Dan Alatorre

Interview with Dan Alatorre

A few weeks ago, I was able to snag an interview from the awesome and very interesting Dan Alatorre. Aside from having a really cool last name, Dan is the author of numerous bestsellers, host a YouTube show, Writers Off Task With Friends, and has helped several up and coming authors (myself included) learn the ropes of self-publishing.  Today’s a special day for Dan because his newest book, The Navigators released. I was privileged enough to get to read this book (review to come soon) and let me just say…thrilling. You don’t want to miss it!! But first, let’s read about Dan’s writing process. 
1. Tell us about yourself. May include links to Facebook, twitter, blogs, websites, Amazon author page)

My blog is DanAlatorre.com

Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Dan-Alatorre/e/B00EUX7HEU/

Twitter @SavvyStories

Facebook author page is http://www.facebook.com/Dan-Alatorre-Author-1461486214171365/

Pinterest, Instagram, Goodreads… just search for my name. I can’t remember all that stuff.


2. How do you choose names for your characters?

I’m terrible at that. Terrible! I come up with the WORST character names. Look at The Navigators. Barry… Melissa… Yawn. I have a friend who comes up with great names. I’m going to have her name my characters from now on. In Poggibonsi, I had to change the wife’s name three times because everybody hated it. Each time I changed it, my critique partners said, “Thanks. I hated that other name.” Now I just use the names of the kids in my daughter’s kindergarten class, picking them at random. Honey, who’s that boy in your class with brown hair? Jimmy? Jimmy’s my next male character name. It’s still awful but at least it’s faster now.


3. Do you talk about your book/characters as though they are real?

I only talk about the nonfiction characters as if they are real. Um… nonfiction… yeah, that’s right. Because they’re real. The fictional characters – I totally get that they become your “friends” and all that, but no. Mine are in my head and on paper, and not, you know, running around coming to lunch. That’s not how I roll. Not judging authors who do that. Okay, a little, because it’s freaking crazy – all due respect to authors who do that. Get help. They’re pretend.


4. Do you listen to music when you write or edit? What kind?

No, no music. I know LOTS of authors who do that, and I kinda wish I did, because it’s cool. They are cool for doing that, getting all up in their Pandoras and everything. I can’t. When I started writing it was because my infant daughter needed a bottle and I couldn’t fall back to sleep after feeding her. I wrote in the near-dark, at 3am and 4am, and didn’t dare make a sound for fear of waking her back up and getting even less sleep. After a few years of that, you don’t need Pandora. I usually write in my office in silence except for occasional swearing at the computer. I occasionally drag my laptop to the kitchen table and write while watching TV, as in, I’m writing and a football game or news program may be on, so I can be aware of outside world events, but also because it helps me stay awake when I’m on a roll.


5. How long have you been writing?

Not long enough, according to some readers; way too long according to others. I started writing about five years ago and published my first book Savvy Stories, a collection of humorous anecdotes about babies and childhood, about two years ago. I was very lucky it did well, and I’ve been writing ever since, only now with fewer typos. My first novel, The Navigators comes out in June 2016. It’s awesome. You can quote me on that.


6. Tell us about when you realized you were ‘meant to be’ a writer.

I’m looking forward to that day. Actually, I was always a talented writer. That’s not mean as a brag; people always told me I was good at it, naturally making even work reports interesting. It’s a gift. When I started posting humorous anecdotes on Facebook about becoming a first time dad when most of my friends were sending their kids to college or posting their kids’ wedding pictures, they enjoyed vicariously re- living the baby years through me, and encouraged me to write a book. I kept saying no, and finally broke down and wrote a chapter to show them how bad it was. Instead, they loved it and support for a book grew, and the rest is history. 17 titles later (in 12 languages), somebody likes my stuff.


7. Do you have a muse?

Yes. For the Savvy Stories book series, it was a few of my female high school friends rolled into one composite person. For The Navigators it was a very specific person, and for the other books it’s basically that same muse. It sounds odd, but when you write to one person, or as narrow an audience as you can, you’ll do well. Write to your mom. Write to your wife. Find one person and write the book to that one person, because when you attempt to appeal to everyone, you appeal to no one. In some books, I am writing to my six-year-old daughter for when she gets to be the age of the main character, subtly suggesting lessons and guidance. Shh, don’t tell.


