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Ashley Hickson-Lovence: 'This is an area which I had to write about'

PUBLISHED: 14:25 17 April 2019 | UPDATED: 14:25 17 April 2019

Ashley Hickson-Lovence's first book is out next week. Picture: Taryn Everdeen

Ashley Hickson-Lovence's first book is out next week. Picture: Taryn Everdeen

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Hackney author Ashley Hickson-Lovence introduces his debut novel - The 392 - which comes out on Thursday, April 25.

The 392 has been published by Own It.The 392 has been published by Own It.

Ashley Hickson-Lovence has achieved plenty for somebody who is still three years short of their 30th birthday.

For starters, there is his debut book. Set entirely on a bus travelling between Hoxton and Highbury, The 392 will line bookshelves from April 25 cheerfully endorsed by fellow author Candice Carty-Williams, who called it “completely, overwhelmingly in a league of its own.”

Hickson-Lovence is also completing a Creative Writing PhD at the University of East Anglia, refereeing football matches, running marathons and hosting GCSE revision classes using his past experience as an English teacher in his spare time. Phew.

“The book is a novel set over just 36 minutes on a single-decker London bus,” he tells me.

The 392 is set on a fictional bus route between Hoxton and Holloway. Picture: Crystal Mahey-Morgan.The 392 is set on a fictional bus route between Hoxton and Holloway. Picture: Crystal Mahey-Morgan.

“It's told from different characters' perspectives, as a suspected terrorist gets on and loiters at the front. The 392 is a voice-driven, tension-building text, which hopefully explores themes of 'other-ness', perception and prejudice.”

The characters in this first book are as diverse as you might expect to find on any given London bus. Through the eyes of disruptive school kids, high-flyers and an elderly woman “who is 75 per cent my gran,” The 392 explores differing personalities and their shared suspicions.

The author was born at Homerton Hospital and has lived in Hoxton and Holloway for most of his life. “The original idea for the route (the bus takes) was to go from where I grew up to where I lived at the time,” he says.

“This is an area which I had to write about; it went from this relatively dingy place in the early 90s, to this hugely desirable area with coffee shops, bars and restaurants. All of the characters in some way allude to these changes.”

The 392 comes courtesy of Hackney-based publishers Own It; a forward-thinking company which Hickson-Lovence knew of before.

“I knew that they published diverse voices, which hadn't perhaps been heard in the more traditional publishing route. It's only a two-person team – I like the intimacy of that. Crystal is the founder and we speak on WhatsApp every day.”

The 27-year-old is already writing his second book at UEA, but he'll take a break next week for the book's launch party at Second Home in London Fields.

Hickson-Lovence wants “everyone in Hackney to read the book” as he strives to be part of a world where more people put down their phones and pick up a book.

“For me personally, reading has opened so many doors. It's made me a critical thinker, a more articulate speaker; it's such a positive thing.

“It's such a shame for me to work in schools where it was a struggle to get Afro-Caribbean boys reading, it was disheartening. I will do everything in my power to try and change that.”

The 392 is out on Thursday, April 25. For more details, click here.

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