PHOTO: STEVE LANGAN
Page Turner / Edited by Peter McDermott
P.J. Lynch describes his latest book “Patrick and the President” as “Ryan Tubridy’s moving story about a little boy who is desperate to get to meet President Kennedy during his visit to Wexford.”
It is indeed a story by TV star Tubridy (more about him read here), but Lynch gets equal billing in acknowledgment of an important division of labor that is very often involved when creating children’s books.
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Lynch said he was “thrilled” to be asked to be illustrator. “It was a chance for me to immerse myself in a time and place that was close but just outside of my experience,” he said. “Ryan and I are both mad about Irish and American history, and his story takes place at an important moment when the two touched.”
Thirty years ago, Lynch’s first book won the Mother Goose Award, which is given to “the most exciting newcomer to British children’s book illustration.”
He subsequently twice won the Kate Greenaway Medal, awarded in Britain for “distinguished illustration in a book for children” (nobody has won it three times), and has been a winner of the Christopher Award in New York.
The author/illustrator’s long resume also includes works by iconic authors who’ve been long dead: Hans Christian Anderson, Charles Dickens, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, O. Henry and Brendan Behan among them.
Date of birth: March 2, 1962
Place of birth: Belfast,
Children: Ben, 15, Sam, 13, and Evie, 10
Published works include: “The Boy Who Fell Off the Mayflower”, written and illustrated by me; “The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey” written by Susan Wojciechowski, illustrated by me; “When Jessie Came Across the Sea,” written by Amy Hest, illustrated by me. All are published by Candlewick Press.
What is your writing/illustrating routine? Are there ideal conditions?
My working routine is very varied. Sometimes I’m writing and sometimes I’m drawing. I do always try to make it into my studio by 9 a.m. and I like to be home by 6 p.m., but what happens during the day depends entirely on where I am in the progress of a book. The fun part is painting and finishing off the pictures. The trickier part is research and planning, and that can take months and months. Ideal conditions for creativity involve no phones and no wifi and lots of clean sheets of paper.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers/illustrators?
One very practical piece of advice would be to limit your time on the internet. Social media and emails can eat up hours of your day if you let them. Take a break from the social media until you get that new book really going. Hopefully you will get so involved with your characters and their story that Twitter and Facebook will come to seem relatively unimportant.
Name three books that are memorable in terms of your reading pleasure.
I adored “Captain Corelli’s Mandolin” by Louis de Bernières. It is the most sumptuous feast of a book and is wonderfully informative and at the same time funny, romantic and constantly surprising. “Under The Banner of Heaven” by Jon Krakauer is the type of non-fiction book that I love. I had just spent a week in Utah and was very keen to learn more about the Mormon church and its history. Since I read this one, I have snapped up every book by Krakauer that I could find. “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis got me hooked on reading as an 11-year-old. I still think it is one of the greatest fantasy books for children…and it was written by a Belfast man!
What book are you currently reading?
“The Gauntlet” by Eoin Colfer. Eoin’s brilliant take on Tony Stark (AKA Iron Man) brings Iron Man to Ireland. It is funny and clever and breathlessly fast-paced.
Is there a book you wish you had written?
“The Invention of Hugo Cabret,” which is gorgeously written and illustrated by Brian Selznick. It reinvented the form of the illustrated book with amazing pencil drawings woven into a fascinating and complex narrative.
If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be?
Oscar Wilde. Oscar was witty and learned and had huge compassion for others, all of which qualities show though in his work.
What book changed your life?
Reading Nathaniel Philbrick’s “Mayflower; A Voyage to War,” I was so intrigued by the story of John Howland who fell off the Mayflower but who somehow survived, that I spent the next nine years researching, writing and illustrating a children’s book about Howland. ”The Boy Who Fell Off The Mayflower” finally came out in 2015.
What is your favorite spot in Ireland?
Dromahair, Co Leitrim. A lovely, historic village in a part of Ireland that doesn’t see too many tourist coaches.
You’re Irish if …
you have no notion of how to make a long story short, and very little inclination to do so.