Whidbey Reads Presents: An Interview with Jim Lynch

By Kaley C.

Jim sailing with his mother at age 11. Photo from his website.

Jim Lynch’s Before the Wind features an unmoored family that lived and breathed sailing only to fall into dysfunction. His rich descriptions of our local waters and boats transport you to the marina. You’re left sympathizing with Josh, who is bewildered after his family seems to have fallen apart.

Sailing is something Jim is all too familiar with as his family has sailed the waters of the Puget Sound since he was a child. The bonds of the Lynch family are much stronger than those of the family he created for his book, though. Jim fondly remembers sailing with his father in a plywood boat they built in their driveway.

Join me as I ask Jim a few questions about his book and life as a sailor.

Kaley: Which character from Before the Wind would you spend time with and what would you do?

Jim: To be honest, I’d like to hang out with all those characters both in the family and in the boatyard. But if I could do just one thing with one of them, that’s easy. I’d go sailing with Ruby. I’ve always been enamored with people who seem to have borderline magical intuition when it comes to understanding the subtleties of sailing well. They’re like wizards to me. They possess superpowers that I wish I had.

 K: I know sailing has been a part of your family for a long time. How did that impact Before the Wind?

J: I don’t think a non-sailor would’ve considered writing a book like that. And even a sailor who’d learned it on his own would probably not write that book. No, the fingerprints of somebody who grew up in a sailing family are all over that novel. It’s not that the Johannssen family mirrors mine, but the seeds for those characters grew out of my own family, starting with my sailing fanatic father, my scientific mother and my freakishly athletic sister.

K: Did you learn something new about sailing while researching for this book?

J: Actually I learned a lot about sailing because of the obsessive way I research. I interviewed world-class sailors. I learned about the physics of sailing. I crewed on race boats that I would normally not be on so that I could make competitive sailing even more real. I learned while racing two-man Star boats that you need to make sure to secure at least one foot beneath the hiking strap or you may flip overboard into the frigid Puget Sound like I did during one race.

K: Was there something that you wanted to include in the book but couldn’t make it fit?

J: I’m sure there was, but I can’t remember it now. That’s the way these books go. It all feels like a work in progress until it suddenly starts to firm up and then the paint dries and it all feels inevitable, as if this obviously is the full story in its entirety, and other ideas are washed away.

K: You’ve been away from these characters for awhile, what do you miss about them and the world you’ve built?

J: I do miss them but I’ve revisited them plenty during the past year while I’ve been writing the screenplay for what I hope will become the Before the Wind movie. I’ve written the script with a playwright friend, Bryan Willis. Now some Hollywood producers are shopping our script to directors to see if they can’t put together a team to get the movie made. So during this process, I’ve been able to hang out with most of the characters again, and that’s been somewhat surreal.


Jim’s author visits are right around the corner. He will be visiting us Wednesday, April 18 in Freeland, and Thursday April 19, in Oak Harbor.

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