Interview with Dan Cavallari

What are your five favorite books, and why?
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. I can think of no other novel that has influenced me as a writer more. The main character is rich and deep, and Irving manages to mix humor and drama incredibly effectively.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Like everyone else in my generation, I've struggled with the post-9/11 world as well as understanding my role in its creation. The event happened, then we took the reigns; are we happy with what we created, partly out of panic? I'm not. Foer's narrative is about coping, yet there's a deeper subtext there that fascinates me. We are all Oskar Schell because his fears are so elemental.

Empire Falls by Richard Russo. Quiet, small town life was something I experienced in college at the University of Maine. The quiet fields and forests, the quiet back roads...what was always fascinating to me was the quiet houses, the ones with a single light on at dusk. What was happening behind those windows? Russo answers those questions in a quirky, winding narrative that makes us confront our roles in our communities and interpersonal relationships.

On Writing by Stephen King. I taught this to my students when I was a high school English teacher. Clear, succinct, engaging, entertaining. King's a master.

If On A Winter's Night A Traveler by Italo Calvino. Calvino approaches prose in such a vastly different way than my own prose. He tackles questions I never thought to ask, and the answers are so surprising.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Word of mouth. Everything else has seemed like a rip-off. The industry is changing so rapidly that I think authors need to be more responsible about how they publish and promote their books. So far, I've had success with word of mouth, in-person readings, and giveaways on Goodreads, but other forms of advertising have really fallen flat.
Describe your desk
A mess.

It changes often, too, since my wife and I have moved around quite a lot. Right now, I've got an iMac with a second monitor, a MIDI keyboard, a Yankees mug I bought at Cooperstown, and my camera (I am a photographer as well, so most of my desk space is dedicated to that). My desk is in a small corner of our apartment. Very cozy.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Waterbury, Connecticut and pretty much everything I've ever written has been influenced by my youth in some way. Waterbury is a dead mill town that's attempting a resurgence (city leaders make this attempt about once every decade; corruption usually derails it), and most of my stories focus on characters who are down on their luck and sorting through a life that never really panned out for them. That's Waterbury in a nutshell. I love my hometown, but it needs help.
When did you first start writing?
I remember writing my first story around Christmas time when I was perhaps six years old. I wrote a story about Santa coming down the chimney butt-first. Then, in high school, I wrote a story for my freshman writing class that my teacher entered in a city-wide competition. I won honorable mention. I was hooked from there.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Men Waiting For Sleep is a story of an alcoholic in his thirties who is having trouble coping with being an adult. Concurrently, it's about an elderly man who is coping with the missed opportunities of his life, like helping the alcoholic in his thirties and suffering through decades of a flagging fishery business.

Really, it's about missed opportunities and communicating with those you love.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
I kept writing novels and going through the process of trying to find an agent, trying to entice publishers, etc. Agents kept telling me they really loved my manuscript but they weren't confident they could sell it, so they refused to take me on as a client. So I finally got fed up and did it myself. My sales on my first published book were quite good, and when I was contacted by a university for thirty copies of my book (they wanted to teach it to a lit class), I knew I was on the right track.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
So far it hasn't, but that's mostly my fault. I haven't capitalized on everything Smashwords can offer me as an author. Like anything else, Smashwords requires time and energy to make work; as an author, you need to pour yourself into any avenue you choose for marketing your work. Smashwords is a great opportunity for exposure, and admittedly, I need to be better about that.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I am a photographer, so I spend a lot of time behind the lens. I also spend a lot of time cycling: road bikes, mountain bikes, anything with two wheels and pedals. My wife and I are also expecting our first child, so I currently spend a lot of time obsessing about being a good father.
What is your writing process?
I write in fits and spurts. I used to sit down every morning for two hours and write; that was great because I pumped out my novels in three months. But the quality of writing was lacking. Now I write when I feel like I am focused and determined. Those moments come often, but spread out during a hectic life.
What are you working on next?
I started a manuscript a few months ago tentatively titled "Joshua's Children." I've got about 180 pages and I'm not sure if I want to continue. It walks the line between horror and literary fiction, and I think I need to decide what kind of novel I want it to be before I continue.
Published 2014-04-24.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Confusing the Seasons
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 94,190. Language: English. Published: September 10, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Plays & Screenplays » American
Einar William Coates can hear his wife in the steps that creak and windows that shake against the autumn wind. He can smell her on his pillow and in the kitchen—but he can never touch her again. As his family assembles at his home in northern Maine for her funeral, Einar knows this is a fate he has earned, yet the bitterness of loss is no softer for it.