8. How do you improve as a writer? (Workshops, conferences, reading)

I connect with writers better than I am through a critique group and hound them mercilessly until they give in and help me. Honest. That probably won’t work for everyone but I have an honest face. I don’t read much, unless you count reading works by new authors, and then I read a LOT. I am also a critique partner for a few GREAT writers, including one New York Times bestselling author. I go to the Florida Writer’s Association conferences and will be doing a roundtable discussion at the FWA conference this fall in Orlando. If you’re in town, stop by. The EPCOT food and wine festival is going on the same time, so it’s a party.


9. Writing quirks or superstitions?

Nope. None.


10. Tell us about your current work-in-progress.

No, no, no. I never talk about WIPs! That’s bad luck. Okay, so I may have a few writing quirks and superstitions.


11. What book are you reading now?

I am reading two novels by friends, helping them edit. Both are very good friends so I’ll say both are very good books, but really only one is and now they have to guess which one. Actually, I am about to start editing the second book of a friend’s trilogy, and I’m in the middle of two other very good books I’m critiquing.


12. What genre do you write in? What about POV?

This is a fun one. I started in nonfiction humor and decided to write a story in each genre hoping to either find one I enjoyed or was good at. I’ve done romance, fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal, children’s books, cookbooks…If I had to only write one genre for the rest of my life, it’d be romantic comedy. I love making people laugh and we all tend to find the same universal things funny if presented properly. Plus, I’m really good at it. I’ve put people on the floor. Intentionally. My fans think I’m quite the romance writer, though.


13. Tell us about writing preparation. Character Profiles? Outlines?

None of that, really, but hear me out. Before I really start writing in earnest, I have a beginning, a middle, and an end to my story. We may not go where I think we will, because I allow myself to be completely creative when I’m writing, but we have a target and an ending. If I come up with something better, a different ending, I’ll change it and go with the better one, but at least I have one. I feel “pantsing” – the alleged art of writing by the seat of your pants – is the main reason for writer’s block and why so many books never get completed. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done; many great works are written without the use of an outline. Just not mine. Since I have the characters so deeply rooted in my head, no character profiles are needed, but I’m open to an author doing whatever they need to do to get the story out of their head and into the computer. You wanna make sure that if Barry’s nervous habit is biting his nails, he does it in chapter one, chapter 15, and chapter 36, and doesn’t stop somewhere along the way or start having an eye twitch. Unless the story is how he’s degenerating from some neurological disease. Then that’s different.


14. Do you know how your stories will end?

Yeah. Sorry, pantsers, I use a simple outline of beginning, middle, and end, so I know how the story ends before I start writing. I allow myself to have a better ending if I think of one, but I have at least one before I start out.


15. Do you books have a message or theme? Or are they purely for entertainment?

You know, no interviewer has ever asked me that. Good for you. Bonus points. The answer is YES. Several of my stories have messages on different levels, but you can read them just for the main story and never miss anything.


16. Do you have any favorite snacks or drinks that you eat/drink while writing?

No, but I drink Crystal Light peach green tea by the gallon, so maybe that counts. But it’s not part of writing, it’s part of living.


17. Tell us about your other passions.

I am totally and completely devoted to my amazing daughter, so I go to all the field trips and stuff. It’s amazing to be around lots of little kids. They so smart and curious and open to ideas. It will refresh your energy while simultaneously wearing you out. I’m also very invested in helping new authors get over the numerous hurdles they face in writing, so my critiquing and blog and marketing books series address that.


18. What’s something interesting about you?

Gosh, lots of things. I went to President’s Circle with two different Fortune 500 companies. As a manager I was able to help people make more money than they’d ever made before in their entire lives. I swam with sea turtles in Hawaii and sharks in the Bahamas, rode a dolphin and came face to face with a baby humpback whale. I cracked a tooth eating a frozen Chiclet on a glacier in British Columbia and gazed in absolute awe at the beauty of the Grand Canyon. I’ve been shot at (more than once) and I rescued two girls who were about to drown in the Gulf of Mexico. I was a drummer in a rock band. I took a single engine boat to Key West in six foot swells that could have easily sunk us. I created the largest social media group in the world for a rare heart condition, helping thousands of families in dozens of countries. I’ve helped a new writer launch a bestseller and opened the eyes of other new writers as to how to make their novels terrific. I’ve fallen head over heels in love, had my heart broken, and lived to tell about both.


19. Share a small sample (limit to one paragraph, please) of your writing… can be a WIP or already published.

We can be this far into an interview and you can still ask that? One paragraph, huh? Hmm. Well, how about a conversation from The Navigators?


