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Interview with Dan Walsh

While researching for this interview, I realized that your interviews are almost as prolific as your books and it will be hard not to ask a question you’ve already answered somewhere else. So instead of only asking new ones, I’ll be touching on some of your answers to previous questions.

Your current release, The Discovery, has an upcoming sequel, The Reunion, both of which are a mix of contemporary and historical. Was this proposal duo a hard sell? How do you market a project like this?

First, I need to clear up a little misunderstanding. The Reunion is not a sequel to The Discovery, but a standalone novel. And The Reunion isn’t really a mix of contemporary and historical (although The Discovery certainly is). It's mostly a contemporary novel with a few flashback scenes to the Vietnam era.

It wasn't hard to sell this proposal to Revell; it's exactly what they were looking for and wanting me to write. I guess, in a way, my "brand" is not that I'm an historical fiction writer, or a contemporary one, per say. It's more the idea of a male author writing emotionally-charged love stories and family life dramas (think Nicholas Sparks with a much stronger Christian theme, no bedroom scenes, and often less tragic endings).

In The Discovery, were you trying a different twist to the idea of learning about a mystery in an old letter, or did you have another reason for writing The Discovery as you did?
I don't write mystery novels, although I want to keep the reader constantly guessing and in suspense as the book unfolds. But I expected the reader to unravel the mystery Michael faces way before he does. The joy is seeing him connect the dots and the emotional impact it has on him (and hopefully on the reader) when he does.

Think about discovering something about your family’s' recent past that affects everything you ever thought of or believed, something that is so big that it changes everything. And yet, the truth is encased in a powerful love story that, once understood, only adds joy to the discovery.

With so many books in the publishing process, you must be working on different stages with several at once. Do you find it easy to switch from historical to contemporary?
I'm actually writing two books a year, which I can keep up with now that I'm writing full-time (so we're talking about a six-month process for each). For about four of those six months, my writing life is relatively calm and easy to manage. But there's about two months of overlap in each cycle where life gets very crazy. I'm promoting one book, writing another, doing preliminary edits in another, and final edits on a fourth book.

The books I'm writing now with Gary Smalley are totally contemporary, but the next one I'll be writing, starting in September, is a standalone set in the early 60s. So yes, it gets pretty interesting switching back and forth. But I really enjoy it.

In your Random Jottings interview with Richard Mabry, you said in the comments, “…Oddly, our goal is that once a reader picks up our book they 'can't put it down.'” What methods do you use to ensure it’s a page-turner?
My methods here are not original, but I really take them seriously. My favorite writing quote comes from Elmore Leonard, who said: "In your writing, try to leave out all the parts readers skip." So, I cut out everything that isn't essential to keep the story moving forward. The result is the reader gets lots of story, but not a lot of blah-blah-blah.

Next, I like to keep the emotional aspects of the story simmering as I go, giving the reader a little more with each chapter, but always raising more questions than I answer (at least till the end of the book). And, of course, I end every chapter with a hook

How much of your daily schedule is devoted to your current contracted book, or does it vary?
It's fair to say most of my time is devoted to my current contracted book, at least 5 to 6 hours a day.

Do you do anything special when you finish a book?
We always try to do something nice to celebrate. I'm not making the kind of money where we can fly off to some romantic location, but we at least go out to a really nice restaurant. It's a great feeling to finish a book (I'm amazed that God has allowed me to experience this feeling eight times in the last four years).

One thing I noticed was that no matter where I read about you, I came across numerous references to your wife, Cindi. In your USA Today interview, you were talking about your characters and said, “Sometimes, my wife and I talk about them and we'll totally forget they aren't real.” On your Facebook page, you commented about a Publisher’s Weekly mixed review by saying, “That's the part we liked, too…” Also on your Facebook page, you mentioned attending July’s ICRS and said, “Cindi gets to come, too.” And you mentioned vacations on the beach with you and Cindi side-by-side reading. It’s obvious you include her in everything you do. Do you brainstorm your books with her too, either before or during the writing process, or does she think everything you write is wonderful?
Cindi is very involved in my writing life. I run all my ideas past her, as the book ideas are coming to me and while I'm writing. On average, I write about a chapter a day. The last thing I do in my writing day is read the chapter to her, and I pay serious attention to her input. Cindi has actually become quite an effective editor. My own editor, Andrea Doering (who won ACFW’s editor-of-the-year last year) loves Cindi, and now insists I don't send her anything that Cindi hasn't seen.

I'd be an idiot not to take advantage of such a rich resource living in my own home. She actually came up with one of the book ideas, a Christmas novel, that I'll be writing next year.

Cindi doesn't read the kind of books I write, as a norm (she prefers mysteries and suspense novels). But she loves my novels and tells me I'm one of her favorite authors (and I know she means this, which makes hearing it so satisfying).

In an interview with Lena Nelson Dooley, she asked for your most embarrassing moment. You said it was when you preached a sermon with glitter on your nose. In the comment section, you added, “Do you think anyone said a single thing about it after?” I’m assuming they didn’t which makes me wonder…were you relieved or disappointed by their response?
To be honest, I don't remember. It was years ago. I'm guessing I was more disappointed than relieved, because I would know that such a distraction kept most of them from paying attention to a message I had spent most of the week working on.

I read that you are hoping your series with Gary Smalley sends more public speaking invitations your way. What’s your target audience? Or do you adapt your talk depending on who invited you?
I wouldn't be able to take too many invitations, because I’d fall behind in my writing. But preaching and teaching was one of the more enjoyable parts of my life as a pastor and, at times, I miss it. So far, I've only been asked to speak at writing conferences about writing (which I enjoy). I'm wondering once the books come out with Gary in the spring if I might not be asked to occasionally speak on the subject of marriage and romance. I think I'd like that. Again, if it doesn't detract from my writing schedule too much.

In response to a question by RT Review about writing romance novels, you replied, “… I’ve always enjoyed watching romantic comedies and dramas with my wife. I love Jane Austen movies, Hallmark tales and anything on Masterpiece Theater, as well as romantic period pieces…” Have you ever been asked to speak about your romance novels to a men’s group?
No, and I'm not expecting an invitation like this anytime soon. Again, once the books I'm writing with Gary Smalley come out in the Spring…who knows? Anything can happen. I do believe there are more men, like me, who enjoy the "romantic side of life." But as you can see, it's not often emphasized in our culture. Particularly, in the culture of the church, so a lot of men keep it to themselves, so they’re not hassled (some parts of life stay just like high school). Christian men seem more focused on things like theology topics, conservative politics and sports. Not a lot of guy nights spent watching Jane Austen movies.

On your website, you honor your high school composition teacher who sparked your love of writing. You state, “Secretly, I began to write poems and short stories. Only my teacher and mother could read them (such things clashed badly with the surfer-guy persona I’d worked so hard to fabricate at school).” In your interview with Lena Nelson Dooley, you said, “…my parents gave me a New Testament, which I began to read constantly (but I had to sneak it, because I was “too cool.”).” Have you outgrown your need to be cool? (Perhaps we should ask Cindi this one.)
I think so. No, I think I can say decidedly so. I may have moved too far in the other direction (as my 22-year-old son often points out).

Do you have any parting words?
Just thanks for the great questions and the opportunity to share with my ACFW family. I love ACFW, and I'm so looking forward to attending the conference in September in Dallas (even more so now, that my third novel The Deepest Waters has become a Carol award finalist).

Thanks for sharing with us, Dan.

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