Thursday, December 3, 2015

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Dan Buri

An interview with Dan Buri, author of Pieces Like Pottery.

   

Hi! Welcome to Zigzag Timeline. Can you tell us about your background as an author?

First off, thank you for hosting me on your site, Mary. You have a wonderful blog! This is a great place for us all to indulge in our shared love of reading and writing, isn’t it? Thank you for your excellent content. I am grateful to be here and hopefully I have the opportunity to get to know your audience better. I would love your feedback and your reader’s feedback on my new book. I would be grateful if you got it and provided your insight.

I grew up in the Midwest in the States with four brothers and one sister. I moved out to the beautiful Pacific Northwest a little over ten years ago. I am a patent attorney with an engineering background, which is what I spend my days doing when I am not writing. I have a beautiful wife and amazing two-year-old daughter who cracks me up daily.


What got you into writing?

I can remember writing as far back as middle school. Its something I have always enjoyed doing. I can recall writing stories and poems when I was just 5 or 6 years old. Outside of my fiction works, I have contributed to a wide variety of blogs and publications over the yearssports, law, marriage, business. Writing has been something I have always enjoyed doing myself and admired in other people. Story telling is a beautiful gift. I love learning to hone the craft.


What was the first idea you had for your book, and how did the story grow from there?

Great question. I am moved and inspired by people’s real life stories of overcoming tragedy. Every person has trials in life. Life always presents obstacles and disappointments. I wanted to examine how individuals overcome these obstacles in a variety of characters. I toyed with the idea of each of these stories being its own novel, and I still may expand a couple of them into full length novels, but I settled in on a collection of linked short stories because it presented the opportunity to have a range of characters and to display that, despite how different our life experiences are, we are all connected as human beings. We all suffer and laugh just the same. My hope is that readers recognize that and are inspired or moved to compassion through the book. Utilizing the thematic framework of each of the five sorrowful mysteries was simply a way to communicate that suffering and redemption.

Among your characters, who's your favorite? Could you please describe him/her?

I really enjoy Mr. Smith, the teacher from Expect Dragons, (one of the stories in Pieces Like Pottery). He also pops up in a few other stories throughout the book, but those are little hidden clues for the reader to find. I think many of us have had inspirational teachers and mentors in our lives. It is so important to have these people during key moments in our development as young people. I have had some amazing teachers and mentors in my lifetime. Both of my parents are teachers, as well as my sister and my sister-in-law. Teachers give us so much of themselves and as a society, at least here in the States, we tend to give them so little back. It’s really sad. Mr. Smith is an inspirational character and I enjoy hearing his thoughts on life.

What's your favorite scene from your novel? Could you please describe it?

I really enjoy the scene in Expect Dragons when James has learned that his old teacher who had a profound impact on his life is dying. James looks through notes he had from his teacher’s class and finds an old handout. I really enjoy this scene. Here’s the excerpt:

Between the two notebooks was a sheet of paper. At the top it read: “40 Tips for College and Life.” On the last week of high school, Mr. Smith handed out his college advice, the same college advice I was now holding. I sat and read through each of them.

            40 Tips for College and Life

1.     Life's too short to not seize the opportunities with which we are presented. Always take the chance to do what you love when it comes along.
2.     Question authority. 
3.     Question those who question authority.
4.     Don’t be afraid to see dinosaurs even when everyone else around you doesn’t.
5.     Be kind. Kindness can change things far beyond your wildest dreams. They say that absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it's kindness that makes the heart grow softer.
6.     Walk barefoot through grass.
7.     Be quick to show compassion and empathy.
8.     Don’t dress like a bum all day long.
9.     Have a routine, but avoid being routine.
10.  Smile.
11.  We are all intelligent, thoughtful individuals. Don't let others tell you something has to be that way. It doesn't. The world is far too complex for it to have to be that way.
12.  Be conscious of the present. Time is your most valuable asset.
13.  It’s easy to doubt. Don’t be easy. Hold on to faith and hope.
14.  Love a little more. You can always love more.
15.  Don’t jump at the first chance to go out. There will always be another party. It’s college.
16.  Live with purpose.
17.  Not everything you do has to have a purpose. Folly can be quite satisfying.
18.  Don’t act like you know more than you actually do. There’s no shame in admitting you don’t know the answer.
19.  Remember that the things you do know are of value. Don’t act like you know less than you do. Share your knowledge.
20.  Don’t spend each day only staring at a screen. Put down your phone. Close your laptop. Turn off your TV. 
21.  Share laughter. There's far too much that's funny out there to take yourself too seriously. 
22.  Share tears. There's far too much pain and hurt out there not to take others’ struggles seriously.
23.  Enjoy music.
24.  Remember to get lost in your mind from time to time. 
25.  Breathe slowly.
26.  Don’t be afraid to be alone. Everyone knows: “Not all who wander are lost.” Few realize: Not all who are alone are lonely.
27.  Take in the beauty of nature. Look around you. Don’t take it for granted.
28.  Take in the beauty of mankind. Look around you and see how wonderful your neighbor can be.
29.  Dance in the rain.
30.  There will come a time in college, and in life, when you are presented with decisions that compromise your values. Know how you will respond to those times before they ever happen.
31.  Have resolve.
32.  Share excitement when you’re excited. People that hold that against you are most likely projecting their own feelings of inadequacy.
33.  Remember to read, and something more than a blog. Pick up a book from time to time.
34.  There is only one you.
35.  Laugh hard, kiss softly, disparage slowly, and forgive quickly.  
36.  Eat fully, drink deeply, and always remember to give often.
37.  Decide what you believe, know who you are and live accordingly. Don't apologize to anyone for that.
38.  But if you realize later on that you were wrong, admit it. Ask forgiveness.
39.  Maya Angelou has a great quote: "If I'd known better, I'd have done better." We can only do the best we know how, but there's no excuse for not striving to attain the know-how. And there's certainly no excuse for not doing better once we have it.
40.  Expect Dragons.
         
