Saturday, September 24, 2022

Q&A with Wendy Hinman



Wendy Hinman is the author of the books Sea Trials: Around the World with Duct Tape and Bailing Wire and Tightwads on the Loose: A Seven Year Pacific Odyssey. Sea Trials focuses on her husband's family's experiences, while Tightwads on the Loose looks at her and her husband's travels. Both are now available as audiobooks. Hinman reviews books for Foreword Reviews.


Q: How did writing Sea Trials, about your husband's family, differ from writing Tightwads on the Loose, a memoir about the adventures you and your husband had in the Pacific?


A: I wrote Tightwads on the Loose first. In some ways it was easier because I was there and didn’t have to do any research.


Initially I started writing scenes that I most wanted to capture—events that stood out during our seven-year journey around the Pacific. I wrote each scene as a stand-alone and in no particular order.


Once I had crafted scenes that highlighted the journey I shaped them as a whole into a cohesive story arc that linked everything together. I think my lighthearted style built on scenes let the reader feel as though they were experiencing the journey for themselves.


One key thing I realized when I began writing was that for any series of events, it’s possible to shape them into various different stories. With an extended adventure such as this, I had to make a lot of decisions about what to include and what not to include.


There were many places where we had encounters with ships or storms that threatened to turn our floating home into kindling and thrilling experiences with nature or foreign cultures.


I kept asking myself “What is the story am I trying to tell?” From there I made choices that supported my themes and the pace of the story. I also figured if it was fun to write, then it’d be fun to read.


The writing of Sea Trials went faster, probably because I had more experience by then and it had a dramatic, clearly defined story arc. While there’s humor in the story, I didn’t feel as free to joke about someone else’s hardships as I was about my own as I did in Tightwads on the Loose so the voice is more serious.


Q: Of the various experiences you've written about, do any of them particularly stand out in your mind?

A: The many intimate moments in nature—frolicking in waterfalls, playing in the rain, enjoying a sunset—remind me that nature puts on an amazing show every day if only we stop to appreciate it.


We visited islands so tiny that maps rarely featured them and met native people who live much as they did thousands of years ago—people content with a simple way of life surrounded by family and community. That left a strong impression on me and changed the way I approach life.


I am glad that I wrote Tightwads on the Loose first because the events in Sea Trials were so dramatic, I might otherwise have considered my own sailing adventure less worthy of sharing.


In hindsight, what I realize both books show is how important one’s attitude is in defining one’s experiences and the outcome. That’s a life lesson that sticks with me.


A couple of events come to mind that demonstrate that attitude is key are an incident when I spilled spaghetti marinara all over the interior of our boat; and then a miserable, wet passage from New Zealand to Fiji during a storm. In both circumstances, when I stopped to consider the absurdity of the situations and saw the humor in them, it made everything more bearable and enjoyable.


Likewise, I think it was humor and optimism among the family members that pulled them through challenging times when they were shipwrecked, sinking, or suffering from scurvy. I don’t think any of us realize what we are capable of achieving until we push ourselves and that’s what makes life exciting.


Whenever I feel dissatisfied with life, I find I need to ask myself whether I just need to readjust my attitude to embrace a challenge. I think of a friend and fellow writer who jokes “Plot twist!” whenever life gets hard.


Q: What do your family members think of the books?


A: My family is pretty excited about my books. In Tightwads on the Loose I poked a little fun at my dad, who taught me a lot about how to tell a good story, and I’m touched that he was so proud to be featured in it. I lost him recently and I take great comfort in that.


I always thought Sea Trials was too good a story not to share and am honored the family trusted me with it and are so pleased with the outcome. My mother-in-law is so delighted to have her story out in the world, she has personally been responsible for an impressive number of book sales herself.


What I’ve loved best was being able to have them join me for a few book events and seeing how cathartic it’s been for them to experience the interest and enthusiasm for these stories.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m currently at work on historical fiction inspired by my relations. I have some wonderful scrapbooks and photo albums that have sparked some story ideas.


I’m a big fan of history and think seeing history through the eyes of people who lived it helps us understand the past and how it’s shaped the present. It also helps us see how people have faced what appeared to be insurmountable obstacles and found a way to overcome them.


There is so much we can learn from the experiences of the past that can help us cope with difficulties we face now. I love the challenge of working in a new genre and figuring out how to tell a new story from my imagination.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I’m delighted at the warm reception these books have gotten and I’ve been approached about making them into a movie or mini-series. Who knows what will come of that interest; regardless, I feel so lucky to get to create stories and share them with the world. It’s rewarding to meet readers who’ve found these stories to be riveting, amusing or inspiring.


As a lover of books, I know how important books have been in shaping the person I’ve become and helping me cope with the trials and tribulations of life.


Thanks for the interview!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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