Here at Manchester Libraries we’re working as hard as ever to keep our wonderful book loving borrowers happy and fulfilled. We know how popular author sessions are so we’ve racked our brains about how we can maintain these virtually.

Welcome to the next edition of ‘Library Locals’. An occasional chat with our favourite Manchester based authors about their writing process, which books they have turned to during lockdown and what they love about Manchester!

Meet Matt Cain!

Matt was born in Bury and brought up in Bolton.
He spent ten years making arts and entertainment programmes for ITV.
He then moved in front of the camera as Channel 4 News’ first ever Culture Editor. Between 2016 and 2018 Matt worked as Editor-in-Chief of Attitude, the UK’s biggest-selling magazine for gay men.

Matt’s first novel, ‘Shot Through the Heart’, was published by Pan Macmillan in 2014. The second, ‘Nothing But Trouble’, followed in 2015.

In 2017 Matt crowdfunded his third novel ‘The Madonna of Bolton’, after receiving over 30 rejections from publishers, reportedly due to its gay protagonist and theme. The title reached its funding target in seven days, becoming Unbound’s fastest-crowdfunded novel ever.

Matt is an ambassador for both Manchester Pride and the Albert Kennedy Trust, the UK’s national youth LGBT+ homelessness charity. He’s also a patron of LGBT History Month. 

His next novel, ‘The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle’, will be published by Headline Review in May 2021.

Hi Matt, thanks so much for agreeing to do this interview and supporting Manchester Libraries. So first, how has lockdown been for you?

I feel a little guilty admitting this but my plan for this year was to get my head down and write, so lockdown has only made this easier. Having said that, usually when I write I like to come up for air in the evenings by seeing friends and going to the theatre and cinema and obviously this hasn’t been possible. I’ve coped by trying to trick my brain into thinking that I’ve paid a lot of money to go on a writing retreat! On reflection though, I think the lack of distraction has been beneficial to my writing.

How has Greater Manchester influenced your writing?

People often tell me my writing has heart and humour and there’s no doubt these two qualities stem from my upbringing in Bolton, Greater Manchester. I think the openness and informality of the people I grew up with has also influenced my work. But, as well as spending my childhood in Bolton, when I was a teenager I was drawn to the glamour and excitement of Manchester – not to mention the freedom and acceptance the city offered a young gay man like me. The joy I experienced at this time of my life very much shaped who I am today and I think it’s also visible in my writing.

What are you reading during lockdown….any recommendations?

Yes, I’ve really enjoyed two gay-themed novels, Lie With Me by Philippe Besson and The Magnificent Sons by Justin Myers. I’m currently racing through One of Them, the autobiography of Michael Cashman, which is fascinating and written in a terrifically engaging voice. I was also sent an advance copy of Final Cut, the new thriller from SJ Watson, and it’s an absolute belter!

What can our readers look forward to from you?

My next novel is scheduled to be published in May 2021 but I’m not allowed to reveal much more until my new publisher has made a formal announcement. But I will say it’s set in the working-class northwest of England and a big part of it takes place on Manchester’s Canal Street. I like to think the book is a celebration of just how much society’s attitudes towards gay men have changed over the last fifty years – and hopefully it will make everyone who reads it feel proud of the part they’ve played in this change.

What do libraries mean to you?

Ever since I was a child, libraries have played a big part in my life. From borrowing books in children’s libraries in Bolton to revising for my A Levels in Manchester Central Library, to writing parts of all my recent books in the British Library in London. If novels encourage empathy by giving readers a glimpse into the lives of people who may be very different to them, then libraries make reading available to all – and, by extension, can make our society a better place. I don’t think we should ever forget this.

Any pearls of lockdown wisdom to share with our borrowers?

Go easy on yourself. Exercising willpower is much harder during times of pressure or stress so give in to the cravings and give yourselves some treats. Do whatever you can to make this more manageable!

What’s your preference – eBook or paperback?

Paperback, definitely. As I sit in front of a screen all day, I like to unwind by reading in print.

Most importantly! Lockdown hair! Are you growing, colouring or cropping?

It’s all off! I kept it as it was for five or six weeks but then started to look like a scarecrow so had to get my boyfriend to give me a lockdown buzz cut. I think it quite suits me, although it does make me look like a bit of a thug. Thankfully, I’ve got plenty of time to grow it again before the next book is published!

Thanks so much again for the interview Matt. We can’t wait to read ‘The Secret Life of Albert Entwistle’ next year!

Fancy reading the fabulous ‘The Madonna of Bolton’ you can reserve the audio book or print copy here.