Dan Walsh Interview, When Night Comes
Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 12 novels including The Unfinished Gift, The Discovery and When Night Comes. He’s won 3 ACFW Carol Awards, 2 Selah Awards and three times his books have been finalists for RT’s Inspirational Book of the Year. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Word Weavers International, Dan writes fulltime in the Daytona Beach area. He and his wife Cindi have been married 38 years and have 2 grown children and 2 grandchildren. You can find out more about his books or follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or Pinterest from his website at http://danwalshbooks.com.
When did you decide to pursue writing and eventually publication?
I wanted to write novels in 11th grade after my composition teacher gave me nothing but straight A’s. She pulled me aside when the class was over, saying, “You could really be a writer if you wanted.” Though I never gave up my love of writing, life took me in a different direction. I got married, sensed a call to ministry, became a pastor, and did this for the next 25 years.
Back in the mid-90s, I started writing, but eventually had to set it aside. It was supposed to be a hobby, but it was taking up all the time I could spend with my kids. In 2007, with my kids now grown, my wife suggested I finish a book I had started, which I did. I spent about 6 months cleaning it up and send it off to several literary agents. Two of the first 3 loved it and wanted to represent me. I picked one, and she had a deal with Revell 2 months later. That first book, The Unfinished Gift, came out in 2009 and won 2 Carol Awards.
What is your writing process like? Do you write daily? Are you a plotter or a pantster?
I’ve been writing full-time since 2010, so yes, I write daily. Typically, I spend the morning taking care of all my non-creative writing tasks like social media, interviews, marketing, etc. After a short lunch, I shift to the other side of my brain with a goal to write one keeper chapter a day, roughly 1,500 words. Before I write something new, I read and self-edit what I had written the day before. As result of this habit, when I’m done my first draft the book is 90-95% complete.
I’m not a plotter, but I think I’m more than a pantzer. I spend a good deal of time early on crafting the story: beginning, middle and end. I’ll hammer out a synopsis that usually runs 5-6 pages. I want to to be able to fully explain the story to someone in about 10 minutes. Once I’m there, I start writing the book. After about 50-75 pages, the characters become real to me. From then on, I let them tell the story. I become their scribe.
What is your favorite part of the writing process? Least favorite?
I love it when you start off the writing session only vaguely aware of what needs to happen, then a few hours later you’ve captured something very satisfying that, sometimes, even moves you emotionally. My least favorite part of the process would have to be marketing and promotion. Not because I don’t enjoy it. In some ways, I actually do. I just don’t like how much time it takes, and how easily it can encroach on my creative writing time.
What is one of the most interesting things you’ve discovered in your research?
I suppose it would be something I learned while writing my 5th novel, The Discovery. Most of the story was set on the home front during World War II. I never realized how many American ships were sunk by Nazi U-boats right off the shores along the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico (hundreds of them). People in coastal towns could often see the explosions on the horizon. In the days after, debris and bodies would wash ashore. The whole thing was hushed up by the government and kept out of the press, because they didn’t want to alert the Nazis about how effective these missions had become.
Please tell us about your latest release.
Let’s see if I can do this without giving too much away. When Night Comes opens with a body in a bed. We learn it’s a student from the local university, but we’re not sure if he’s been murdered, or if this is something else. Jack Turner, the main character, is driving back to this same university, his alma mater, to give a series of WW2 lectures. Jack starts having bizarre experiences at night. At first, he can’t tell if they’re dreams or if he’s actually traveling back in time. And he doesn’t know when they’re going to happen or why. All he knows is that he’s reliving firsthand events he’s previously only studied and talked about in his lectures.
Helping Jack through this crisis is Rachel Cook, a beautiful teaching assistant, who’s actually had a crush on Jack since she was fourteen, but Jack never knew. And there’s another main character, Nigel Avery, watching everything unfold from a distance. He’s convinced in a few days he’ll be given the order to clean up all these loose ends and make this entire situation disappear.
Who or what inspired this special story?
I actually got the idea for this book back in the mid-90s and made it the subject of my first, unpublished book (I wrote it before The Unfinished Gift). The book was unpublished for a reason. It was over 600 pages long, the plot moved way too slow, and it was overly complex. But I loved the concept and felt the story itself was solid. I’ve always loved studying history and have often spent time trying to imagine what it would be like to go back in time and see these events first hand. On one of these times, I got the idea for this book. It has elements of time travel involved, but it is definitely not your typical time travel book.
Two years ago, I pitched it to Revell. They loved the idea. But felt that it stretched my “Nicholas Sparks” brand too much. Back in May, I decided with all that’s happening in the publishing world, and this new shift toward indie books, it was a good time to dig it out. I rewrote it over the summer, taking advantage of all the things I’ve learned about writing since the mid-90s.
Is there anything else you would like to share? What will you be working on next?
2015 should prove to be a very busy year for me. I’m making the switch from traditional author to indie. As a result, it looks like I will have 5 books coming out this year. The last 2 with Revell, coming out in April and September. In between these, I hope to release 3 of my own.
Right now, I’m working on the first book in a trilogy. Each one will have a dog as a main character. They will be more in keeping with my “Nicholas Sparks” type books. It’s called, Rescuing Finley. Finley is a shelter dog who gets picked for a program that involves prison inmates training dogs to help war veterans with PTSD. He winds up rescuing 2 broken lives who thought they were rescuing him (there’s also a love story mingled in). I also hope to finish the 2nd book in this trilogy, as well as a sequel to my suspense novel, When Night Comes.
Can you tell us something about yourself that few people may know?
Let’s see…I had blonde hair as a child and, in my youth, I didn’t get a haircut from the beginning of 10th grade until a year out of high school. My ponytail almost reached my waistline. I was your typical long-haired, surfer bum. Beneath my high school graduation robe I wore a surfer T-shirt, surfer baggies and flip-flops.
What is your most treasured possession?
I thought about this for a while. The truth is, I don’t have one. Over the years, there are things that have meant a good deal to me. I had hobbies and collected things that seemed to matter at the time. But now, nothing comes close to the love and friendship I have with my wife, still after 38 years. That and the joy I get knowing my 2 adult kids, who are both grown, enjoy our company and hang out with us often. Now I can add to this the incredible happiness that comes whenever my two grandchildren, ages 3 and 6 months, smile at me.
If you had to leave your house suddenly, what is one thing you would grab, other than family and pets?
The photo albums. Along with them, my laptop and iPad (in case things aren’t backed up properly).
Thank you so much! Where can readers find out more about you and your books?
Probably the easiest thing is just to visit my website and check out my homepage. There are buttons there to connect to my blog, send me an email, or follow me on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Pinterest. I’m on Facebook everyday and answer all my own emails. Here’s the link: http://www.danwalshbooks.com
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