Paul Lynch is an internationally acclaimed Irish novelist who has published five novels, winning several awards in the process
Before Prophet Song, which is shortlisted for the Booker Prize 2023, Paul Lynch wrote four novels: Beyond the Sea, Grace, The Black Snow and Red Sky in Morning. His third novel, Grace, won the 2018 Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year and the 2020 Ireland Francophonie Ambassadors’ Literary Award. His second novel, The Black Snow, won France’s bookseller prize, Prix Libr’à Nous for Best Foreign Novel.
Four long years it took to write, through pandemic and normality, through Long Covid and health. My son, Elliot, was born just before I began to write, and by the end, he was riding a bike.
The spewing out of drafts is not for me. I write (mostly) five days a week, a few hundred careful words a day, often researching as I go, in a process whereby I edit as I write. These days, my first drafts come fairly close to the final one.
I had previously spent six months writing the wrong book, and knew it too, but kept hammering through rock in the hope of a breakthrough. Then one Friday, about 3pm, I stopped writing and thought, this is the wrong book – I will return on Monday morning and start a new one. I could sense there was something lurking just out of sight but I didn’t know what it might be.
On Monday morning, I created a new document – Janson font, 1.5” margins, 1.6 spacing, Mac Pages. (I like the page to look like a book.) I closed my eyes and the opening page of Prophet Song arrived pretty much as you read it now. Those sentences came out of the blind and I can honestly say it is one of the miracles of my writing life. How did I know there was another book there? I really don’t know. I didn’t even know the book I was yet to write, and yet so much of the meaning of the book is encoded in those opening sentences. How is that possible? Again, I don’t know. Writers learn to trust their intuition, and there it was, the opening notes of a song that would become the book.
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Paul Lynch’s harrowing and dystopian Prophet Song vividly renders a mother’s determination to protect her family as Ireland’s liberal democracy slides inexorably and terrifyingly into totalitarianism. Readers will find it timely and unforgettable. It’s a remarkable accomplishment for a novelist to capture the social and political anxieties of our moment so compellingly— The Booker Prize 2023 judges on Prophet Song