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John Lynch, Writer

My breakthrough year was 1989

That’s when I sold my first story to BBC Radio, my first article to a magazine and my first book to a publisher. But I’ve been able to say ‘I’m a writer’ a lot longer than that. You could say it began when I was ten years old and I stood on the stage at Benton Park primary school in Newcastle upon Tyne to read a story I’d written to the assembled children and their parents. The head teacher, Mr Hall, and my class teacher, Miss MacGowan, told me I was destined to be a writer. “Doomed” might have been a better word.

Destined to be a writer. “Doomed” might have been a better word

But maybe it started even earlier than that – when I was four, and sitting on an outside lavatory with the door open. I’m sure people who saw me thought, “Look at that disgusting little boy. Pants around his ankles, doesn’t care what people think.” And while it’s true that I don’t much care what people think – don’t now, didn’t then – it wasn’t true that I was a disgusting little boy. In my head I was holding the reins of a faithful horse as I drove my gypsy caravan down a long and dusty road on the way to somewhere I’d never been. And telling myself stories about it as I went.

Writer

I’m a writer. I don’t know what that says to you, but unless you’re a writer yourself (in which case, you have my sympathy as I’m sure I have yours), the picture you have of writers is probably wide of the mark. Martini drinking? Chain smoking on my way from one international hotspot to another? As it happens, I do like martinis (though it must be gin – the vodka martini is an abomination), but I can’t remember when I last had one. I’ve got three passports, all current at the same time, because I’ve done an enormous amount of travelling – but that was in my career in international sales. No, I don’t fit the standard picture of the writer, but nor do any of the other writers I’ve met, and I’ve met a few. I’m a writer for the same reason as most writers I know: I can’t not be. I have stories to tell and, even if no-one is listening, I’m going to tell them.

Book Doctor

I do quite a lot of work for publishing companies in the UK, America, Canada and India. They come to me when they have a problem: They have a book they think they can sell because of who the author is, but the author can’t actually write a saleable book. My job is to take the book they have written and make it saleable. My name never appears on the cover, but I don’t have a problem with that – I don’t write to be famous. I write, as I’ve already said, because I can’t not.

Ghost Writer

I’ve written more than sixty books that have been published with other people’s names on the cover. Not infrequently, the other person doesn’t actually exist. Some of those books have been bestsellers, and that can raise problems when the author isn’t a real person, because who is going to talk at literary festivals, or on the radio, and who is going to do author signings? Publishers have a solution to that, and if you ever attend a book festival and think the author looks familiar, she or he probably is – an actor, hired for the day by the publisher and briefed by me.

So, what do I write?

Leaving aside the books I write or doctor for other people, I write under three names:

John Lynch, contemporary fiction, non-fiction, and the Cindy Williams series about a fictional north Shropshire village

RJ Lynch, historical fiction

Helen Simkin, female private eye fiction

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