Friday, January 21, 2011

An Interview with author Daniel Palmer by DJ Weaver

Sometime back, WebbWeaver was honored to interview Michael Palmer and review his, then newest novel The Last Surgeon. During that time we became friends with Michael and have been ever since.
When we learned that his son, Daniel Palmer, was writing a novel, we were excited for the son of our friend and wanted to know more about his work. During the months leading up to this interview and the release of Daniel's first novel, Delirious, we became friends with Daniel as well, and we asked him to do this interview and let us review his novel.
Well, Daniel's novel hits the stores today and so we are excited to be able to interview him on his big day and tell all our followers about his life, his work and his new novel.

WW. Daniel, we know that many authors base their characters on themselves or people they know. We also know that you were at one time working as an e-commerce pioneer. Does your character, Charlie Giles share any other history with your own life?

DP. Charlie is an amalgam of my work experiences in start up environments. I met my wife in the midst of launching my second company. On our first vacation together, she observed how I glowed underwater, because I never saw the sun. Much like Charlie, I worked 24/7 trying to turn that start up vision into a reality.

WW. Can you give us any other insight as to where your literary ideas came from and how you built your characters for Delirious?

DP. I begin every novel with a “What If” question. For Delirious I asked myself: What if a successful technology entrepreneur, with a family history of schizophrenia, is suddenly and inexplicably stricken with the disease? I wanted to write a story that was part Rain Man (two brothers at polar opposites of the emotional spectrum) and part the great Christopher Nolan puzzler film, Memento. I knew how I wanted the novel to begin and end. From there, I was able to invent characters who would help me to tell the story. The character of Joe was probably the biggest challenge to write. I needed a character who would be the opposite of Charlie’s rigid ways and unemotional tendencies. I decided to make Joe schizophrenic, in part because of how it fit with my story, but also for the space it provided to create a conflicted relationship. It was extremely important to me that I conveyed schizophrenia accurately, without prejudice, but not being overly didactic. I received tremendous research assistance from members of my family who work in the mental health profession. Without their help, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to tell Joe’s story.
I modeled the character of Rachel, Joe’s cognitive therapist, after a relative who just happens to be a Harvard trained neuropsychologist. Lucky me!

WW. We know you are a serious musician and have done some recording. What is your first love… performing music or writing novels?

DP. I’ve been writing songs since I was ten, so I guess I’d have to say that’s my first love. I think of songwriting as just another form of storytelling. Often, the magic beans that go into making a song work are present in a compelling novel as well. A suspenseful story requires the right mix of tension, conflict, character development and stakes. I try to write songs that contain some (hopefully all) of those elements, albeit in a very condensed format. Neil Young’s classic song, Needle and the Damage Done, is a great example of this concept in action. The stakes in the song are high (life and death), the characters vividly portrayed, the conflict quite desperate, and the tension almost palpable. Add to that a pleading melody, memorable guitar line, and you’ve got a song that infuses itself into the fabric of our soul.
I love writing novels and songs with equal passion. My only wish is that I could write a novel in one sitting the way I can sometimes pull together a completed song.

WW. Can you tell us who was most instrumental in pointing you towards writing?

DP. I’ve always been a creative person and for years songwriting functioned perfectly well as my creative outlet. Then, after the dotcom wave crested, I wanted to capture the feelings of that time and began writing short fiction just for fun. One day, my father-in-law asked if he could read it aloud. Hearing somebody else read my words gave me an “ah-ha” moment. “That sounds like a real story,” I said to him. “I think I’m going to become a fiction writer.”

WW. Being the son of a writing father, can you tell us how much influence your father’s writing has had on you?

DP. Funny enough, although my father was a successful suspense writer, I never considered writing as a potential career. My brother was the big reader in the family and I was the dreamer. Then I got this crazy idea that I could write a book and sell it (yes, I needed the cash). My father kept telling me that it was a really really hard thing to do. Well, of course he was right. It was MUCH harder than I ever imagined. Not surprisingly, I couldn't sell my first attempt (or second, or third, or fourth . . .). But what I discovered in the process of draft after draft was how much I loved the act of writing and storytelling. So kept at it and a dozen years later sold a three book contract to Kensington Publishers.
When I shifted from writing romantic comedies to thrillers I became a real student of my father’s work. I analyzed what he did and how he did it. Now, my father and I talk all the time about our writing and the problems we are encountering. We live about fifty miles apart, and meet three or four times a week on iChat where he also gets to see his grandchildren. Nice for all of us!

