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GRACE Book Release Interview with Cyrus Web Presents – October 25, 2019


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.

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"We're all flawed and confronted daily with sometimes slight but often apparently insurmountable challenges. But if we dig deep, what we unearth from the depths of our souls, if we're lucky, can allow us to overcome and carry on to live another day with an untortured heart."

This is the sentiment Dan Burns explores in his exciting new collection. Five stories and a novella highlight Burns's range as a storyteller and his ability to see life and all its emotions through a unique lens. This collection features his most personal and insightful stories to date.

Redemption—In a quiet Montana town, an aging writer and his nephew are forced to weave the past and the present into a future of more significant meaning.

The Plight of Maximus Octavius Reinhold—In the new story featuring private investigator Sebastian Drake (from the novel A Fine Line), the local patrons of a rural Wisconsin town test Drake's resolve as he stares into the barrel of a .44 Magnum revolver.

Hardwired—A dying man contemplates the end of his life while hoping to pass along a secret legacy to his family.


Adrift at Sea—To fuel his creative desires, a seabound journeyman leaves behind the anchor of distraction in pursuit of a natural world.

The Final Countdown—In the year 2110, the Earth struggles to survive, ravaged by overpopulation and greed. Food is scarce, and the youth-run government has no choice but to implement a plan devised decades earlier: deport the elderly population to a remote outpost—on the moon.

Grace: A Novella—A story of impaired love, betrayal, and redemption as realized by characters who experience life through the perception of liquor-bottle glasses. Life is never what it seems. Everyone has secrets. The question is whether the skeleton key of alcohol will open the closet door and let out the hidden truths.


The collection includes notes about the thoughts, ideas, and inspiration behind the stories, offering an exclusive behind-the-scenes perspective of the author's writing process, along with twenty-six illustrations by artist Kelly Maryanski. 


Hardcover First Edition (October 25, 2019), 292 pages, Signed by the author
Retail: $26.95  Only $20.00


Trade Paperback First Edition (October 25, 2019), 292 pages, Signed by the author

Retail: $18.95  Only $15.00


CLICK HERE to order your signed copy today!


Also available in the following editions:


Audiobook (October 29, 2019), Narrated by Mark Bramhall

Available at Audible.com, Amazon.com, and Apple iTunes


E-book (October 25, 2019)

Only $5.99, Available wherever E-books are sold.

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Dan Burns Author Interview With Chicago Writers Association

