I reviewed Truth Like the Sun and I'm so pleased that author, journalist, and all-around nice guy Jim Lynch could make the time for this interview. He tells us a little bit about his next novel and dispenses some advice to aspiring authors.
JC: What’s keeping you busy right now?
Jim: I'm on the second or third draft of a novel I'm calling BEFORE THE WIND. It's about a volatile family obsessed with sailing, and it's about online dating and Albert Einstein too. My life is pretty simple. I try to write really hard in the morning, then I try to exercise, usually tennis, in the middle of the day, to air out my head. Then I come back and write through the late afternoon.I have my dream job, writing full time, at least for now, but it still feels like a job most days, except when I'm writing really well and the story is taking off and I lose myself in the work the same way I lose myself in reading a great book.
JC: One of the two main characters in Truth Like the Sun is a journalist, and the descriptions of her professional life have zero glamour and much conflict. I have to ask – how does Helen’s newsroom compare to your true life experiences?
Jim: Ha! I guess I disagree with your premise here. I do see glamour and excitement in Helen's job as an investigative reporter. Journalism is a fun and irresistible challenge for people determined to sift through the BS and find out the truth about people and governments and companies. By it's very nature, though, it's also a stressful, confrontational and exasperating job. So I tried to capture it all, and keep it true to the spirit of the job, but at the same time have fun with it and, in some cases, satirize it.
JC: Helen and Roger are so fully-realized. Did you always know who they were or did they evolve as you wrote? When did they become real to you?
Jim: Good question. At what point to characters come alive for me and you and other authors? That's one of the mysteries that I find difficult to explain. But it's right at the core of why novels take so long to write. It doesn't take me years to get the sentences the way I want them, but it does seem to take that long to get to know my characters well enough to make them real to me and to throw them into action and make them pop off the page.
Roger and Helen were initially conceived as imaginary adversaries--Mr. Seattle vs Ms Snarky Reporter. The seed for Helen's personality was a tough young woman reporter from Chicago whom I worked with and admired.
Roger grew out of a composite of the most talented politicians I'd studied and reported on. I wanted them both to be borderline unethical yet great at what they do. Despite being adversaries, I wanted them to ultimatelydevelop a reluctant admiration for each other.
JC: Finally, what’s the one piece of writing advice you wish someone had given you before you started working on novels?
Jim: Hold off writing a novel until you absolutely can't rest any longer. Write more short stories. Re-read and re-study stories and novels you love. Then, when you come up with an idea you can't resist, and a storyline and characters that you think can carry the heft and gravitas of a novel and somehow capture life, then go for it. And go hard.
And understand, in advance, that it may take many drafts and the first draft may make you lose hope. But as long as you continue to re-fall in love with its potential, it has a chance to stay in live in you and come alive on the page. If you work hard enough at it, at the very least you will get better at writing fiction. Lastly, don't edit yourself in a bad mood.
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