Author Spotlight: Dan Walsh

Suzanne Author Spotlight

Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest book. FUN.

The winner from last week’s Author Spotlight with L.K. Malone is ElenaR! Please email my assistant Amy with your mailing address. (amy@litfusegroup.com)

This week Dan Walsh is in the Spotlight! To win a copy of his book, Remembering Christmas, leave a comment on this post!

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Share a little bit about yourself. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?

Before I share a little about myself, let me start off by thanking you, Suzanne, for inviting me to spend some time with you and your readers. And congratulations on your success with A Lancaster County Christmas. My wife loved it and now that I’ve gotten it back from her friend, I’m reading it too.

I’ve been married to the only woman I’ve ever loved for 35 years. Cindi is my best friend (no one else even comes close). We have two married children and this past year we’re so happy to welcome our first grandson to the family. In September, 2010 I retired from being a pastor after 25 years to write fulltime.

And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…

If your readers haven’t read any of my books yet, most magazine and blog reviewers compare my writing to Nicholas Sparks (that happens quite a lot actually). And my Christmas books are often compared to Richard Paul Evans (bestselling author of The Christmas Box and more recently Lost December).

As far as genre, my first 3 novels are definitely historical fiction with a strong romantic thread. But Remembering Christmas is set in 1980 (not sure if that’s far enough back to be considered historical). I have 2 more novels coming out in 2012. The Discovery starts off in the present then goes back to the 1940’s. But The Reunion, due out next Sept, is contemporary.

I’ve been told by my agent and editor that my “brand” isn’t so much a time period I write about, but the way I write. Relationally-driven stories that pack a strong emotional punch. But my books will always have a strong dose of romance and, hopefully, inspire us to put our hope more fully in the Lord.

How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author?  

I’ve wanted to write novels since the 11th grade when Mrs. Connie Longnecker, my composition teacher, took me aside to tell me she thought I could be a writer someday if I really wanted to.

After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published? 

After experiencing a call to pastor in my early twenties, I put aside my writing dreams. They resurfaced temporarily in the mid-90’s, which is when I got the idea for my first novel, The Unfinished Gift. But that turned out to be a premature leap (a long story), so I set it aside again until 2007.

Cindi suggested I take out that book and finish it. Both of us really felt a green light from the Lord, so I did. I finished the book that summer. Two of the first three agents I contacted wanted to represent me. I signed with one, Karen Solem of Spencerhill Associates. She had the contract with Revell in 2-3 months (that book wound up winning 2 ACFW Carol Awards last year).

Even though things simmered for many years, it does seem like it all came together very fast once I finally got in sync with God’s timing.

Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well? Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing? 

I normally start every day with a lengthy quiet time (prayer, reading my Bible and sometimes a helpful book). This is my anchor for facing the day, not just my writing. Since we live in Florida, I love to write outside. Here’s a picture of where I often write.  It’s under an awning out by our pool. If you look closely, you can see Darcy, my little writing buddy, under the table. We’ve lived in the same house for over 26 years, so we’ve been able to add on to it over time. It’s in a nice quiet neighborhood, with a private backyard.

After my quiet time, I’ll get caught up on my emails, spend an hour or so on Facebook and other social networking sites, then I’ll write for the next 4-6 hours.

What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?

Probably the encouragement of others, mostly some important women in my life. Starting with that 11th grade teacher, then my mom, then (and now, the strongest voice in my writing life) my wife Cindi. I didn’t actually go to a writer’s conference or even attend a writing group until after my first novel was already published.

Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be? 

Not at all. Guess I had bought into the Hollywood stereotype of published writers getting huge advances, then retiring to a quiet lakeside cabin to write in peace, as their novels glide effortlessly to the bestseller’s list.

That has not been my story, starting with the money. It is now enough for us to live on, for which I’m grateful (I’ve learned the majority of authors don’t earn enough to do this fulltime). But, so far, it’s not been near enough to consider buying that lakeside cabin.

And though my readership is growing, and I’ve won some wonderful awards, my books have yet to “glide” onto either the CBA or ECPA bestsellers lists yet (of course, any help your readers could provide would be greatly appreciated).

What are your biggest distractions? 

Probably social networking. Emails, blogging, Facebook, Twitter and, actually doing things like this (giving interviews). Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy these kinds of things. That’s the problem. Because I do, I can easily spend so much time on them, I don’t have enough time left in the day to write.

What do you least like about being a writer? Most like? 

Probably not knowing how to make the best use of my social networking time. There are so many things I could do, and that list seems to get bigger not smaller as time goes by. What do I like the most? Ah…the writing. I LOVE to write. I wondered after doing this for several years as my “spare time hobby” if I’d grow tired of doing it once I went fulltime. The answer, happily, is NO. I still love the time I get to spend writing the most.

What is the role and importance of an agent? 

I would be lost without my agent, Karen Solem. She not only knows and connects me with the best people on the business side of things, she cares for me as a friend and looks after my interests as a writer better than I could for myself. She handles all the contract/legal side of things and helps me understand what all the big words mean. I know for a fact I would not be able to write fulltime now apart from the work she’s done on my behalf.

What advice would you give to new writers?

Involve the Lord in all you do. Jesus told us that God knows the number of hairs we have on our heads. I believe He said this to help us realize God cares about every detail in our lives. That certainly includes something as important as our writing. Keep fueling your love of writing by feeding your love of reading. Read good books. Read them first as a reader, then go back and read them as a writer, trying to understand what makes them work so well. Read good books about writing and―this is very important―get comfortable listening to input and advice.

Pretend I’m a customer at a bookstore looking for a good book. Give me a one or two sentence promo to convince me to buy your book. 

Only because you asked…

“Want to buy a book you will hate to put down once you start, one whose characters will grip your heart and not let you go till the last page? Do you like books with endings so good they make you cry? Then here, you’ve got to read Remembering Christmas!”

What’s on the book horizon for you? 

My two new novels coming out in 2012, The Discovery and The Reunion (I loved writing these books). I’ve just recently written the first 10 chapters of my first novel with Dr. Gary Smalley (who co-wrote the hugely successful Redemption series with Karen Kingsbury). It’s been wonderful getting to know Gary on a personal level, not to mention how much his books have helped me. I’m drawing from several of them as I write this new series with him.

Last question, how can readers find you and your books?

They can visit my website at www.danwalshbooks.com. Also I’d like to invite them to visit me on Facebook and “Like” my Author page there. I go there every day, sometimes several times a day. It’s www.facebook.com/DanWalshBooks.

Thank you for sharing your writing life with my bleaders! (blog + readers = bleaders)

It’s been my pleasure, Suzanne. And please let your readers know they can feel free to comment or ask me any other questions they might have in the Comments section.