Among fiction writers is the saying, “write what you know.” As a former journalist, novelist Jim Lynch says he has the confidence to tackle any subject he finds fascinating.After knocking out three critically acclaimed novels, Lynch is proving he’s right.
The 51-year-old Washington native was a reporter for the Spokesman-Review, the Seattle Times, the Oregonian and other newspapers. Regional librarians chose his 2009 book “Border Songs” for this year’s Everybody Reads program. It stars a towering dyslexic, borderline autistic, son of a dairy farmer who gets a job with the U.S. Border Patrol. It won the Washington State Book Award for Fiction.
Before visiting the region next week Lynch answered some questions for Inland 360.
360: Why did you turn to writing fiction after years of reporting?
JL: The reason I got into journalism was that I realized I couldn’t make it as a fiction writer right out of college. I kept that idea alive and kept writing in the morning and between jobs as much as I could. I wrote a couple novels that didn’t make it. … Once I sold ”The Highest Tide” (in 2004), I quit my newspaper job two days later. It wasn’t like I was leaving journalism as a ‘screw you’ kind of thing. The first novel I sold was unfinished and I needed time to finish it.
360: In Washington this week people voted on marijuana legalization and regulation. “Border Songs” is about marijuana coming across the U.S. border from Canada.
JL: I was amused to read recently some spokesmen for BC Bud up in Canada are seriously worried this is going to screw up some big chunk of British Columbia’s pot economy to not have Washington state as one of its biggest pot customers.
360: You rode along with border agents in northwest Washington to report on the surge of surveillance after 9/11.
JL: That’s what got me hooked. … I found it fascinating to ride along with the border agents driving the rural countryside. The more I rode around with them, the clearer it was that it was as they said it was. It was not terrorists but pot smugglers (they were apprehending) and only the stupid ones, because the border is so long and porous.
360: “Border Songs” might become a TV show?
JL: I’ve seen the pilot for an hourlong drama. Now it’s a matter of them seeking a network. I’m cautiously excited about it but until I’m eating popcorn and watching it, I’m not counting on it.
360: Why choose the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle as a subject for your most recent novel, “Truth Like the Sun?”
JL: I wanted to write a novel that captured Seattle, which I think is a fascinating city in the West. The fair launched modern Seattle. They put up the Space Needle in 400 days. The Northwest was barely on the map for the rest of the world. It was kind of a coming out party for Seattle and the Northwest.
360: You say it’s the first book where you’ve poured out your feelings as a reporter.
JL: There’s some of that reporter-stalking-people-of-power suspensefulness, and how hard it was to condense politicians down to a 15-inch profile that captures them and their ethics fairly. It’s mission impossible. … Also what it was like as a reporter when I realized, I’m getting pretty good at this and I wouldn’t want to be investigated by myself.
Noon — Whitman County Library in Colfax
7 p.m. — Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre in Moscow
Noon — Washington State University Holland and Terrell Libraries, Pullman
6 p.m. — Neill Public Library, Pullman
10 a.m. — Lewiston High School Library, Lewiston
7 p.m. — Nezperce Community Library, Nezperce
Noon — Asotin County Library, Clarkston
6 p.m. — Reception at the Orchid Room at Morgans’ Alley, Lewiston, followed by a 7 p.m. discussion.
(All presentations are free)