I was born and raised in the border town of Keady in Co. Armagh, Northern Ireland. After a degree in English at Oxford University, I trained at the Lecoq Theatre School in Paris, and I have worked for many years as an actor, under the professional name Michael Colgan. I have also worked in film production and script development.
I completed an MA in Creative Writing at Royal Holloway, followed by a PhD at London Metropolitan University, where I taught both Creative Writing and English Literature. I have also taught Creative Writing as a Visiting Lecturer at Roehampton University and the University of Hertfordshire. Before joining Queen Mary, I was Lecturer in Creative Writing at Queen’s University Belfast.
My first novel The Countenance Divine was published by John Murray in 2016, and was followed by Country in 2018, also from John Murray, which won the London Hellenic Prize, and was shortlisted for the EU Prize for Literature. It was chosen as a Book of the Year in the Guardian, TLS and New Statesman.
I have lived in London for more than twenty years, currently in Catford. When I’m not reading, writing, or teaching, I’m usually watching films and avoiding the news. I try very hard only to worry about the things I can do something about, but I often forget to actually do something about them.
- Prose fiction
- Style and voice
- Form and narrative
- The ludic
Recent and On-Going Research
My two published novels use ludic strategies to engage with problems of authenticity in historical fictions. I am also concerned with the construction of voice and style, and the tension between form and narrative in literary fiction.
The Countenance Divine (2016) follows a computer programmer working on the Y2K problem in London in 1999, told in parallel with three other pseudo-historical narrative strands: a letter-writer who claims to be responsible for the Whitechapel Murders in 1888, the young William Blake making sense of his first major vision in 1777, and the poet John Milton finishing Paradise Lost as the Great Fire of London destroys the city in 1666. It was described by the Guardian as “a debut of high ambition that marks the arrival of a considerable talent”, and by Toby Litt as “one of the most exciting novels I’ve read in recent years… like a brilliant cross between David Mitchell and Hilary Mantel”.
Country (2018) is a retelling of the Iliad set in the final months of the Northern Ireland conflict, and it was widely and enthusiastically reviewed: “A propulsive, blood-flecked homage to the Iliad” (New York Times); “A thrilling second novel… The language is enough to keep you enthralled… A violent pounding demotic as memorable in its way as Homer's hexameter” (Guardian); “Country explodes with verbal invention, rapid juxtaposition, brutality, and fun… Hughes's linguistic dexterity, his ear for dialogue, his understanding of character, the energy of his prose” (TLS); “By tapping into western literature's greatest war story Hughes reveals the elemental brutality of the Troubles... His greatest triumph is that he renders it all in a lively, convincing demotic” (The Times); “Furious, elemental and dark… A hard, rigorous and necessary book which grinds out its beauty as the song cycles of empire and resistance fall silent” (Irish Times). Country was awarded the 2018 London Hellenic Prize for the best original work relating to or inspired by Greece or Hellenic culture, and it was shortlisted for the EU Prize for Literature.
The short story ‘Hello Stranger’ was commissioned by BBC Radio Ulster and broadcast on BBC Radio 4 in 2019. I am currently working on my third novel.
Country (UK: John Murray, 2018; US & Canada: Custom House, 2019)
The Countenance Divine (UK: John Murray, 2016; Poland: Proszynski, 2017)
‘Hello Stranger’ (BBC Radio 4, 5th April 2019)
Commissioned by BBC Radio Ulster for the Short Works strand.
Essays and Journalism
‘John Hume showed us how to really fight - and what is worth fighting for’ Little Atoms, August 2020
Review of Inventory by Darran Anderson, New Statesman March 2020
‘Beginning our Odyssey: Contributors recall their first encounters’ TLS, October 2018
‘The Irish border question – who’s going to blink first?’ The Big Issue, August 2018
‘Where Do I Stand on Ireland? That’s a Difficult Question’ Observer, July 2018
‘Partition epic: My father was born the same day as Northern Ireland’ Irish Times, July 2018
‘A history of the Apocalypse in four easy-to-remember dates’ Irish Times, August 2016
I would welcome enquiries from potential doctoral students interested in any of the areas of my research.
Live Public Events
A Leap In The Dark (weekly online literary salon) March - September 2020
John Hewitt Digital Festival, chair for Donal Ryan author event, July 2020
Southwark Festival of Words (with Ellen Wiles), June 2020
Newcastle Centre for the Literary Arts, solo author event (chair: Sinéad Morrissey), November 2019
John Hewitt Summer School Armagh, chair for Sarah Moss author event, July 2019
Belfast Literary Festival, solo author event (chair: Stephen Connolly), June 2019
Belfast Literary Festival, chair for Will Self author event, June 2019
BBC Free Thinking Festival, Sage Gateshead, ‘Crimes of Passion’ panel (with Sophie Hannah and David Wilson), March 2019
Aye Write Festival, Glasgow (with David Keenan), March 2019
HistFest London 2019, chair for ‘Borders, Identity and Migration’ panel, December 2018
Dulwich Literary Festival (with Sulaiman Addonia), November 2018
Irish Literary Society, London (with Marina Carr and Peter McDonald), October 2018
London Literary Festival, Royal Festival Hall (with Chris McCabe), October 2018
Rethinking Classicism, Greenwich (with Lucy Hughes-Hallett), October 2018
Waterstones Piccadilly author event (with Pat Barker and Daisy Johnson), September 2018
John Hewitt Summer School Armagh, solo author event (chair: Glenn Patterson), July 2018
Print and Broadcast Interviews
The Book Show RTE Radio 1, Northern Ireland fiction special, October 2018
Open Book BBC Radio 4, feature on audiobooks, September 2018
Guardian Books Podcast ‘Daisy Johnson and Michael Hughes on classical adaptations’ August 2018
Sunday Times ‘Why novelist Michael Hughes is finally feeling epic’ July 2018