Welcome to Favorite PASTimes, Dan! We’re glad you took time to visit with us.
On your website, you describe your road to publication as “my writing saga.” We’d love to hear a little about that journey.
I’ve read dozens of other journey-to-publication stories and it made me realize, mine is somewhat different. I actually began writing The Unfinished Gift twelve years ago, but realized it just wasn’t time. I was a full-time pastor with two young children and could only write in my spare time. My choices were: keep writing or be a bad Dad. So I set it aside. I didn’t write another thing for ten years (except sermons). Two years ago, my children now grown, my wife urged me to pick it up again. She loved the book. I started writing again, and it all came back to me. I finished it the summer of 2007.
In the time in between, Christian fiction had become huge. I received a list of good literary agents from an author friend, and sent out the first three packages (thinking I could only handle three rejections at a time). I only got back one rejection letter. The other two agents asked to read the entire manuscript. I picked one to represent me, Karen Solem, and she had the deal contracted with Revell within three months.
I love history. I love to read non-fiction history books, especially ones that read like novels. Writers are encouraged to “write what you know,” and I know the most about the WW2 era. To me, writing historical fiction is the closest I can get to traveling back in time. When I write, my goal is to take my readers back with me.
The Unfinished Gift is set in 1943 on the homefront during WW2, a week before Christmas. A little boy, Patrick Collins, is being driven across town to stay with a grandfather he has never met, while the Army searches for his father, a B-17 pilot somewhere in England. Patrick’s mother has just died in a car accident. His father and grandfather haven’t spoken since before Patrick was born. The story is about how God uses a number of things―like the prayers of this little boy, a shoebox full of love letters, and an old, unfinished wooden soldier in the attic―to bring this broken family back together.
Your next book, The Homecoming, is scheduled for release in June 2010. Can you tell us about it?
I can also give this clue…you mentioned that typically historical fiction equals romance. The Homecoming will not be a romance, but it is definitely a love story.
It's great when all the pieces come together like that, especially when you hadn't really planned on a sequel. Some writers love plotting, some like writing that first draft, and others enjoying researching or digging into the revisions. What's your favorite part about writing a book?
The writing itself. I enjoy the research, and I don’t mind the revisions. But for me, I love to sit and think about the scene until I see it clearly, feel everything the character is feeling, hear the dialog like a real conversation. Then it’s like I’m some invisible scribe, following them around, writing it all down. I love reading it back to my wife, especially when I can tell she got it, when I’ve connected.
What are one or two of the most interesting things you’ve learned while researching your books?
During WW2, women all across America saved up every ounce of fat and lard they could get their hands on, then stood in lines at the butcher’s shop so they could exchange it for a few more ration points of meat. And that this lard was converted to nitro glycerin to make bombs. And this gave them a sense of pride that they were directly contributing to the war effort.
When starting a new project, do you tend to begin with a time period or event and create the characters to live it, or do you start with characters and then find their story?
Come back tomorrow for Dan’s answer to this question and to learn more about his life as a writer and full-time pastor. Don’t forget to leave a comment so you’ll be entered for your chance to win a copy of The Unfinished Gift (drawing will be held on Friday morning).