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Member Spotlights

Member Spotlight: Christopher X. Ryan

author Christopher Ryan and an image of his book Heliophobia

Why is writing important to you and why do you think it’s an important medium for the world? In this hyper-visual world, books and stories are the one refuge where our imaginations are still the chief constructors. Plus, I think we all find a bit of sick glee in watching up close as characters conduct themselves in either awful or awe-inspiring ways. Reading is like watching a movie but from within the camera as it captures images; narrative is like light, though words move slower than film so we can watch the world unfold paragraph by paragraph. As for the writing, I’d like to think that the stories I tell are for those who look at the vast sea and countless stars and tremble with a sense of smallness yet persevere nonetheless; those who never feel settled nor complacent and who seek to leave a mark in their passing. And yet were my audience a single reader—or even none—I would continue to write. I write to relate to a world that leaves me in awe and perplexed. I create to reaffirm my place in this world.

What are your tried and tested remedies to cure writer’s block? There’s no aspect of writing that can’t be solved with a short walk and one-way conversation with my rescue mutt followed by more writing. In truth, writer’s block is illusory, a cultural phenomenon, and one can choose to give it credence or just keep tapping away on the keyboard.

What is your favorite time to write? I live in the far north of Europe, where our summers are pure daylight and our winters are enshrouded in darkness, so I’ve learned not to tailor my schedule to the whims of the stars. I just write when the moment allows. And as someone who thrives in solitude, the moments are many.

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received and would like to impart to other writers? The only quotes I’ve written down and feel are worth sharing are “Write books only if you’re going to say in them the things you would never dare tell anyone” (Emil Cioran) and “Try to read your own work as a stranger would read it, or even better, as an enemy would” (Zadie Smith). And to paraphrase Michel Gondry, your idea has to verge on the stupid for it to be worth doing, or else you’re not pushing yourself far enough. I fully agree: we often have to risk embarrassment and failure if we want anyone to pay attention, especially as debut novelists.

What excites you most about being a writer in today’s age? Books and stories are anchors of sense and calm within the madness of noise, calamity, destruction, and conflict, and I’d like to believe my small contribution to letters lets the reader step out of their own unease for just a few minutes or hours. More than anything, I want my readers to cringe, laugh, or cry – or, preferably, all three.

Christopher X. Ryan’s Heliophobia is out now with Montag Press.