ABOUT AUTHOR: Dan Walsh is the award-winning and bestselling author of 7 novels, published by Revell and Guideposts, including The Unfinished Gift, Remembering Christmas and The Reunion. Reviewers often compare Dan’s books to Nicholas Sparks. His latest project is a 4-book fiction series with Gary Smalley. The first book, The Dance, just released. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), Dan now writes fulltime in Port Orange, FL. He and his wife Cindi have been married 36 years. You can email him or follow him on Facebook or Twitter. There are buttons to connect to these on his website: www.DanWalshBooks.com
I'm THRILLED to be featuring Dan Walsh's new book at The Book Club Network this month. I'm also excited to talk about his new book What Follows After? It was an interesting taking a trip back to a time where a fire was brewing. I wanted to have readers get to know another side of this author and his writing. Readers will get a peek at the heart of Dan Walsh and his new novel.
It's funny how little Timmy's parents actually talked about stuff that mattered to them as a couple. When do you think that changed and communication opened up between husbands and wives?
Dan: I don’t think they ever would have faced some of the serious issues in their marriage apart from the crisis they faced. It forced them to be together and to look at things they were successfully avoiding until then. That’s one of the themes in the book I wanted to highlight; how adversity, even times of crisis, can lead to better things down the road.
Nora: You did a good job with that in this novel. I think you are right about adversity bringing people together and allowing them to share things they normally wouldn't.
Keeping up appearances was important to Timmy's parents. It was amazing how long this couple kept up the appearance of being together when they weren't. What was the stigma back then? Why go to great lengths to appear as an intact family unit?
Dan: It’s hard for modern Americans, especially younger ones, to fathom what Scott and Gina did to keep the facade of a happy marriage going. Now, more than half the marriages end in divorce. In the 50s and early 60s, that wasn't the case. As an example, I only knew one kid in all of my elementary school years who came from a broken home. Every kid in my neighborhood (and it was filled with young families) lived with both parents. And every single one of them came home from school to find a mom waiting there for him. If you look at all the TV shows and movies of that era, couples were all portrayed as married. No one was shown as divorced. Divorce was perceived as a major moral failure.
Nora: Wow, I hadn't realized that. Wow! There would be great pressure for Scott and Gina to hide their trouble. It would be really hard on them and their kids of the truth came out! Thanks for sharing this insight!
The "Camelot years" (you talked about in the back of your novel)…what did you discover about that time doing your research that you hadn't recalled before? It's amazing all that was hidden from the American public (as we've now learned).
Dan: For one thing, the press had a totally different role in American life than they do now. Most of the Washington press corps, for example, knew JFK was a horrible womanizer (even while in the White House), but never reported on it. Legally, they could have, but no one did. After the Vietnam war and Watergate that all changed. Now the press is on the hunt, looking for negative things to report. If the press today practiced the same things then, Camelot would never have happened, and no one would have looked at JFK and Jackie as “the ideal couple.” I think they would have loved her and despised him.
Nora: You are right about the press playing a different role in our lives today and the fact that they are on the hunt to report bad things, so true.
They tried to sell us on the "American Dream." In your research did you uncover why this Dream was being sold to the masses? What was it exactly they told every American they could have? Why was that important to obtain?
Dan: I think the American Dream wasn't sold as the chance to become wealthy, but to attain a secure status among the middle class. Having a good job, a happy family, a nice house in the suburbs, a new car to drive, a houseful of modern time-saving appliances. I believe it was driven by the onslaught of television, TV commercials and popular magazines. The media constantly fed this image to the American consumer, who bought into the illusion. Everyone perceived that achieving this American Dream equaled true happiness. Even though decades later, life has proven this to be untrue, many people still buy into this deception.
Nora: Thanks for sharing this Dan. You are right about people still buying into the deception the media tries to tell us every day about how we should look, dress, eat and car to drive and so much more. With T.V. being so new back then I can see the power it had.
I was small when President Kennedy was killed, then Martin Luther King and the President’s brother and Martin Luther King were killed. So much pain and craziness. My parents didn't explain much to me. I remember watching people crying on T.V. I was small and didn't understand. I was upset that I couldn't watch cartoons. In your research when did parents start really talking to their kids about things that mattered?
Dan: Certainly not in the 60s or the 70s. I can’t recall a single conversation with my parents, especially my father, about anything that mattered in life. I think this began to change as the children raised during this time started having kids of their own, possibly wanting to correct the neglect they experienced. But I also think it’s come about because the world has become a much darker place now. The dangerous and harmful influences outside the home are so abundant and pervasive. If we don’t talk to our children about things that matter, they don’t stand a chance of resisting the pull in that direction.
Nora: You are right about the world being a darker place. With the internet and cell phones we don't know what our parents knew about us because we had one phone for everyone to talk on and there was no internet where you could talk to people all over the world at all hours of the day and night. Our kids can get in a harmful situation pretty quick. I couldn't agree with you more when you said. "If we don't talk to our children about things that matter, they don't' stand a chance of resisting the pull in that direction." It keeps me on me praying Dan!
You mention that we were considered a Christian Country, What has changed for the good? How is our society different? Better? Worse in our search to draw closer to God personally and as a family?
