This week’s question is “What's your biggest dream / ambition as a writer?” Instead of responding to it, let me introduce friend and colleague, mystery-thriller author Mark W. Danielson. Mark’s background as a fighter pilot in both the Navy and Air Force, as well as a FedEx pilot (so you know who to get mad at when your stuff is late J) gives him plenty of background material for his exciting novels.
Mark’s fast-paced novels share startling coincidences with actual events. Spectral Gallows and Writer’s Block are in the Maxx Watts detective series. Diablo’s Shadow echoes a Florida missing child case. Danger Within is an action thriller that takes the reader into the gritty world of commercial aviation and underwater salvage. The Innocent Never Knew is a political conspiracy that parallels the suspicious death of President Clinton’s Secretary of Commerce Ron Brown. Twice selected as the US Navy’s top author, Mark’s global travels as an airline pilot enable him to write from a perspective shared by few.
Take it away, Mark:
Recently, my friend Paul D. Marks posed the following question to me: What's your biggest dream / ambition as a writer? Pausing to consider this multi-dimensional question, my first thought was my characters have more dreams than me. How can this be when my characters stem from my imagination? Simply put, in first drafts, the characters that originate from my subconscious thoughts grow as they tell their stories.
Having said that, if I were to have only one ambition, it would be for someone to send me a note saying they loved a character’s particular line. To me, that’s an author’s ultimate praise. To clarify, here’s an example from a Stephen Coonts novel where his protagonist faces a rival at a party. With a grin, his protagonist says, “You look constipated.” I was so impressed by Coonts’ slam that I wrote him to pass on my admiration. He responded with an equally simple line, “Sometimes you get it right.” I liked that one, too.
Fan feedback trumps any book review because it comes from the heart. On the contrary, editors and book reviewers, like car show judges, may give your work/car accolades one day, and the next hate it even though nothing changed. For thin--skinned authors, this indifference can be demoralizing, but if you’ve been around a while, you learn to expect it and find the good in their critiques.
Flashing back to Paul’s original question, my biggest ambition is to be recognized as a credible writer. In other words, readers would recognize the extent of research done in order to create my reality-based stories. And because my stories are factually based, I tend to use actual locations and in some cases, real names. In Danger Within, a novel based on an actual FedEx DC-10 in-flight fire, I received a note from someone in the FedEx safety department saying that while he enjoyed the book, it sounded a lot like the FedEx fire. As a FedEx pilot, my response to him was, “It is,” still smiling from his flattering feedback.
The business end of writing is ugly, and can quickly snuff the dreams and ambitions of any writer, so if you’re in it to make money, you’re better off writing for magazines where they always pay up front. If you’re in it for fame, then consider turning your talents to acting. Just remember how many actors wait tables in LA.
Fiction writing is about being true to yourself and expressing your innermost thoughts through characters. It gives you the chance to play God, creating harmony from chaos while giving others a sneak peek into your soul. But the risk is high, for every word will be judged, few readers will ever write a review, and fewer still will remember your name when they finish your story. So write from the heart because it’s what you like to do, and it you’re lucky, someone might send you a kind note.
Thank you Mark!