Mark Patrick Lynch
This Land of Shadow, fiction, Issue 28, September 1, 2014
Birthdate? Way back when – or, as it sometimes feels, “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…” The nineteen seventies as it’s called, making me a child of Apollo and older by the day.
When did you start writing? It’s hard to be specific about this. It was just something I always did. I remember understanding stories had a shape, even before I knew the alphabet, and that it was important not to short-change anyone when you told a tale. By the time I was 20 I’d got a couple of half-finished novels written out in longhand, the longest of which amounted to about 47,000 words. But then a serious bout of ill health clobbered me and I pretty much had to learn to read and write again. A long, drawn out process. I still think it knocked my writing back a decade and more, and I’m still carrying the “lag” and scars of that illness to this day. I certainly missed out on that enthused energetic stage a lot of writers go through, when they often produce their most vital work.
When and what and where did you first get published? Local radio. When I was a teenager, I used to write letters to the DJs, under various pen-names. I plucked names and addresses from the phonebook and pretended to be different people, of all ages. I’d listen out for one of the letters to be read on air. More often than not, they were. I think my record was three letters read out in one night.
Thinking back on it, I suspect the DJs must’ve realised the letters were all written by the same person, because they were all in the same handwriting and delivered in similar envelopes. I guess they must’ve been short of material between records!
What themes do you like to write about? I think hope out of illness and difficult circumstances crops up a lot in my stuff. How much that is a conscious choice, I don’t know. Probably not at all. But I do think hope is there in my work. Often it’s hope gained at a hard price. If you want to get all analytical about it, you could say it’s my experience out of illness showing up in the work. But the danger there is to say that that’s all that the work is about.
What books and/or stories have most resonated with you as an author? Why? How do these stories and their characters find expression in your work? As an author, I’d say Robert Holdstock’s mythago novels. There’s a stretch of primordial woodland in the heart of England, in which the great dreaming of our species, or the collective unconscious, exists and is accessible to those who enter the wood. The protagonists make their way into the woodland (no easy task) and meet characters from myth and legend there. But each legend or myth is symbolic of the protagonist in some way, a reflection of the protagonist’s inner life and yearnings – and often the secret truth at the heart of whatever quest the protagonist is undertaking. It’s stunning stuff, beautifully written and realised, and heartbreaking at times. The series is in my opinion the best collected work of fantasy written in the UK. If I could wish for anything with my own stuff – beyond telling a story, which has to be the real goal, you know – then it would be to come close to capturing the density of metaphor and beauty in Holdstock’s work. But that’s a dream, a wish, a “Gawd-if-only”. Go read Holdstock’s books if you haven’t already. And if you have, read them all over again. They’re worth it.
Mark Patrick Lynch lives and writes in the UK. His short fiction, mainstream and genre, has appeared in print anthologies and journals ranging from Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine to Zahir. His book, Hour of the Black Wolf, is published by Robert Hale Ltd. An e-book original novella, What I Wouldn't Give, is available for e-readers. You can find him online at markpatricklynch.blogspot.com and @markplynch on Twitter.