Thursday, 28 November 2013

Interview: Dan Newman, author of The Clearing

I'm pleased to welcome Dan Newman on my blog, as his first book The Clearing is now available. He was kind enough to answer my question. 

Will you tell us a little about yourself and your background? Have you always wanted to be writer?

Hi Vanessa! Thank you so much for this – it’s wonderful to be part of Vanessa’s Bookshelves...

I think that I came to writing because of the way I grew up, which was wandering around the globe with my parents – my father worked in international development, so we travelled a lot. I moved from school to school frequently, and I remember doing a lot of writing as it was something that could move with me. I spent time in some interesting places like St. Lucia, the Kingdom of Lesotho and Swaziland, and I think those places really helped form my perspective on things. When I came back to Canada to do my undergraduate degree, I really noticed the gulf between the worlds. That’s always stuck with me.

I only really decided to take on novel writing about sixteen years ago – my first book, The Cull, is still a favourite of mine even though it has all the problems you might expect with an early effort. One day I hope to go back and see if I can salvage it. So I’m not sure I always wanted to be a writer, but I’m pretty sure I want to now. I’m working hard at that one.

What about The Clearing? Would you give us a teaser? 

The Clearing is really a story about how our past stays with us, and left unattended for long periods of time, it will make itself known. In the book, Nate Mason finds himself beset by tragedy, and feels that the only way to move forward is to go back. And the past, his past, is waiting for him – almost as a character itself.

I've seen on your site that you have "other projects in the pipe" that sound promising. Why The Clearing instead of another one for your first book?

Well, as much as I’d love to be in a position to dictate what I’d like to have published, I’m simply not. The publisher gets to make that call, and after reviewing The Clearing, they bought the rights. My deal with Exhibit A is for two books, so I do get to decide what to submit next, but it still has to be something they find interesting and marketable. At the moment I’m just finishing up a sequel to The Clearing, so that may be the next book I submit to them, but I also have another project that is very near and dear to my heart that I would like them to look at. So I have some decisions to make there... 

The book is set on St Lucia where you lived, there are two journalists of which one wanted to be a writer, do you take inspiration from your life to create your characters and story?

For me, the old saw write-what-you-know is a guiding principle. I absolutely look to my own life when I write, and perhaps one of the few advantages I have is that my father’s career provided me with so many experiences in so many unique places and cultures. I really do see my childhood as having been a fantastic adventure. For example, much of The Clearing is based on my own experiences at an old plantation house in St. Lucia. The Bolom, an important supernatural character in the book, is something that as a young kid of eleven or twelve, I absolutely believed in – given what happened up there. And to find out what that was, you’ll have to follow Nate up to Ti Fenwe... J 

There's a deep connection with children in The Clearing and The Journalist (one of the project in the pipe) is also about children, is it an important connection for you? A subject that touch you? 

I think so. I think that because of the intensity of my own childhood – and I mean that in a positive, wide-eyed view of life, way – I see childhood as perhaps the most important phase of our growth. The foundations for everything we are, for everything we will become – it all gets poured during those few short years of childhood. It might also be due to the fact that I’m the father of a young boy, too. And fatherhood changes you. Watching a kid grow amazes and terrifies me all at once. I’m helping with that particular foundation... so yes, I’d say childhood is something I’m very connected to.

Are you still working? If yes, how do you manage to combine work and writing? 

Yes, I still have a day job. And while the fantasy is to write all day and make a good living at it, I still get great satisfaction from the balance I have right now. I try to write every night – usually between 9:00 and about midnight. Then I’ll also do some early mornings on the weekends before my family wakes up – the 6:00 to 9:00 slot is a very productive one for me.

Why have you chosen to write thrillers? 

I’m not sure that was a choice. I started writing and that’s what came out. When I first started, I found myself writing along the lines of Wilbur Smith... perhaps because I had spent so much time in Africa, or because it was Wilbur Smith that first got me into reading. 

Who's your favorite author or the one who inspires you the most? 

I am a huge fan of Cormac McCarthy. I think his novel The Road is the best piece of writing I've ever come across, and I think there are only a small handful of writers that can create that kind of work. Genius is not too strong a word. It’s something to aspire to, even if you know you’ll never achieve that kind of excellence. That’s certainly the case for me.

What are you reading currently? 

Two books just now: I’m on the middle of Ken Follett’s Pillars of the Earth, and I've just started Richard Parker’s Scare Me. My taste is all over the map. Always has been.

What's next for you ? 

On the writing front, I’m getting ready to send in my second book for Exhibit A – so there are a few long conversations coming with my agent - the most excellent Carrie Pestritto – to determine just which project that will be.

On the personal front, we’re about to get a dog for my son. We’re getting a chocolate lab, and I can’t wait. I grew up with dogs, and left so many behind with friends when we left to go to the next post. It was heartbreaking. I’m looking forward to bringing this little puppy home and giving him a family for life.

Why so serious questions: 

Surfing or writing?

Aaargh! Can’t I do both? Please!? Well, if I absolutely had to choose, I guess it’d be writing. Fewer sharks.

Your Desert Island read would be...

Easy – The Road, by Cormac McCarthy.

Given the choice where would you live? 

Another easy one! Tropical Queensland, east coast of Australia. A small beachside town called Noosa just north of Brisbane. I get back there every chance I get.

Come On Eileen by Dexys Midnight Runners ou Royals by Lorde? 

Gotta go with what has stood the test of time (sorry Lorde)... Come On Eileen.. Oh, I swear what he means. At this moment you mean, eeeeeeverything...

Thanks Vanessa!



About The Clearing:
When Nate was a boy, he lived in an island, St Lucia. The night of the "event", four boys walked in the forest but only three came back alive. They said it was a monster and no one believed them. Now an adult, Nate comes back to the island to set things right. As soon as he arrived, he realized that he's followed and that his life is in danger as well as his sanity. Against all advice, he decides to unveil the truth.

You can follow Dan on Twitter, his books blog or his personal blog.