Dan: As I mention in the Author’s Note at the back of the book, a lot of societal issues in the “Camelot years,” represented terrible injustices, wrongs that needed to be righted. Like the discrimination blacks experienced, and women. Certainly, the press covering up for corrupt politicians was a bad thing that needed to change. But sadly, I believe many of our “solutions” have swung the pendulum past a healthy, balanced middle to an unhealthy extreme. As a result, many of the people groups we intended to help through these fixes are worse off than they were before.
Nora: I appreciated what all that you said on your Author's Note page. Thanks!
How are marriages better now then they were in the 60s and 70s? Family unit different?
Dan: I don’t believe marriages are better now and, for the most part, family units are further apart than ever. The statistics bear this out. Life for American families is worse now than at any time in our history. The divorce rate, domestic violence and child abuse numbers, teenage suicides, drug and alcohol abuse, kids taking drugs for depression…all these stats are off the charts now. Having said that, as Jesus said, there is “a narrow road that leads to life.” For couples and families who long to beat these odds, there are an abundance of great books, videos and magazines devoted to helping people receive the practical wisdom and insight found in Scripture.
Nora: I agree with you Dan. There is an abundance of material to help you on "the road of life." I think people are more willing to be real with one another with their spouses, children and in the church. I think that's a good thing too!
In your research what had you thought as a kid to be true then find out, it wasn't how it really was?
Dan: Obviously, the first big shakeup was Santa Claus. But there were far more serious things. After the JFK assassination, the escalation of the war in Vietnam and the assassinations of Bobbie Kennedy and Martin Luther King, I realized the world was no longer a safe place. The news broadcasts depicting racism in the US, especially in the South, made me realize that black children in America weren't having the Leave it to Beaver childhood I had. Growing up through the cultural revolution of the 60s, I witnessed an entire generation of young people rejecting everything their parents stood for. My idealistic childhood ended up anything but by the time I graduated high school.
Nora: Dan I felt the same way. I couldn't believe everyone was lying about this guy! Ha! My parents went to get lengths to make this real to us. We drove from N.J. to FL every year on vacation. The presents arrived while we were gone and special decorations put up. I was a believer for way to long! Grin! They were crazy - eye opening times. Thanks for sharing Dan!
It was interesting to read about the bomb shelters and how some people had then. Did you see the movie Blast from the Past? It's about a father that had been preparing the bomb shelter for his family. A plane hits their property and he thinks the bombing has started. They lock themselves into the bomb shelter and set the timer. His wife has a baby down there and they raise their child in the shelter. They re-surface when the child is about 20. Brandon Frazer plays the young man. LOVED that show.
Question: I was wondering if you ever went inside one. Found out in your research if any of the bomb shelters really did what they were meant to do if there was serious trouble? What fascinated you enough about this topic to include it in your book?
Our first home in Daytona Beach, FL, in one of the neighborhoods the story takes place.
Dan: One of my childhood homes in Florida is portrayed in the book, very similar to the home Colt and Timmy lived in. Three doors down, the house on the corner had a bomb shelter very similar to what I described. And we did sneak in there to play army. One of my high school friend’s father built one right around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. By then, the danger had long past. He was a photography buff and used it for his dark room. I did see Blast From The Past, a very fun movie. I never saw a bomb shelter that elaborate, even in my research. I included it in the book because it was a very real consideration for people at the time. In fact, many contractors jumped on the bandwagon and made a small fortune building these shelters in the early 60s.
Nora: Blast From the Past did have a huge house underground, I didn't think one could be so large.
Interesting to hear that people were really considering having one of these for their use. Fun to learn you used one of your childhood homes in your new book.
Is there anything you miss about your childhood that you wished you could have experienced with your kids and/or grand-kids that they just don't do and/or have anymore? Something you really loved that went away and you'd wish they would bring back? A treasured childhood memory or even?
Dan: A fun question. I have often tried to communicate to my kids, who are now adults, how very different America was in the late 50s and early 60s (the hidden injustices I've already mentioned, notwithstanding). I can tell, they have no reference point for what I’m saying. For example, imagine living in a neighborhood where everyone knows everyone. Where parents can send their kids out to play after dinner until dark with absolutely no concern for their safety. The amazing music filling the air as the ice cream truck enters the neighborhood, stopping every kid in their tracks (and, incidentally, every one of them is playing outside). A classroom with one teacher instructing 40 kids, all day, and no one causing any trouble (not even talking in class). Having childhood sports heroes who aspire to earn fans respect and stay loyal to the same team throughout their careers. So many other examples are flying through my head.
Nora: Good points. I didn't even think about sending my kids out to play by themselves I was always there and/or had others on watch. There was a time when I let my kids go out in the front yard when we lived in Florida (there was a big picture window we could see outside from.) My husband ran outside yelling when we saw our 5 year old heading toward a strangers' car (even when we told them not to do that Grin). The car drove away and my son said the man asked him to help find his rabbit. OHMYGOSH! Now we pray for our kids as they head off to High School hoping no one gets knifed or shot at that day. Yes, times have changed. I really grasped the sense of how much when I read about Timmy's situation in What Follows After, it could have been so much worse had it happened today!
Thanks again for stopping by Dan and sharing your heart and about your new book What Follows after. LOVE the Pictures too Dan!
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