Contributor Interview: Leslie Lynch

llynch200x200Author Name: Leslie Lynch

Contribution to Image and Likeness: “No Turning Back”

Bio: Amazon Bestselling author Leslie Lynch gives voice to characters who struggle to find healing for their brokenness—and discover unconventional solutions to life’s twists. Leslie lives near Louisville, Kentucky, with her husband and a rescued, feral-turned-sweetheart cat. She’s written three full-length novels: Hijacked, Unholy Bonds, and Opal’s Jubilee; and two novellas: Christmas Hope and Christmas Grace. She is an occasional contributor to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’s weekly newspaper, The Criterion. A member of Catholic Writers Guild, she posted monthly content to the group’s blog for years. Find Leslie on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Amazon.

About “No Turning Back”

How did you find yourself inspired to write this piece?  

“No Turning Back” grew out of the coincidence of two events during my first Spalding University Master of Fine Arts in Writing residency in Louisville, Kentucky. We were given a homework assignment: to write a paragraph utilizing lyrical language (incorporating the five senses, colors, numbers, poetic imagery, and specific details, etc.) On the first weekend morning of the residency, my first class did not begin until nine; I decided to make a quick run across the Ohio River on an errand. My route took me past Louisville’s abortion clinic, which I had long known to be a hub of activity on Saturdays, though I had never joined the Pro-Life Catholics who pray and bear witness across the street. As I drove by, distracted and half-forgetting that it was Saturday at the clinic, I glanced over and caught a glimpse of the visual that inspired my homework assignment: two groups of people, clad in safety vests proclaiming them to be on one side or the other of the issue. A scattering of pray-ers were in place, some with signs, some not. The mood was intense yet non-confrontational. I whizzed past, my imagination and conscience pricked. I’ve always prayed as I drive by the clinic; that morning, I prayed even more fervently. I used the image to write the assignment, then turned it in and forgot about it (the assignment). Until I realized that I could expand it into a short story that adds a great deal of dimension to my current novel-in-progress (as yet unnamed). “No Turning Back “will appear as bonus material in that novel, once completed, unless I change the novel’s format into one of linked short stories, in which case “No Turning Back” will hold its own place in the longer story.  

What drew you to writing about Theology of the Body in this way?

Since I had already written Annie and Christian into my novel-in-progress, it seemed logical to write this bit of their back story. I can best explain my choice to write the story this way with Pope Francis’s words as he began the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy: “How much wrong we do to God and His grace when we speak of sins being punished by His judgment before we speak of them being forgiven by His mercy.” It is in that spirit that I approach the subject of abortion, which is a source of deep grief for me—but I have dear friends who have had abortions. I consider it a great honor that they have trusted me with this information; I am thus afforded the opportunity to pray for specific people and situations of which few are aware. Acknowledging our shared humanity in prayer and bringing our frailties to the foot of the cross helps me remember to trust in Jesus; at the same time, I’m reminded it is not my job to judge, but rather, to love. I’ve also known young women in Annie’s position: the pressure to abort is ubiquitous and suffocating. Shame and convenience too often override the ideas of adoption or other solutions. The answer isn’t always as clear cut to a frightened woman as it is for someone not mired in the situation (and often, the decision is made out of ignorance, which is not a sin); I wanted Annie and Chris to face and grapple with their circumstances.

There is a lot of nonfiction out there on TOB, but the amount of fiction and poetry on the subject is certainly on the rise.  What is it, do you think, about fiction and poetry that lend themselves to illustrating the tenets of the Theology of the Body?

Fiction and poetry reveal truth in ways that nonfiction just flat can’t, whether the subject is Theology of the Body or any other theme. Human beings are hard-wired for story; story is a powerful vehicle for understanding and growth. The spare beauty of poetry, the images created in verse can express profound and universal emotions or truths in a way that no other form can. Personally, I relate to fiction and poetry more readily than I do nonfiction; I suspect many people do. Nonfiction is for gaining knowledge; fiction and poetry are ways to explore (in beautiful ways) what to do with that knowledge. This concept meshes well with a subject as deep and varied as Theology of the Body.

Some TOB stories and poems can be evangelization tools, and some can be messages of encouragement to those of us doing the evangelizing.  Which do you think yours is, and why do you think that’s valuable to its audience?  

I hadn’t really thought about it. I guess I see “No Turning Back” as both. The character of the man who speaks to Annie on her way into the clinic is based on a man in my parish. He and several others spend every Saturday morning at the Louisville clinic, talking to women, offering alternatives and support; most times they return with stories of a number of minds and hearts changed. In that regard, “No Turning Back” is an encouragement to those who do the work of the faithful. In another way, “No Turning Back” can be a tool for evangelizing. Hopefully, it is a story that conveys understanding and empathy, a story that allows a breath, a space. For thought, for options. For the potential of change. For healing.

Your story “No Turning Back” has a bit of a controversial ending: it’s not necessarily a cut-and-dried approach to the conflict a woman faces in an unintended pregnancy.  Tell us a bit about what led you to end the story with so many paths still available to your character Annie?  

Life is not cut-and-dried. Faith is not “having an answer”; it’s doing your best to muddle through a swamp when you can’t see your way out but trusting that God is there with you. It’s all about trusting something much bigger than you, and knowing that in accepting our crosses, we must accept the consequences of our choices along with doing the hard, human work of growing. Anne Lamott, in Bird by Bird, says, “…I used to think that paired opposites were a given, that love was the opposite of hate, right the opposite of wrong. But now I think we sometimes buy into these concepts because it is so much easier to embrace absolutes than to suffer reality…Reality is unforgivingly complex.” I wanted the reader to wonder what Annie would do, what she would choose, how she would go about implementing her decisions at the same time she does. Nothing is clear for Annie—yet. Nothing is fully decided—yet. So, with Annie, and with me, just imagine…  

What’s another story or poem in this anthology that spoke to you?  What in particular in that piece reached out to you?  

Oh, my. There are too many to narrow down to just one. (And how can I answer this without having to say “spoiler alert”?!!) I loved “Nice” by Gerard Webster, because it was such a nice, normal story about (mostly) nice, normal people with normal expectations—and then he turned the normal idea of strength on its head with the twist at the end. Erin McCole Cupp’s “Guess Who’s Coming to Sunday Brunch” has a great twist (revelation) at the end, but the best part is the simultaneous, unspoken decision to enter into a state of utter and complete denial. Anything by Arthur Powers is amazing; “Claudio” is a lushly written and subtle treatment of emotional infidelity. I could go on, but I’ve already exceeded the limits of the question! I admire or was touched by something in every piece included in Image and Likeness.

Look for discussion questions on “No Turning Back” on Wednesday, November 3..

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