him largely. He is also passionate about the relationship between an individual and the natural world. These are just a few of the ideas that Andrew currently has and perhaps are something that will be heard about in his upcoming works.
For more information about upcoming events, visit the Gothic Manchester Festival website.