Dan Walsh: A New Chapter in his Career
This novel is about a young professor, Jack Turner, who returns to his alma mater to give a series of lectures. When he does, strange things start happening. Can you give us a little hint about what it is that's happening to Jack?
Let’s see if I can do this without giving too much away. Essentially, Jack starts having these bizarre experiences at night. Not every night, just certain nights. 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.
Where did you get your initial inspiration for this novel?
I actually got the idea back in the mid-90s and made it the subject of my first, unpublished book. It was unpublished for a reason. It was over 600 pages long, the plot moved far too slow and it was overly complex. But I loved the concept. I loved studying history and often spent time trying to imagine what it would be like to actually go back in time and see these events firsthand. Then I got the idea for this book. I’ve learned so much more about the craft of writing since then, so it seemed like a good time to dig it out and make it happen.
What goes into your writing process?
I know of other authors who write like me, but we are in the minority. I don’t start by writing a free-flowing first draft, then go back and do a lot of rewrites. I spend a good deal of time developing the story before I write the book. I want to get to the place where I could share the story with you, say, in a living room or around a campfire in about 10 minutes. I work on the story itself until I know, when I finish, you will be on the edge of your seat. Then I write it up and it becomes my synopsis. I actually write the entire book from this synopsis. Then I edit as I go. Usually, when I’m finished my first draft, I’m 90-95% ready to send it in.
What's your secret to writing a page-turner?
Some of my “secret” is included in the answer to the previous question. But I would also add 2 of my favorite writing quotes. These thoughts are in the forefront in my mind as I write. Especially when I self-edit.
The late Elmore Leonard said, “In your writing, try to leave out the parts readers skip.” The other quote is by Stephen King: “When you write, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.” As a reader, I know what it’s like to have large sections of a book that are just bla-bla-bla. I don’t want to have any bla-bla-bla in my books.
You set this story in a "sleepy Southern college town." Why did you choose this setting in particular?
There are lots of such towns spread throughout the South, and my wife and I love visiting them. They are chock-full of character, and I imagine each one has a thousand stories to tell. I hope to write several other novels set in sleepy little Culpepper, Georgia.
You're branching out and doing something new with this book, becoming a "hybrid" author. Can you tell us more about this leap of faith?
I’ve been paying attention to the growing trend and acceptance toward indie authors and books. Readers don’t care so much about the rules followed, sometimes rigidly, by traditional publishers. They just love to read great stories. The publisher I’ve been contracted with passed on this new book of mine when I pitched it to them 2 years ago. They liked it, but felt it stretched my brand too far. I’m mostly known for writing “Nicholas Sparks type” books. They felt this was more of a suspense novel. And they were right. Now seemed like a good time to take that leap and see if readers will allow me to write both kinds of novels.