http://lenanelsondooleynewsletter.blogspot.com/ . Welcome, Dan. Tell us how much of yourself you write into your characters.
I actually don’t set out to write myself into any of my characters, but I’m sure I still show up from time to time. My wife knows me better than anyone (we’re married 33 years). She catches glimpses of me every now and then. What I try to do is immerse myself in my characters’ situation, which is funny, because it’s a situation I put them in. I want to see what they’re seeing, feel what they’re feeling. I start writing when I get there. I’ve heard actors describe “getting into character,” and I thought, that’s what I’m trying to do.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
The quirkiest things were probably done before I came to Christ in high school (some went beyond quirky to downright harmful and illegal). But here’s one that might fit. I’m a pastor. Years ago, we threw a big anniversary party for some friends in the church who were teens in the Elvis years. I got talked into showing up at the end of the party, and did an Elvis impersonation…the old Elvis, after he’d lost all his moves.
The Worship pastor at my former church did a very good Elvis impersonation whent he choir had a sixties themed party. When did you first discover that you were a writer?
By the end of 11th Grade. I took a composition class, and we did all kinds of creative writing. I loved it, and my teacher seemed to love what I wrote and told me so often. The desire to write was born then and has never left.
I'm glad you pursued publication now. As you know, I loved this book. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I love anything historical that is well written. By that, I mean it puts me right there. I love suspense thrillers, sometimes. But I also love relational dramas, especially ones that get me choked up.
What other books have you written, whether published or not?
Revell picked up my second novel, The Homecoming, which is the follow-up book to The Unfinished Gift. They plan to release it by the summer of 2010. Some years ago, I wrote a suspense thriller, a totally different genre than my two published works. That one may yet see the light of day. But right now I’m hard at work on my third novel, a relational drama set in 1857, involving a newlywed couple and a shipwreck.
How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
By endeavoring to express, as my first thoughts of the day, my total need and dependence on God. I think there’s a conveyor belt that runs right under my bed, called anxious thoughts. I’m not careful, I will step on that thing and not get off all day. So I quickly get to my quiet place to meet with Jesus, through prayer and reading the Word. At some point, my wife brings me the best coffee. I don’t run through a checklist. I’m there because I need to receive, to reflect on the wonderful truths of the Gospel, and have my mind and heart renewed by the Holy Spirit. This anchors my day better than anything else I’ve tried.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
Some of them have just popped into my head. I see the character, and the name is right there. For others, I’m searching the internet, trying names on like shoes. Because I’m writing in history, my name choices narrow by the available names in that period of time or the character’s nationality. It’s not uncommon for me to start with a name, and two chapters later say, “That’s not who you are.” Then I’m trying on shoes again.
I know what you mean. One minor character in the book I just sent to my publisher had three different names. He finally told me what it was near the end of the book. What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
When I was twenty, I could have come up with a dozen things in five minutes. I’ve spent the latter part of my life growing in my awareness that I really haven’t done anything well without a lot of help. Asking what I’m most grateful for, would get closer to the way I think. That my wife and I are still in love is very big. That my grown kids love me and enjoy my company is huge. Finding out that my first novel would actually be published, a very good day.
James and I are more in love than ever as we entered our 46th year in November. If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
Something that spends half its time with the other animals, and the other half in solitude and, because it’s an animal, no one thinks it strange.
What is your favorite food?
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
Time is a big one. I’m a full-time pastor. I write in the moments in-between. Sometimes when I have time, nothing flows. Other times, the perfect piece of dialog or the best way to refine a scene jumps in my head, and I’m hours away from doing anything about it. How did I overcome this? I haven’t. I’m just grateful that I get to do something in my downtime that I genuinely love. My wife has helped me the most, to find some normalcy and routine in my writing schedule.
What advice would you give to an author just starting out?
Writing is a craft with many facets. They all matter and they all take time to develop and mature. Those who finally do get published know well they haven’t “made it.” They’ve just reached an important place. But they must keep growing and honing this craft. Write as often as you can; when it flows and when it won’t. Read good books on writing well. Read well-written books. Get sucked in, then go back and read as a learner. Connect with at least a handful of people who love reading and hate flattery. They could be writers also, but I’ve heard some of the best editors have never written a book. Listen to what they say, not what you think. I heard an old saying, “If you see a turtle sitting atop a fencepost, you know he had a little help.”
Tell us about the featured book?
It is a few weeks before Christmas, 1943. Little Patrick Collins is being driven across town to stay with a grandfather he’s never met. His mother recently died in a car accident. The Army is trying to locate his father, a B-17 bomber pilot, stationed somewhere in England. At first, Patrick just tries to cope with the magnitude of his tragedy, but soon realizes he must find a way to melt the ice surrounding his grandfather’s heart. He is helped along the way by a caring but frustrated social worker, a kindly Italian widow who lives next door, and a poor black man with a courageous and generous heart.
THE UNFINISHED GIFT explores how God can use simple and sometimes surprising things to affect powerful changes in our hearts. Like a little boy’s reactions to a tragedy, a shoebox full of love letters, even an old wooden soldier, tossed away and forgotten in a dusty attic.
Please give us the first page of the book.
Here’s a link to the first chapter on my website (it’s pretty short):
How can readers find you on the Internet?
I have a website at http://www.danwalshbooks.com/ . I want to thank you and your readers for your time and hope you enjoy my new book.
Thank you for spending time with us, Dan. I can hardly wait for the next book.
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