Cyrus Webb: Hello everyone, and welcome back to Cyrus Webb Presents here in the beautiful city of Chicago, Illinois. I'm so excited to be sitting down with my friend, Dan Burns, today. This is a pretty big day for Dan because he's celebrating the release of his new book, Grace. We're going to be talking to Dan not only about the new book, but also about his love of storytelling, what it's been like for him to share that with all of you, and of course, let you guys know how to get your own copy of the book and stay connected with him. Dan, thank you so much for joining me. I really appreciate it.
Dan Burns: It's so great to see you. We've talked for so many years on the phone. To see you in person, it's quite a treat.
Cyrus Webb: Well, no, I thank you for the opportunity because you are—and I said this on a post on Facebook yesterday—you are such a gift for readers like myself because you're able to create these stories, Dan, that I think people are able to not only enjoy, but, like with "Grace," able to see themselves in. So what has it been like for you as a storyteller to do what you love and see the response from readers?
Dan Burns: It's an unbelievable opportunity to, every day, have fun and explore ideas, explore writing, and try different things. I think that's probably what I attempted to pursue the most with this book. You've read my other books, and they're all unique and different in their own way. With each new book, I try and make it better than the last one, but also need to try different approaches to storytelling. This was certainly the case with Grace. What I was really trying to explore was how to look at telling the story from different perspectives. Most of all my other stories and novels were told from the third person omniscient point of view, which is a very safe way to tell a story, but you can never really tell the true thoughts and feelings of a character because, how all-knowing can you be?
With the opening story, "Redemption," and two others in this collection, I took the first person perspective, and really dove into the mind of the character. It was enlightening and invigorating and exciting, and I was able to say things from the character's perspective that I don't think I've ever said before. And so, the stories came across much differently. I think readers are going to be surprised, excited, interested, and engaged just because of the difference in perspective.
Cyrus Webb: You mentioned a really good point here, Dan, because I will say this, and I finished the book on my trip to Chicago, and one thing that I will say about this book is that this book is us. I think that's maybe the connection people will feel, that they will see pieces of themselves in this collection. And, I think that's the gift that you've given us as a storyteller and with the first person narrative, because you allow us to see that we are more connected sometimes than we might think. What was that like for you to explore, as the stories came together, the fact that, here you are, creating these characters, but really are telling the stories of so many people?
Dan Burns: What I thought was most interesting was, as I was pulling the stories together for the collection, that they were all thematically connected. That wasn't intentional as I was writing each individual story, because I wrote them over several years at different periods of my life and from different perspectives. And so, when I read them, I saw that they were all thematically connected through a form of personal impact. You made a point that people will recognize themselves in these characters. I saw that myself.
It's magical when you write because you write a story, and then afterwards, all sorts of other things come to you that you didn't intend in getting across to the reader. And then when you get the reader perspective, which is subjective and enlightening, it's really fascinating. So, I'm looking forward to hearing how people react to the stories by seeing themselves in these characters. I think there's a lot to draw from these stories.
Cyrus Webb: There is. I think that's the great thing about being a storyteller, right? That you're able to present this to us, and then of course let the audience can see what they're able to connect with. You mentioned something about Grace that you've also been able to accomplish with your previous work, Dan. And that is to be able to draw from things over the years, through your own journey as a storyteller. What has it been like for you to look at your own growth, to look at where you were when you were creating these stories, and then look at where you are now?
Dan Burns: One of the stories, I wrote three years ago. And to reread it again, the first impression was, "Where did that come from? And who was I at that time?" I can then go back and recall where I was and where I'm at today, which is a very different place. But I don't change the stories, because all of my stories are defined as a point in time. It's the storytelling from my perspective at that point in time given my experience up until that time. The story marks a history for myself as a writer. And, with each new one, if I can make it a little bit better and approach it a little bit differently and make it more interesting, even better.
One of the things I'd like to mention: the last story, which is the title novella, "Grace," is a story that started as a poem. If I could just tell a quick story?
Cyrus Webb: Oh, definitely. Sure.
Dan Burns: I showed up at my office one morning, and I'm about to open the door of my office, and I look down the hall, and my neighbor is having difficulty getting his key into the lock. It seems he'd had a rough night. On the third attempt, the key hits the deadbolt key hole and he stumbles in to his apartment. I sat down at my desk and was working on a story from the day before, and I could not stop thinking about this guy. Where had he come from? What was he doing? And I figured you'd have some explaining to do. So, I sat down and wrote a poem that helped me explore what he was going through at that time.
And that started this snowball effect of ideas. It went from a poem, to a short story, to a stage play script, which I hope to see on a Chicago stage sometime soon, and into the novella that is in the book.
Cyrus Webb: Wow.
Dan Burns: So, when you ask about development as a writer and where stories come from, they can come from anywhere and they can grow organically over time. Sometimes an idea simply does not leave me alone, and I have to explore it further. And "Grace" in particular, when you made the comment that people will see themselves in these characters, there's a lot of characters in that novella. I think people will be able to identify with not only one, but many of the people, not only as themselves, but people they know, people in their family. I think it's just a glorious story that will make people laugh and maybe cry and-
Cyrus Webb: Yeah, definitely make them cry.
Dan Burns: Maybe shocked as well. The ending is quite interesting.
