Welcome Dan Walsh, author of Keeping Christmas, to Author Spotlight! Keep reading to find out how you can enter to win a copy.

Walsh_DanIntroduce us to you as an author: When did you get bit with the writing bug? How would you describe your writing style?

Suzanne and I are good friends. For many years we shared the same publisher (Revell) and even the same editor (Andrea Doering). She has featured several of my earlier novels here on Author Spotlight. I first knew that I wanted to write novels way back in 11th grade, but life took me in a different direction. I experienced a call to ministry in 1977, became a pastor in 1985 and continued to serve as a pastor for the next 25 years.

But I never lost my love for writing fiction and picked it up again, more as a hobby, in 2007. I finished that novel, The Unfinished Gift, the next year and it was published in 2009. It did very well, and it won two Carol Awards. That began a transition for me from pastoring full-time to writing full-time in 2010. Since that first book I now have 15 published novels and a non-fiction devotional, published last March, called Perfect Peace.

As for my writing style? Reviewers most often compare me to Nicholas Sparks, but I believe my books have better endings ☺.

Tell us about your new release:

Interestingly enough, my first novel with Revell back in 2009 was a Christmas novel, and so is my newest one, called Keeping Christmas. I love the Christmas season, and so does the main character in this novel, Judith Winters. Usually. But this year something has changed.

Her husband Stan’s hobby is fishing; Judith’s is her family, her kids and grandkids. They are empty-nesters now and, unfortunately, their children have all moved away, too far away to make it for either Thanksgiving or Christmas this year. She lives in a beautiful little town in central Florida called Mount Dora, known for its extravagant Christmas decorations and displays. But she’s finding it very hard to get in the Christmas spirit. She does her best to get out of this funk, but can’t seem to shake it. So her friends, family and especially her husband set a plan in motion they hope will turn everything around.

How can readers connect with you online?

Probably the easiest thing is just to visit my website and check out my homepage. There are buttons there to connect to my blog, send me an email, sign up for my newsletter or follow me on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and Pinterest. They can find me at danwalshbooks.com.

Anything new for you on the book horizon?

Yes, recently I finished the first novel in a new trilogy, called Rescuing Finley. Finley is a shelter dog who winds up rescuing the female inmate who trains him and the Afghan war vet who adopts him (and they might just fall in love). I’m also halfway through writing a sequel to my first suspense novel, released at this time last year, called When Night Comes. It did so well I decided to make it the first book in a suspense series. The working title for this new novel is Remembering Dresden, and will include all the main characters of the first book. This time Jack, Rachel and Sgt. Joe Boyd will be tackling a cold case murder mystery from the mid-1990s, whose origins trace back to WW2.

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

My journey was remarkably quick. I finished polishing up The Unfinished Gift the summer of 2007, then began trying to secure an A-list literary agent. To my great surprise, two of the first three agents I submitted to loved what I sent and wanted to read the whole book. I signed with one, Karen Solem of Spencerhill Associates, and she had a book contract with Revell 2 months later.

Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well?

Hmmm. Interesting question. Coffee is certainly a must. After that, I suppose it might be my “process.” Before I begin to write, I always read the chapter I wrote the day before. This allows me to do some self-editing but also helps me get back on track with where I’m at in the story. I also try to spend some time before writing visualizing the entire scene from beginning to end, not just what the characters do and say, but I also try to sense their emotional state. I don’t usually write until the whole thing is pretty clear to me.

Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing?

I used to write in a home office off our master bedroom. But since my wife and I are empty-nesters now, and since she works full-time outside our home, I have the house all to myself (me and my dog writing buddies). I actually write in the living room now on my side of our recliner-sofa. My writing day usually consists of spending the morning doing all my non-creative writing stuff (emails, interviews, blogs, social media, etc.). I take a short lunch break then spend the afternoon writing the next chapter in my book. My goal is to create one keeper-chapter a day.

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

Ironically, the first writer’s conference I attended was the same month my first novel released, so clearly attending a conference wasn’t part of my journey (although I’ve enjoyed attending them ever since). And I didn’t attend a critique group until after my third book came out. But I go to one every month now. The biggest help for me was the support and encouragement, as well as specific feedback from my wife, Cindi. I also devoured about a half-dozen “how to write great fiction” books. Lastly, I got some good feedback from my test readers (I gave them a list of specific things I needed to hear from them). According to my editor, the manuscript I sent in to her was 98% ready to go.

What book have you reread the most?

Other than the Bible, for my writing life it would have to be Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. I think I’ve read that one 5 times. I don’t think I’ve ever read a novel more than once.

Best author moment? Worst author moment?

Best moment – It’s a tossup between getting that first phone call from my agent, that call when she confirmed we had a book deal, holding that 1st book in my hands or hearing my name called out twice at the ACFW Conference for winning a Carol Award.

Worst moment – Realizing last summer that I wasn’t going to be re-signed with my publisher and would have to roll up my sleeves and dive into becoming an indie author. But hey, it turned out to be a wonderful thing, and I’ve really enjoyed this past year a great deal.

Can a person make a living as a writer?

Keeping Christmas Book Cover

I’d have to say yes to this one, since I’ve been doing it for the last 5 years. I understand the percentages aren’t great for most published authors (think only 5% make enough off their books to do it for living). The ranks among those who are making it as indie authors is certainly increasing. I know a number of friends whose transition from traditional to indie publishing is similar to mine, but I’ve met even more indie author friends who had never made it in the traditionally published world, who are making a really good living as full-time writers now. Of course, their books are very well written, and they’ve really learned how to market their books effectively.

What are your biggest distractions?

Almost anything. A breaking news story (when I write, I have Fox News on the TV, muted). Curiosity about what’s going on with my social media connections. My dogs insisting I pay attention to them.

I think the challenge for me is, I’m not an introvert. As a pastor, I was surrounded by people all the time, except for a day-and-a-half each week when I prepared my sermons. Now as a writer, I’m alone most of the time. Thankfully, these distractions rarely get the better of me and, so far, they haven’t slowed me down.

What advice would you give to new writers?

Don’t be distracted by all the conflicting voices that put so much emphasis on things like building your platform, social media or learning how to market your book. Those things certainly have a place. But they are nowhere near as important as learning how to write a great book. Put 80% of your efforts there, 20% on the other things. And if you’re a Christian, nothing matters more than getting to know and spending time with the Creator of creativity.

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