WW. Other than your dad, if you were to pick up a book for your own personal entertainment, who would it be written by?

DP. I’m a huge fan of Stephen King. He’s a master storyteller and his ability to bring characters to life and make me feel what they’re feeling is simply remarkable. I consider King’s book, On Writing, one of the most influential I’ve ever read. As much as I love writing suspense fiction, I’m also a fan of the genre. So if it’s not King, I’m probably reading something by Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly, Lee Child, Sandra Brown, Harlan Coben, Lisa Jackson, Lisa Scottoline (and on and on. . .)

WW. Is there anything that you can tell us about novel #2 in your three-book deal?

DP. Certainly! My work in progress is currently titled HELPLESS. The novel explores the teen phenomenon of 'sexting' and its devastating consequences. The book asks the question: What if a high school soccer coach from a small New Hampshire town is falsely accused on the Internet of having sex with one of his players?
I worked for fifteen years as a software product manager. In that time, I learned how to translate complex software concepts into something a business person could easily understand. I want to continue to bring that perspective to my fiction writing and craft novels that explore the hidden dangers of common technologies. To paraphrase a passage of mine from Helpless, what we do online doesn’t have a shelf life, there’s no expiration date for our online behavior, and few of us know all the digital fingerprints we leave behind.

WW. We know that you are involved in the Red Sox Home Base program that helps to raise money for veterans suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. How did you get involved and why this particular program?

DP. I was helping my father promote his novel, The Last Surgeon. The main character of that novel, Nick Garrity, is an army surgeon suffering from PTSD. We talked about hosting a book release party that would also raise money for vets suffering from this condition. Timing being everything, the Red Sox had just announced the formation of the Home Base program. We met with the program directors and everyone agreed the benefit was a great idea. The event was a big success. We helped to raise over twenty-five thousand dollars for Home Base and have plans to do more events with them in the future.
WW. It seems that most writers have certain rituals they perform in order to sit down and write. Can you tell us if there are any writing rituals or crazy things you do to prepare yourself to write?

DP. I work from home and have two kids who don’t care that I’m in the middle of an exciting paragraph, or just about to finish a chapter. Time is one of the most precious commodities around my house. When it’s time to write, I need to open up that Word document and start typing away. No warms up allowed. No incense burning here. No time for anything crazy other than clearing my mind, freeing my thoughts, and putting down the words.

WW. What has been the most humbling moment on your road to being published and how did you handle it?

DP. Like most writers I know, I’ve experienced my fair share of rejection. I wrote four novels before I sold Delirious to Kensington Publishers. With each rejection I’d ask for specific feedback. I looked closely at their criticism, tried to stay objective, and asked myself—“do I agree?” I was surprised that there were many instances where the answer to that question was, yes. I believe it’s critical to have an open mind when evaluating feedback. There is more power in refusing to quit than there is in refusing to change. That said, to press onward you have to really ENJOY writing, and believe in yourself.

WW. How long did it take you to find an agent and publishing house after you completed Delirious, and what was your process?

DP. On a whim, I gave the manuscript for Delirious to my father’s agent, Meg Ruley, with the Jane Rotrosen Agency. I had no expectations that Meg would take me on as a client. When she called to say how much she enjoyed the book, I was as much delighted as I was surprised. From there, it was all Meg’s doing that brought me to Kensington. I feel truly blessed to be a part of such a dynamic and exciting publisher as Kensington. I’m really, really lucky in that regard.

WW. If you could pass along one gem of wisdom to aspiring writers, what would you say to them?

DP. Writers write. If rejection stops you from writing then it’s probably not the best fit professionally for you. It’s not always the most talented writers who are published, but it is often the most persistent. Again, I suggest that every aspiring writer read Stephen Kings’ magnificent ode to the craft, On Writing.

Thanks to Daniel for allowing us to do this interview. His new novel, Delirious, may be purchased at and his new music CD, Home Sweet Home, may be purchased at

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