Sunday, 7 November 2010

Interview with Dan Hays

I hope everyone enjoyed their weekend, and I hope everyone who had to change their clocks back remembered to do so. Where I live, we changed them back last week, and I'm just now getting adjusted.

Today I've got an interview with a terrific writer to share with you. We're chatting with the author of FREEDOM'S JUST ANOTHER WORD, Dan Hays.

Welcome, Dan. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I live in Fort Worth, Texas. I've been in the oil and gas and real estate title insurance industries for about 30 years, and writing on the side. I've done project work for most of those years, and I have approached writing and publicity as a work project. I'm very methodical - a spreadsheet guy!

I love running, dancing, watching sports, and visiting with other people - I've especially enjoyed connecting with other writers through social networking.

How long have you been writing?

:) Well, I started my first novel when I was 14 - something about a plot to kidnap the President. Then the movie Seven Days In May came out and stole my plot, so I stopped that project. But I had 5 poems and a short story published in a literary magazine in junior high, so my writing days go back that far.

Tell us about "Freedom's Just Another Word."

It was a memoir I had known for a while I'd have to write. It's a book about healing and hope and forgiveness. It is set in Houston, Texas in 1987. At that time, my world was spinning alarmingly out of control, and I was mystified as to why. I was walking around with many of the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but I didn't have a traumatic event I could point to. I was like the man in the Bourne Identity - having flashbacks to a past I didn't know existed. It was terribly puzzling.

In the middle of that time, my Dad died. In the process of grieving his death, I remembered a violent incident from my teenage years that explained the events in my world and the PTSD, and led me down a path of healing my relationship with my Dad.

Do you find it difficult to pour your emotions into a memoir for the world to read, or do you find it more a way to express your feelings and maybe get closure?

Excellent question, Dorothy! It was very tough to write in ways. Although it had been 17 years since my Dad had died, it was the first time I'd ever gone through and chronicled the events of the week when my Dad died. That was tough to write, but immensely cathartic. And to write about remembering the violence helped make it all more real for me, and brought a closure, for sure. It helped heal my relationship with my Dad - notice that the book is dedicated to him.

I did the book mostly for those reasons, but have been very surprised by how much it impacts other people. The second half of the book is about the things I did to move beyond the abuse, and readers really connect with those parts. I've even had several people call it a "road map" for how to move beyond abuse. A completely unintended consequence of this book, but I'm very grateful that people are benefitting in that way from reading Freedom!

Sounds like you're helping people who need it, which is great. What's the hardest part of writing for you?

LOL! Since the next book I'm writing is about a writer's block that has plagued me for about 25 years, I would say every aspect of writing was tough for a while. Just sitting down to write was sometimes a stretch. Then when publishers were interested in my books, that was fearful, and I didn't know why. I had publishers interested in books I had written twice, and was totally perplexed to find myself walking away from the opportunity.

It is apparent that I've moved beyond that block now. I've had about 5 chapters of the next book flow out very easily over the last month or so, and I'm thrilled by that. I had to do therapy, and it was a second source of PTSD, so this was a writer's block with a very deep and specific origin. Yet with hard work, I've gotten past it! When I publish this next book, it will signal how much I've healed. That I can publish the book will be a big step forward, and the origins of the writer's block will be revealed.

Let's get to know you on a deeper level. What do you absolutely have to have nearby when writing?

I have to have an extra legal pad or a note pad. I may be typing on the computer, or even writing longhand. But sometimes I'll have a thought occur, and if I don't capture it right then, I lose it, so I take notes in the moment. I may be writing chapter 1, and have a scene in chapter 4 present itself, and I want to keep it! The way my creative process works is that I'll have scraps of ideas, thoughts or scenes appear any time or place, so having paper available is invaluable.

If you could have any super power, what would it be?

It would have to be flying! When I have flying dreams, those are the most breathtaking dreams I have, and I'd love to be able to do that live! :) My most recent flying dream I was soaring about 40 feet above a road, and it was clear I could fly as long and as far as I wanted. I took that as a very positive sign.

Sound's like a positive sign to me too.

Quick writing test! Use the following words in a sentence: jumping jacks, hurricane, and pudding.

As the windows of his house blew out from the wind of the horrible hurricane, Jim was astonished to watch his daughter's jumping jacks fly past him and stab into a bowl of pudding that had fallen onto the kitchen floor.

Oh my gosh, I cannot stop laughing. Heehee.

Anyone you'd like to give thanks to?

I'd like to thank my friend Joan, who started me writing in the first place. Thanks to my mentor, Bob Kizer, who taught me so many life lessons. Thank you Dad - you illuminated my path to healing by your example of perseverance in sobriety.

And finally, where can people find you online?

My website is It has links to my blog, my Minute to Freedom radio spots, our Dialogues With Dignity radio show. Check out the latest big news - a review of Freedom's Just Another Word by the New York Journal of Books. That one is in big red letters on the front page - I was jazzed about receiving that review! :)

Excellent! Thank you so much for chatting with us, Dan. I look forward to reading your memoirs.

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