Thank you for giving us time for an interview today. I’ve read a number of your books and we’ve “talked” on the internet, but I’m looking forward to getting to know you more today. Can you tell us what genres you write and a little of your writing journey?
I guess you could say my bread-and-butter genre are Nicholas Sparks-type books (that’s the author people most compare me to). Thirteen of my 17 novels are in this genre. But I also love to write suspense. I have 2 stand-alone suspense novels, and last year I began the Jack Turner suspense series. It has really taken off. I’m researching the 3rd book in this series now and hope to start writing the book on November 1st. It will release in the spring, Lord willing.
My writing journey has been a little bizarre, compared to most of the author friends I have chatted with. I finished up my first novel in the summer of 2007, spent the balance of the year polishing it up. I put together a package that included a query letter, synopsis and the first five chapters. Then I compiled a list of A-list agents and began submitting it to them. Two of the first three loved it and asked to read the whole book. I signed with one a week later, and she had a contract with a major publisher in two months. That book went on to win 2 Carol awards, and my career began to take off, you could say.
Wow. That is different from most authors. I’ve head it takes years before most authors get a contract. What book are you featuring today, and what story can you tell us that has something to do with your book?
It’s called, Finding Riley, and just released October 1st (my 17th novel). It’s the second book in my Forever Home series. Each of the books include a shelter dog as a main character. Of course, there are plenty of humans in the story and even a nice romantic thread. The first book, Rescuing Finley, came out 11 months ago and is doing very well both in sales and reviews (276 Amazon reviews, Avg 4.8 stars).
As for a background story, I can say that the dog on the cover is actually a shelter dog named Charlie that my wife and I adopted two years ago. He’s definitely the inspiration for my “dog character” Riley. In early November I plan to create a page on my website, or maybe Facebook, with lots of pictures of him and some of the locations featured in the novel.
Can you give us a short summary or back copy blurb about Finding Riley?
Sure, here it is:
An unexpected surprise brings the Mitchell family of Savannah a chance to experience the Christmas trip of their dreams. An unexpected disappointment threatens to turn it into the worst Christmas ever. John Finch and his friend Alfred live in the woods. Been doing it for decades. He likes wintering in Florida, but this year’s been particularly harsh. Between the cold, freezing rain and terrifying lightning storms, John’s starting to wonder how much more of this lifestyle he can take. A new friend enters the picture and changes everything. Kim Harper, the dog trainer introduced in Rescuing Finley, is contacted by a billionaire philanthropist seeking her help with a new dog training project that will help the homeless. Is he for real? And is her co-worker right, does this rich handsome man’s interest in Kim go far deeper than her dog-training skills?
I love the fact that it has to do with Christmas, too! What do you do when you sit down to write? Do you listen to a certain type of music, eat chocolate, exercise or do something special?
I love music, but when I write I need complete silence. We are empty nesters now, so I often write in the living room. I have Fox news on, but muted most of the day. For some reason it keeps me company. I’ll un-mute it for something like an earthquake. The words “Breaking News” mean absolutely nothing anymore. I love chocolate but I am a Type II Diabetic, so we’re not eating chocolate all day long. Exercise? I do some, need to do more. But never when I’m writing.
What is something unique or amusing about yourself or your life that we would like to know?
Let’s see…in high school I was a long-haired surfer bum. My ponytail reached all the way down to my belt in the back. I was a full-time pastor for 25 years until 2010, when I started writing novels full-time. During my years as a pastor, except at the end, I never talked about my love for fiction. Here’s a secret…99% of pastors don’t read fiction, let alone write it. Finally, because of some nerve damage in my arms and hands I now have to “speak” my books into existence using a headset and voice recognition software. I’ve done that with my last six books (it works really well).
It’s hard to picture you as a long-haired surfer bum! I wonder if you would ever consider a book using that “scenario.” 🙂 Can you give us a short biography about yourself and tell us how we can contact you (fb, twitter, website).
Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of 17 novels including The Unfinished Gift, The Discovery and When Night Comes. He has won 3 Carol Awards (finalist 6 times), 3 Selah Awards and 3 of his books have been finalists for RT Review’s Inspirational Book of the Year. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Word Weavers International, Dan writes fulltime in the Daytona Beach area. He and his wife Cindi have been married 40 years. You can find out more about his books or follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads or Pinterest from his website at http://www.danwalshbooks.com.
