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Author Interview: Dan Vanderburg

As a sixth generation Texan, Dan Vanderburg, an author of four published novels and a collection of short stories and poetry, loves everything Texas, especially Rangers Baseball, Cowboys football, Texas history and country music. He’s a Navy Viet Nam veteran. Dan entertains himself writing Texas historical fiction novels, young adult fantasy novels, humorous short stories and poetry, and hanging out with family and friends who love to laugh as much as he does.

In addition to Dan’s activities as a novelist and poet, he is an accomplished lecturer and trainer. He speaks for social, fraternal and business organizations, and for church groups and retirement homes. Dan’s presentations are titled, Gone to Texas. He discusses what life was really like on the raw frontier of early Texas and includes book reviews and signings. His training programs include How to Write Your Memoir and How to Develop a Read and Critique Group. Dan also offers book readings and signings.

  • : I relocated to a new job in a distant part of the country and didn't know anyone except the few work colleagues I met on the job. I'd recently undergone a contentious divorce and wasn't ready to wander into new social territory just yet. I had lots of time on my hands after work and on weekends. There was a little family legend story, just a little snippet of a tale that had been percolating in the back of my mind for some time. That's when I started to develop my first novel.
  • : It was "Legacy of Dreams," my first novel. I'd written a few poems before that, but I'd never attempted to write a real story until I decided to expand the little family story into what eventually became my first novel.
  • : My latest published book is called, Happy Sounds. It’s a collection of humorous short stories and poetry that I’d written over the years. I sometimes enjoy taking a break from the historical and frontier fiction that I normally write. Over the years I’d written some fun short stories and thought-provoking poems. I took a little time after publishing my fourth novel, Freedom Road, to organize and publish a collection of those stories and poems. I like to laugh and be around other’s having a good time. I think these stories and poems project a sense of who I am more than my novels.
  • : I first started writing poetry as a young man in the 1970’s. I wrote a few poems over the years, but didn’t get serious about writing novels until 1990 when I first started Legacy of Dreams, my first novel. It took me about a year and a half to complete the first draft of Legacy. I was busy in my career in high tech manufacturing management at the time where most of my focus was on my job and making a living. My writing took lower priority and my manuscript ended up on a shelf for much of the next ten or twelve years until I retired and could focus more time on my writing.
  • : I grew up a city boy in Dallas Texas in the 1950’s, but my roots are with farming and ranching families from northeast Texas. I’m a sixth generation Texas whose ancestors helped settle and tame the Texas frontier. Growing up and listening to the tales of Texas from my elders lit a spark within me to later dig into historical research. I seek out interesting stories to drop my fictional characters into with their own stories to add to the mix.
  • : As a semi-retired person, I can write most anytime I want. I try to start most of my writing days in the morning as soon as I get my regular chores out of the way. That way, if I get on a roll, I can write into the evening. I don’t have set writing routine, but I accomplish more when I work to stated, documented weekly writing goals. Last year, I set my writing goal at 1700 words per week. This year, I’ve become more aggressive. My new goal is 2000 words per week which is a very achievable goal. I won’t beat myself up if a miss my goal for a week, but I document my activities that interfere with goal achievement, like marketing efforts and book signings, etc. If I can average 2000 words per week, I can produce a book a year.
  • : I’ve totally stepped outside my comfort zone into a genre I’ve never done with my next project. I’m writing the first book of a fantasy series for the youth and young adult market involving time travel, shape shifting and adventures into historic times. It’s titled The Extraordinary Adventures of Max Malone. The first volume is called, Tales of Texas. I’m responding to requests from my readers for more stories about kids. Kids are great readers who deserve good stories that stir their imagination. As both an action adventure author and historian, I know how significant historical events can be presented in thrilling ways. My goal for this new series is to take my young readers on fantastic journeys to actual historical places and times to witness those exciting and sometimes dangerous events unfold as they become a part of history itself.
  • : Writing is a solitary and sedentary endeavor. We all need to give our bodies and our minds a break from creating the right words, and get up from the chair and away from the computer from time to time. Left to my own devices, I probably wouldn’t get much exercise, so I’ve taken a fun part-time retirement job at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys here in Arlington, Texas as a stadium tour guide. The stadium is a huge place, so I get plenty of walking done on the days I work. I usually do my tours two or three days a week and guide two or three tours on those days. I can average about six miles walking on my days at the stadium. It’s a fun place to be with interesting people from all over the world, having a good time.
