Good morning all! For those of you that celebrate July 4th, I hope you have an amazing day! For those of you that don’t celebrate July 4th, I hope you have an amazing day also. As for Plot Monster we have a special 3 part Author Spotlight that begins today and we are so excited to welcome Dan Alatorre. He is a best-selling author, mentor to aspiring authors, husband and father. Be sure to check out his blog (Dan Alatorre – AUTHOR) and remember that he is currently hosting his annual short story contest.
Please help me in welcoming him to Plot Monster by leaving a comment below.
Drum Roll Please.
~~~Author Spotlight – Dan Alatorre – Part 1~~~
What inspired you to be an author?
I was writing funny little stories and vignettes on Facebook and I would post them before I went to work. By the time I got home, there would be 100 comments. People loved them and wanted more, and after a while they started saying things like, you should write a book. So… I did. Savvy Stories was the first book. It was a ton of fun to write, became a series, and has been loved the world over. So listen to your friends when they give you advice! Maybe they know what they’re talking about.
Savvy Stories tells the hilarious true life adventures of a middle aged man becoming a father for the first time and the humorous stories about growing up – for the parents AND their daughter – from his perspective.
You can buy it here: Savvy Stories on Amazon
What were you like as a child? Did you like to write then?
Oh, I was a good kid. I had to be! I had strict parents and I went to a strict school filled with strict nuns who would whack you with a ruler if you got out of line, so I didn’t get out of line. I was not the class clown at all or anything close to it. I did not seek attention. That came later, and almost by accident.
I was popular in this general sense: I was friends with everyone and they were all friends with me. I attended small schools, and there were clicques, but I wasn’t aware of them – so I talked to everybody.
I was always writing. Writing, drawing, and passing notes to pretty girls, that’s what I was doing instead of paying attention in class. I found that I could still get decent grades on tests without taking any notes. I just listened while I was writing my story or drawing, and that worked. I don’t recommend it, but that’s what I did.
As a young child, I loved writing stories. I made comic books for my older brother and eventually talked to my grade school teachers into starting a newspaper so I could write for it. Then I pushed to become co-editor of the high school newspaper, and wrote short stories for fun in college. Like most people, I got away from it when I started doing real job stuff after college, but looking back it was always there. Parents see that stuff.
Because I enjoyed writing and I also enjoyed standup comedians and old record albums like Bill Cosby where he would tell humorous family stories, I thought that I would enjoy acting and being in the school play. My freshman year in high school, they had auditions. The lead roles went to other kids, but there was a part for an announcer who would talk out front on, stage by himself, while the curtain was closed behind him and they rearranged the set for the next scene. The lines were written for me, but when I delivered them to the audience, which was several hundred people, I got laughs. The stage lights were so bright, I couldn’t really see the audience at all – but of course I knew they were there – and I found it was so easy! To put a joke out to 500 people was easier than telling a joke to three people because if one of the 500 laughed, they all understood they were supposed to laugh and the rest would laugh from then on. That was a crowning moment in me being able to figure out how to write humorous stories. Like Mark Twain and Bill Cosby, comedy was something I loved and something that most people are not good at. I was very good at writing funny characters, and creating odd situations for these characters to find themselves in. That allowed me to write really unique characters like Father Frank in An Angel On Her Shoulder or Samantha in Poggibonsi that people find hilarious and remember years after they have put the book down.
What is your favorite book? Why?
I have several. I love Catch-22 by Joseph Heller for the way it jumps around and uses humor, and the way the flashbacks tell a little more of a scene each time. It’s a big tease, that book, holding your attention to the end. I love Mark Twain’s essays. The man was brilliant when he was alive and is still relevant over a hundred years later. Not a lot of authors can claim that. I love Bill Cosby’s audio recording albums from the 60s. I loved the book Jaws and The Amityville Horror, both of which I read as a kid and found completely horrifying.
I’m a Harry Potter fan because a great story trumps all writing do’s and don’ts. Same with Stephen King. The Shining was a masterpiece.
I’m more of a movie fan than a book fan, though, because you have to keep the audience glued to their seats, and if you write like you’re showing a movie to your reader, they’ll stay glued. So my favorite movie is Jurassic Park, and my favorite plot is Ben Hur. (Go BIG with your stories, gang.)
My all-time favorite book is probably The Other by Thomas Tryon (it was a book and a movie) because it scared the hell out of me. Absolutely, positively love that book. Still love it all these years later.
Now, what does that tell you? Here’s the take away: First, J. K. Rowling didn’t invent wizards, and Stephen King didn’t invent the ghost story. Stephen Spielberg didn’t invent dinosaurs. All of that stuff was around before. They brought their unique spin to it. Second, write something you’d want to read or don’t bother writing at all. Be daring. There are scenes like the woolly mammoth part of The Navigators that I can’t put down and would read again in a heartbeat because it’s so gripping. There’s a scene in Poggi that makes me cry every time I read it. Every. Time. And there are places that always make me laugh just like the first time readers do, too. Write the story that’s burning in your soul to be written and go all out when you do. Don’t hold back. Take risks. Great writing isn’t safe.
Do you ever write under a pseudonym? If not have you considered it? Why or why not?
I’ve considered it many times and I will probably do it in the future. It’s a little difficult to explain, but people are creatures of habit. If you write funny stories that do well, fans don’t want you to write a sexy romance. If you write a sexy romance, they don’t want you to write horror stories. So there’s nothing wrong with doing what J. K. Rowling did and saying I’m J. K. when I write Harry Potter but I’m Robert Galbreath when I write murder mysteries. I think that’s absolutely a smart move. That was my original plan, but my stuff is so unique I thought I would be better having them come and read the author as opposed to read the genre, and that’s more like James Patterson. It works, too. He’s doing it better than me, though.
How do you decide on character names and plots?
We finally got to my kryptonite. I’m absolutely terrible at character names. In The Navigators, I had Barry, Roger… (Thank God I gave some of them nicknames: Peeky, Missy, Riff.) Angel had Doug. I’m the worst at naming characters. My characters start out with horrible, boring names, and then I change them later. At one point I took the roster of my daughter’s preschool class and randomly picked names off of it because they were better than the ones I was coming up with for my characters.
Now I pay attention and write down good names whenever I hear them. I have a list. If I go to McDonald’s and the cashier has an interesting name, I scribble it down and email it to myself from my iPhone. I also listen when my critique partners tell me to change names like Fred and Barney to Troy and Vincent. They have saved me more than once.
What do you think?
Can you relate?
Be sure to come back tomorrow for part 2.