Did you see yourself becoming a writer as a child? If not, what did you dream of being?
My desire to write novels came a little later, in the 11th grade. As a child, I wanted to be an astronaut. That dream was dashed when I found out how much math and science was involved. Meanwhile, I was getting straight A’s in English, Composition and Speech class. And I discovered how much I loved writing and reading good books.
How long did you write before you sold your first book?
My story is odd, full of fits and starts. I wrote with passion in my junior and senior years in high school (back when dinosaurs ruled the earth). Then stopped completely for almost 20 years. Picked it up again for a year or so in 1996-97, when I got the idea for my first novel, The Unfinished Gift. Long story, but I stopped again…completely, after getting halfway through. Then finally, in the summer of 2007, at the urging of my wife, I picked it up again and haven’t looked back since. Two of the first 3 agents I contacted wanted to represent me. I signed with one, Karen Solem, and she had a contract for The Unfinished Gift in just a few months.
Many of the people who follow our blog are aspiring writers themselves. Can you share your favorite writing tip with them?
Think I’ll share my favorite writer’s quote by NY Times bestselling author Elmore Leonard: "In your writing, try to leave out the part readers tend to skip."
Now for the readers…many times, it’s easy for them to connect with the characters in a book, but not so much the authors themselves. Share something about your day-to-day life that might help a reader to feel as though they know you a little better.
I love the solitude that goes with writing and research, but I also love to be with people. I love to laugh but, for a guy, I cry much too easily. I love fine cuisine but half the time prefer pizza. We live in Daytona Beach. When I was young I surfed. Now I love taking long walks on that same beach with my wife, or just sit and read with her under an umbrella, dangling my toes at the water’s edge.
Now that you are published, do you still experience rejections? If so, how are these rejections different or similar to the ones you received before becoming published?
I know rejection is a huge part of the writing business and a normal part of a writer’s life. And I’ve made some great writing friends who’ve experienced real heartache from this, so I’m sensitive to the pain. Since getting published, though, I’ve had very little rejection (had very little on my journey before that). I can’t explain why this is so, though I’m not complaining. I hope this doesn’t mean my rewards in heaven will be few.
One area of discouragement, although I don’t think it qualifies as rejection, is having the desire to write books in several genres but knowing this isn’t a realistic expectation in today’s marketplace. Especially when an author is fairly new and growing a readership. Readers like to read certain kinds of books (why there’s so many sections in a bookstore). It’s hard to grow a readership if you keep switching genres, so authors are asked to settle on one genre they enjoy and resist the urge to drift too far from there.
Tell us a little about your latest release:
It’s called The Deepest Waters. Here’s a one-paragraph summary we came up with.
What began as a fairytale honeymoon for John and Laura Foster aboard the steamship SS Vandervere becomes a nightmare when a hurricane causes their ship to sink into the murky depths of the Atlantic. Just before she goes down, an old wooden ship comes to their rescue but can only take the women and children aboard. The couple is pulled apart, certain they will never see each other again. Laura sails alone to New York to face a family she has never met. Inspired by a true story, The Deepest Waters weaves a tale filled with action and suspense but is also an amazing love story, one that could only happen if miracles come true.
If you could only share one line from The Deepest Waters, which one would you choose and why?
Yesterday, when it had become a certainty their ship would sink, Laura and John Foster held hands, as they had on their wedding day three weeks ago, and made a vow: when that moment finally came they would leap into the sea together and slip beneath the waves.
This is how the book opens. Why pick this line? Hoping it beckons you to read more.
Writers often put things in their books that are very personal—like a funny story that happened to them, a spiritual truth they learned through difficulty, or even just a character trait that is uniquely theirs. Is there something in The Deepest Waters that only people close to you know is about you or someone you know?
I guess I’d pick a spiritual truth learned through difficulty. Fair to say, one I’m still learning. One of the main characters is Micah, an old, illiterate Negro slave; but a man who has a deep walk with God which has a profound effect on everyone around him. After many days of watching him endure far greater suffering than she has, even through the shipwreck, Laura asks him to tell her the secret of his happiness. His answer reveals a lesson God has been teaching me in the last several years.
Readers often talk a lot about the hero and heroine of a story, but today I’d like to know something about your villain. Does he or she have a redeeming quality? Why or why not?
Sad to say, the main villain, Ayden Maul, has no redeeming qualities. At least not in the span of time covered by the book. Perhaps beyond the pages of this tale, God may still reach someone like him.
What kind of research did you have to do for this book? Can you share some articles or website links you found particularly helpful?
Since the story was set in 1857, I had to do extensive research. I’d been fairly familiar with the Civil War era, but this story happens in the decade before the war. Before writing this book, I knew nothing about the 1850’s. Since it is based on a true story, but one that is little known, I found only two books (one out of print) that covered it. But they were very helpful. I also found many websites that helped me learn about life on the sea during this time, as well as some fascinating historical facts about New York City and San Francisco. I hadn’t realized this before, but the 1850’s saw the transformation of San Francisco from a small seaside village to a major boomtown on the west coast.
Tell us what new projects you’re working on.
I’m finishing up my 5th book for Revell. The working title is A Persistent Rumor. It’s a story that begins in the present, returns to the 1940’s in the middle, then resolves back in the present. It’s about a grandson who discovers his grandfather’s amazing past after inheriting his home in Charleston, things he’d kept hidden from the family while he was alive. I’m also part of a team of authors writing in a series for Guideposts called, The Miracles of Marble Cove. I’m writing book 5 for the series.
Up ahead? Revell has just signed me to write 3 more novels for them, with a goal of releasing two books a year (like we’re doing in 2011, one in the Fall, another in the Spring). We’ve already agreed on the storylines, all stand-alone novels, similar in genre to the books I’ve been writing (which I love). One takes place in 1962, during the height of the Kennedy years. One takes place in the present. And one begins in the present but flashes back to the turbulent years of the Viet Nam era.
The most common thing I hear when people learned I’ve published a book is, “I’ve always wanted to do that.” Faced with this statement, what advice would you give to someone just starting out in this business?
It’s not for the faint of heart. If you don’t have a deep desire to excel at the craft of writing (not just love to tell stories), if you become easily hurt or discouraged when you receive input or criticism, if you don’t enjoy long hours of solitude, if you don’t love to read great books, if you are known for starting many things but finishing few, if you don’t have a tenacious zeal to keep at something until you succeed…you might want to consider doing something else.
What is the one question you were afraid I would ask…and how would you answer?
Why would I answer that question if I’ve gotten to the end of the interview and have successfully dodged that bullet?
Seriously, I haven’t been asked a question yet, in any interview, that I was afraid to answer.
Connect with Dan Walsh on the web: