There is a story in The Daily Telegraph last month about how Andrew Michael Hurley achieved success with his first novel, The Loney which won the Costa Prize for the year’s best first novel. This May, it won the Book of the Year award at the British Book Industry Awards. Hurley is a former teacher from Preston (northern England). He self-published two collections of stories before taking up part-time work as a librarian, so that he would have time to work on a novel. He spent almost four years working on The Loney before showing it to friends and colleagues.
Andrew Michael Hurley
The people who read it, he recalls, “Said it was great – but where would it go in bookstores?” (The novel is set on a wild stretch of northwest English coast, and mixes captivating descriptions of the landscapes with a mixture of the ridiculous and the terrifying.) The article says, “It follows the activities of a small group of hardline Catholics – the narrator, his developmentally challenged adult brother, his fervently religious parents and two elderly friends – as they mount an expedition to a holy well in the company of their new parish priest.”
Three years ago, Mr Hurley couldn’t find a publisher anywhere. “He sent it to agents and small publishers, all of whom responded either with silence or with polite notes of refusal. Eventually, searching the internet for possible publishers, he came across Tartarus, a small press specialising in ‘literary supernatural/strange/horror fiction’ and run from a house in the Yorkshire Dales by the writers Ray Russell and Rosalie Parker. ‘It was just one of many books when it arrived,’ says Russell. ‘Ros read it and loved it, but I was slightly sceptical, mainly because over the years we’d had the impression that our customers preferred short story collections. But as Ros said, the whole idea of Tartarus was to publish books that we liked – and if we liked then, hopefully other people would as well.’
“In London, the sharp-eyed publisher Mark Richards at John Murray read the book and recognised it, he says, as ‘a first novel of extraordinary assuredness. It felt like the work of someone who had been writing for 40 years.’ He made contact with Hurley and the proprietors of Tartarus and arranged ‘to bring it to the mass market audience that the book could definitely reach.’
“Hurley says, ‘I’m 41 now, so it’s been a long time coming. I’m very grateful that I can concentrate on doing something that I love more than anything else. All the rest is just an added – though very welcome – extra. . . . I’m terrible at giving advise on writing,’ he says, ‘but perseverance has to be the key. So many times you feel like giving up and thinking, this isn’t going to happen. But it does. It absolutely does.'”