Our friend Dan, and I say our because if you’re a writer he should be your friend – his blog is so full of helpful writing advice, he’s always willing to help other writers, and he goes out of his way to showcase fellow writers. So I repeat, our friend Dan Alatorre just launched a new book. I have not read it yet, I missed the beta train, I was just too busy. But that’s another reason to make him your friend, he gives out bazillions of copies of his books for beta, so free books! Without further ado, an interview with Dan.
Your new Scifi adventure, The Navigators, isn’t your first book, and all have been published independently, what is the best part about being an indie author for you?
You get to keep 70% of your money – that’s a big one. There are lots of other things to love about being indie. There wasn’t an advance given to the book in front of you that didn’t earn itself back in sales so yours gets delayed another six months. You don’t pretend you’re getting marketing “expertise” you really won’t get. Lots of things. I love the adventure of indie but I’d still go trad with the right book. The Navigators doesn’t fit easily on an existing bookshelf, and that’s a lot of what trad publishers do. We need another Stephen King clone; what have you got? Nothing? Do you have anything like Anne Rice? No? Gosh, you’re not a very good author, are you? We’ll be in touch. As it stands, I’m doing fine, so I’m happy.
Define doing fine? Has your writing made you rich and famous then? LOL.
I think Bill Murray said if you can become rich without becoming famous, that’s the better way to go. I try to model my life after Bill. Well, after Bill as Carl from Caddyshack. Seriously, I don’t think I’d handle that kind of fame well, where you get recognized everywhere. I would totally try to have minions and buy castles and private islands and stuff, and then form my own armies for world domination. It would end badly, I think. Peasants will only tolerate so much. You’d find my headless corpse in a sugar cane field near Miami after making one too many smart ass remarks. Better to stay humble and live as long as possible so I can spend the money.
I’m guessing you haven’t been recognized by a fan in public for your writing?
My dad asked me for my autograph once. That was a little weird. The closest I’ve come to being recognized by fans was when people wanted to know when and where I was going to the beach so they could meet my daughter – “Savvy” from Savvy stories. When I read one of my children’s books to her kindergarten class, I’m just Savvy’s dad. Kids will keep you humble. Oh, but when I sent some copies of my books to an author friend, her kids read the inscriptions I wrote in them and were impressed she knew the author. So I have that.
That’s way cool. Kids are hard to impress, they take everything at face value. Let’s get to topic at hand. Where did you get the idea for The Navigators?
The idea for The Navigators came from an innocent post a friend put on his Facebook page. “What would you do if you had a time machine? Who would you see?” He was just trying to stimulate people to be creative, I think. He did. 105,000 words later I had a pager-turner action story and had invented a new theory of time travel. I should probably thank him. It’s my best published work yet, and a great read. Lots of twists and turns, which my readers have come to expect.
Did you give him a big thanks in your novel?
Nope. Now I feel bad about not doing it. Thanks.
You’re welcome? LOL. Just keeping you honest. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
I wrote The Navigators in about four months. I started posting chapters in a critique group in early August and finished before Thanksgiving. That was kinda fast, but then I let I sit for a year because I wanted to learn more about the craft of authoring before I released my manuscript to the world. Actually it probably was because I hate editing. Navs was worth the wait, though. It’s an incredible story.
How do you tell an incredible story then? What “person” do you like to write in? First Person, Third Person, etc. – and why?
My early work in the Savvy Stories series was all first person because it was funny stories about a dad – me – and his baby daughter, so I was very comfortable with that. When I wanted to make the leap to fiction, I started with first person for most of it, switching to third person limited whenever the narrator isn’t around, kind of like what James Patterson does. Also, I loved the idea of telling a story from “I” point of view. I did this, I did that – the reader begins to identify with “I” The reader is I. Then “I” does something bad and the reader is like, crap, I’m the bad guy? That’s awesome. Readers love a rollercoaster ride and surprises. They get that in The Navigators. Nothing is as it seems.
