North Carolina author Lynne Hinton explores the familiar territory of forgiveness and community in her new novel, “The View From Here.”
Hinton, the co-pastor of Mount Hope United Church of Christ in Guilford County, has been exploring those timeless themes since her first book, “Friendship Cake,” was published in 2000.
In her newest book, the main character Katie Sinclair climbs up a loblolly pine to see if she could. The forest service worker, who is divorced, stays in the tree to escape from all the things on the ground weighing her down. Perched on top of a tree, she has a larger view of the world; somehow life has become too tedious and small.
Hinton is the author of 21 books, including The New York Times best-seller “Friendship Cake” and “Pie Town.” She penned the mysteries “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot,” and “Jacob's Ladder” using her pseudonym Jackie Lynn. She published “The Art of Arranging Flowers” using the name Lynne Branard. All of the names are variations of her real name Jackie Lynne Hinton. Branard is her married last name.
The 56-year-old pastor and author answered a few questions about writing, ministering and the difference between the two. And of course, we discussed all the pen names.
Seeking Higher Ground
Q: What inspired “The View From Here?”
A: I used to walk and run along the irrigation ditches in Albuquerque (New Mexico), where we lived. There were a bunch of beautiful cottonwood trees. I kept finding myself looking up at the cottonwood trees and thought about what it would be like from a different view. How would things look different?
When “Friendship Cake” came out, it was the near the same time a woman climbed up her tree in California and had written a book about it. I knew about Julia Butterfly Hill so I always kept her story in mind. (Hill wrote “The Legacy of Luna: The Story of a Tree, a Woman, and the Struggle to Save the Redwoods.”)
So I knew that people as a means of protest had climbed up trees and lived there. I think I have always been envious of them. I’ve always wanted to live in the tree. I thought that’s where the protagonist of my next book will be.
Quieting the Noise
Q: It seems like lots of people want to escape from all the chaos in the world, police shootings, natural disasters and political madness. Do you think a lot of people want to join your character Katie Sinclair on her perch in the tree?
A: I do. You are right about the escapism, I think people long for that place they can go and not be affected by what’s happening in the world. There’s something old about loving to climb trees. For people who grow up around trees, tree climbing is a part of our childhood. There is also this nostalgia to go back to how it felt as a child, to be up a tree and hiding in your own place.
Q: What lessons are you trying to teach us from Kate’s story? What lessons are we supposed to learn from her?
A: So, I never write intentionally putting lessons in my books…What she can teach us is that sometimes taking ourselves outside of a situation gives us a new perspective. Sometimes that is helpful. The other piece is about forgiveness. I don’t think we can’t live freely if we can’t forgive.
Open your Heart
Q: You are a minister of a United Church of Christ church. How does your faith inform your writing?
A: Forgiveness is certainly a part of our faith tradition. Learning how to forgive, being willing to forgive and asking for forgiveness. Those are all elements of a life in faith that affected this book… my faith walk is a walk to learn how to keep my heart open and find ways to open it even more. So when I write, that influences the stories I tell. I do always hope that by the end of my book, the main character has found a way to open her heart.
Sermons vs. Storytelling
Q: Could you talk about the similarities between sermons and storytelling?
A: There is more freedom in writing fiction than writing a sermon. In sermon writing, I am somewhat aware of my audience, and having that in mind does shape what I write, what I will say.
When I write stories, I have no idea who my audience will be or if I will even have one. That lack of specific information is just one of the reasons I feel freer when writing fiction. There is also the element of needing to have some words of wisdom or exhortation to share when I preach. When I write stories, I feel only two responsibilities, to be true to the character and move the story along.
Choose a Lynne
Q: Why do you use pen names for your various books?
A: That is totally up to the publisher. When a publisher tries to sell a book to a bookseller, the first thing they do is look at the author’s last sales. If they are not very good, with a different name, they don’t look my sales up. They have a better shot to sell more books to the bookseller. The first time I did it, I had two books coming out in a year and they were trying to keep them separate. The mystery book was listed under Jackie Lynn.
Lynne Hinton will talk about her novel, “The View From Here,” (NewSouthBooks, $25.95) at the following events.
▪ June 5, 7 p.m. Quail Ridge Books, 4209-100 Lassiter Mill Road, in North Hills Shopping Center in Raleigh.
▪ June 30, 2 p.m. McIntyre’s Books, 220 Market Street located in Fearrington Village in Pittsboro.
▪ July 19, 7 p.m. at Flyleaf Books, 752 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Chapel Hill.