Cyrus Webb: Well, you brought up something I want to talk to you about. I mentioned before we began the segment, I wanted to talk to you about the association, pun intended, of individuals you've been able to surround yourself with that are also writers. But you said something just now that I definitely want to go back to, because this is something I didn't know about you and your work, that you don't change the stories. What I thought about when you said it, that the stories are almost like history, right? History is what it is. And we might like it or be able to add to it, but it is what it is. Is that a conscious decision you made to just say that, "This is what I wanted to write at that time, and I'm going to honor that time and honor those characters and where they were"?
Dan Burns: Absolutely. As I mentioned, the stories mark that history, that point in history, in my life. And I need to leave them be. I could go back and edit and change all the stories I've written. But there's so much more to work on, so many new ideas and stories to tell. So I'm going to leave them where they're at. And take it from there.
Cyrus Webb: For those who are just tuning in, and no matter on what platform you may be joining us, whether it's our TV program or through our web series and other platforms, you're watching Cyrus Webb Represents. I'm sitting down with my good friend, author Dan Burns, for our very first in-person conversation together. Dan has been a guest on the radio show, Conversations Live, several times. We're meeting for the first time here in Chicago to discuss his career and his brand new book, called Grace. We're going to be letting you all know how you can get your own copy of the book and stay connected with Dan as well.
So Dan, let's talk about this group that you've been able to form, because I think what's so interesting is that we need to have people around us to support us, who understand the process and what we go through. You've been able to do that with fellow authors as well. Why has that been so important for you?
Dan Burns: Being a writer is a very solitary endeavor, right? We lock ourselves in our room. We try to get the words down onto the page. And then when we're done, what do we do with it? Where do we go? I think it's very important that we have friends, fellow authors, family members, whoever, to talk with about our writing and our stories. When we saw each other yesterday at the Chicago Writers Association event, this is a group—I'm on the board—that's the largest writers' association in the Midwest. We have close to 1,000 members across the country. But the most important part of it is that it is a group of people that has the ability to get together and share their experiences in a variety of ways, whether it's in person, at events, education events, online, however. It's critically important.
Let me share a recent experience I had with the new book. My biggest concern was that the book be perfect when it gets out. So, editing is tremendously important as part of the publishing process. Once it was ready to go to print, I asked my fellow Chicago Writers Association friends if they would be interested in being advance readers. And twenty people immediately responded within an hour.
I took everyone up on it, and they all spent the time to read the book and share their personal comments about how to make it better. Not how to change it, not a critique, but how to make it better for publication.
Where do you get that kind of support and interaction when you're a writer sitting in your office? You can't get that. So thank you again to all of my friends at Chicago Writers Association who helped make the book perfect. I am indebted to you.
If you're a writer and you're looking for support and inspiration and fellowship, you might consider joining us at the Chicago Writers' Association. Our website is chicagowrites.org.
Cyrus Webb: All right. And we'll make sure that we link that up at the end as well.
Dan Burns: Awesome. Thank you.
Cyrus Webb: Dan, I want to go to something else about that, because one thing at the event that I attended yesterday, again, something I was afraid to say I was going to be able to attend because I didn't know if I was going to be able to make it. But I was so glad because I sat in the very back and it was so interesting to watch people of different ages come together, to come together to support the written word. I think that is one of the beautiful things about what books are able to do. How does it feel to know that you've been able to find people around this country who appreciate what you've been able to put on paper?
Dan Burns: It's unbelievable. It's hard to put it into words. Often, as a writer, you write for yourself, to get the words down onto the page and prevent yourself from going nuts. The ideas are there and you have to get them down. But to think that someone else—whether it's one person or a thousand, whether they're in Chicago or California or New York—is interested in reading my book and then taking the time to get back to me and share their perspective and thoughts and ideas, it's incredible. It's humbling. I appreciate every single one of the readers that plunks down their hard-earned money to read my books, because it means everything. It means the world to me.
I mentioned before, and it's worth mentioning again, that reading is a subjective activity, right? These are just stories, words on the page, flat characters. But each individual reader will interpret the story his own way.
Cyrus Webb: Yeah. This is true.
Dan Burns: To hear that feedback of how a story impacted somebody, and what it meant to that person, is incredibly enlightening. It makes me think about, "Was that my intention?" Or, "Maybe there was something stuck in my subconscious that I wasn't even thinking of that I snuck in there and that person caught it." Anyway, it's incredible, the relationship between writer and reader.
Cyrus Webb: Everyone, Dan Burns has been our guest. Grace is his new book. A great title. You guys will definitely enjoy the novella as well as the short stories included in this book. It's available through our friends at Amazon.com, of course. Dan, how can our audience stay connected with you?
Dan Burns: Check out my website at www.danburnsauthor.com, and feel free to like my Facebook page—Dan Burns Author—to keep up on all the activities and exciting things that are coming up. I realize a lot of people love the print book, which is available in hard cover and soft cover. It's also available as an E-book.
And, for you audio book lovers, it's coming out Tuesday, and it's narrated by Mark Bramhall, who is just fantastic. If you love the audiobook, and I'll say, even if you don't, or haven't tried it, what a great companion to the book to hear Mark bring these characters alive. He is an award-winning narrator, an actor by trade, and he really brings these stories to life. What a great experience.
Cyrus Webb: Something to look forward to. And make sure you guys do check out chicagowrites.org as well, to be able to stay connected with the association.
Dan, thank you so much for this enlightening discussion.
Dan Burns: Thanks so much. Great to see you.
Cyrus Webb: Really appreciate this. And we thank you, our audience, for tuning in to this edition of Cyrus Webb Presents.