I’m glad you didn’t go with the whole second person thing to give immediacy. That always set off my irritation alarm. Which word / phrase do you find yourself always over-using and having to edit out?
Smile. My critique partners have a crutch word list for me. Smile, look… it goes on and on. But far and away, smile is my most overused word, which we have to edit out. I don’t mind smile being in my story, though, because it says the characters are having fun and that means readers will, too. Lots of smiles in The Navigators.
SciFi adventure with lots of smiles. Super intriguing. So I’m guessing if you could be any one of your favourite characters for one day, you’d pick one of your own from The Navigators? Or would you pick another character from a book that’s not yours?
The Great Gatsby had it pretty good, didn’t he? Retired at 40 with all that money. Of course, he got killed at the end of that book, so maybe not Gatsby… Let’s go with Mr. Mills, the father of the heroine in The Navigators. Everybody loves Mr. Mills in that story. And he doesn’t die. I’ll be him. I am anyway, so it works. People who read my stuff will get that. My critique partners say Mr. Mills bears a strong resemblance to a certain author they know…
He’s a father, you’re a father, I see the parallel. Does that mean he’s your favorite character you’ve written?
Sam in Poggibonsi is the readers’ favorite. She’s hilarious, always saying funny, smart-ass remarks everybody wishes they could say. She teases her boss mercilessly but it’s okay because she’s best friends with his wife. Sam is an awesome character. She’s like me but a woman, and that smartass attitude got me in a lot of trouble at work over the years. My favorite character is, of course, “Savvy” from Savvy Stories – my daughter Savannah.
Awww. I’m guessing reading has been a big deal in your house, as it is in mine. I mean you can’t be a compelling writer if you haven’t been compelled yourself as a reader, right? So, what book first made you cry, and why?
Encyclopedia Brittanica. I was helping my older sister do a book report and dropped one of the really heavy volumes on my foot. I think it was N. I never really recovered, creating a lifelong aversion to studying of any sort. I never opened a text book in grad school and still managed to get almost all A’s. My wife, who I met I grad school, had to study all the time. I thought my way was much better. What was the question again? Oh, a book that made me cry. I probably didn’t cry much at all until my daughter was born. Now I cry at everything. A baby girl will soften up a dad in ways he never knew were possible. These days, a sad TV commercial will get me sobbing, so lots of books can do that now. The first was probably – completely serious – the first was a book of nursery rhymes because she was having trouble sleeping and we wanted to sing lullabys to her, and of course neither my wife nor I could think of any. I started singing When You Wish Upon A Star – and I couldn’t make it through it. Now, I’m not some blubbering dolt. My daughter was born with a life threatening heart condition and hoping for wishes to come true was pretty much all we did for six months – wish for that condition not to take our baby. (She’s six years old now and fine, thanks to modern medicines.) But those early days when we weren’t sure she was gonna make it? I’d cry at Hop On Pop. She’ll never be able to hop on her pop! I was a mess.
Excuse me while I get a tissue. Clears throat. What? No, I’m not crying my eyes are just leaking a little. Shuffles pages, change the topic….
What is your dirty reading pleasure? You know the one you never tell anyone you read?
Playboy. They really did have good articles. I read a great interview of Bill Cosby from back before he got in trouble, like an article from 30 years ago, where he talked about having goals and getting to the top of the mountain but not doing it alone; that if you reach the pinnacles of success in life and aren’t there with your family, it means nothing. I guess he did that interview before he drugged all those women, allegedly… Why must all my heroes have horrible sides!
Because you can’t be a hero if you’re not human and humans have flaws. That’s what makes us interesting enough to write about. Do you like villains or heroes better? Which are more fun to write?
A good hero is amazing to write, but a really evil villain is WAY more fun. Your hero has to do good things without becoming an obnoxious goody-goody type. Your villain can be just awful and readers will love it. In The Navigators, Findlay is the bad guy and he is just despicable. Readers hate him. HATE him! That’s awesome. That means I did it right.
