“Recalled to Life” is the latest release by Eckhartz Press. It’s available for pre-order now (and is selling briskly!). Simply click here to reserve your copy.
I recently had a chance to chat with author Dan Burns about his book…
I understand that Ray Bradbury was very influential in your writing career. Would you mind telling that story?
Dan: Ray Bradbury has certainly been very influential in my reading and writing life. I was first introduced to his writing when I was in my early twenties, and I’ve been reading his work and have been inspired by it ever since.
At that time, Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine had the greatest impact on me. It still does, as it’s one of the few books I take the time to re-read periodically. I had read other Bradbury books in those years, like Fahrenheit 451 and The Martian Chronicles (and I’ve read most of his other books since). But when I read Dandelion Wine, it was the first time I could truly visualize the story as I read it. It was the first time I had become part of the story, as I could so easily relate to the characters, young and old. It was the first time I had experienced words and sentences strung together in such a unique way: literature with doses of realism and lyrics and poetics. I was hooked. I thought to myself, I want to be able to write a book like that some day. I’m a big dreamer.
Ray Bradbury also has a very realistic approach to the writing process. His book, Zen in the Art of Writing is a wonderful guide for the aspiring writer. He suggests reading everything you can get your hands on. He urges that you live your life with passion and love and gusto, for that type of living will naturally flow into your writing. But most influential to me was his dedication to his writing. He’s one our most prolific writers, having written more than 500 published works and was an accomplished short story writer, novelist, playwright, screenwriter, and poet. How can a writer with that amount of output be anything but inspirational?
“The grand thing is to plunge ahead and see what your passion can reveal.”
I love that so much of Ray Bradbury’s writing is exceptionally thought provoking and left to the interpretation of the reader. I’m often intrigued about what is implied and is not said in his stories, and off I go to explore the possibilities. I like that. I can only hope that the readers of Recalled to Life will have the same opportunity to explore the possibilities and experience the story for themselves. I intentionally did not want to spell it all out for the reader—to make it too black and white. Life isn’t that way. Instead, I hope that readers will get from the story what is most meaningful for them.
Back in 2003, while in San Diego on business, I had the fortunate opportunity to meet Ray Bradbury. I had heard about a seminar he was conducting at San Diego State University and on a whim, I changed my afternoon plans and drove over to the campus. His two-hour talk about the “love of writing” was truly inspirational and his words made me wonder even more about becoming a career writer. Afterward, I met Ray and he signed a book for me. He asked me if I was a writer, and I told him that I wanted to be one, some day. He said, “Just do it.” And I replied, “Okay, I will.”
So, here I am, living the dream.
Was there a specific event in your life that inspired “Recalled to Life”?
Dan: I think it’s easy to say that my life, in its entirety, inspired the story. I’m a firm believer that a writer’s ability to create fiction is directly dependent upon the amount of “stuff” that is in your head: what you have experienced, who you have met, what you have read, your passions, your loves, and all the rest. So, there wasn’t one single event—it was a lot of them.
Many people ask me if the story is autobiographical in any way, and it’s not. It is, however, influenced by everything I’ve experienced so far. All of the characters are me and are, in some way, influenced by me (all except one, and I’ll leave it to the reader to figure out which one). I made a concerted effort to put myself into the heads of every character, and what fun it was. Then I would put characters in a situation and wait to see what happened. Sometimes the character took my lead; sometimes the character did the leading.
As I was reading “Recalled to Life” I remember telling my co-publisher David Stern that one of the things I loved about the book was the way you wrote in a style I’d imagine an architect would write. (The lead character is an architect in the novel.) I was shocked to discover that you’ve never worked as one. What made you choose architecture, and how did you manage to crawl into an architect’s brain like that?
Dan: I did have early dreams and aspirations of becoming an architect, but computers technology won over when I was in high school and college. I’ve always been fascinated with design and architecture, and I had a lot to inspire and interest me growing up in the city. I went to Gordon Technical High School here in Chicago, and I had the fortunate opportunity to study drafting and architecture design while I was there. The love for it has never left me, and I actually had the opportunity recently to put my architectural passion and mettle to the test when my wife and I designed and built our home in Wisconsin.
Creating the protagonist, Peter O’Hara, as an architect served the story well as a metaphor for how he lived his life within and outside of his career. He is a designer, planner, builder, and perfectionist when it comes to every aspect of his life. At least, that is his intent. However, as we learn in the story, you can create a perfect building, but creating a perfect life is a much more elusive challenge.
I had great fun putting myself in the head of Peter O’Hara as an architect. It provided an opportunity to create not only what I hope readers will find to be a compelling character and story, but it also provided me the opportunity look a bit into the future and design a practical, yet leading-edge building.
Who knows—maybe there’s still time to become an architect?
I’m a sucker for a good father-son story. “Recalled to Life” is about the father-son relationship from both sides. I know from experience that can be an emotional experience for a writer. How did that affect you while you were writing “Recalled to Life” and how much of your own real life experiences helped shape those characters?
Dan: I had a fantastic relationship with my parents and I’m fortunate to have a wonderful relationship with each of my children. Like all parents, my wife and I have tried hard build a meaningful family unit, with as many family members included as possible. I think that the linking of our generations is important, and I no doubt realize that it’s a continual challenge for all of us to make that happen. It’s so easy to get caught up in the activities of a given day that we sometimes forget about the important stuff. That is certainly the case with the protagonist in the story, Peter O’Hara.
There are many parts of the story that did prove to be very emotional for me as I was writing them, and I continue to be impacted each time I read them. I think it’s because I was able to re-live some of my own typical, yet very memorable family experiences. At the same time, I was able to expose myself to some new experiences—all within the simple structure of the story. One of the great things about fiction is that you have the ability to make the characters do things you would never think of, or do things you have not had the opportunity to do yourself.
I love writing and magic involved in telling and reading a story, and the whole experience can be very emotional.
Your first book, The First 60 Seconds: Win the Job Interview Before It Begins, is about how the first sixty seconds of a job interview can make or break your chances. If you were only given sixty seconds to convince someone they should buy “Recalled to Life”, what would you say?
Dan: “Recalled to Life” is the story of an American family striving for perfection and learning to adjust to reality. I’m most proud of and excited about the fact that Recalled to Life is truly a story for all generations. People have told me that it’s risky to try and write to such a broad demographic, but with this story, it just came naturally and I’m convinced it’s the way the story is meant to be told. Everyone will be able to relate to the characters in the story, regardless of their age, and who knows? —Maybe we’ll all be able to read and talk about it together.
“Recalled To Life”—a timeless story for all generations brought to you by Chicago’s very own Eckhartz Press. Get your copy today and spend some time quality time with the O’Hara family.
How’s that—did I come in under a minute?