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Lin Pardey- an interview by Christine Kling

by Christine Kling on 16 May 2011
One of the Pardey boats Taleisin in sailing mode SW
Since Lin Pardey wrote her first book, 'Cruising in Seraffyn', she and her husband Larry have sailed more than 200,000 miles, written eleven books and enthused a whole generation of sailors for the cruising life. Here fellow cruising sailor, novelist and blog-writer Christine Kling interviews this now-New-Zealand-based sailing author about her latest book, Bull Canyon, already getting rave reviews.

CHRISTINE: First off, the tag line for my blog http://writeonthewater.com/?page_id=37!Writeonthewater is 'So you want to quit your job, move onto a boat, and write.' When did that become your dream? Could you tell us the story of your first attempts at writing and how you finally broke in to the marine magazine market?

LIN: We were weather bound in Panama. I picked up a ragged yachting magazine (Boating Magazine from early 1970). In it was an article called, The Perfect Cruising Yacht. The author said, 'Though a few Spartan souls have gone in boats as small as 30 feet, the perfect yacht is 57 feet long.' We had just spent the previous two years having a grand time on 24’4' Seraffyn. Half the yachts at anchor around us (there were about 11) were less than 30 feet. I wrote a strongly worded letter to the editor. Three weeks later a telegram arrived saying simply, 'prove it.' Larry suggested I do a survey of folks who had been cruising at least two years. Six months later I wrote about what I’d learned. That first article sold to seven different

magazines in five different countries and became the basis for our first book. After that first article, it all seemed to flow like honey.

Larry feels several things made our sailing stories and articles successful; we were having a lot of fun and it showed, our boat looked good in photographs, with Larry’s technical knowledge and my romantic streak the stories appealed to both women and men, almost anyone could imagine someday owning 24 foot boat so our message was quite popular.

CHRISTINE: If you don’t mind sharing the information, through all your years of cruising, what percentage of your income has been from writing as opposed to all your other business ventures? Has writing been your major form of support?

LIN: We cruised on income from delivering boats, doing woodwork and rigging along the way for the first three years. Writing only added a small portion of our income for the next year or two. But after five years of cruising we found writing provided about half our income. Now, 40 years after that first article, writing probably provides 65% to 70% of our income.

CHRISTINE: People often ask us cruisers how we can live in such small spaces, and we all know it’s even more difficult to write in a tight space. Could you tell us a little about how you manage to concentrate, whether you now use a computer, and what your average writing day is like when you are aboard Taleisin?

LIN: I currently have a lovely office at our home base in New Zealand, with computer, printer etc. I find it harder to write than I did while we were actively cruising (about half our books and articles were written right on the boat, others while we spent winters on shore. Two were written right here.) But when we were cruising we set aside three months a year for solid working time which usually coincided with haulout and refit time. Every morning I settled in for four hours of creative work. Larry either had jobs off the boat, or worked opposite me doing editing or writing himself. Afternoons I’d work on the business of writing – i.e. getting photos organized, typing clean manuscripts. Late afternoons I did up the varnish work or sail repairs on the boat. The rest of the year as we cruised actively, I did a lot of writing on night watches, on rainy days in port. Then I’d settle in a few mornings a week to type up and edit manuscripts.

CHRISTINE: Most of your books (except for The Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew) carry the byline Lin and Larry Pardey. Can you tell us more about how that collaboration has worked?

LIN: I’d usually write the narratives; Larry often took on the how-to articles. (We sometimes joked, I told the stories and Larry told the truth.) Right from the first story we sold, Larry and I spent hours discussing the ideas before the writing began. So by the time it was all on paper it was often hard to remember exactly whose words we actually used. Larry’s book Details of – Classic Boat construction – was different. Though I did a lot of the editing to make sure explanations would be clear to less skilled readers, the words that fill that book are definitely Larry’s. The same is true of Care and Feeding but in reverse.

CHRISTINE: The new book Bull Canyon: A Boatbuilder, a Writer and other Wildlife carries only your byline for the first time. This book is a real departure for you, isn’t it? Can you tell us about its genesis?

