Author of heartwarming romance for the soul.
My friendship with Dave began when he emailed me after reading my free novella, Puzzle Pieces, and my blog post, An Unlikely Author. For my part, I felt an immediate kinship. We share similar views regarding our passion for writing, and his writing talent, emotional depth, and unwavering devotion to his stories and those who read them are truly admirable.
Dave has become not only the friend I go to for marketing and publishing advice, but he's also my critique partner ~ one of the authors I send my chapters to when they're in their most vulnerable stage, for his honest and trustworthy feedback.
All that to say, it's an honor to introduce you to Dave, and I hope you'll add him to your list of authors to follow.
Now... on to the interview. :)
So, Dave, the first thing I always want to know is how did you get started on this writing journey?
I’m what most might call a latecomer to the magic of books. I didn’t begin reading seriously until I became an adult. Books were never commonplace in my home as a child, but it’s something my wife and I decidedly changed for the better with our son. Seeing him entranced in the pages of a story each night before bed is proof that we can change the world one person at a time. As for writing, I wrote my first work of fiction at the tender age of 11, for an English assignment, and didn’t do so again until 30 years later, for said son while he was attending summer camp. I’ve been captivated by the world of fiction, as a way to both escape and navigate reality, since that magical moment of discovery.
I love how you describe fiction as both an escape and a way to navigate reality, because that's precisely how I view it, too. What was the inspiration behind your first full-length work of fiction?
At the onset of my foray into writing fiction, I’d compose one short story daily, with three random words pulled from the dictionary as inspiration. On an otherwise ordinary day, the universe dealt me the following offering: elephant, wheelchair, and success. When I was done with my writing session for that day, my usual word count goal of 500 was closer to 5000. The tiniest spark of an idea from an unsuspecting source blossomed into my first full-fledged novel, Second Chance.
Okay, that has to be the most unique response I've heard, thus far! And knowing you created an entire novel from three random words plucked from the dictionary, I have to ask... do you include any personal tidbits or hidden secrets only you would recognize in your novels?
There was a mention of Mickey Mantle in my first novel, Second Chance. He wore a jersey with the number 7 while playing for the New York Yankees. I ended up changing that reference to Joe DiMaggio because he donned a jersey with the number 5.
The craziest coincidence convinced me to make this change. When I finished writing the first draft, my word count was 55,555. Seriously, and it gets even eerier. I shared subsequent drafts of that manuscript on Wattpad, a way to garner constructive feedback from interested readers. On the day I posted the final chapter of my last draft, I had exactly 555 views. And the number of chapters in that draft, completely unplanned, was 55.
So, needless to say, 5 became my new lucky number. I decided to include that new reference to Joe DiMaggio as a little easter egg, a nod of thanks to my creative muse for standing with me throughout the process of writing that first novel.
Wow! That's crazy! And so cool. It's stories like this one that adds to the magical feeling of the creative process. What would you say you love most about the writing process as a whole?
I enjoy sharing heartfelt, deep, and genuine emotion through stories, the kind that makes you think differently about the world. But that’s not what I enjoy most. My author soul’s home is at Epcot in Walt Disney World. There’s a fireworks show at the end of each night called Illuminations. I’ve seen it so many times that I have it memorized, but it still gives me chills every time I watch it. The final thought by the narrator before the nighttime spectacular begins fully encapsulates why I write and what I enjoy most about it:
We've gathered here tonight around the fire, as people of all lands have gathered for thousands of years before us, to share a light and to share a story ~ an amazing story, as old as time itself, but still being written. And though each of us has our own individual stories to tell, a true adventure emerges when we bring them all together as one.
That’s what I enjoy most about writing: connecting people, one story and one reader at a time.
Is it cheesy to say that's absolutely beautiful? If it is, I don't care. And I share your affinity for Disneyland/World. Although, maybe not to quite the same degree, considering you and your wife had a Beauty and the Beast-themed wedding at the Disney Wedding Pavillon... on Walt Disney's birthday! But's that isn't the end of your Disney devotion, is it?
I proposed to my wife in front of a rose named Sweetest Inspiration at the Plaza Rose Garden in the Magic Kingdom. That’s been her nickname for me ever since, and the dedication in my first published novel. We also had our son’s 1st birthday party at the Crystal Palace restaurant, and remain annual pass holders to this day. So, when I offer that Disney World is the happiest place on Earth for me, there’s a lot of emotional warmth behind it.
Seriously, it doesn't get more romantic than that. Or does it? Would you tell us about these photos?
(The first) photo was taken at the Wilderness Lodge on our wedding day and captured the pure joy and bliss of that magical day in both our lives. (The second) photo was taken in the exact same spot as the previous one, fifteen years later, ironically by our teenage son. It reminded me that while things change over time, none does so deeply and profoundly as the love we feel for someone else.
