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Young author reflects on Sunderland degree

Amy McLean

Sunderland graduate Amy McLean is marking the release of her latest novel by sharing fond memories of her time at university.

While studying for her English Literature degree Amy McLean penned her first book ‘Walk On’, self-published in 2013. After graduating with a first-class degree in 2014 she went on to see her second novel Celestial Land and Sea published in 2015, followed by her third Hallow Be Thy Name in 2016.

Her latest offeringWe Are Lucifer, employs the thriller genre to explore the main character Amber Quigley's struggles with depression and jealousy.

"Like many of my other novels, it's a study of the human mind in relation to mental health," Amy explains.

We Are Lucifer has been picked up by GJB Publishing, and to mark its launch Aberdeen-born Amy reveals how her time at Sunderland helped cultivate her writing craft. 

“I moved to Sunderland in 2011 to study English at Sunderland, and, like many people, I'm often asked if I felt I made the right decision. The answer to that is simple: ‘yes’. Studying at Sunderland opened up so many doors. My degree was more than just about learning from textbooks.

“While the English department comprises so many inspiring and charismatic lecturers, each with their own specialities and personalities, the department is also exemplary at creating unique opportunities for its students. I was able to involve myself in so many experiences that I never would have expected - from helping out at academic conferences to dressing up to re-enact medieval literature. My memories from my degree are only happy ones, and I couldn't imagine having studied anywhere else.”

The 25 year old explains how her studies have helped her writing success. “While I'm certain that I would have ended up writing in some way, I do believe that studying English at the University of Sunderland was paramount in shaping both my approach to writing and my ability to write more effectively. I published my first novel Walk On just as I was approaching the final year of my degree, and it was a huge boost to my confidence as a writer.” 

She added: “I'm often asked why, since I knew I wanted to write fiction at that point, I didn't take any creative writing modules; my answer to that is quite simple, really: I hate being criticised! I'm also not overly adept at writing outside of my comfort zone. While I'll always give it a go, if I was instructed to write, say, a romance scene to be assessed as part of my degree, I'd probably have cowered in a corner. Instead, I chose to study topics that I found fascinating and inspiring, covering such writers and movements as Jane Austen and Lord Byron and the Romantics and eighteenth-century literature. 

“Any writing abilities I had before studying at Sunderland were cultivated to a point where I was able to grow and develop my own voice. Without the pivotal role played by Sunderland's English department, I would not be the writer I am today.”

We Are Lucifer offers a contemporary character study into mental health and human behaviour as a response to heartache and rejection.

McLean's fifth novel is published by GJB Publishing, and is available in paperback and ebook from and RRP £8.99.

Amy McLean is a writer and film vlogger. She has more than 15,000 subscribers on YouTube. She can be reached on Twitter @McLeanAmy

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