Blackmoor by Edward Hogan
On 24th June 2009, Edward Hogan was named the winner of the £10,000 Desmond Elliott Prize for Blackmoor, published by Simon & Schuster.
Candida Lycett Green, Chair of the Judges, commented,
“In a shortlist of exceptional quality Blackmoor stands out. For a first novel it is both beautifully crafted and dazzlingly well-written. We are delighted that Edward Hogan has won the second Desmond Elliott Prize.”
It’s been a busy summer for Edward Hogan, winner of the second Desmond Elliott Prize, presented in June. As it is designed to do, the £10,000 purse has bought him time to spend on his second novel. “I’m really enjoying it. It’s set in Derbyshire again, and the Prize has given me an injection of confidence about what I’m doing – although that doesn’t stop me tearing up twice as many pages as I write!”, Edward said recently. “I also enjoyed the Dartington Festival, where I met fellow long-listed writer Anna Richards, who gave a great reading from her book Little Gods.”
Here Edward reflects on how he first came to write, and on the process of being published.
Blackmoor, the book which won the Desmond Elliott Prize, is about the life and death of an albino woman in a former mining village in Derbyshire. It took me through eight years, about 20 drafts, 11 different addresses in five different cities, a good deal of frustration but a lot more pleasure.
I didn’t really decide to become a writer. I was already doing it at 19, scratching away at my awful (and, thankfully, abandoned) novel about a bored local journalist in Norfolk who kills people in order to produce exciting copy for the paper – it was kind of Alan Partridge meets Patrick Bateman. The real decisions about writing come when you realise that, in order to get to your desk everyday, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices. While your mates are earning some proper cash, getting sensible jobs, having social lives, girlfriends and boyfriends, and maybe even buying houses, you are still looking for ingenious, anti-social, romantically unappealing and financially reckless ways to fit in a few hours of writing. Something has to give, lifestyle-wise. For me, that wasn’t a difficult decision. I knew writing wouldn’t make me rich, but that didn’t matter. I loved writing Blackmoor – it was a weird and challenging experience. It sent me out into the world, and deep into the lives of other people. And besides, I wasn’t very good at much else.
In 2003, with the help of a bursary from David Higham Associates, I studied for an MA at the University of East Anglia. When I told my friend Matthew that I was leaving Derby to undertake a course, he said, ‘What subject?’
‘Writing,’ I said.
‘What, joined-up?’ he said with a smirk.
The MA helped me in many ways. Most importantly, it gave me a small readership. That was vital. When I arrived on the course, I was extremely pretentious and wilfully obscure! My course-mates and friends at UEA didn’t allow that to continue. They had to read my work everyday, and they’d be damned if they were going to respond to ‘the surface of language’ or ‘lyricism’ or ‘words without any vowels in them’ – they wanted proper characters, and a story. They wanted to turn the page. That was a valuable lesson, and it shaped Blackmoor.
Personally, I’m still stunned to have received the Desmond Elliott Prize. I’m so grateful to have my book recognised in this way – and I really hope I can use the boost to improve my work. The legacy that Mr Elliott left means that the struggle to get to my desk has eased slightly. It means I can do more quality research on my second book, and hopefully make it better. The Prize also brought to my attention several very brilliant writers who might have passed me by in the crowded and confusing world of modern books. Anthony Quinn (The Rescue Man) and Nathalie Abi-Ezzi (A Girl Made of Dust) were on the shortlist with me, and both deserve to reach many readers.
The whole process of writing a novel turned out to be a lot more collaborative than I thought it would be. I love that: the heated discussion of work over several pints of Guinness with my mates Sarah and Jeffo, and with my editor Rochelle and my agent Veronique. Along with that, the best thing about writing – much better than interviews and book deals – is actually sitting down every day and doing it. Thanks to Desmond Elliott, I shall now be doing that on a much more comfortable chair.
(left to right) Candida Lycett Green (Chair), Edward Hogan, Rodney Troubridge and Suzi Feay
Edward Hogan was born in Derby in 1980. He is a graduate of the MA in creative writing course at the University of East Anglia and a recipient of the David Higham Award in 2003. Blackmoor was on the shortlist for the 2008 Dylan Thomas Prize. He was shortlisted for the 2009 Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award. He lives in Brighton.
“There’s a subtle magic to Hogan’s prose, and a passionate concern for the part of the world where this novel is based, which invites comparison with D H Lawrence – but that would be lazy. This novel … has confidence, mystery and an entrancing sense of itself.” Independent on Sunday
(left to right) Veronique Baxter, Literary Agent, David Higham Associates; Edward Hogan, author; Francesca Main, Commissioning Editor, Simon & Schuster; Rochelle Venables, Senior Editor, Which? (previously Simon & Schuster).
“You said once that Blackmoor killed Mum.”
“I suppose you don’t think that a place can kill a person,” says George.
Vincent shrugs. “I just want to know how.”
“Slowly, that’s how.”
Bird-watching teenager Vincent Cartwright lives out a bullied, awkward existence not far from the site of Blackmoor, a mysterious, vanished Derbyshire village. His mother Beth, half-blind and unknowable, and her life and death in that same village has always been a dark family secret, but as Vincent comes of age he begins to search for the truth.
Edward Hogan and 2008 Winner Nikita Lalwani
The Prize was established in honour of publisher and literary agent Desmond Elliott, one of the most charismatic and successful men in this field, who died in August 2003. He stipulated that his estate should be invested in a charitable trust that would fund a literary award “to enrich the careers of new writers”. Worth £10,000 to the winner, the prize is intended to support new writers and to celebrate their fiction.
Chair of the judges, Candida Lycett Green was joined by former Literary Editor of The Independent on Sunday, Suzi Feay, and Rodney Troubridge of Waterstone’s