Ask the Author: Mark Prins

Mark Prins is a recent graduate of the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He spoke with The Daily Iowan about his new novel The Latinist, its classical references, and his writing process.

Contributed+photo+of+Mark+Prins.+

Contributed photo of Mark Prins.

Anaka Sanders, Arts Reporter


Mark Prins is a recent graduate of the University of Iowa Writers Workshop. Following his graduation he went on to teach for a year at UI. Prins’ new novel The Latinist loosely parallels the Latin Greek myth of Apollo and Daphne as modern-day characters Tessa Templeton and her professor Christopher Eccles explore love and obsession. The Latinist came out on Jan. 4 and there will be a virtual book talk at Prairie Lights with his former professor Margot Livesey on Jan. 27.

(This interview has been edited for length and clarity).

DI: What inspired you to reimagine a myth for your first novel?

Prins: I would say that as a young person in middle school and high school, I was kind of a Latin nerd. My idea of fun was translating blocks of Virgil’s Aeneid into English, which as you can imagine won me many friends in high school. So, I think there was always a part of me that wanted to be someone who studied the classics. I loved that literature when I was growing up. I didn’t end up taking that route. I ended up becoming a writer, but to some degree there was an element of wish fulfillment.

DI: What did your writing process look like for The Latinist?

Prins: The whole first draft was written in Iowa City. I lived on East Jefferson Street and had a little bay window that I wrote most of the first draft on. Then the last part of the draft I was on North Dubuque and Brown Street. There was also a lot of research involved. Tessa is a young woman – and I’m a youngish man. She’s from Florida, I’m from the East Coast. Chris is a middle-aged man from the county of Hampshire, England where I’ve never been in my entire life. So, there was a lot of research to bring the characters alive. There’s a scene that takes place on an archeological dig and I tried to write that without research but failed so many times that I ended up finding someone who runs a field school for archeology students in Spain at a former Roman colony.

DI: Do you have any pre-writing rituals – things that helped you complete your book?

Prins: I would say that the biggest thing that helped me for my writing ritual was that it takes such a long time to write a novel. There are going to be periods where you aren’t succeeding, where you feel like you’re going backwards. What I discovered was that if I had a calendar, a wall calendar, at the beginning of every week I could write in how many words I had to write for each day. Then, at the end of each day I would write in how many I actually wrote and somehow it shamed me into always doing it.

DI: If you could describe The Latinist in a word or phrase, what would it be and why?

Prins: The six word one we had was “obsessive academics will stop at nothing.” But I think you could say it’s a novel about obsession and I think that applies to both characters.

DI: What is your personal favorite part of the book?

Prins: Well, I don’t want to give too many spoilers — I will say that the most fun part to write was probably the ending. The ending is quite dramatic. A lot of people have said that they’ve been surprised by it and have found it hard to put down during the last 40 or so pages. I wrote it very fast sitting at that window overlooking Brown Street. It was a thrill to write, and I hope that it will be a thrill to read.

DI: Is there anything else you would like to say about your new novel?

Prins: Even though it’s a book that takes place in Oxford and Italy, it’s a book that, to me, is very, very inextricably and deeply connected to Iowa City. I will never be able to look at this book without thinking about the time that I spent in Iowa City writing it.

Facebook Comments