“She cautioned me, though. She told me physical beauty does not last, and should not last. ‘A beautiful woman’s breasts will eventually sag and her hair will turn gray. What will you be married to then? If you choose wisely, you will be married to a beautiful personality and a curious mind, that loves your children and who would do anything for you.’ That is true beauty.”

“Hmmm.” Melissa closed her eyes, appearing to postulate on the idea.

“I know. Where’s the fun in that, right?”


20. Anything you’d like to say to your current and future readers?

If you’re a fan, thank you; if you’re not yet a fan, don’t worry, you will be – there’s still time. And if you’re a writer, I believe everyone has a great story in them that they can tell. Get it out of your head and into the computer. It has been my great fortune to be able to make readers laugh and cry, on purpose, sometimes on the same page; to hold their breath, swoon, and/or be afraid. I play my audience like a piano – and they love it.

Thanks so much, Dan. Good luck with The Navigators. 

Things You Don’t Know When You Decide to Self-publish Your Book

Hey y’all… I’m starting a new 5 part series about things I didn’t know when I set out on this writing journey three years ago. I’m making the assumption that unless you already know someone in the business or were born into a literary family – you don’t either. For my author friends, feel free to add in your experiences or elaborate in the comments. 

A bit about my experience: I.Had.None. Aside from being gifted with words and arranging them (i.e. a good writer) I knew NOTHING about writing a book. 

I seriously took three novels (I’ll elaborate more in future weeks) and highlighted dialogue tags and studied structure. It was totally uncharted territory, and I was more than scared about my ability to tell a tale. I’d tried before (not in earnest) and failed but this time, it was different. I was different. The day I wrote the opening lines for my first book The Waiting, I knew I had something special and worth fighting for. 

There’s no way to prepare yourself for all that comes along with self-publishing, but hopefully this will show you rookie mistakes to avoid and ways to get a step ahead. So without further adieu, here’s the first thing you don’t know when you decide to self-publish. 

1) You will step out of your comfort zone. 

I’m an introvert. Like, bad. Plus, most of the time, I’m socially awkward as hell. I feel things, express things that most normal people walking around don’t, and this can lead to them getting very overwhelmed by me and my personality. For the most part, becoming a nurse (and the natural extrovert qualities you MUST possess to do that job) helped me overcome this or rather, tone myself down, because let’s just be honest, no one wants a teary nurse who may or may not be crying because she’s 1) angry 2) sad or 3) happy. 

Kristen Bell (of Frozen fame for those of you who’ve lived in a box for the past three years) said if she’s not within a 3-7 on the emotional scale, she’s crying. Seriously, this is me. If I am even a half step past those numbers, I’m weeping – or trying not to. Btw, if you’ve never seen her sloth video, it’s a must watch! (Kristen Bell on Ellen)

All this to say, it’s not easy for me to step out of my cocoon and put myself and my books (essentially my children) out for the world to see and scrutinize. I’ll admit, I’ve received more praise and acceptance than critical comments, but even positive accolades take me to an uncomfortable place where I have to talk about myself and what I do. But I believe in order to grow as a person and as a writer, we have to be willing to put ourselves in situations where we are totally and completely uncomfortable. I liken it to fight or flight. Sinking or swimming. How do we hold up under pressure? Do we shy away? Or do we meet the challenge head on?

Yesterday, I took part in my very first video interview. I was asked the evening before by J.A. Allen of Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins as a prize for winning her weekly challenge (check them out on her blog under #SSC) and though I was hesitant, I said yes. Now that I think about it, having to decide in less than five minutes was probably for the best. I’m a planner with extremely sudden burst of impulsiveness and I’m glad (for once) my spontaneous side took over. 

J.A. is a co-host on a weekly show on YouTube (Writers off Task with Friends) along with Dan Alatorre and Allison Maruska. And even though, I was nervous, those three were a blast and made me feel comfortable from the start. That’s not to say I didn’t have my moments of super weird wandering eyes, over-exaggerated Southern accent, and general overall awkwardness, but that’s okay. Vulnerable is beautiful. It’s authentic and it stretches you to become a better version of yourself. So take the chance and get out of the comfort zone! You never know what’s on the other side.

Vulnerable is Beautiful artwork by my supremely talented Sister of the Moon, Sierrah. She is also Starling Hopewell.