The Loney has been widely praised for the way it uses the mainstays of gothic horror – a wild, ancient landscape, a face at the window, a crumbling house filled with mysteries – to speak about our search for meaning in an incoherent world. Yet Andrew Hurley didn’t set out to write a genre novel. “The 'gothicness' came out quite organically in the writing,” he says. When he finished writing it he “wasn't entirely sure what it was, whether it was a literary novel or a horror novel or both or neither.” He assumed that this would be a barrier to seeing it published, “but actually the reverse seems to have happened.”
This is a serious book with grown-up themes. A religious group visits an abandoned stretch of Morecambe Bay, seeking out the ruined shrine they believe can ‘cure’ a mute boy. These modern-day pilgrims, says Hurley, see this coastal landscape as “a place where God's power is evident in the water and the sand and the weather. Yet this is just a human interpretation. Actually the place is wild, feral and dangerous.” And the dark events that follow explode their fragile certainties. This stripping away of our romantic beliefs is, thinks Hurley, “one of the key ideas in gothic” and a strong reason why he gravitated towards this form as the best and only way to tell his story.
This is an excerpt from a forthcoming article about genre-bending fiction that I wrote for the e magazine, The Manual.