In the Booker Prize–winning Prophet Song (Grove, Dec.), Lynch imagines an Ireland falling into chaos under an authoritarian regime.

Much of your work is set in the past. What inspired you to write a dystopian novel?

In 2018 I was rereading Herman Hesse, and in 1927 he foresaw the next world war in the chaos that was Germany. I had a chill thinking this is where we are now.

Your protagonist Eilish Stack is a complicated character. Once her husband disappears, it’s her role as wife and mother that gives the book so much power.

I think motherhood is an elevated consciousness. Eilish is constantly making these hard choices but she keeps at it. She’s in her 40s, she’s got teenage kids, a surprise infant, her father slipping into dementia, a career. She is being squeezed in every direction.

This takes us into the realism.

I wanted to take the dystopian form and dismantle it through realism. I wanted the reader to realize at some point that they weren’t in a dystopian novel, that they were in the now. To do that, the book has to operate in not a fantastical place; it has to be intensely real. And Eilish’s situation is intensely real.

Eilish is also in denial. She keeps thinking her husband will come back. She reaches for normality while everything is falling apart.

This is the way we talk to ourselves. We are fundamentally wired for optimism or we wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning. There’s a silent refrain all through the book which is this cannot be allowed to happen. Eilish cannot accept that everything won’t be okay. She cannot make sense of this world, but the unraveling is too powerful.

You capture so dramatically what it’s like to finally leave everything and try to find safety, but Eilish waits too long.

I’ve always been interested in the question of how do you know when to leave? To leave is the hardest thing.

What was the most difficult scene in the book to write?

The scene where Eilish is looking for her youngest son when everything has deteriorated. I knew I needed to write that chapter, as their relationship is fundamental to the book, but I was so resistant.

Where did you find the emotion? How did you tap into the trauma of Eilish searching for her missing son?

Writers synthesize. We take what we know of the world and add salt and pepper and similar bits and pieces. That’s what we do. Not to get too mystical, but I had a dream that gave me the coordinates. And I broke curfew and drove away and found myself alone and then wrote the chapter in a few days.

This article has been updated with further information.