I stared at the list thinking about how influential Mr. Smith was in my life. At a time late in my high school career when I felt lost and alone, he inspired me to believe life was full of wonder and hope. Now, just two hours before, I found out he was dying. I placed the list back into its box and slid into the front seat of my borrowed car. It was 4:25 in the afternoon and I eased the car onto the I-84 heading east, on my way to say goodbye to my beloved teacher one last time.

What's your favorite part of writing? Plotting? Describing scenes? Dialogue?

Tough question. I think we, as humans, are communicative beings. We’re all longing to be understood. As a writer, I love trying to capture very real aspects of human emotion and the human condition and inviting readers to experience that with me in my writing. Oddly enough, I was actually asked to write a blog on “Why We Write” recently. To steal from the article I wrote: “We want to see and be seen; we want to understand and be understood. We write to preserve a memory, to sustain a thought. Without it, we fear we will become forgotten.”

That’s what I love about being a writer.

Do you have a writing process, or do you wing it?

I typically have an idea or framework for a story before I begin. I also keep a journal of notes and ideas that strike me throughout the day. We all have what an old teacher of mine liked to call pristine moments of coherencethose moments when an idea strikes us so profoundly and clearly. I dont want to lose those thoughts when I have them, so I try to write them down. Once I have the framework and I am writing the story, then I will let it develop where it wants to go. As I am writing, I will pull concepts from my journals or other notebooks. In one of the stories in Pieces Like Pottery, the ending I had planned just didnt work. It felt dishonest to take the reader on the journey and then finish with the original ending. I just knew the reader would feel betrayed, so I had to rework it completely. So sometimes the original plan just doesnt work and the story unfolds on its own.

Are there any books or writers that have had particular influence on you?

Sure. I could name about a hundred. Some others I love, in no particular order: Gertrude Warner, Dr. Seuss, C.S. Lewis, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Charles Dickens, John Grisham, Shell Silverstein, Malcolm Gladwell, John Buri, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cormac McCarthy, Bill Bryson and Mark Twain…to name a few.
If I was forced to choose just one book, I would have to say The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. I have read it a half dozen times or so, but the first time I read it was with my mother. I think I fell in love with storytelling hearing my mother read this book to me. It’s a beautiful fable. I can recall lying up at night before bed as she made the world of C.S. Lewis a reality for me.

Thanks for stopping by!

Thank you, Mary! I have appreciated this opportunity to spend some time with you and your readers. I loved it! You have a wonderful site. I really do hope you and some of your readers will check out my book. I need the support of thoughtful and intelligent readers like yours. The life of an indie author is not easy and I appreciate all the support I can get. And if your readers have questions or comments, please contact me. I would love to hear from you. You can reach me via email at danburi777 [at] gmail [dot] com or on twitter @DanBuri777. Thanks!

Author Bio
Dan Buri's first collection of short fiction, Pieces Like Pottery, is an exploration of heartbreak and redemption that announces the arrival of a new American author. His writing is uniquely heartfelt and explores the depths of the human struggle and the human search for meaning in life. 

Mr. Buri's non-fiction works have been distributed online and in print, including publications in Pundit Press, Tree, Summit Avenue Review, American Discovery, and TC Huddle. The defunct and very well regarded Buris On The Couch, was a He-Says/She-Says blog musing on the ups and downs of marriage with his wife.

Mr. Buri is an active attorney in the Pacific Northwest and has been recognized by Intellectual Asset Magazine as one of the World's Top 300 Intellectual Property Strategists every year since 2010. He lives in Oregon with his wife and two-year-old daughter.

Pieces Like Pottery Links
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