A Brief Chat with Lucie McKnight Hardy
Lucie McKnight Hardy is the author of Dead Relatives (2021) and Water Shall Refuse Them (2019), published by Dead Ink, based in Liverpool. She has also had work in Writing the Uncanny, The New Abject, Ars Gratia Sanguis, Best British Short Stories 2019, amongst others.
Hello, Lucie. Who is your favourite author?
You mean I can only have one?! In that case, I’m going to have to shortlist a few before narrowing it down. Alison Moore is a brilliant writer, whose novel, The Lighthouse, was shortlisted for the Booker in 2012. It’s a great book, but for me, she really excels as a short fiction writer. Her stories are dark, uncanny, and suggestive of bad things without being overly expository. I’m also a big fan of Mo Hayder, who very sadly died in 2021 suffering from motor neurone disease. Her crime novels, featuring the tormented Detective Jack Caffery, cast a supernatural light on the police procedural, and her stand-alone novels – especially Tokyo – are powerfully gruesome. Like most writers of dark fiction, I also love the work of Shirley Jackson and Patricia Highsmith, but if I can only have one favourite author, it has to be Andrew Michael Hurley. I came across his first novel, The Loney, when I was writing Water Shall Refuse Them, and was moved by his masterful depiction of landscape. His prose is never flowery or overdone, but gets to the heart of a place, and his characters are multi-faceted and believable. I have also enjoyed his subsequent novels, Devil’s Day and Starve Acre, both of which also capture the same sense of foreboding in the environment, but there will always be a special place on my bookshelf – and in my heart – for The Loney.
What is your favourite book?
After a great deal of thought and deliberation, I have decided to plump for The Wasp Factory by Iain Banks. It is a novel of such brutally dark humour, with such a distinct narrative voice, and was a big inspiration for me when I was writing Water Shall Refuse Them. I try to re-read it every few years, and I’ve just realised that I’m due another read of it. Although it’s not exactly a beach read, that’s something to look forward to this summer.
What was your inspiration for writing Water Shall Refuse Them and Dead Relatives?
They both came about as the result of reading newspaper articles, funnily enough. I grew up in the house next to the chapel in a remote Welsh village, and although my parents weren’t chapel goers, my sister and I went to Sunday school each week, and we were always conscious of the comings-and-goings next door. Many, many years later, my mum sent me a link to an article written by the minister of the chapel, in which he claimed that witchcraft had been practised in the villages around where I grew up and that he had participated in exorcisms in the locality. This struck me as a fascinating starting point for a novel.
In the case of Dead Relatives, the article in question was about a writer who had bought a house without realising that a previous occupant had been prosecuted for baby farming – the process of being paid to ‘adopt’ children who were then neglected to such an extent that some of them died. This struck me as a particularly brutal, sad, and ghoulish story, and some research revealed that it wasn’t an uncommon practice at the end of the nineteenth century. I thought it would be interesting to update it to the mid-60s, with the legalisation of abortion on the horizon, and set it in a big, old (possibly) haunted house in the country.
What is the best advice you can give to aspiring authors?
Read anything and everything you can. Think critically about how your favourite writers structure their sentences, their paragraphs, and their chapters. Read some more, within and beyond the genre you’re writing in. On the subject of genre, try to pin this down early in your writing process; you don’t have to adhere to the conventions, but it’s useful to know them. Read a bit more.
Thanks for answering those questions, Lucie.
I attended a workshop of Lucie’s in February called The Uncanny in Short Fiction, which was part of the Leeds Lit Festival, and I found her approach to the subject interesting and well thought out. That led me to her short story collection, Dead Relatives, which I highly recommend for the lovers of strange, uncanny fiction that has the power to unsettle. That book and Water Shall Refuse Them are both available from Dead Ink. Buy a copy here! You won’t regret it.
It's been a whole year since I started this blog, and in that time, I’ve hosted a wonderful selection of writers and publishers who have divulged their favourite books, insights, and advice. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, but I believe that this blog has run its course. So, this is the last Brief Chat. It may come back in the future once I have some time away from it, but for now, it’s goodbye. Thank you to everyone who participated. It’s been a pleasure.
As for what comes next, I’m going to go back to personal blogging. I miss the creativity of a rant-filled, nonsensical blog, so keep your eyes out because I will announce something soon.
Thank you for reading this, and all the other, Brief Chats.