Dan has wanted to write novels since first reading Frank Herbert’s Dune at the age of eleven. A native of the Pacific Northwest, he often goes hiking with his family through mist-shrouded forests and along alpine trails with expansive views.
Dragons Walk Among Us is his debut novel. He plans to keep writing fantasy and science-fiction for many years.
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How do you find the time to write?
Finding time to write can be challenging, especially when you’re a parent. I have two high-energy schoolboys who participate in all the activities of childhood. How do I find time to write? I follow a set routine and am always flexible.
I’m a big believer in the habit of writing every day. To accomplish this, on weekdays, I’m literally up before the crack of dawn, no later than 4:30 a.m. By five a.m., I’m doing something writing-related, often either pounding out a rough draft or editing a scene. My aim is to have about ninety minutes of uninterrupted writing time before my sons drag themselves out of bed to get ready for school. It also corresponds to when it’s time for me to prepare to hit the day job.
On the weekends, I don’t force myself out of bed at 4:30 in the morning, although sometimes I’m wide awake at that hour. Typically, I’ll still get up early and try to write until eight a.m. Then, after fixing breakfast for the family, I’m back at it until ten or eleven, depending on plans for the day and how restless the boys are.
I’ve learned flexibility is vital if you want to keep your sanity. In On Writing,Stephen King points out that children and life in general often interrupt writing time. His solution is not to treat writing time as sacrosanct. Instead, work the time you write around everything else in your life. This is really great advice for all of us who have families and dreams of being future bestsellers.
What I do to be productive as a writer while having children might not work for everyone. That’s okay. Everyone’s situation is different. But having a set routine whenever possible and being flexible has served me well. I wrote my YA fantasy debut, Dragons Walk Among Us, by dragging myself up before everyone else in the household and not stressing out when the inevitable interruptions intruded on my writing time.
Do you think Writer’s Block exists?
I suppose it’s a subjective thing. If you think you suffer from it, you probably do.
My critique group, the Puget Sound Writers’ Guild, had a resident writer, may he rest in peace, who staunchly did not believe in writer’s block. If you can’t come up with ideas and bring them to fruition, then you aren’t creative enough to cut it as a writer. He could be hard, but he was a best-selling author under several pen names, so who were we, his pupils, to contradict him.
Now, I won’t go so far as to say writer’s block simply does not exist. But I do think there are practices a writer can implement to overcome it. Personally, I’ve never suffered from writer’s block. For example, the characters and plot for Dragons Walk Among Us came easily to me. It probably helped that I’ve been thinking about some of the central fantasy elements of the story for years. Here’s my remedy, or put another way, how I avoid writer’s block.
I start small with a one-page concept that lays out the story from start to finish in broad strokes. This isn’t easy; it’s hard. It takes me numerous drafts to get the concept down to one page, but I think it’s worth it. From that, I create a scene-by-scene outline that I ultimately treat as a roadmap. It shows me how to get from the start line to the finish line, but I can always take detours and side trips along the way. I find the rough draft flows quite naturally from this roadmap.
If you suffer from writer’s block, start small. That strategy has always served me well.
Dragons Walk Among US is your debut novel. What can your readers expect to come next?
Dragons Walk Among Us is the first novel in The Allison Lee Chronicles. I can confirm that readers should expect more books featuring Allison Lee and her squad. Right now, I am planning four, maybe five, books to comprise the entire series.
Where do these books stand now? Well, I have the broad strokes outlined for the entire series. I’m currently writing the rough draft for the second installment. I’m about fifty percent through the draft. If everything goes to plan, I’ll have a complete manuscript ready to turn in to my publisher by December this year. The novel deals with similar themes of belonging and angst found in Dragons Walk Among Us, along with a few new topics readers will hopefully find engaging. Without giving too much away, portions of the second novel will take place in Southeast Asia. I’ve traveled the area extensively and hope my experiences will help me capture the essence of the region’s beauty and diverse cultures.
After book two, while I do have an outline, my plan is a bit more nebulous. That’s why I say the series might turn out to be five books as opposed to four. With any luck, these novels will come out steadily over the next several years. After completing The Allison Lee Chronicles, you can expect more action-packed sci-fi and fantasy tales with social commentary woven in that I think young adults will find very appealing.
Tell us about the protagonist in your novel Dragons Walk Among Us!
Allison Lee is the protagonist of my debut YA urban fantasy, Dragons Walk Among Us, and possesses a deep-seated need for belonging. In part, her yearning is no different than anyone else’s. She wants to be part of something greater than herself and be surrounded by people who accept her. These desires burn exceptionally bright in her because she has never known her mother, who she believes abandoned her at birth. Allison’s need for acceptance hits overdrive when she starts seeing or, perhaps, in reality, hallucinating dragons. When her best friends make it clear they believe she is delusional, their bonds of friendship begin to crack.
Allison is a passionate photographer with dreams of becoming a photojournalist. Her pictures of high school sporting events around Seattle are published weekly in her school’s online newspaper. She combines her love of photography with civic-mindedness, often documenting climate marches and social justice issues. When an unprovoked attack leaves her blind, Allison feels like her life has been flushed down the toilet and fears she will never photograph again.
I’m a big believer in the adage to write what you know. It allows me to inject verisimilitude into the story. For example, Allison is an avid photographer, often out and about with her camera in hand. Details on composition and exposure for different situations are sprinkled throughout the narrative. These details are accurate because I’m a shutterbug. I think these details are just enough to characterize Allison Lee, be interesting to readers, and add a sense of realism to a story that is, after all, a fantasy.
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