I recently had the opportunity to read and review Dan Berne’s book The Gods of Second Chances. Dan has graciously agreed to do a Q&A with me about his book. Thanks so much to Dan for his thoughtful answers. I also invite you to read a synopsis and my review of his book, which I highly recommend you put on your TBR pile.
Q&A with Dan Berne:
1. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you became a writer?
I’ve written stories since I was ten years old. I was the introvert in a family of seven kids in a relatively small house (our shared bedroom was wall –bed – bed – bed – wall). Reading books was my escape. In college and beyond, I focused on poetry, but turned to fiction and novel writing when I was forty. In poetry, every word and line break has to mean something, and you have a few lines to evoke a response from the reader. In the novel form, I loved being able to work with the arc of the story and the unfolding of characters.
2. What, in particular, drew you to Alaska and made you decide to use that setting for the book?
I had been up to Alaska kayaking and hiking. I knew that I wanted my protagonist to be a working class guy, and I was drawn to the life that I saw up there. The landscape is so compelling and really is almost a character in itself.
3. Where did you get the notion to have Ray surround himself with different gods from different religions?
Comparative religion always fascinated me. I read Joseph Campbell’s The Masks of God when I was in college, and as a writer, it struck me how many common themes come across in so many different religions. And probably most compelling was that a professor I had in college told me, “There are only three questions you need to ask yourself: What is life? What is the death? Who are the gods?” That always stayed with me.
4. What is the best book you have read so far this year that you would recommend to my readers?
I really loved All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. It is so rich in character and imagery, but with a strong and compelling story that just pulls you forward.
5. What is the next book or writing project you are working on?
The next book takes place in eastern Oregon (also a compelling landscape) in the late 1930’s. My protagonist is a sixteen-year-old girl from Ohio who gets married off to a thirty-one-year old rancher. She has a very romantic, “Lewis and Clark” view of what life in Oregon is like, and will have to deal with some very harsh realities.
Family means everything to widowed Alaskan fisherman Ray Bancroft, raising his granddaughter while battling storms, invasive species, and lawsuit happy tourists. To navigate, and to catch enough crab to feed her college fund, Ray seeks help from a multitude of gods and goddesses – not to mention ad-libbed rituals performed at sea by his half-Tlingit best friend.
But kitchen counter statues and otter bone ceremonies aren’t enough when his estranged daughter returns from prison, swearing she’s clean and sober. Her search for a safe harbor threatens everything Ray holds sacred.
Set against a backdrop of ice and mud and loss, this debut novel explores the unpredictable fissures of memory, and how families can break apart, even in the midst of healing.
Click here to read my full review of THE GODS OF SECOND CHANCES.