Jim Lynch: So Jane, why is it you keep adapting my novels to the stage? I’m flattered but there are so many books out there. Why mine?
Jane Jones: Well…ok, gotta admit, I think you’re great. Great. And you write about our region and community from an insider’s perspective. You’re local for Pete’s sake, and your narrative really suits the Book-It Style. And Jim…what dialogue! An actor’s dream. You write people we either think we know or want to know. Killer.
Why do you keep letting Book-It adapt your work?
JL: I’ve had faith in Book-It ever since I met you in a coffee shop and you breathlessly asked for the rights to The Highest Tide. And I consider having you guys perform my first three books to be among my highest honors. I think Book-It is great at boiling novels down to their humor and emotion. (Huck Finn was a great example of that. The powerful way you built that Huck-Jim friendship.) And it’s humbling to see you attract such great actors to play people I invented. It amazes me how many readers have told me they’ve enjoyed my books on your stage.
It’s a flattering and surreal experience for authors to have Book-It perform their books. I’ve heard similar raves from Tom Robbins, Wally Lamb, Stephanie Kallos, Jess Walter, Ivan Doig, Garth Stein, and others. Did you realize when you and Myra started this craziness that you were going to fulfill authors’ dreams of having a performance that cuts so close to their words?
JJ: Well…In the very beginning it was really an exercise. We never dreamed any of this. It was a way for us to find terrific material to present as theatre and within a short time we settled on a mission that included “inspiring our audience to read.” It was about two years before we ever had a “live” author attend any of our performances. It’s an honor to be so highly regarded by the very impressive list of ROCK STAR writers you just listed. I’m blushing.
Speaking of “live authors,” are you secretly terrified we will leave out your favorite part of your own novel? Who are you looking the most forward to seeing on stage in Truth Like the Sun? (I hope we haven’t cut that part! Yikes!)
JL: I like not knowing what you’re going to do. I have faith in your choice of scenes and material. And I’m well aware that I know very little about your art. The beauty of it is that I know you will nail plenty of scenes and surprise and entertain me and hopefully others with how they play out. My candid brother-in-law told me that he thought your version of The Highest Tide was better than the book. …As far as my hopes or fears on the play, I hope the leads relish their roles, that Roger is dazzling and mysterious and that Helen is a formidable and appealingly worthy adversary. I hope that the crowds immerse themselves in the iconic mojo of the 1962 World’s Fair. To have this book performed at Seattle Center seems perfect.
Tell me about adapting Truth. What’s been challenging about it? What’s been fun about it? And are you satisfied that you’ve come up with a cool way to jump back and forth in time?
JJ: Putting the “Fair” on stage has probably been the trickiest. We have a cast of 15 and are representing an event that drew 115,000 people a day at closing. But we like challenges, and a lot of really smart artists are spending a lot of time making those impressions. And the really cool thing, of course, is we have your words. So far the most fun has been watching these characters walk off your page and into the rehearsal room. We really love getting to know these guys. Lots of laughs in the room. And Kevin McKeon, who gets full credit for the adapting (I am a co-conceiver), has a great touch, so working on this with him has been a blast. Plus, I kinda like him. Guess that’s why I married him.
The back-and-forth’s in time are inspired by you–something you suggested to me in another coffee shop when we first talked about Truth. Hope it works!
Why did you decide to write about the Fair?
JL: I wanted to write a novel that cut to the core of Seattle. And the World’s Fair has always loomed in the recent past as this coming-out party for this young, ambitious city. The audacity of the fair is what struck me as quintessentially Seattle, that this little-known outpost could outmaneuver New York for the big show. So I wanted to mesh the fair with modern Seattle and see if I couldn’t come up with a storyline that could weave the two Seattles together into something illuminating.
Hey, I’m glad Kevin’s working on the play. That sounds ideal—a talented theatre couple brainstorming on their pillows about how to best adapt my work.
To be honest though, seeing you do my novels is awkward and nerve-wracking. I never get to see anybody but my wife read my books. So it’s a little uncomfortable listening to a couple hundred people respond to my words and story, even if it is in a completely different form and art. I catch myself laughing at my own jokes, which feels vain. And everybody always wants to know, “Do you like it do you like it do you like it?” I’m guessing it’s probably a bit awkward for you to have the author in the house as well, eh?
JJ: Well…it’s probably one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done. I remember the first day you came to The Highest Tide rehearsal, witnessing Book-It for the very first time, I will never forget it…all those characters walking straight out of your brain into flesh and blood; yeah, I was nervous for sure. I’m sorry you feel vain about your jokes though, ’cause you’re really funny. Really. We are cracking up in rehearsal.
Do you miss your life as a journalist? We had three reporters from the P-I come talk to the actors, which was amazing! I see you differently now. Were you a “shoe leather” reporter?
JL: I’m not sure what a shoe leather reporter is but I probably was one. I hurled myself into the work and loved it for a while, particularly stalking and describing big shots and politicians. And I bounced around to enough newsrooms to gather a lot of greatest hits about the business. So Truth is, in stome ways, a tribute to the newspaper business and the twilight of competitive newspaper towns. Do I miss it? I miss the camaraderie and adrenaline, but I’d rather make things up for a living.
To read more about Book-It’s relationship with local authors, check out our featured article by Misha Berson in the April issue of American Theatre Magazine: A Novel Connection: Seattle’s Book-It has a symbiotic relationship with the Northwest scribes in its own backyard