Wigan inspired author's debut novel

Michael Lieber
Michael Lieber

An actor-turned-author who has released his debut novel credits the Wigan countryside with inspiring him to move from stage to page.

Michael Lieber was staying in Up Holland while appearing in a production at Wigan Little Theatre when the beauty of the rural surroundings gave him the ideas that would become his first book The War Hero.

Set in the 1920s, the thriller focuses on a man hosting a birthday party when he realises a stranger whom no-one has invited has turned up for the occasion.

When he asks the mysterious individual to reveal why he is there, he is greeted by a shocking revelation that sets in motion a chilling and suspenseful string of events.

Michael, who hails from Wales and leads something of a nomadic life appearing in theatres up and down the country, says the book is full of descriptions and touches that anyone who knows Wigan town centre and its surrounding areas will recognise.

The 31-year-old writer said: “I always make a point of trying to travel to the theatre and stay as far out in the countryside as possible when I do a play in a town or city.

“It was in Up Holland that I did all my notes. There’s a bit at the start of the book where someone’s running through an early-morning market and there are all the old buildings and that really comes from Wigan. I hadn’t really had any specific intention to set the book in the countryside, that came from Wigan.

“I wanted to make sure the book would age well. I’m an avid reader and I’m very conscious of novels that don’t hold up well because they’re too topical. I wanted to make sure what I wrote about would continue to be relatable.”

Michael said there are also hidden levels of meaning in The War Hero for readers who want to dig deeper than getting engrossed in the page-turning plot.

He said: “It’s an allegorical novel, there are hidden meanings behind it all.

“It’s set at a 65th birthday party, the sort where everyone brings their own guests. Someone at the party is very charismatic but, slowly but surely, the main character realises no-one knows who this man came with.

"He asks him why he’s here on his birthday and they end up making a deal. He has to go on with his birthday knowing what is coming at the end of the night. He’s trying to survive and trying to maintain control.

“It’s funny at times and has scary moments, it’s a bit like a thriller, a bit like a crime novel and there’s some full-blown horror.

“I’m influenced by books like Lord of the Flies and Animal Farm, where there’s a beautiful narrative but something else there underneath.”

Michael says he now has been bitten by the writing bug and is currently working on a follow-up, though he is hoping to get it finished rather more quickly than the five years he took to pen The War Hero.

The book is available on Amazon.