Behind the Pen: Meet CWA Board Member Dan Burns
Interview by Meryl D'Sa


How much time do you spend researching, planning, or world-building before you begin writing?
The amount of time I spend researching and world-building depends on the story idea, and that effort typically comes after I've flushed out and written the first draft of the story.
I get a lot of ideas for stories, which I think about often and let germinate in my conscious and subconscious mind. The idea that will not leave me alone, that nags at me, is the story I must write, and it's crucial that I sit down and write the story while the idea is fresh in my mind. Then, I can go back and develop it further with details from my research.
Planning is different, especially for longer projects like a screenplay or a novel. I've always had a fear of spending months or even years on a project only then to realize that the story isn't good. I'll typically work on a story idea first in a shorter form, like a poem or short story. Afterward, if I still like to idea, then I'll develop it into a longer form. And those longer-form projects typically start with an outline. Minimally, I need to know the opening scene of the story and the ending, and with those key elements and place, I can create the critical scenes for getting from the beginning to the end.
I must get the words down onto the page so that I have something to refine and edit. I try not to let any non-writing activities get in the way. I can always improve the story after it's written, but without the story—even in its original draft version–I run the risk of losing the idea forever, which would be unfortunate.
As a writer, what inspires you daily to continue writing? Have your inspirations changed over the years, or are they the same?
I write because I must, to extract the stories from my brain and fend off the otherwise resulting madness (sorry, I had to use that line, which I pulled from a recent story I wrote). But really, if I don't write, I'm not a writer, and if I'm not a writer, then what am I?
Inspiration for a story can come from anywhere—a book I read, a news story, an experience, a memory, or an interaction with another person. I'll take inspiration however I can get it. Let me share an example:
For over ten years, I've rented a small office above a restaurant that overlooks the downtown main street in La Grange, Illinois, where I live. I'm a disciplined writer except when I'm home, so I need the distance and solitude my office provides to get my work completed. I arrived at my office one morning and was about to unlock the door when I noticed my neighbor down the hall having difficulty opening his apartment door. It appeared he'd had a rough night and was struggling to get his key into the deadbolt. He was successful on his third attempt and staggered into his apartment. I figured he'd have some explaining to do. As I sat at my desk trying to finish the story I'd been working on the day before, I couldn't stop thinking about my neighbor and his predicament. Where had he come from? Why was he drunk at eight o'clock in the morning? What did his wife say? What was his explanation? The encounter intrigued me, so I switched gears and started to write a poem that I hoped would provide some answers. Later that morning, I had completed the poem, "Grace."
I read the poem, and it piqued my curiosity. But I felt I'd created more questions than I'd answered. I couldn't stop thinking about the couple in the poem. I couldn't stop thinking about him. I thought about him walking out on his wife at the end of the poem and wondered where he went. I needed to find out. I needed to understand how his story continued and ended.
His story evolved into a short story, a stage play, and the novella included in my forthcoming book, Grace: Stories and a Novella. That's an inspiration!
What literary resources do you work best with and why?
Writing, like any career, requires continuous learning. I have an extensive library of writing-related books and resources to help guide my path and help me improve my writing. As Stephen King says, "If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write." So, I read a lot—fiction, non-fiction, how-to, poetry, essays—whatever I need, or that interests, me on a given day.
The Chicago Manual of Style is an indispensable reference book that is always by my side as I'm writing. I also use the online tools Grammarly and ProWritingAid to help me improve my writing after I've drafted a story. Also, the "Resources" page on our CWA website (https://www.chicagowrites.org/resources) is an invaluable collection of resources for any writer.
What do you think are the most important elements that make good writing?
I think the essential element for good writing is honesty—the writer being true to the story and the way it was meant to be told.
For most of my past writing, I've gone out of my way not to fall back on vulgarity as a crutch to make dialogue or exposition sound better.
When I was writing the stage play for Grace, the character Kenny Santorini just "walked in" later in the story. His unplanned entry came from some dark place, but upon my introduction to him, I was intrigued, and when he started to talk, I knew he had to stay. But I didn't have the ending. After letting the story simmer in my subconscious mind for a few days, I returned to my office one afternoon and pounded out the final scene in a two-hour frenzied burst of writing. It was crazy—the words flowed out of me as though I were taking part in an exorcism. And when I reread the scene, I thought: What the hell was that? Kenny had talked, in his way, and I felt his dialogue might come across a little heavy-handed. But after much consideration, I realized that he's a real person. I know people like him, who talk like him. You likely do too. I thought about rewriting the scene, to make it less vulgar, but felt I'd be a dishonest writer if I cleaned up Kenny's language. So, Kenny and his language stayed, as written, and I love it!
What genre do you write in? Do you explore other genres?
I try not to let genre paint me into a corner. The story dictates genre, form, and style, and I need to explore and push the boundaries of what I am most comfortable writing.
I've written two collections of short stories reflecting an eccentric and diverse range of genres. I've also written a dramatic novel and a mystery novel. I love to write poetry and have completed a manuscript for a collection I hope to publish next year.
The options and approaches for writing stories are endless, and I want to explore them all!
What is your role within the Chicago Writers Association? What special projects have you worked on? What is your favorite moment of being a CWA board member so far?
I am a board member and the treasurer for the Chicago Writers Association. I'm also the program coordinator for Windy City Reviews, the volunteer-run and free book review service of the Chicago Writers Association. Do you have a recently published book or one coming soon? If so, send us your query (submission details at http://windycityreviews.org/submissions/). At Windy City Reviews, our goal is to provide authors of all genres and areas of specialization an opportunity for increased exposure, valuable feedback, and deserved recognition.
I experienced my favorite and proudest moment last year, when we celebrated our tenth anniversary as an organization. We had come so far, and yet our next ten-year journey is just beginning. The best is yet to come!
What advice would you give to any new aspiring writer? What do you want them to know that you wish you had known when you began your journey?
My advice to any aspiring writer is simply this: write! Many people talk about wanting to be a writer, and the effort stops there–with only talk. Differentiate yourself from all the rest by getting the words down onto the page. Only then are you a writer. Go even further and publish your book and differentiate yourself even more
Since I have a few lines left, I'll also suggest that a writer work on several projects at the same time—novel, short story, essay, blog entry, poem, etc.—which is the perfect cure for writer's block. If you get stuck on one project, set it aside, and work on something else. You'll be surprised at how many writing projects you'll complete in a given year without a pause.
I also think a writer must understand that writing is a business, and you cannot have a successful business with only one product. Is think I knew this when I began my writing career, but it became more evident after the publication of my first book, particularly when friends, family members, and readers asked, "When's the next book coming?" So, on any given day, I'm marketing, publicizing, and selling my last book, writing the current one, and planning for the next one.
About Dan Burns
Dan Burns's new story collection, Grace: Stories and a Novella, is available for pre-order and will be released October 25, 2019. His previously-published books include the novels A Fine Line and Recalled to Life and the short story collection No Turning Back: Stories. He is also an award-winning writer of stories for the screen and stage. He resides with his family in Illinois and enjoys spending time in Wisconsin and Montana, where he stalks endless rivers in pursuit of trout and a career as a fly fisherman.
Dan is a board member and the treasurer of the Chicago Writers Association and oversees the book review program, Windy City Reviews.
For more information, please visit www.danburnsauthor.com.

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