Q&A: Dan Walsh (The Reunion)
Dan Walsh's latest novel, The Reunion, tells the story of a Vietnam veteran who's heroism has remained unrecognized and unrewarded... until now.
WHAT WERE YOUR GOALS WRITING THE REUNION?
While researching an earlier book set during WW2, I came across a true story of a hero that thoroughly inspired me. He had been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor saving a number of lives in battle, only to come home and live a life of total obscurity, serving as a janitor for decades in an Air Force Academy. Some cadets had discovered who he was and couldn’t believe they had been passing by, and mostly ignoring, a genuine national treasure every day. So they honored him in a major way at the next graduation ceremony. From this, a love story emerged in my mind, one that honored military veterans but also included romance and family reconciliation. I decided to make my hero a Vietnam vet, because I believe this group of veterans did not receive the kind of respect and honor they should have when they returned.
Basically, I had 3 themes in mind while writing The Reunion:
1. God sees and cares about those most of us have cast aside.
2. God rewards and honors those who humbly serve others instead of themselves.
3. God is an incredible matchmaker.
WHAT CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE PROTAGONIST IN YOUR NOVEL?
Aaron Miller lost his family because of the drug and alcohol abuse he fell into after returning from Vietnam. He hasn’t seen his children since they were 4 and 5 (they are now in their mid-forties). For most of the 70s and part of the 80s, he was homeless. In 1987, he came to Christ through a street outreach ministry and his life slowly began to turn around. He tried to reconnect with his family, but his ex-wife refused to let him even come near the children, and said some deeply hurtful things that made him feel he had no right to be involved in their lives any longer. Fast-forward to the present. Aaron is now a poor, but well loved handyman in a trailer park. The three friends whose lives Aaron saved haven’t seen him all this time either. But they have been meeting regularly for reunions. They hire a journalist writing a book about the heroes of Vietnam to find him. He winds up falling in love with Aaron’s estranged daughter.
WHAT DO YOU WANT THE READER TO TAKE AWAY AFTER READING THE REUNION?
Besides experiencing a fresh appreciation and sense of honor for those who serve in our nation's military, maybe it's this: at the beginning of the book I quoted something Jesus said in Luke 13 talking about Judgment Day: “…Some who seem least important now will be the greatest then, and some who seem the greatest now will be least important then.” In one sense, I hope The Reunion stirs people's hearts to see others the way God sees them, because the way we measure each other's worth and value is radically different from God's perspective.
Jesus routinely stopped to take an interest in ordinary people. A woman at a well, a blind beggar, a nameless leper. I hope my readers will be thoroughly entertained as they read this book but, also, I hope it opens their eyes a bit to see people with more concern and compassion, the way Jesus did.
WHAT FIRST MADE YOU TAKE THE LEAP FROM "READER" TO "AUTHOR"?
It wouldn’t have happened except for my wife’s encouragement. Back in 11th grade, I wanted to write novels and thought that’s what I’d be doing with my life. Life took me in a different direction, but I never lost my love of reading fiction. Back in 2007, with our children now grown, my wife suggested I finish a novel I had started 10 years ago. She knew I loved to write and had started a book that she really liked, but then gave it up. So that’s what I did. It was almost immediately picked up by a good literary agent, Karen Solem, and she had a contract with Revell in just a few months. It went on to win 2 ACFW Carol Awards for Best Short Historical Novel and for Debut Author.
MANY AUTHORS HAVE ALL KINDS OF IDEAS FOR STORIES JOCKEYING FOR THEIR ATTENTION - HOW DO YOU CHOOSE WHICH STORY TO WRITE?
Whenever story ideas come to me, I sit down and write them out then save it to a file. I add bits and pieces to it over the next few days. I’ve had the good fortune of writing for mostly one publisher, Revell. And I’ve had one agent, Karen Solem, and one editor the entire time, Andrea Doering. And, of course, there’s my wife Cindi, whose input both my agent and editor greatly respect. When I get within six months of the end of my current contract, it’s proposal time. I run these different ideas pass them and they help me refine which projects to focus on, and in what order, as I put the proposal together.