LIN: For the first time ever, Larry only learned what I was writing when I handed him the first draft of each chapter This was definitely a departure for us and in fact caused a few moments of friction. Where in the past I’d gladly take on his comments such as, 'Why don’t you tell them this story' or 'Isn’t that getting a bit personal?' for Bull Canyon I felt it important to tell only my story and I feel Larry was at first a bit hurt by this. But gradually, as the book matured through four re-writes and as he edited each new one, he became ever more enthusiastic about my being in complete control of the story. His encouragement was wonderful and kept me going into that fourth re-write (and even more important through the painful wait for the first reviews.)

CHRISTINE: Bull Canyon has been compared to memoirs such as Under the Tuscan Sun that tell the story both of a romance and relationship and the blooming of an author’s narrative power. Is your memoir one or the other or both?

LIN: About 30 years ago, friends watched Larry and I working together, resolving differences, solving problems and said, 'You guys should write a book about relationships.' We laughed and agreed, if we tried to dissect our relationship and see what made it work, we might ruin it. Besides, at that time who knew if it was going to last – even if we definitely wanted it too? In a way, now that we can look back at a fine romance of 45 years, Bull Canyon is that book, a gentle look at the inner workings of a relationship that has helped us both enjoy life together. I hope readers also find my narrative skills have grown. Larry sure thinks they have!

CHRISTINE: There are some laugh-out -loud stories in this book. Do you have any favorites?

LIN: They are all my favorites. I just wish I’d been able to find room for the dozens of other very funny incidents that seemed to occur in Bull Canyon. But the one that makes tears come into my eyes every time I think of it is definitely seeing Larry rushing through the night, nude except for a pair of shoes, armed with a shovel and flashlight in his attempt to rescue Dog (our cat) from a wild cougar.

CHRISTINE: When it comes to sailing fiction and memoir who are some of your favorite authors? And since all or most of your books are available for the Kindle, have you crossed over into the world of e-readers yet?

LIN: My absolute favorite memoir still has to be Don’t Lets Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller. I also really enjoyed Beryl Markham’s West with the Night. Sailing memoir-wise, nothing beats a very old but very readable book, The Cruise of the Cachalot by Frank Bullen written in 1897, reprinted 29 times and still in print today. My favorite sailing fiction definitely has to be any of C.S. Foresters books. Though I read his Hornblower series time and again, it was his Daughter of the Hawk I loved best. Then there are the Jan De Hartog books; Call of the Sea, The Captain.

As for e-readers, I use a computer for work, not sure I want to use one for pleasure. I like to have a pile of books next to my bunk, lining my shelves all waiting to fill my time. I like to pass them around to my friends – leave them laying open at a page in the bathroom for a short sneak, discover something that would be fun to read left behind in on the trading shelf at the marina laundry. So I am not ready to rush out and buy a reader though I did use Kindle for PC to download Dan Poynter’s Self Publishing Manual.

CHRISTINE: What’s up next in your career as a writer? Are you working on a new book? Is Bull Canyon really going to be the start of more of Taleisin’s Tales?

LIN: With the warm and wonderful response I am getting from Bull Canyon, both among sailing and non-sailing readers, I am eager to get going on Taleisin’s Tales. But first I have to get ready for seminars at the Newport Boatshow, and the Annapolis show in September/October plus of course, help with the promotion of Bull Canyon.

CHRISTINE: Thank you so much for joining us here at Write on the Water and we wish you continued success with Bull Canyon. I want to let our readers know they can buy Bull Canyon on Amazon or Fort Lauderdale locals can stop by Bluewater Books and Charts.

LIN: A big congratulations to you on your writing success. Four novels!! Wow, can’t wait to read the first. Sounds like good fun. Hope we meet up again some day.

CHRISTINE: I hope so, too. We both know the world of cruising folk is a small one, so until our courses cross again, Fair winds!

To learn more about Lin go to her website at linpardey.com and to follow Christine and her blog, go to her personal website at www.christinekling.com

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