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UCLan works with New York Times best selling author to produce supernatural novel set in Preston

(L-R) Wayne Noble, lecturer in digital publishing, UCLan Associate Professor of Publishing and Head of the Publishing House Debbie Williams, AJ Hartley, Publishing graduates Brionee Fenlon and Sam Johnson and MA Fine Art student Janet Pickering

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has teamed up with a New York Times best-selling author to publish a ghostly thriller set in Preston.

AJ Hartley’s Cold Bath Street, launched this week, is a story centred around the Miley Tunnels that lie under the city and are supposedly haunted.  The book’s title comes from the real Cold Bath Street in Preston.  It once housed a public baths for poor Prestonians to bath in, which sits under what is now the Media Factory.

AJ, who grew up in Preston before relocating to the US in the mid 90s, said: “The inspiration for the book was a combination of the ghost stories I grew up on such as The Bannister Doll and places like the Miley Tunnel, with my own experience of going back to the town and feeling like a ghost myself, out of time and place in a world that has moved on in my absence. So even though it’s a thriller with lots of creepy and suspenseful elements, it’s also quite nostalgic, albeit in a conflicted way.”

The book was edited, project-managed, designed and produced by students on UCLan’s MA Publishing course in the only student-led, student-run publishing house in the world, UCLan Publishing.

Graduate Sam Johnson worked on the project during his MA and has been nominated for a London Book Fair prize as a result.  He said: “Getting regular feedback from a professional author was amazing. His, and my lecturer’s comments, helped pinpoint my areas for improvement as a designer and I learned a lot about using industry standard software.”

In total, four publishing students and one illustration student worked on Cold Bath Street with AJ, who is also an Honorary Fellow of the University.

AJ commented: “It has been a great experience, especially since so much of the editorial work and layout has been done by students, which is really exciting. It received a level of attention few books get with major publishers so I feel very fortunate.

“The illustrations capture the mood of the book very nicely. We looked at a number of different artists early on and I immediately took to Janet’s work because it had a real atmosphere to it. The book is quiet and eerie, so I wanted illustrations which would capture that, but would also be both dramatic and evocative. They do that really well.  It’s a beautifully made book.”

MA Fine Art student Janet Pickering illustrated Cold Bath Street and has since won the Undiscovered Voices Award for illustrators and writers.

She said: “AJ asked me to draw a menacing scene suggesting something sinister without actually showing it. It was a great experience to try a different style and ultimately inspired the piece I submitted for the award.”

AJ returned to his home city for Cold Bath Street’s official launch event at UCLan along with the five students; Laura Collie, Brionee Fenlon, Sam Johnson, Josh Moorby and Janet Pickering.

UCLan Associate Professor of Publishing and Head of the Publishing House Debbie Williams said: “This has been a really exciting collaborative venture. I’m really proud of the students for working so professionally with AJ to produce such a beautiful book which has its heart firmly set in Preston.”

The book was also launched at Foyles in London as part of AJ Hartley’s book tour.  AJ is a bestselling writer of mystery, thriller, fantasy, historical fiction, and young adult novels and is currently the Robinson Professor of Shakespeare studies at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.