Dan Walsh

Dan Walsh's debut novel, The Unfinished Gift, released on September 1st, published by Revell. It's already been selected by Crossings and Doubleday book clubs as a featured book for their members this Fall. RT Book Reviews magazine gave it 4.5 Stars and a Top Pick rating in the Inspirational category. His writing style has been compared to Richard Paul Evans, best-selling author of The Christmas Box. Dan has finished the sequel, The Homecoming, scheduled for release in June. He has served as a pastor at the same church since 1985. He and his wife Cindi have been married 33 years and live in the Daytona Beach area, where he's spending his writing time putting the finishing touches on his third novel. You can visit his Web site at www.danwalshbooks.com or his blog at www.danwalshbooks.blogspot.com.

Author by Night by Dan Walsh

In my case, this column should probably be called “Author by Twilight.” Let me explain.

My first novel, The Unfinished Gift (Revell), has been on the shelves of bookstores and available online for a month. For any author, just getting published is a dream come true. To have your first book picked up by a major publisher, another dream. To have it published as a hardback . . . well, I got three dreams for the price of one. My second book, The Homecoming (also by Revell), is due out in June.

Pinch me; I’m still dreaming.

But when I awake, I’m very grateful I have a “real” job—one that pays the bills and provides for my family.

I’m still new in the publishing world (as I said, barely a month old), and perhaps my books will take off and the money will also exceed my dreams. But I’ve read that the overwhelming majority of published authors provide a supportive income, second income, or hold down a full-time job doing something other than writing.

I am a full-time pastor. I’ve been one the last twenty-four years. Maybe a lot of fiction authors are also pastors. I haven’t met any yet. One thing that could account for this is that being a pastor is more like a vocation than a regular job, one that doesn’t come with regular hours.

I actually tried to indulge my love of fiction writing back in the late ’90s, but I had to abandon it because I couldn’t find a way to make it work. One of the great challenges pastors have is meshing together the demands of family and ministry. Failing to get this right has forced many a pastor to throw in the towel. Toss into the fray the challenge of writing novels and, as my friends from New York would say . . . fuggetaboutit.

So what’s different now? After two decades of pastoring, have I finally found a way through the scheduling maze? Partly. But I suspect the real solution is that my children are grown now and don’t need me like they used to. When I come home, my wife doesn’t need me to rescue her from a very long day of caring for small children.

Two years ago, my wife, Cindi, began nudging me to start writing again. She was one of my biggest fans and believed I should be writing. I said, “Cindi, when am I gonna find time to do this?”

She had already thought it through. “How about while I’m fixing dinner, and then after, when I’m cleaning up? You could write then.”

It’s not the ideal setting, to be sure, but I thought it might just work. I had no idea how much I could accomplish in that time span, but as it turns out, it was enough to finish two books and see them through to market (I’m almost finished with a third).

So that’s when I write, at twilight, usually as the sun begins to descend (or in the fall when we set the clocks back, in the dark). On Mondays, my day off, I get to write an extra two to three hours, sometimes more.

I say “writing,” but I spend my available time rotating through several related things. First, there’s the writing itself (which I enjoy the most). Because I write mostly historical fiction, I spend lots of time reading nonfiction historical books (which I also love).

I’m not one of those who writes from start to finish, then comes back for several big rewrites. Each time I sit down to write, I reread my last chapter and edit it before writing the next chapter. The time gap helps me see what I’ve just written more like a reader would see it. This approach also helps me reenter the world of my story. After writing, I read everything to Cindi. More than anyone else, she helps me “keep it real.”

The final way I spend my “writing” time is the business side. It’s the part I least understand and feel the most inadequate. But I still enjoy it, because I’m so grateful to God to have a business side to my writing. I mean, c’mon, I’m receiving and sending e-mails from my agent, my editor, my marketing and publicity friends at Revell, reading and resubmitting changes, approving artwork, discussing things about my current novel. To me, these are delightful distractions.

Maybe someday the Lord will allow me to increase my writing time beyond the twilight hours. I still have imaginations of one day sitting with my laptop on a shady porch; at a cabin beside a beautiful lake; or on the balcony of an oceanfront cottage, the gulls calling, the waves lapping gently on the shore. In those daydreams, I’m actually writing in the morning or in the afternoon (just after my nap).

I have no idea if I’ll ever get to do that. But that’s the wonderful thing about writing fiction . . . I can go there in my mind and almost see it, hear it, feel it. Then if I want, I can write it all down.

True, it’s not the same as being there. But right now, I’m grateful to God for something close.

Unfinished Gift