Bard of the Dispossessed
An interview with Dan McNay
An author who writes with a wand. His complex characters, evocative settings, elaborate plots, and very human situations, come together to make spell-binding books. We got in touch with Dan McNay to find out more about his background, what drives him to write, his influences and his ambitions.
TBF: You have set your novels in very different parts of the USA, from Los Angeles to New Orleans. Have you moved around the country yourself?
DM: Yep, Indiana to Utah and back, then New Orleans and Monterey and San Francisco and then Tucson and LA. I stopped in LA for the last forty years but still went on adventures.
TBF: Your characters often inhabit the margins of mainstream society. Is it important to you to give voice to the less represented?
DM: I’m part of the great unwashed world. I grew up working in restaurants and then other manual labour jobs. Kerouac’s and Sherwood Anderson’s books spoke to me. As did Steinbeck’s. And Zola’s.
TBF: The settings of your novels often depict a no way out, catch-22 unfair system, and an unforgiving world, yet your characters follow their dreams and don’t act defeated, opening seemingly closed-off situations up to the unexpected. To what extent do you plot your stories to give readers a sense of hope?
DM: There’s always hope and beauty. I can’t imagine a world any other way.
TBF: When did you start writing and why?
DM: My friend and I started writing and drawing our own superhero comic books at about eleven. At fifteen I wrote a short story, a sort of rip-off of a Sherwood Anderson story in Winesburg, Ohio, that my teachers thought was genius.
TBF: You are a musician too. Would you consider yourself more of a writer or a musician?
DM: I came late to the music. Picked up the banjo at fifty. The music made something out of my poetry that otherwise no one had wanted. I’ll be writing till they come and take me away.
TBF: What do the process of writing a song and writing a novel have in common, if anything, in your experience?
DM: I see the scene in my head for both. There are breathing characters in both, and a three act structure.
TBF: How much of an autobiographical element do you include in your writing?
DM: I dig into my life for the emotional stuff that drives the characters.
TBF: You’ve worked in many different roles in your life, from running a cemetery to being a purchaser of technical equipment for a college. Which of these roles have you been happiest in?
DM: I loved making the trains run on time at USC and then the wheeling and dealing of the purchasing world. I was really good at both.
TBF: Do you involve people around you in the writing process? Do you submit your ideas to friends for feedback? Or is it a solitary endeavour?
DM: I’ve been workshopping my writing since high school. I subject folks to first drafts as well as second drafts.
TBF: What are you reading at the moment?
DM: I got my annual book fix from my kids for Christmas: Life On The Mississippi by Rinker Buck; Navigators Forging a Matriarchal Culture in Polynesia by Fata Ariu Levi; Marion in The Golden Age by Judith Rosbe; Elgin Farm by David Lear, who is a friend; The Lost Upland by W.S. Merwin; and The Letters of Ernest Hemingway.
TBF: Do you have a particular readership in mind when you write?
DM: I want readers that love Faulkner and Hemingway and Steinbeck. I have first edition collections of John Gardner, Sherwood Anderson and Jim Harrison on my bookshelf.
For links to all of Dan’s books, available on Kindle, FREE with Kindle Unlimited, in paperback, click here. The links should take you to the amazon store in your national location.