I recently read a delightful book from Dan Stone called The Rest of Our Lives. I was so impressed by this author’s first novel that I contacted him to express my gratitude, and he agreed to let me interview him. The following is a result of that interview.
Q: When did you start writing?
I don’t remember exactly when my writing life began. My mother has poems saved from as early as second grade, but I was a skinny, high school bookworm trying to hide a southern accent and a spiritual and sexual identity crisis when writing became a way of life. Like so many who feel forced into hiding for one reason or another, writing became a way to be the me I was often too afraid to be except on the page.
Q: Was there someone in your family, a teacher, or perhaps a favorite book, that inspired you to begin writing?
I used to hear my minister father talk about his feeling that he had been ‘called’ to preach. He passed along to me a desire to find a place and a work in this world that was uniquely mine. It was presented as both a gift and a challenge to be called, to hear and to respond to any inner stirrings nudging me in a particular direction and toward a particular purpose. There was also a freshman (high school) English teacher who used to write comments/feedback in the journals she had us keep each week. It was the first really positive ‘objective’ feedback from a credible (non family) source and it really lit a fire under me.
Q: Who are the authors who most influence you?
This is a surprisingly difficult question. It depends on which ‘me’ (poet, novelist, essayist, etc.).we’re talking about and whether by “influence” you also mean “inspire”. If so, the list would include Emily Dickinson, Stephen Crane, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Allen Ginsberg, Edmund White, Mark Doty, Mary Oliver, Julia Cameron, Mercedes Lackey. I could go on and on . . .
Q: What’s the strangest source of inspiration you’ve found for a story?
Probably the cover of an International Male catalog.
Q: Your debut novel, The Rest Of Our Lives had two wonderful characters. What was the inspiration behind Colm and Aidan?
The Rest of Our Lives was born from my own lifelong love affair with romance and magic. In ways, I'm a typical Pisces dreamer, and the dream of an extraordinary, magical, enduring love is one I've been dreaming for as long as I can remember. As a gay man, I’m hungry for stories of love between men, particularly when they capture elements of my own experiences and dreams.
Q: The Rest of Our Lives, has garnered several excellent reviews and is a Lambda Literary Awards finalist. Can you tell us about the story?
The basic premise is that two male ‘elemental’ witches (each able to command/control the element of fire or water/ice, respectively, meet and fall in love only to discover that their relationship has been reincarnating for centuries, each time with a rather unhappy ending or outcome. The question is, what happens to them this time around? On one level it’s just a lighthearted, sweet love story about opposites attracting—one that I’ve carried around in my dreams for a long long time. It’s also about the intersection between magic and the ‘real’ world and about how we all struggle on some level with seeing ourselves as we really are and figuring out how we fit into a world that often doesn’t seem to make much sense.
Q: So, if you don’t mind sharing, would you tell us about your latest work in progress?
I have a children’s book I’m shopping around to publishers, a collection of poetry and short fiction scheduled for publication in the next year or so—and I’m working on a sequel to The Rest Of Our Lives.
Q: I’ve heard you’re a poet. Which do you prefer writing, poetry or prose?
I honestly hope no one ever makes me choose.
Q: Name a book or movie written by someone else that you wish you had written, and why that one?
Another hard question because there are so many. One would be Brokeback Mountain . . . (book and film) for its passion and intensity and tenderness—and heartbreak. Although I would’ve tried to find a way to get them together in the end ☺.
Q: You novel is hilarious. What’s the secret of writing good comedy?
Not trying to be funny, I think. Being real and honest. Know your characters inside and out. If they’re funny, you don’t have to do anything but let them be who they are.
Q: If you could offer one tidbit of advice for new writers, what would it be?
“Get out of your own way.” I somehow learned along the way that writing works best for me when I’m not trying so hard to make something happen. It’s a process of receiving and allowing as much or more than anything else for me. I trust that ideas will come and if I stop struggling with them, and let myself enjoy the process, I’ll almost always like what—or who—shows up.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I cherish time with family and friends. Love movies and music. Beaches. Good food. Tennis when weather permits. Sleep.
Q: Had you not become an accomplished writer, what other occupation would you have most liked to tackle?
I do other things (teach, coach, etc.) but I do also fantasize about being a singer/dancer/actor—or a pro tennis player. Or a wealthy philanthropist . . . Or maybe a gay male Ghost Whisperer . . .
Q: Do you enjoy writing, I mean, do you find it fun?
I do now. I used to think of it very differently—as hard work that was never really finished. But my perspective has shifted dramatically. One of the best things that ever happened to me was learning that my best work is the work that feels most like play to me. I’ve loved what I do ever since.
Q: On your website, I came across something called The Shower Channel. What is that all about?
It’s about something I lightheartedly call ‘Danelling’ . . . a play on the word channeling, obviously. I truly believe we all have access to pretty infinite sources of wisdom via our “higher selves” or “inner being” or connection to Source or Spirit or God, etc. If we ask questions—about anything—answers are available if we just get quiet enough and really listen. It’s the same Source that I think what we call ‘inspiration’ flows through in all its incredibly diverse expressions. The Shower Channel is the name of my blog where I share responses from that connection to Source to some of my questions or questions others bring to me. As I say on my web site, it’s just me channeling “ME” . . . but it’s an elevated, more guided Me whose mind is clear, whose heart is open, whose eye is always on the wide horizon, and whose tongue is always slightly in his cheek.”
Q: What, more than anything else, fills you with rage?
Not much. I dislike arrogance and narrow mindedness and cruelty but rage isn’t something I experience often. I joke that one of the reasons I never get seriously depressed or angry is that I’m too easily distracted. But I also just don’t embrace or feed those kinds of emotions if I can help it. It doesn’t serve me well. When I feel angry about something I notice it, try to understand what it’s about and what’s it teaching me and then release it as quickly as possible so I can get on with the joy that I really believe is the point of our journey here. That’s not to say I can’t be a real bitch at times or that I never get pissed off. I just try not to hang on to those feelings.
Q: Can you tell us something about the place you call home?
I don’t think I’ve really found it yet—either that or I just tend to take it with me wherever I go.
Q: Where can readers find more of your work?
I have links to samples of published writing on my web site: www.firstadream.com.
Q: Anything else you’d like to share?
Just a heartfelt thanks for this fun opportunity to talk about two of my favorite subjects (me and my work) ☺. It’s been a pleasure!
I write novels, short stories and screenplays.
I am the author of eight published novels and three unpublished screenplays. You can read about all my pubished works at http://alanchinauthor.com
I live and write half of each year at my home in Southern California, and spend the other half of each year traveling the globe with my husband, Herman Chin.