Hailed as a major new writer by the likes of Colum McCann and Sebastian Barry, Paul Lynch is the author of critically acclaimed novels, Red Sky in Morning and The Black Snow. Known for his powerful use of imagery and arresting language, his writing has been described as “masterful” and “dazzling.” Paul was born in Limerick in 1977, grew up in Donegal and now lives in Dublin. He was chief film critic of the Sunday Tribune from 2007 to 2011.
JG Tell us a little about your early life growing up in Donegal and how it influenced your subsequent writing?
PL My memory of Donegal looks like a damp polaroid found on the floor of a garage. It was the 1980s. I had the world’s worst haircut. It rained all the time. That Donegal, however, bears no relation to the Donegal in my first two books. The Donegal I write about is an act of the imagination. Each novel is its own fictional universe.
JG Colm Tóibín has described your writing as “sumptuous and poetic,” and that you had taken a “real and fascinating risk with style.” Colum McCann has said that you have “a sensational gift for a sentence.” Will you experiment with different styles now or do you think that you have found your voice?
PL I could never write the same book twice. Every novel demands something different. You don’t choose how you sound — the book tells you how it is supposed to sound and you must go along with it. The important thing for me is that with each book I grow a little.
JG What aspect of novel writing impassions you most?
PL Every aspect of writing is murder. I never wanted to be a novelist. I avoided it for as long as I could. So many people say, I want to be writer. I say, do you really? Do you know what is involved?
JG Do you think creative writing can be taught?
PL Just 1% of graduates from creative writing programs in the USA — where it has become an industry — go on to write for a living. That is a sobering assessment.
JG What is your everyday writing ritual? Do you have a particular writing space?
PL I wake and fight the rising nausea that comes with the knowldge I must get out of bed and write. I drag myself sulking to the Gaggia. Then I hit the desk. Literally. I beat it senseless with my fists. Then I am ready to begin.
JG You were chief film critic for the Sunday Tribune until 2011. What type of films do you most enjoy? Any particular favourites?
PL I’m currently rewatching all the films of Robert Bresson. He is France’s patron saint for noble suffering. We like to do film seasons in this house. If we can’t decide what to watch, it usually falls back to Hitchcock.
JG What books did you enjoy reading growing up? What are you currently reading?
PL I was a greedy reader as a kid. I took a job in a bookshop just to read free books. My project this year is Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. I’ve just finished Book II. Proust teaches you how to see the world as if for the first time. He takes the mundane and makes it profound. Next up is Philipp Meyer’s The Son. I have been told many times we are writers with a lot in common, so I might as well see for myself.
JG How do you organise your writing? Do you use writing software?
PL I shout at the words until they do what they are bid. This involves threats, sulks, walk-outs. Whatever works. I often go on hunger strike until the work is done.
JG What are you working on at the moment?
PL My third novel is a picareque, of sorts. Like all my previous novels, I wish I didn’t have to write it. But we do not choose the books we have to write. I discovered quite by surprise this book is related to Red Sky in Morning. It is about what happens to Coll Coyle’s children. For now, I am keeping the title of the book to myself.
JG You’ve been to Listowel Writers’ Week before. What were your impressions?
PL I have been known on occasion to be one of the last to leave John B’s. I suspect this year won’t be much different.
JG Any tips for our emerging and aspiring writers here at Listowel Writers Week?
PL Epictetus got it right 2,000 years ago. He said, if you want to be a writer, write. I might add, if you want to be a writer, read as many great books as you can.
Paul Lynch will be appearing alongside Eimear McBride on Thursday 29th May, 1.30pm at the Seanchaí Centre. For more information and/or to book please click here