A former teacher who has become a literary sensation returned to the classroom to pass on his skills to current pupils.
Andrew Hurley has taken the world of writing by storm with his novel The Loney.
I loved teaching, the staff and students are great, but I left to concentrate on my writing career
The book, which tells the story of a family’s attempt to cure a mentally-disturbed boy by divine means at the creepy, isolated place of the novel’s title, has been shortlisted for the Costa Book Awards’ first novel category and attracted a swathe of glowing reviews including from horror best-seller Stephen King.
Fulwood-based Andrew, who writes under the name Andrew Michael Hurley, found time in his busy publicity schedule to return to Winstanley College in Wigan, where he once taught, to share some of his writing success.
Andrew, 40, said: “I loved teaching, the staff and students are great, but I left to concentrate on my writing career.
“Returning as a writer rather than a teacher was a bit surreal, but it was wonderful to be able to share some of my experiences of writing the novel with up-and-coming writers.
“I’ve been writing for a very long time. If I’m being honest, there’s nothing else I’ve ever really wanted to do other than be a writer and have creativity and imagination at the core of what I do for a living.
“It feels a very natural thing to have ended up doing.”
Andrew also worked at Preston’s and Runshaw colleges, but left for his literary career and took a job at Kirkham Library to increase the amount of free time for writing.
Four years in the making, the success of The Loney certainly suggests he made the right decision, with its rich and evocative mix of desolate Lancashire landscapes, religious concerns both pagan and Christian and prominent gothic elements impressing critics and readers.
He said: “The novel had two starting points. Firstly, I was inspired by the lonely, desolate landscape around Morecambe Bay and secondly I wanted to write about faith and belief, specifically within the Roman Catholic Church.
“I was brought up as a Catholic and although I lost my faith in my teens I am still fascinated by religion: its hold on the imagination, its rituals and practices.
“The Loney is also about much older pre-Christian beliefs connected with the landscape and natural forces.
“The story takes place at the blurred boundary of these two systems. It’s interesting how different people have read the novel. Some have seen it as gothic horror, some as a novel about family, some as a coming of age story.
The book was initially printed in a small run of 300 hardback copies but was then picked up by the famous John Murray publishing house.
Andrew will find out in the New Year if The Loney has won the Costa Book Award.
He is his second book, set on the Bowland moors in north Lancashire.
He said: “It’s a very rich landscape for a writer: quite unspoilt, mythic and menacing.”