Many years ago, I had the opportunity to read an early draft of Chris Jane’s The Year of Dan Palace, and it is releasing on November 22! If you like mainstream fiction for grownups (as opposed to the sheer commercial lowbrow stuff I write), you’ll want to check this one out. Chris agreed to stop by for a quick interview about the book. Read on, Dear Friends!
Q: The Year of Dan Palace is about a man who changes his life in response to an end-of-the-world prophecy. Where does that idea come from?
1. I’m afraid of dying. Not death, but dying. When TV characters have their throats slit, I think about the people who, in real life, have their throats slit and who are conscious in those final seconds as the blood pours from their necks. They know there’s nothing they can do (you just can’t tourniquet a neck) and that they’re about to die. It has to be pretty damn terrible. But as much as I love living and fear dying …
2. I think a lot of us, myself included, are pretty confident we’re not going to die anytime soon, and as a result, I think a lot of us take our days, our living, for granted. We’ll do things “someday,” always someday. It takes fear of death (or cheating it) to motivate a lot of people – including Dan Palace.
3. It’s a challenge to live fully and passionately, but even more challenging to do it for any length of time.
I thought it would be interesting to explore all that.
Q: What makes it challenging for Dan?
Aside from our natural human tendency to become desensitized to just about anything, Dan’s greatest challenge is that one of the objects of his new-life desire isn’t necessarily a willing participant. His ex-wife has hated him for almost a decade, since their wedding night. The two haven’t seen each other in nine years, and he decides to make a sudden appearance in her life. It’s an awkward situation.
Q: So it’s about a guy who, fearing death, chases after a woman?
That’s the surface action, yes. I love a good chase. Under the surface, though, it’s about the complicated idea of “searching for happiness” and the unexpected pressures and consequences of living life to its fantasy fullest. Woven into that are a few themes: the indelible impact childhood has on our adult selves – including the relationships we maintain or destroy and how we navigate our grown-up lives; ideal vs. real love; and forgiveness (granted and not).
Q: What are your thoughts about injecting symbolism into fiction?
I’m fine with the existence of symbolism in fiction, but I would be uncomfortable making a conscious effort to include it. Maybe it’s an acquired skill to do it in a way that wouldn’t make it come across as contrived, and maybe I don’t have that skill. Or maybe I would just feel like it was contrived because I would know what I’d done. I remember reading Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Browne” as a college student and being annoyed by the symbolism overkill. I never wanted to be guilty of that.
I do think symbolism that happens to show up can be interesting. I haven’t decided whether suddenly-there symbolism is dumb luck or something working on a subconscious level, but colors seemed to work their way into Dan Palace, and they did it in a way that was consistent and, when considered for their known symbolic attributes, appropriate.
Q: There are a couple of potentially controversial subjects in The Year of Dan Palace. Does that concern you?
Almost everything is potentially controversial. People can create comment threads 100-posts long in an argument over white bread. They’ll even find a way to make the white bread somehow political.
In short, no, I’m not concerned. Chances are people will get less excited about anything I cover in Dan Palace than they will about how to make tzatziki.
Chris Jane bio: (website: http://chrisjane.net)
Chris Jane is a fiction and freelance writer living in New England. Early work involved going door to door and offering to take out the neighbors’ trash for a nickel a bag. A great gig for a 6-year-old entrepreneur at a time when most opportunities for child workers had been criminalized by busybody grown-ups.
The Year of Dan Palace synopsis (paperback and Kindle release date: Nov. 22, 2014):
Dan Palace has always played it safe. He chose the safe job. Married a safe woman. Rarely travels far from home. But something is missing – until a man named Tucker Farling delivers a doomsday prediction that changes his life.
In the final minutes before the New Year, Dan musters the courage he desperately needs to embark on a quest to find that missing “something”: the sense of adventure and true magic he remembers from his youth, along with the love of his ex-wife, who has hated him since their wedding night nine years before.
When things don’t go as planned, Dan finds himself on an unexpected road trip with a young hotel worker and her possessive boyfriend. Together, they experience some of the surprising consequences of living life to its passionate fullest – as do the people they love.
Kindle pre-order link ($0.99 until it releases on Nov. 22. Reg. price: $6.99): http://www.amazon.com/Year-Dan-Palace-Chris-Jane-ebook/dp/B00OFC8HAO
“I could not stop reading this. This is some of the finest shit I have read in a while. It had the same feel to me that the movie Closer did.” – Cheryl Anne Gardner, author of The Kissing Room and head fiction editor at Apocrypha and Abstractions Literary Journal
“Honest, original and impossible to put down. A wholly distinctive narrative voice.” – Joseph Dilworth Jr., Pop Culture Zoo
“At turns funny, smart, painful, and most of all, honest. This is a writer who doesn’t pull punches, who shows us sides of a character it might be easier to turn away from.” – Reggie Lutz, author of Haunted