Sunday, July 3, 2011

Guest Writer - Dan Meade

Dan Meade is this week’s guest and he tells me that he does qualify for AARP membership, so that automatically makes him eligible as a “Senior Moments” guest. Dan is a very private person, so I didn’t ask where he resides now, but he has lived in such places as New York, Vermont, North Carolina, Arizona, and Texas. He loves the mountains and lives to explore the forests and rivers in isolated areas. It’s not surprising then, that “The Quaking Sun” is set in the backwoods of West Virginia.

Dan’s book was a semi-finalist in the very first ABNA contest. Being in the top 100 out of 5,000 contestants shows you how good they thought the book is. It was originally entitled “The Land of the Quaking Sun” and had one of the most intriguing openings I have ever read. Here is our interview:

Betty: Tell me, Dan, what is this phenomenon you call the quaking sun? I’ve never heard of it before.

Dan: That question makes me smile because it reminds me of some of the most enjoyable moments of my life. For a few minutes each year I get to sit back, relax, and enjoy a glorious light show. What I see is the sun appearing to break apart and move erratically about the sky. Although it sounds impossible, the phenomenon that creates the illusion is really very simple, so simple that it is almost anti-climactic.

I'd be tempted to describe the conditions that create the illusion, but the event really belongs to the mountain-dwelling Tyree Clan, the family at the heart of "The Quaking Sun." They’ll share the event with anyone who chooses to spend some time with them. This is probably a good time to explain the title change from “The Land of the Quaking Sun” to “The Quaking Sun.” Many readers thought that the original title sounded like science fiction and I had to agree with them. But science fiction has no part in either the story or the illusion, so I made the change.

Betty: So then how does this particular title fit the storyline and how did you come up with it?

Dan: I think that the “The Quaking Sun” is a perfect fit for the story and cannot even imagine a different title. It actually matches up with three distinct elements of the story. The most obvious connection deals with the ancient warning carved into the rocks at the head of the mountain gap leading to the Tyree home. Petroglyphs warn that those who stay too long in the land beyond the gap—past the time of quaking—will disappear, body and soul, from the face of the earth.

A second connection comes from the meaning of the actual words, the quaking sun. They promise a cataclysmic event, which is what threatens when outsiders invade the Tyrees mountain home. The outsiders don't know something that everyone who lives in the backwoods knows: you don't mess with the Tyrees!

The third, and least obvious but most important, connection concerns the illusion that makes the sun appear to quake. We’ve all heard that you shouldn’t believe everything you read. Well, it’s also true that you shouldn’t believe everything you see—I know the sun doesn't really break apart. Near the beginning of the story, two men encounter Fawn Tyree, the heroine of the story. One sees a beautiful, shy teenage girl. The other likens her to a rattlesnake. Which man sees the truth and which one sees the illusion?

Betty: That sounds like an amazing plot line. When did you first have the desire to write, Dan?

Dan: I’m not really sure when that happened. I had one story that kept popping into my mind for years before I finally decided to write it down. I finished it in 2001, but never really promoted it. I actually have a much better recollection of the time when I decided that I didn't want to write. I was still in grade school when I made the firm decision to never write when I didn't have to. I apparently lacked intuition back then.

Betty: So when did you actually begin to write this particular book?

Dan: I think it was 2006 when I began typing it into my computer, but the actual process of creating the story would have started at least a year earlier. I think it takes me a minimum of two years to get from the initial inspiration to the first draft. Again, I really didn't promote the book until I saw the opportunity to enter it in the first ABNA contest.

Betty: The book got some wonderful reviews in the contest. Publisher’s Weekly had this to say about “The Quaking Sun”: “Moody writing, deftly-handled suspense, and truly frightening villains make this a riveting read.”

In addition, from fellow author, Susan Froetschel who said: “This great family saga will haunt you long after you’ve turned the last page; and leave you wanting to read more from Dan Meade.”

Does this mean there will be a sequel or, at the very least, another book?

Dan: Many readers have requested that I write a sequel to "The Quaking Sun." Initially I told them that I couldn’t, because of the way I write. The characters come to me and tell me their stories during the early morning hours when my mind is not bound by earthly thoughts. All I really do is organize their thoughts and write them down. I consider myself to be the quintessential ghost writer. The problem was that the characters never told me what happened in the years following “The Quaking Sun,” so no story was possible. Then, to my surprise, the characters visited me again about a year ago. I now have the information needed to write the sequel my readers have requested. But that takes time.

In the meantime, perhaps sometime this month, I will be releasing a different novel, “The Rest Of Eternity.” It is an adventure/saga that poses the question, “How many times must the wind blow to determine one’s destiny?"

Betty: Well, thanks so much for being my guest this week, Dan. I can hardly wait to get my copy of “The Quaking Sun” and am looking forward to your new book.

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