  • : To be successful, everyone must work to a plan. Without a plan, to accomplish a goal, how does one know when or if they are finished? The same is true as an author. But we work in many different ways to achieve our goal or complete the plan. Some novelists formally outline their intended story with elaborate diagrams and scene plans, all coming to a preplanned conclusion in great detail. I don’t hold myself on that tight a leash. I don’t prepare a formal outline. I jot a few notes down about the intended progression of the story. I define in my mind what obstacles will get in the way of my characters reaching their goals. I carefully define my primary characters. I dwell up front, determining in my mind just who these characters are. What are their value systems? What things are important to them? What are their personalities like? I must know my characters as well as I know myself. I need to understand the story line and character arc well before I start. I need to know not only how the story starts, but how it ends, and what complications will present themselves along the way. I need to know if the main character will be better or worse off at the end of the story than he/she was at the beginning. But . . . I always leave myself lots of leeway for the story to tell me where it wants to go. Frequently I get much better ideas along the way to improve the story than I had at the beginning.
  • : I’ve always considered Elmer Kelton one of my favorite authors. His frontier subject matter was usually based around real events that either actually happened, or could have happen the way he defined it. His characters were believable and his dialogue and dialect was realistic. Elmer wrote what he knew. He grew up on a Texas panhandle ranch during tough depression times. I enjoyed Larry McMurtry’s Lonesome Dove because of his colorful and in-depth character development and obviously, his very realistic dialogue. There are too many others to list.
  • : I consider myself semi retired now from my previous career in high tech manufacturing management, but only because I don’t have to get up early every day and go to work. I don’t consider what I do as an author work. If I didn’t love what I do as an author, I wouldn’t do it. I also get good exercise with my fun, part time tour guide job at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys at Arlington, Texas. I’ve worked at some kind of job since I was nine years old. Most were part time. I experienced a wide variety of jobs even before I graduated from high school and joined the navy. Just a few of those were paper boy, door to door sales, construction worker, bakery delivery driver, neighborhood ice cream truck driver, retail clerk, ditch digger, and bill collector. While in the navy I was an air traffic control specialist, weather observer, flight attendant, aircraft loadmaster crewman, movie theatre manager, gas station attendant, and heavy equipment operator. After the navy and before I developed myself in manufacturing management in the high tech industry, I performed jobs as brick yard laborer, lumber salesman, factory technician, fence installer, insurance salesman and part time college student.
  • : Kindle because I sell most of my books to Kindle customers.
  • : For my first two books, I commissioned a really good Texas artist, Debbie Lincoln, to do oil paintings from significant scenes from those books to put on my front covers. Then I engaged a graphic artist to integrate the title and my name to the artwork that I presented. Those covers look great and I’m really proud of them. I also proudly display the oil paintings on my walls at home. For the third book, The Littlest Hero, I commissioned a good pencil sketch artist, Melissa Baldwin, to do a pencil rendering of the primary character of the book, a little person. I found a great model, Brian Kauff, through the Dallas Chapter of the Little People of America. The drawing was also a scene from the book. One of the secondary characters in the book was a sketch artist, so I put the scene in the story of the artist sketching the main character, and that ended up on the cover of the book. I’m very proud of that cover as well, and the original proudly hangs on my wall at home. But I’ve taken a different direction with my last two book covers. Last year, I spent a weekend at Gonzales, Texas at their “Come and Take It Festival” in my book signing booth with my daughter, Tina and a couple of other Texas authors displaying our books on wire racks and talking books and history with readers. We had a total of six books on display. I began to notice a pattern start to develop. The first book that was reached for and picked up by most potential buyers was not any of the books with covers designed by professional artists. Their eye was attracted to and they reached for an attractive book with a colorful photograph on the front. So my last two books, Freedom Road and Happy Sounds, have been totally independently published by my daughter and myself with attractive, colorful photographs and professional graphics defining the titles and author’s name. I’m quite proud of those books and initial sales results indicate that we made the right decisions relating to cover design.
  • : I really enjoy the creative process of putting an engaging story together. I also enjoy the challenge of getting the words right. Accurate writing and spelling was not one of my strengths in school. It’s been an on-going challenge for me to learn as I go to try to make sure I get the sentence structure just right and all the technical details of writing correct. My greatest satisfaction comes from a reader that tell me they were totally engaged and absolutely could not put my book down till they finished the whole thing. That blows me away!
  • : You can visit my website at: http://www.danvanderburg.com My Amazon page at: http://www.amazon.com/Dan-Vanderburg/ My Facebook page at: facebook.com/DanVanderburgBooks I also have a presence at: twitter.com/DanVanderburg instagram.com/danvanderburgbooks/ pinterest.com/danvanderburg/
  • : Yes. Thank you so much for reading. Reading for pleasure is one of the least expensive forms of entertainment around. You can be entertained for hours or days or longer for less than what you would spend for an evening out at the movies. Encourage young people to read. It’s such a beneficial habit that can last a lifetime. Remind young people that reading not only entertains, it makes you smarter. If I’ve entertained you and taught you things you didn’t know before, then I’ve done my job.
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