There. You've done it again. You've so eloquently touched on another aspect that makes writing romance so special and rewarding. We get to bring love to life on the page ~ the kind of love that changes us, makes us better, and reaches down to our souls. Of course, writing romance isn't all hearts and flowers all of the time. What aspect of writing do you find the least enjoyable?
Marketing. At the risk of using such a harsh word, I loathe self-promotion. It feels too sales-y to me, and I’d much prefer new readers find my stories organically through word of mouth and positive recommendations. I recognize it as a necessary evil, however, and do my best to share what I have to offer in an unobtrusive way.
I think most authors can relate to that! And it's our passion for our words, and the themes we explore, that push us to do things we otherwise find uncomfortable. What is the theme in your most recent novel?
My most recent novel, the first in my Pigeon Grove series, is titled Between the Lines. Taking place in a small fictional North Georgia town in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the thematic tagline for the story is: Trust hides in that fragile space between holding on and letting go. It ponders the question of whether it’s safer to accept a troubled past or embrace the risk associated with an uncertain future.
Gosh, that's so relatable! And because it's my interview, I can interject that I loved Between the Lines! And the way you explored this theme with your characters, Sophie and Mason. Is there a particular theme you thread throughout all of your novels?
Hope. Things don’t always go the way we might have planned. It doesn’t mean we can’t find a way through what often feels like an impenetrable cloak of darkness. Finding that pinprick of light and moving toward it becomes infinitely easier when we surround ourselves with the right people. Love, in all its forms, is a universal language that can change the world.
That's so true. I've definitely experienced that in my own life. In fact, I think things have rarely gone the way I planned. In my writing life, especially. What is one thing that's surprised you along your writing journey?
I enjoy every single moment of my author life, good and not-so-good, and there have been plenty of the latter. There are days when writing is a struggle. The faucet of inspiration is frozen solid. Try as I might, I stare at a blinking cursor, convinced I won’t get where I want to be. And then a funny thing happens. You get the tiniest drip from that faucet, then a trickle. And before you know it, there’s not a bucket deep enough to hold every thought and idea inside you. How did this surprise me? It helped me realize that the world of writing is, in a way, a microcosm of life. Adapting that same sense of perseverance and trust in the process to every other aspect of my life has been magical and transformative.
You're a wealth of wisdom, Dave. And although you've just given us phenomenal advice, I'm going to ask you for one more nugget of truth, particularly geared toward a newbie author.
Let each and every emotion, however scary it may be, flow onto the page unfiltered. You are the only one reading it at that point. I have learned so many things, about my characters and myself, when I’ve given myself permission to feel through the power of emotional words and a story only I can tell. When you do this, what comes out is authentic. And what readers want more than anything else, in my humble opinion, is a genuine connection. Feel everything when you write.
That's such powerful advice, I feel like we should end right there. But I always love to ask authors I admire what they're currently reading.
I’m presently reading two books, one fiction and one non-fiction.
The Bookshop on the Corner by Jenny Colgan. Who can resist a novel about the power of stories and an old-fashioned bookshop?
Wired for Story by Lisa Cron. Always on the lookout for ways to hone my craft and connect with readers, a recent visit to my local Barnes & Noble alongside a cup of coffee and preview of the first chapter had me hooked. Ironically, it’s what the first chapter was about, hooking the reader. Serendipity at its best.
Those are both now on my TBR list! And before I let you go... I have one more question. Since the majority of authors I've interviewed so far have been women, I would love to get a male perspective on writing in the romance genre. What role (if any) does gender play in the world of writing romance?
When I share with others that I’m an author, I’ve come to expect the question that follows as well as their reaction to my response. Raised eyebrows and stunned silence are customary, but often I’ll receive more candid replies. While still exhibiting some degree of surprise, sharing my desire and pride at being a romantic fiction author evokes a smile that reminds me: I’m doing exactly what I’m meant to do.
If there any biases, I haven’t seen them. I’m as much a part of the romance reading community as I am the writing one. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to connect with other readers and writers through various online and real-life groups. In the end, I believe what connects us with each other is a shared emotional reading experience, which has always been completely unrelated to gender for me. Love is universal.
There are still male readers and writers out there who are hopeless romantics. Those who long for a timeless love story. I’m one of them. I’d hope that my characters, both male and female, show there’s an innate desire to connect with others through infinite love. Both the romantic kind attached to happily-ever-afters, but also that deeper and pure love of one human being for another, regardless of gender or any other categorization society might subconsciously place on it. There is nothing more powerful and life-changing than unconditional love.
That last line is the perfect note to end on!
Thank you so much for your time, Dave. As always, your words are beautiful and profound, and I hope they've inspired others to pick up Between the Lines and spend some time in the lovely town of Pigeon Grove. They should also be on the lookout for a free novella featuring a certain beloved character. 😉
To be the first to find out when Fly Away Home is available for free download, join Dave's community today. You can also find out more about Dave and his books at davecenker.com.