Can’t get much better than that. Have you ever met any of your literary heroes, and if so, were they amazing, disappointing or just plain awkward?
Most of my literary heroes are like Mark Twain, and so being dead and all, they were a little quieter than you’d like. I’ve met famous actors and sports stars (NFL quarterback Terry Bradshaw, Super Bowl winning coaches Jon Gruden and Tony Dungy, etc.), and usually they want to be treated like regular folks. That means not going over for autographs. So when I see a celeb, I basically point him or her out to my wife and then leave them alone. She hounds them for an autograph while I say, “Tsk, tsk; honey, please leave them alone. Oh! There’s Sinbad. Here’s a pen. Don’t go over there.”
LOL. When I was in my early twenties, I used to wait tables at this 24 hour restaurant. One night about 2AM Jerry Rice came in. He sat in my section and all the back house staff and waiters were flipping out. “Get his autograph for me!” Then they got mad when I wouldn’t. Seriously, can’t the man just eat a meal with his companion in peace? You want his autograph you go over there. But what would I say? Seriously? sigh. I get it, an opening line is important, but he’s Jerry Rice. This happens to him all the time, I’m sure. LOL
What is your favourite opening line from a book?
In Killer by Joey, an anonymous bio of a mafia hit man, he starts out saying the F-word. Can we cuss here? “Fuck The Godfather.” That’s awesome. The Godfather was the biggest selling book ever at the time, and this guy starts out and says screw that, it’s not reality. Then he goes to tell you the real deal, showing a mobster life much more like the ones depicted in The Sopranos. Wouldn’t you love to start a book with “F that”? I would. I may have to now. I almost did, too. In The Navigators, Roger has the opening line and he doesn’t want to go on Barry’s grand adventure. He says, “No way, you fuckers are crazy.” So I almost started with the F-word. I wonder if I can do a rewrite? Then my book would have my favorite opening line. Both are good though – hey new writers, pay attention – because they quickly let you know what kind of story you’re in for. That’s a good way to let people know, with the opening, and it’s hard to do.
I love that you’re always trying to share what you’ve learned. So give us a little more, what’s a good writing secret or time management secret?
Get up early at 4AM and write before everybody wakes up. That’s right, 4AM. You will be SO productive, you won’t believe it. Nobody does that one though, so here’s a second one: Check email and Twitter at lunch and not before. You won’t miss anything and the world will survive without you until noon, believe me. The latest exploits of the Kardashians will still be there a few hours later, sadly. But when your head hits your pillow that night and you knocked out 3,000 words, you’ll feel awesome. Every time you sit down at a computer, think of one of those balancing scales: the Kardashians on one side, your book on the other. Hmm. For too many authors, the distractions win. You control that. Let your book win. Then every morning is Christmas morning.
Guess I’m nobody then, cause I did that. I got up at five for like 6 months straight to write. I was so miserable I wanted to quit writing. Eeee, gads. The horror. Speaking of which, what story scares you?
God, The Shining put me up a wall. Things that go bump in the night are still that old lady from room 613 who drowned in the tub. Brr. Very scary, Mr. King. I may never recover. I’ll be up all night now just from thinking about it. Thanks.
I need a drink now, thanks. I’m thinking a moscow mule, hope I have fresh lime. If you had a cocktail named after you, what would it be called and what would be in it?
The Dan? It’d be a hurricane from Pat O’Brien’s in New Orleans. I love them. Hook me up with a shrimp Po’ Boy and a hurricane, and I’m ready to party. It’s a sweet drink that tastes like… I don’t know; a rum and Hawaiian punch Slurpee. They’re awesome. Maybe rename it The Dannicane. Seemingly innocent but oh so dangerous; you never see the surprise coming – just like my stories.
Cheers to that. But … can I have a muffalatta instead?