Andy Regan (Psychotherapy and Counselling, 1998) has written his debut novel The Stars Move Still, a combination of fact and fiction spanning the 19th and 20th century. Here Andy gives us a short overview of his book and his time at City.
Tell us about your book:
My debut novel is based on what still remains America’s worst school massacre. On 18th May 1927 in the small town of Bath, Michigan, a series of explosions culminated in the deaths of thirty-eight children and several adults. The events were both terrifying and bizarre in many ways – what appear the most off beat incidents and comments in the book are based on established records from the time.
Spanning the late nineteenth century until the middle of the twentieth century, the book combines real and fictional characters to explore the seeds of the tragedy, right through to various generations attempting to come to terms with their experiences.
Family dramas are placed in historical perspective, with substantive themes such as race, the ever present fear of disease and illness, the disaster of prohibition, educational aspiration and rumours of gangland activity cropping up. The backdrop of the scars from both the First World War and Civil War are all too apparent as well.
The Stars Move Still highlights the complexity of human behaviour at its best and worst. Ultimately this is not an account of a violent act but rather the story of a community that gave rise to, and was forced to endure, unwanted nationwide attention. The aim of the novel is to combine a very dramatic story line amidst interesting historical perspective.
Stumbling on the central event by chance around six years ago, I was struck by how little it’s still known. I loved the writing process as the story was patiently set down over a long period of time, working at a pace that felt comfortable so it never became a chore. I researched and started writing for a year then stopped for three and a half years…returning to the project a year ago, I concluded “right, this needs overhauling but could be really good!” Writing in my spare time also fits in with my ‘day jobs’ – I am both a lawyer and run an education centre.
Tell us about your time at City:
I studied psychotherapy and counselling at City University in the beautiful setting of Regents Park College in the 1990s. I well remember my walks across the park from Camden Town tube station and can’t imagine a more picturesque location for study!
Originally I gained a Certificate in the field between 1995 and 1996, attending on Sundays, followed by a Masters of Arts from 1996 to 1998 attending for a day a week.
I have great memories of my studies at Regents and the Masters in particular afforded me the opportunity to delve into an area that contrasted completely with my job at the time. Much of the course was based on existential philosophy but also with a rounded view of the main psychotherapeutic theories, from psychoanalysis to humanistic and Gestalt approaches. The teaching was excellent and you couldn’t help but be enthused by the inspirational specialists talking passionately about their approach.
Do you have any advice for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
My advice for anyone pursuing a career in writing is firstly to find a subject that absolutely grips and impels you to tell the world about it – whether fact or fiction. Secondly if possible write when you want to rather than because you feel you have to. Thirdly for a book such as mine which combines fact and fiction, do your research in great detail then just take what you want from that research and discard the unnecessary. “The Stars Move Still” is not a factual history so I was conscious of wanting flexibility and the story not getting bogged down in minor facts. Having said that, the least likely aspects of my book happened – you couldn’t invent the letter sent just before the massacre, and it’s reproduced verbatim. Truth stranger than fiction!
The Stars Move Still is available on Kindle at Amazon
You can also follow Andy on Twitter: @andyregan13
The paper version will be out soon…