Andrew Michael Hurley is the author of the Costa prize winning novel The Loney. His second novel was Devil’s Day. He has contributed a short story in Seaside Special, which was published by Bluemoose Books on 16 May 2018.
Andrew is in conversation with Melissa Wan, discussing Seaside Stories, at the Hebden Bridge Arts Festival on 28th June 2018. You can find out more information here.
He kindly answered a few of my questions.
1. Tell us a little about Seaside Special.
Seaside Special is an anthology of stories inspired by places – urban and rural – along the north-west coast. What’s significant is that they are all so different, even the stories set in the same place. There are three about Blackpool, for instance, but all see the town in a very different way. And yet there are common threads running through all the stories of these places being unique because of their proximity to the sea. As Jenn Ashworth says in her introduction, these are places of contradiction: they are known and unknown, light-filled and yet somehow drab, full of laughter, yes, but full of the potential for menace too.
2. What inspired your story in the anthology?
It was those kinds of contradictions, particularly the latter, that I wanted to try and write about in Katy. Behind the amusement arcades and illuminations and glitzy fairgrounds there’s a palpable, simmering tension in Blackpool and the town’s ugly side can sometimes reveal itself despite the abundance of fun. It’s a story about the inadequacy of bells and whistles to cover up what’s really there.
3. Are you a plan, plan, plan writer or do you sit down and see where the words take you?
I have a general idea about what I want to try and do but much of the initial writing process is about exploring and feeling my way through the place or the character or the voice. It’s inevitable that I end up going down some blind alleys but that’s part of the process too. Each story – short or long – presents its own unique set of problems and surprises; each story feels like a different territory that I map as I go along.
4. What do you think the appeal is of Arts and Literary festivals and how important are they for authors and readers?
Writing is a reasonably (and necessarily) solitary occupation, you tap away at the keyboard in your little room and the words eventually form a book which is then (hopefully) read by people ‘out there’. It’s nice to actually meet them. What I’ve found, as well, is that as I’ve talked about my books with readers, my understanding of the books has developed. The questions I tried to tackle only get more complex as more answers are added. Reading at festivals really highlights that a story is something that gains meaning from collaborative thought.
There’s often an eclecticism to literary festivals, too; not only in terms of the books that are discussed but the authors that appear on the bill. It’s an opportunity for up and coming writers to find new readers and promote their work, which can only be a good thing for everyone.
5. If you could only read one book for the rest of your life which book would it be?
It would have to be something by Hardy, probably Tess.
6. I like to end my Q&As with the same question so here we go. During all the Q&As and interviews you’ve done what question have you not been asked that you wish had been asked – and what’s the answer?
Wanting to write, wanting to be published, is an odd desire in many ways. There’s a self-punishment to it in a way, in that you’re accepting that what you write will be judged, compared or – at the early stages of a career – very often rejected. Now that I’ve “become a writer” people don’t really ask about how that rejection felt. Which leads to another question: “how did you manage those feelings well enough to keep going?”
I would answer by saying that I stopped thinking of “getting published” as being the only thing that would validate my writing and focused more on enjoying and getting better at the act of writing itself. That has to be the primary reason why anyone writes at all.
About the book
Ten startling short stories. Vivid glimpses of lives and landscapes from the North West Coastline of England. Edited by Jenn Ashworth.
Authors: Louise Ayre, Carys Bray, Bethan Ellis, Andrew Michael Hurley, Pete Kalu, Paul Kingsnorth, Kirsty Logan, Anita Sethi, MelissaWan and Lucy Wilkinson Yates.