By: Michael Hurley
Genre: Literary Fiction
Ten years after their college days together, three wounded and very different women reunite for a summer on the island of Martha's Vineyard. As they come to grips with the challenges and crises in their lives, their encounter with a reclusive poacher known only as "the fisherman" threatens to change everything they believe about their world--and each other.
“Hurley writes beautifully,” says Kirkus Reviews, “especially when describing island and nautical life.” Publishers Weekly praises “his well-crafted prose.”
Michael Hurley and his wife Susan live near Charleston, South Carolina. Born and raised in Baltimore, Michael holds a degree in English from the University of Maryland and law from St. Louis University.
The Prodigal, Michael’s debut novel from Ragbagger Press, received the Somerset Prize for mainstream fiction and numerous accolades in the trade press, including Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, ForeWord Reviews, BookTrib, Chanticleer Reviews, and IndieReader. It is currently in development for a feature film by producer Diane Sillan Isaacs. Michael’s second novel, The Vineyard, is due to be released by Ragbagger Press on November 25, 2014.
Michael’s first book, Letters from the Woods, is a collection of wilderness-themed essays published by Ragbagger Press in 2005. It was shortlisted for Book of the Year by ForeWord magazine. In 2009, Michael embarked on a two-year, 2,200 mile solo sailing voyage that ended with the loss of his 32-foot sloop, the Gypsy Moon, in the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti in 2012. That voyage and the experiences that inspired him to set sail became the subject of his memoir, Once Upon A Gypsy Moon, published in 2013 by Hachette Book Group.
When he is not writing, Michael enjoys reading and relaxing with Susan on the porch of their rambling, one-hundred-year-old house. His fondest pastimes are ocean sailing, playing piano and classical guitar, cooking, and keeping up with an energetic Irish terrier, Frodo Baggins.
Q&A with Michael
I take my inspiration from ordinary people and places. I may notice something—a scene or circumstance or a person or a thread of conversation—and begin to extrapolate it into a scene in a novel.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
When I found a 1963 copy of the Writer’s Market in my mom’s closet. I was probably ten or eleven.
Do you have any strange writing habits?
Not really. I find writing to be a mental form of exercise, and as with physical exercise, I can’t keep doing it continuously for very long without a break, or I’ll be exhausted. When I finish a particular scene that I’m very pleased with, I find that I need to get up from the computer and walk around a bit, before I’m ready to start writing again.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
It’s hard sometimes to feel good about what I’m writing when it’s still a pretty shapeless, unformed piece of clay. There are many times in the early stages of a manuscript when I’m certain that what I’m writing is going to be just worthless, but as the story coalesces around the characters and the plot, I get excited to finish, and feelings of frustration and despair start to become feelings of anticipation and pride.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does she do that is so special?
There are three main characters—all women in their early thirties, but Charlotte is the catalyst for the rest of the story. She comes closest to a main character. She is an old school Catholic who believes that because her daughter died without the benefit of baptism, she cannot enter heaven, which creates excruciating guilt for Charlotte. While Catholic teaching has “evolved” on the subject of babies and limbo, Canon Law still reserves the sacrament of Christian burial for only those babies whom the parents “intended” to baptize. Because Charlotte and her atheist ex-husband had decided to let their daughter make her own decision on joining the church (a decision Charlotte never guessed would be taken from her child by death), Charlotte’s daughter does not meet the requirement of Canon law for an ecclesiastical funeral. To Charlotte, this means that her daughter will wander in isolation for all eternity, and as a result she has formed a plan to take her own life in hopes of joining her daughter in death. Charlotte is a tragic figure who completely changes her views on matters of faith as a result of the events that occur in the course of the novel.
Which actress could you see playing the lead character from your book?
I would love to see Jennifer Lawrence play any of the three main female characters.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
The Vineyard is an allegorical tale that asks some hard questions about the Catholic Church and portrays one priest and one bishop in an extremely negative light. I have been surprised to get the “Salmon Rushdie” treatment from some cradle Catholics who, in reviewing the book, object so strongly to the message that they cannot appreciate the story objectively as fiction.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I am writing a romance—my first.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Don’t get wrapped up in all the advice about how to conform your writing style to match a particular marketing approach to reach the widest audience, because if you do you’ll be writing the same thing everyone else is writing. Find a job you like that will pay the bills, write what you love, and don’t sweat your sales.