*GIVEAWAY!* One free book (either paperback or ebook) of this same title will be given to the winner of a drawing (the drawing is for those within the US only). Anyone who makes a comment on this post on my blog (lindarodante.com) or on my author facebook page (Linda K. Rodante) under this post will be put in for a drawing. On Monday, following this blog, a winner will be drawn and their name will be given to the author who will contact them and arrange for the book to be sent.
Will you please give us the first Chapter of Finding Riley?
Okay, he got it. It was December. But it was also Florida. So why was John Finch still shivering inside his sleeping bag, his body all curled up in a ball?
He’d packed up his things three weeks ago and hitched a freight train down from Memphis to avoid freezing weather like this. Riding a freight train was a scary thing, but John couldn’t get the money together for a Greyhound ticket. At the time, it seemed worth the risk. But now?
He heard the tent zipper go down.
“You ever coming outta there, John? Fire’s burning nice and hot now. Coffee’s all brewed.” It was his friend, Alfred. Alfred’s the one who’d invited him to this camp. Some of Alfred’s friends had nicknamed him Two-Sheets because, most of the time, Alfred stayed slightly inebriated. Not fall down drunk, mind you. Otherwise, they’d have called them Three-Sheets (“three sheets to the wind”).
John peeked his head out of the sleeping bag. “What time is it?”
Almost nine. Starting to see the sun through the trees. Supposed to be the last day of this cold snap. Said so on the radio not twenty minutes ago. So, c’mon. We need to get to work sprucing up the camp for that cameraman who’s coming. Don’t want him to think the homeless are nothing but lazy bums.”
That’s right. John couldn’t believe it. Some idiot had gone and said yes to a guy making a documentary about the homeless. He’d found out about it last night. “When’s this guy supposed to show up?”
“I don’t know. What’s a-matter? Didn’t you sleep okay last night? I certainly did. I always sleep better when it’s cold.”
John sighed. He might as well just get up. Alfred wasn’t gonna stop nagging until he did. And he definitely didn’t want to still be in bed when that camera guy started filming their campsite. “All right,” he said. “Gimmie a minute. I’ll be right out.”
“Want me to pour your coffee?”
“That would be nice.”
Alfred zipped the tent flap back up “Save you a spot by the fire.”
John sat up on his cot, started getting out of his sleeping bag. That was something to be grateful for anyway, not having to sleep on the ground. He’d slept on one of those aluminum camping cots you pick up at Walmart for thirty-five bucks. John didn’t pay that, of course. Alfred had snatched it for him the day before John arrived. Some guy was breaking camp and heading south, said he needed to travel light and couldn’t take it with him.
Reaching over, John lifted his leather jacket from a crate beside the cot and put it on. He looked down at his boots. They were a little small. He couldn’t lace them up wearing anything more than one pair of socks. Right now he had on three. But at least he could feel his toes. How long would that last after shedding two pairs and cramming his feet into those old boots?
He sighed again. Didn’t matter. Had to be done.
He did it quickly and stood up just as fast. It was a dome-style tent with decent head room. Alfred bought it used a few months ago. Told John how much he’d paid for it. John figured that was a hint, so he’d given him some money when he got here. Almost half, which is why he didn’t have any money for the bus ticket. But now John was having doubts about his investment.
Last night made it three nights in a row where the outside temperature had dipped below freezing. Maybe he could talk Alfred into the two of them taking off in a few days, make their way south.
John knew you got down around Tampa and, while it could still get chilly at night, it was nowhere near this cold. He wasn’t exactly sure where they were now. In the woods somewhere a few miles north of a little town called Summerville (at the moment, the name hardly fit). The nearest named-town he recognized was Ocala, maybe a half-hour away.
As he unzipped the tent and stepped outside, he heard Christmas music on a radio somewhere in the distance. Johnny Mathis singing, It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas. No mistaking that distinctive vibrato. Looking around at the sight before him, John couldn’t quite agree with Mr. Mathis. It was cold enough to feel like Christmas, but it looked just like what it was—a dirty old camp of homeless people living in the woods.
