Jim Lynch has won national journalism awards and published short fiction in literary magazines, and he spent four years as the Puget Sound reporter for the Oregonian. A Washington State native, Lynch currently writes and sails from his home in Olympia, where he lives with his wife and daughter. The Highest Tide is his first novel.
Author biography courtesy of Bloomsbury USA.
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In our interview, Lynch shared some fun facts about himself:
"As a twenty year old, I spent a summer as a maid changing beds at the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park so that I could climb the Tetons on my days off."
"My only stint in jail was the result of jaywalking."
"I'm pretty short, but I've run into more than my share of ceiling fans."
"I love to sail, even when there's no wind."
"I've got an irrational allegiance to the Seattle Sonics basketball team."
"I love to hike with my wife in the rain and watch comedies with my 12-year-old daughter."
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In the winter of 2005, Jim Lynch took some time out to talk with us about some of his favorite books, authors, and interests.
What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a writer?
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey. It was the first book I read and re-read to try to figure out how it was constructed and why it meant so much to me. I loved the ambition of its premise, its half-mad narrator and the unrestrained roar of its language. And R. P. McMurphy was an irresistible hero, as was Kesey during my earliest daydreams about writing novels.
What are your ten favorite books, and what makes them special to you?Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls -- My third grade teacher read it to my class, and it felt like we lived the story ourselves. The sad tale of a Kentucky boy and his hunting dogs was made all the more vivid for me when Rawls himself visited our school library to explain how he wrote it.
Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins -- This novel described the lush and soggy Pacific Northwest I knew so well. And its delightful wackiness and rowdy freedom of language made me realize as a teenager just how fun, irreverent and wise fiction could be.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey -- As explained above, it was the novel that got me thinking seriously about writing fiction.
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler -- This hit me in college. I was so stunned by Chandler's imagery that I started collecting my favorite sentences. The mood Chandler cast made me want to hang out with him through multiple books, without any care for what happened or how the stories ended.
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald -- It's my favorite book to re-read. And the precise elegance of the prose and the story never fail to dazzle me.
All the President's Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein -- Like many young journalists, I was inspired by the details of this story. It helped drive me through my first decade of reporting, which included four years in Washington, D.C.
All The King's Men by Robert Penn Warren -- This novel mixed my fascination with political power and spectacular prose. The novel wandered about and lost its way at times, but the language alone could sustain me.
The Plague by Albert Camus -- For some reason, I waited until recently to read this allegorical masterpiece. I was awed by its profundity, the nobility of two of its main characters and the perfection of its ending.
Plainsong by Kent Haruf -- I love the beautiful simplicity and honesty of this story and its characters. My affection for it may have grown after seeing how well Haruf's understated style fits his fiction.
The Edge of the Sea by Rachel Carson -- The oceanography books Carson wrote before Silent Spring showcased a startling mix of poetry, science and revelations about our planet. The Sea Around Us and The Edge of the Sea helped inspire me to write a novel about a boy obsessed with the sea.
What are some of your favorite films, and what makes them unforgettable to you?One Flew over the Cuckoos Nest -- For similar reasons as stated above.
Sophie's Choice -- The scene from which the title is pulled may be the most unforgettable moment I've seen in a drama, and the movie was true to William Styron's fabulous novel.
American Beauty -- Of recent films, this one may be my favorite. It was hilarious, authentic and provocative in ways that movies rarely are for me.
What types of music do you like? Is there any particular kind you like to listen to when you're writing?
I listen to jazz when I write, usually John Coltrane or Charles Mingus. I also listen to a lot of world music, or anything with foreign lyrics that won't distract me.
If you had a book club, what would it be reading?
The Plague by Albert Camus, because I'd love to hear what a variety of my favorite smart readers have to say about it. And I'd be happy to read it again.
What are your favorite kinds of books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
I love to get any novel that someone's excited about. I tend to give slender strong novels like Charles Baxter's Feast of Love, Larry Watson's 1948, and Kent Haruf's Plainsong.
Do you have any special writing rituals? For example, what do you have on your desk when you're writing?
I try to go for a run before I write. Then I sit down, listen to Coltrane, and try to write for at least two hours straight, preferably four. If it's not going well, I lower the bar and keep on writing.
Many writers are hardly "overnight success" stories. How long did it take for you to get where you are today? Any rejection-slip horror stories or inspirational anecdotes?
I'd worked at fiction in my spare time for about fifteen years by the time I sold The Highest Tide.
If you could choose one new writer to be "discovered," who would it be?
Jess Walter. He's a Northwest novelist with a gift for graceful prose, hilarious dialogue and daring stories. His first three novels involved crime, so he's often labeled as a crime or mystery writer, but his stories, including his latest, Citizen Vince, work on every level.
What tips or advice do you have for writers still looking to be discovered?
Keep writing, be careful whose advice you follow, and don't dwell on trying to figure out what sells and why or you'll reduce your odds at writing something strong and original.
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