Now, let's get to know a bit about Mr. Hurley and his book The Prodigal.
Michael Hurley lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his wife Susan. Together they have four children ranging in age from 19 to 23. Born in Baltimore in 1958, Michael studied English at the University of Maryland and law at St. Louis University. He was licensed to practice law in Texas in 1984 and North Carolina in 1993. He is the senior attorney in a small defense firm in Raleigh and has been recognized in North Carolina Super Lawyers each year since that recognition was begun in 2006.*
A lifelong sailor, Michael obtained his captain’s license from the U.S. Coast Guard in 1992 and, while waiting to receive his North Carolina law license, took six months off from the practice of law to work as a sailboat charter captain in New Bern. Between 1995 and 2003, while practicing law full-time, he also wrote and published Paddle & Portage, a quarterly literary journal on wilderness canoeing enjoyed by more than 10,000 subscribers in 48 states. When he is not sailing or writing or canoeing, Michael continues a hopeless quest to prove that his piano teachers at Baltimore’s Peabody Institute were wrong about him all along.
Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland—in my grandmother’s house on St. Paul Street around Johns Hopkins until I was about eight, then just outside the city in an apartment complex in Roland Park until I left for college. Two weeks after graduating from the University of Maryland, I got married and moved to Missouri to attend law school at St. Louis University. Three years later I took a job with a law firm in Houston, Texas, where I started in trial practice and worked for the next eight years. In 1992, shortly after the birth of my second child, I moved the family to North Carolina and have been here ever since. I now live in Raleigh.
When and why did you begin writing?
In 1973, when I was about 15, I found a 1963 edition of Writer’s Market in a closet in our apartment. We also had a 1940s-era Royal Magic Margin typewriter with glass keys that Mom bought to learn to become a secretary. The book and the typewriter gave me a window into another world. Two years later I sold my first magazine article for $45. I have been writing in some form for publication ever since.
Which writer would you consider a mentor?
I was not so lucky to have a published author as a personal mentor, but a whole series of amazing teachers inspired me in high school. I have most admired the writing of Dickens and Twain and Melville, as well as classical essayists like Thoreau, Benjamin Franklin, and William Penn. Like millions of others I loved reading J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. Currently I am reading Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, which is a bit out of my usual taste, but I am very much in awe of her talent for developing characters’ personalities through first-person narrative. I particularly like the way she weaves the character’s inner narrative with spoken dialogue in such a convincing, natural way. A reviewer once compared my writing style to that of Annie Dillard, whom I did not know at the time, and so I read her novel The Maytrees. I found her to be immensely talented (of course!), although I found the story a little depressing for my taste. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese was a gripping and compulsive read for me.
Which if any of the characters is a lot like you and why?
I sometimes worry that readers will think The Prodigal is an autobiographical tale, because like Aidan Sharpe I am a North Carolina defense lawyer. However, I am not nearly as talented or successful or, thank God, as reckless as he is. I made Aidan a North Carolina lawyer because that’s a life I know well and can write about with authenticity, but apart from that he is his own man.
What was the hardest part about writing this book?
I stalled after the first 25,000 words and kept re-writing that part of the book for years. What really gave me the motivation to finish was getting an offer from Hachette Book Group for my memoir in 2012. Until then I guess I didn’t really believe that kind of success would ever happen for me. Knowing that it was possible, and that others thought there was value in my work, gave me a lot of motivation to finish the novel. When my agent asked me what else I was working on, I bragged that I would have a novel to him by Christmas 2012. Being a lawyer has made me rather anal about keeping deadlines, and although I had to barricade myself in my office for four months to do it, I’m happy to say I kept that one.
What is your favorite chapter or part and why?
The redemption of Bobbi Baker in Chapter 30. Bobbi is kind of a hard-luck case who is looking for love in all the wrong places and for the wrong reasons. She sets her sights on Aidan, but he rejects her early on. Later in the book, she reappears as a vicious, jealous, scorned woman-- as in “hell hath no fury like . . .” She nearly ruins Aidan’s plans and in the process transforms herself from this wounded, rather pathetic figure into a complete villain. In an early draft of the manuscript, this vengeful episode was Bobbi’s last appearance in the book, but my agent felt that readers would like her too much and would want to see her redeemed. So, he asked me to write an extra chapter about her, to humanize her a little after her misdeeds. I loved what it added to the story when I was finished with it.
What has been the best part about writing this book?
For maybe twenty years I have been saying that I was “going to write a novel.” But like most people I got busy with life—marriage, education, career, children, hobbies. After a while you start to believe you’re just not capable of finding the time, or that you don’t have the talent and shouldn’t try. When I finally typed the last sentence of the last chapter and realized I had a completed novel of roughly 100,000 words, I felt the same way I did when someone handed me my college diploma. I never believed it would happen, and then it did.
What would you like your readers to grasp from this book?
My agent liked the first half of the book the best, because it reads more like a work of pure literary fiction as the characters and their motivations are being developed and the plot has not yet been fully revealed to the reader. My editor preferred the second half, which reads more like a thriller or mystery as the plot solidifies, speeds up, and literally races to a climax. What I hope your readers will do is read the book as a whole, realizing that it is not intended to fit the confines of a single genre.
Thank you Mr. Hurley for taking the time for an interview. That Royal Magic Margin typewriter sounds cool! Aw, I can imagine the diploma-happy feeling of accomplishing a goal and looks like you made something great considering your book made the finalist. I'm now intrigued and looking forward to reading The Prodigal!
Finalist, 2013 BookBundlz Book Club Pick contest
Vote HERE. :)
Vote HERE. :)
For 2,000 years, Christendom has believed that faith and penitence are the narrow gates through which all who seek heaven must pass, and that the church on Earth holds the key. What if a forgotten relic and an abandoned ship thought to have been lost at sea more than a century ago suddenly reappeared to cast doubt on that belief? Who would seek to use it? Who would seek to destroy it? And whose lives would it forever change?
Four troubled residents of Ocracoke Island find their destiny and the answers to these questions in The Prodigal, the debut novel by Michael Hurley that Kirkus calls “stirring, romantic and evocative of the sea’s magic.” Marcus O’Reilly, a renegade and alcoholic Catholic priest, must confront his inner demons. Ibrahim Joseph, a Bahamian fugitive, must face his past. Aidan Sharpe, a fallen lawyer, struggles with self-doubt and his growing affection for Molly McGregor, a fearless towboat captain who cannot find the courage to love. They will all be drawn into a mystery as old as Calvary that unfolds with the reappearance of the ship.
"A masterpiece of artistic imagination. Hurley's eloquent, hypnotic style will have readers following, unquestioningly, to the very end." --ForeWord Clarion Review
"Stirring, romantic, and evocative of the sea's magic." --Kirkus Reviews
[Helping authors promote their books. Being profiled does not necessarily mean I recommend the book.]