He’d seen plenty of similar camps in several different states over the last two decades, since he’d joined their ranks. This was better than some. Definitely more organized. Alfred had said the two guys who’d been here the longest set things up almost four years ago. Most of the camps John lived in had either fallen apart, or everyone got chased out within a few months.
John walked down the narrow path toward the fire pit, saw a smiling Alfred waving, pointing at an empty canvas chair beside him. A steaming cup of coffee sat on a makeshift table. Though the woods were pretty thick out by the road and for the first hundred yards or so, they opened into a nice clearing where the tents had been set up. Here, only a few shady trees stuck out of the ground every so often, palm trees had sprouted here and there, and lots of skinny saplings were scattered all about.
“There you are,” Alfred said. “Nice and toasty over here.”
John could feel the heat even this far from the fire. More than the heat, he was aware of that coffee cup. As he walked around and behind Alfred to avoid the smoke, another guy who’d been sitting a few feet away got up and headed toward a tarped area, where breakfast was being served.
“If you’re hungry,” Alfred said, “maybe you should follow him. They’re not gonna serve breakfast much longer.”
John sat and picked up the cup of coffee. “This is all I need. Thanks for getting it.”
John took a few slow sips. He stretched out his legs to warm up his boots. Between the fire, the coffee going down smooth, the breakfast smells hanging in the air, and the sun shining through the trees…this wasn’t so bad after all. But you could have all this a few hours south and be totally rid of the cold as well. He leaned over in Alfred’s direction. “While it’s just the two of us here, I want to bring up something we’ve talked about before.”
“I know what you’re gonna say already.”
“You do? Okay, what is it?”
Alfred stared into the fire. “You’re gonna say, we’re in Florida. Florida’s a long state. What are we doing so far north? Why don’t we head further south a few hours? Find a place where we don’t freeze our butts off at night.” He looked at John. “Am I right?”
“Okay. So maybe I’ve been talking about this a little too much. But can you blame me? I don’t know how you’re putting up with this weather. Doesn’t it bother your arthritis?”
“It bothers me some. But I’m telling you, John. I ain’t ever been in a place like this, where I feel mostly safe at night. You never been attacked before.”
“I have, too.”
“Not like I have.”
He’d almost forgotten. Two years ago, Alfred had been ambushed in the middle of the night by two guys who’d broken into their camp. Beat him up real good. Stole all his stuff. Took him four days in the hospital to recover. “Okay, not like you have.”
Alfred pointed to the guy who’d just left. “See him? He just came up here a few days ago from a camp just south of Orlando. Said a guy in the group he was staying with got hacked to death by some lunatic with a machete. Not beat up, killed. Right in his tent. Happened three nights ago. That’s why he left and came up here. I knew you were going to want to talk about this again, so I asked him how cold it was down there, you know, at nighttime. Know what he said? It wasn’t bad at all. At night or during the day. I didn’t even have to ask him, why then didn’t he just stay put. You know why?”
“Okay,” John said. “I get it. They ever catch the guys that did it?”
“So they’re still out there somewhere.”
“Down there somewhere,” Alfred said. “Not up here.”
“You don’t know that. If they didn’t get caught, what’s keeping ‘em from making their way up here?”
“They wouldn’t do that. No one in their right minds would head north in December, not with it being this cold.”
John just stared at him. Did Alfred even realize he’d just admitted they weren’t in their right minds either, staying up here where it was so cold? “Never mind,” John said.
“Anyway,” Alfred said, “that killer could never get into this camp. Too many people. And everyone here knows everyone else. They’d stick out like a sore thumb. Besides that, they don’t let just anyone plop a tent down here. It’s invite-only. You should-a heard all the questions they asked me before they said yes about you coming in.”
John sighed. How did Alfred think any of that made them any more secure than people in homeless camps anywhere else in the state? At night, camps were all the same. Dark. Anyone who wanted to could sneak around in the dark any time they pleased. They could come up here and attack you in the cold, or stay down south and do it where it was nice and warm. “Alright, you win. I won’t bring it up again.”
Just then, some excitement started up over at the tarped breakfast area. A bunch of people were gathering around. “What’s that about?” John said.
“I’m not sure,” Alfred said. “Looks like the camera guy. The one making that documentary? I think he just showed up.”
“Great,” John said. “That’s just great.”