Author Interview with Michael Hurley


Michael Hurley, author of literary fiction “The Vineyard”, is visiting my blog today, and was kind enough to respond to my interview questions.

1)      How long have you been writing?

I wrote my first “book” at age 13, entitled, “101 Ways to Better Your Bass Fishing,” printed it on a mimeograph machine, and sold copies at the local tackle shop. I sold my first magazine article at age 15, entitled “Camping in the Catoctin Region,” to the Maryland Conservationist for $45.  Fishing and camping were all I thought about as a boy!

2)      What is your favorite genre to write?  

Literary fiction.

3)      Which genre have you never tried before, but would you like to try out? 


4)      Please tell us about your book.  

Dory Delano, Charlotte Harris, and Turner Graham have been drifting through life since their days as roommates at Smith College, ten years ago.  Dory is resisting taking the reins of her family’s legacy and fortune even as she relishes the fabulous lifestyle it affords her in the fashionable seaside resort of Martha’s Vineyard.  She invites her old friends to join her for a summer on the Vineyard in hopes of rediscovering the innocence of old days and healing new wounds. But hidden in their midst and unknown to all but a few, a reclusive—some say dangerous—fisherman wanders alone, fueling wild speculation about his purpose and his past.  None of these women can imagine the events their encounter with the fisherman will set in motion, the shadow he will cast over their destinies, or the transformation that awaits the world they know.

Like most literary fiction, The Vineyard is a multi-layered novel. Several themes and stories are presented at once—some directly, some obliquely, some allegorically—through the lives of the central characters. On one level, The Vineyard is a simple story about three friends who decide to spend the summer together on a beautiful island in New England. They drink wine. They fight. They laugh. They cry. They throw parties. They have sex. A wedding looms. Someone is pregnant. Someone is cheating. Love may be real or it may be hollow. Friendships are tested by pride and jealousy and dishonesty. They support and undermine and betray and forgive each other. For some readers, these events will comprise the entirety of the story. The careful reader will discover, however, that the novel uses these elements and the amorphous persona of “the fisherman” to confront the characters with larger questions: What is the meaning of faith, and where is the line between faith and superstition? What is the literal truth of the faith stories we have been telling ourselves for millennia, and what is the added embroidery of time and wishful thinking? What do we believe about heaven and hell, and by what authority does anyone really know what happens after we die? What masks do we place on the faces of good and evil, and what is the truth that lies beneath? On a deeper level, the story is about the three main characters, and ultimately the reader, attempt to answer these questions.

5)      Which character was your favorite, and why? Which character was your least favorite, and why?

Characters are like children, and I would say authors, like most parents, don’t love one more than the other. Each is different.  Each has a role to play.  I do recall, however, one Beta reader suggesting that the name Eudora, of one of the main characters in The Vineyard, was too southern for a character who is the heir to a great New England family fortune.  When she suggested this, I rather agreed.  (Think Eudora Welty and Mississippi.) But the fact was, I had by then spent so much time with this woman named Eudora (“Dory”) in my book, renaming her felt like changing the name of my child. You’d feel like you were losing something or betraying something to suddenly abandon your child’s name. I realized I felt the same about this character. So, the name stayed.

6)      What was the hardest part about writing your book? 

Halfway or a third of the way in, it is sometimes hard for me to see how the whole thing is ever going to meld into a cohesive whole. I have a general concept of the arc of the plot, but I’m going where the characters are taking me the story, and it’s like trying to see a sweater out of a big ball of yarn, at that point. I start to have nagging self-doubts that the story and the characters are ever going to work together. But you keep at it, and then, somewhere at the point where you’re maybe three-quarters of the way done, when you see all the parts start working together, you crest a hill and begin to pick up speed as you coast to the finish. That’s also when the writing starts to flow more easily.  Whereas before it might have been a struggle to write a thousand words in a day, suddenly you’re writing six thousand words in a single sitting. You start to get excited about your creation. You tell yourself, “This is going to be good,” and on some days, you even say to yourself, “This is going to be great.”

7)      What is your writing routine? Are there things you absolutely need to start writing? 

This is the first year I have tried NaNoWriMo as a writing schedule, It’s November 6, and I’ve stuck to it so far. Each day I post a little excerpt and my word total on Facebook.  Knowing that a lot of people are going to see that every day—and notice if I skip a day or fall behind—motivates me to stay on track.  As for what I need to start writing, that would be only the germ of an idea. It could be a single character, or a situation, or a problem of some kind, but whatever it is, the story will fill in around it.


8)      How long did it take you to write your book from start to finish? 

My very first book was a collection of essays that I wrote for a journal four times a year for eight years.  When the journal ceased publication, I collected the thirty-two essays from the eight years into a book that became Letters from the Woods.  It was a finalist for ForeWord Magazine’s Book of the Year in 2005.

My first novel, The Prodigal, was actually a project that I began in the early nineties but never found the time or motivation to finish until I had sold my memoir to Hachette and they asked me what else I had in the pipeline.  I had written only maybe five thousand words in twenty years, but in the next five months, I finished a 103,000 word manuscript and delivered it to my agent.

9)      Can you tell us about your editing process? 


I try to edit and re-write as I go.  Once I am done with a manuscript, I will read it from start to finish two or three times to make corrections before sending it to a professional copy editor. I use two different copy editors for two rounds of copy editing, followed by one round of proofreading for typographic mistakes.  Altogether, a novel of mine will go through more than a dozen drafts before it is finished.

At the same time professional editors are reviewing the book, I have it out to a half dozen Beta readers—not for copy editing, but to find out if the plot and dialogue and characters appeal to them.  Beta readers often catch things that editors miss, and I sometimes make changes based on what they tell me.  Because all of the main characters in The Vineyard are thirty-something women, I picked only women as my Beta readers this time around. 

10)   Are you working on something at the moment?

Yes, I am working on my first attempt at a literary romance.  The working title is The Passage, and it is the story of a May-December relationship between two people who have very different points of view on the existence of non-existence of true and everlasting love.

About The Vineyard

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000446_00075]Title: The Vineyard

Author: Michael Hurley

Genre: Literary Fiction

From Michael Hurley, winner of the Somerset Prize for his debut novel, THE PRODIGAL, comes a complex and ambitious, allegorical tale of old money, young passion and ancient mystery in a classic New England seaside village.

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.”

Author Bio

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMichael 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.


YouTube Video Book Trailer:



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