Dan brings us experience as a writer, editor, and publicist, and has multiple publications to his credit. Especially for new and aspiring authors, this is a man worth listening to!
Can you tell us a little about your background?
When I was born in Gary, Indiana, everyone in my neighborhood worked for the steel mills or for the railroad. My father worked for the railroad and donated part of his paycheck to Amanda’s Salty Dog, a bar about a block away. My mother was happy that he found work but sorely distressed about the wonderful Salty Dog. As I grew older my father would take me to the Salty Dog on Saturday afternoon. I saw it as heaven. My mother saw it as the other end of the spectrum. An eternal insomniac, I lay in bed, listening to the arguments and waiting for the divorce. It came.
You are not the only author who is the son of a railroad man. Bob Clark's father also worked the railways. Do the railways find their way into your writing?
I always liked the railroad people who came around our apartment and thought that they lived fascinating lives and told good, funny stories. I haven’t seen my father since I was about six years old, so all fantasies I may have had about becoming a railroad man have slipped away. Although I still like trains and like to use them for transportation, I have never had one of my characters so much as take a train. I don’t know what that says about me.
It's funny how different aspects of your life and childhood either find their way into your writing, or avoid it altogether. Can you tell us about some of your published works?
Along with a novel entitled The Dastardly Dashing of Wee Expectations, I’ve published a book entitled Image Patterns in the Novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald and a 10,000-word history of Southern Illinois University Press in the Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook. My stories include "The Killer, Trained and Devastating" in The Viet Nam Generation Anthology and “The Untimely Demise of the Other Frank Sinatra” in the anthology, When Last on the Mountain. Two recent publications are “Bones and Blue Ribbons” in Front Range: A Review of Literature and Art and “Standing Watch” in the Feathered Flounder.
That's quite a publication list. Have you ever held a book signing?
A friend arranged a book signing at a bookstore for The Dastardly Dashing of Wee Expectations. The signing was fine but I had more fun when a bunch of us went to the bar later.
It sounds like you are a beer-man. I am as well. Do you find dark or light beer helps you write better?
Ah ha. Good question. Guinness for hard part of writing, Bud Light for light revision.
I am partial to Black-n-Tans for inspiration. Do you have a dedicated writing area that inspires your creativity?
I can only hope that my head is less of a mess than my writing area. Papers and books are stacked everywhere, and if there’s an order, I have yet to discern it. I write in a room on the lower level of a split-level house, and whatever noise there is, I cause. I often listen to jazz (Coltrane, Miles Davis, Bird, Art Blakey) while I write, but I never listen to vocalists because their words often end up in my copy.
Does your family support your habit?
My wife and son both support my writing habit, intuiting that it would not do much good for them to do otherwise.
My family is the same way. As a fun question, I asked you to construct a Haiku about yourself. To our readers, I say, this is brilliant:
Dan sees himself as
a court jester still seeking
to find the right court.
That's both a fun and deep way of viewing yourself. Do you find deeper themes penetrating your writing, such as religion, politics, and so forth?
I never discuss religion because religion is not very important to me. I write some left-leaning political satire, but by this year’s acrimonious standards, it’s pretty gentle stuff.
I don’t expect to change anyone or convince anyone of anything through my writing, but I’d like to show readers that my view is sane and that I have a reason for it. And of course if one of my characters is absolutely evil or nuts, I’d be pleased if those who saw themselves in that character would re-evaluate their lives. But the short answer is that I’m more interested in letting readers see my point of view.
I think most writers will agree that they have a quiet, personal agenda, and a need to be heard. There are boundaries, however, in publication, to what an author may write and publish. Which is more important: Writing without constraint, or within the confines of a publisher's guidelines? Why?
I have written a lot of words, both for hire and for myself. While I’d rather write without constraints, it seems to me arrogant to think that you’re so good that you don’t have to listen to someone who is providing you a forum.
I'd like to expound on the above statement. You have experience in the publishing industry, both as author, and inside the publishing house. Please share that knowledge! Can you tell us why an author might want to avoid being too prideful? How does pride affect an author's chance of success?
Both in my experience as a copy editor and as a publicity manager, I always tried to do the best I could for an author because that was what I was getting paid to do. But to be honest, I know that I worked harder for reasonable people who could accept or reject my suggestions in a civil manner. It was sort of like what you would do for a friend as opposed to for someone you could barely tolerate. Even when people have talent, I have little patience with the “artistic” temperament, and for those with little talent—alas. Also, I think the notion that any work is perfect is perfectly absurd. I feel that any story or poem can be improved and that arrogance gets in the way of that improvement.
Dan, it's been a wonderful interview! I'd like to thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. You bring experience and wise words to our readers, and I know they look forward to reading your story Aesop Exposed, in An Honest Lie Volume 4: Petulant Parables. It is a wonderful, memorable, witty story.
For more than two decades, Dan Seiters was the publicity manager for Southern Illinois University Press, publisher of between fifty and seventy books annually. Dan probably wrote the jacket copy for about 1,500 of these books as well as enough news releases to paper the walls of a huge castle. Although he earned his living writing about scholarly books, his fiction is markedly unscholarly.
Along with a novel entitled The Dastardly Dashing of Wee Expectations, Dan published a book entitled Image Patterns in the Novels of F. Scott Fitzgerald and a 10,000-word history of Southern Illinois University Press in the Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook. His stories include "The Killer, Trained and Devastating" in The Viet Nam Generation Anthology and “The Untimely Demise of the Other Frank Sinatra” in the anthology, When Last on the Mountain. Four recent publications include “Bones and Blue Ribbons” in Front Range: A Review of Literature and Art, “Standing Watch,” in Feathered Flounder, “Slug Love” in Jersey Devil Press, and “Standing Watch” in An Honest Lie.
- Eric W. Trant
Open Heart Publishing
Eric W. Trant is a published author of several short stories and the novel Out of the Great Black Nothing. He is currently represented by Debrin Case at Open Heart Publishing. See more of Eric's work here: Publications