Interview with Wendy Hinman

Wendy Hinman is an adventurer, speaker and the award-winning author of two books, Tightwads on the Loose and Sea Trials. Tightwads on the Loose a lighthearted travel adventure book about the 7-year, 34,000-mile voyage she took with her husband aboard a small violently rocking sailboat where she alternated between feats worthy of Wonder Woman or Suzy Homemaker. It’s full of humor and armchair thrills. Tightwads on the Loose was selected for the literature program for Western Washington University, won the Journey Award for best true life adventure story and was selected as a top travel book for women. Sea Trials, her second book, has earned a Kirkus starred review (…) and was selected best book of the month. It’s the story of a family’s quest to finish sailing around the world after being shipwrecked.


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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background:

I started reading very early and have fond memories of attending story hour at the library with my mother. I’ve always been a voracious reader. I handily won the reading contests in elementary school. As a kid I wrote poems and songs. Though I came from a family of readers, no one in my family was a writer or knew any writers personally. Writing wasn’t considered a “career” in my household. I didn’t have any “connections.” But I had hopes. In 8th grade, for a class project, we assembled our essays and poems into a book. As modest as it was, that act left an impression on me. As an adult after years in international business, enjoying the report writing aspects of my jobs the most, during the dot com boom I shifted into working as a web content manager, a technical writer and an online magazine editor, but I always secretly longed to author books. Marrying my love of sailing and adventure with my love of writing seemed a natural place to begin publishing book length manuscripts because I had a natural “platform” and expertise to generate interest in my books. I had a very popular blog, regular magazine articles, and opportunities to do presentations and that naturally generated sales. Both books have done well and reached way beyond a sailing audience. I would love to see it go even more mainstream and become a big hit like Boys in the Boat, which could happen since both books are about overcoming adversity. There has been some interest in turning these true stories into movies but nothing definitive has happened with that yet. I think Reese Witherspoon would do a great job playing me and George Clooney playing my husband Garth in the movie version of Tightwads on the Loose since they both do comedy well. I don’t have any actors specifically in mind to play the family in Sea Trials, since any kids might be grown up by the time a movie is made! I will likely continue writing sailing stories and I am working on some historical fiction books because I love history and literary fiction. I have been inspired by Bill Bryson, J. Maarten Troost, Timothy Egan, Nathaniel Philbrick, Erik Larson, Garth Stein, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, and so many others it’s hard to name just a few. I am always discovering new authors I love.

How I came to write Sea Trials, my husband’s story of sailing around the world with his family as a boy:

Over the years I’d been hearing snippets of the epic voyage my husband had taken with his family around the world and their shipwreck when he was fourteen. Family dinners had been filled with “you remember the time when …
• gun boats forced us to sail across mines in the Red Sea?
• when our pilot Abdul got lost in the Suez Canal?
• the boat starting sinking in Israel?
• mom tried to poison us?
• we ran out of food and nearly starved

These tantalizing anecdotes intrigued me to learn more. I got possession of the famous letters the family had mailed home. Hundreds of them. Inside them was more detail than any writer could hope for. Too much, sometimes. But in combing through them I fleshed out the outline of the story that I’d developed in my mind of the voyage. I asked a lot of questions of the family members and took copious notes. I consulted guide books and sailing directions, maps, and the ship’s log to ferret out the details. I read the newspaper articles, listened to the interviews with the family. And started writing. And double checking details with the ones who had lived through it. With a rough draft completed, I had them read every word to check for inaccuracies or things that didn’t seem true to their experience. It was a family bonding experience.

What I uncovered was such a dramatic story, that I could hardly believe anyone had truly lived through it. Especially people I knew. It featured things like a pirates, gun boats, mines, thieves, starvation and scurvy. And that was AFTER the shipwreck. You could hardly make anything up that would be better.

How long did it take you to write the book? It took me a couple of years for Sea Trials, whereas Tightwads on the Loose took me four years. I think I learned the best way for me to work by the second book, even though I had to do a lot of research before I could write. For my first book, I shared snippets with beta readers as I went. For the second, I finished a full draft and went through several edits myself first, then shared it in its entirety with beta readers before the final polish.

The hardest thing about writing? The easiest?
The hardest part at first was developing confidence in my writing abilities and figuring out the structure for a book-length manuscript. I wondered who might really care to read it, but then I started to enjoy the process so much I didn’t care. Then when I shared my work, the reception was good so I kept going. I found that when I wrote first thing in the morning every day, I developed a rhythm and momentum that kept me going. Historical fiction is harder for me because I have to do so much research first and then I have to make so many decisions about what I want to happen in the story. With fiction, you can go an infinite number of directions, so you’ve got to make choices before you can flesh them out to come up with a consistent and coherent story that doesn’t require too much rewriting. I spend a lot of time analyzing books to see what lessons they might offer for the story that I’m working on – ideas for structure, tension, pacing, character development, and language that inspire. I am always reading and taking notes. I’m in 3 book clubs. I consider reading the most essential part of being a good writer, immersing myself in story and language as a matter of skill development, and being a good literary citizen supporting authors and booksellers.

You can find me on my facebook author page (…) or on twitter @wendy_hinman, my amazon author page, or visit my website and blog at of course through Goodreads)


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