Tuesday, October 25, 2011

NAWS: Interview with Dan Haring

I’m so excited and honored to have my awesome Twitter buddy Dan Haring with us today! Dan has a cool blog that I would definitely encourage you to visit. Also, if you would like to follow him on Twitter, you can do that here. And you should. Seriously. :)

A bit about Dan (in his own words):

“I’m a visual effects/animation artist currently working at Sony. I love drawing and animating, but I also love writing. My debut Young Adult novel, Oldsoul, comes out April 2012. I also just signed with Kathleen Ortiz of the Nancy Coffey agency, and am working on a secret Middle Grade project. I love my family, comic books (especially Batman), cartoons, music and lots of other stuff.” (link)

Q and A:

First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself? What do you like to do for fun when you aren’t writing?
I'm originally from a very small farming town in Utah called Goshen, which has a population of about 900 people. I studied animation at BYU, then about five years ago moved to Southern California when I got my first animation job, I've been married for almost nine years, and have two boys and two girls. I love tons of stuff. Reading, watching movies, listening to music, sports, spending time outdoors. I love creating things whenever I can. But mostly I just enjoy spending time with my family.  Oh, and Batman is rad.

What inspired you to start writing? Was it always a dream? Or did a certain event get you going?
I've always loved reading and writing. I always enjoyed English class and hated math class. (I'm a firm believer that math should only involve numbers, not letters.) I wrote tons of rather emo poetry through high school and college, but other than a few creative writing classes and book reports, not very much prose. I'd started a few screenplays but hadn't really gotten very far. One night I was avoiding working on an animated short film, and for some reason I just started writing. I wrote the first chapter of OLDSOUL that night, without really knowing what I was getting into or where it was heading. I liked how it turned out though, and over the next little while I fleshed out the idea and just started writing.

Do you have a particular writing routine? A way to get yourself focused?
Not really. I wish I had a specific time and schedule to sit down and write. But with work and family, it's hard to set aside chunks of time. I usually end up writing late at night, so it's more a problem of staying awake than getting focused. I tend to listen to music while I write, but it has to be something I'm familiar with. New music is too distracting.

What would you say is the hardest aspect of writing?
Sitting down to write. Any given day there are many things that can get in the way of having the time to sit and write. But even when I have the time, it's getting myself to sit in the chair, crack open the laptop, and actually write. It's pretty silly, and I found myself doing it a lot on OLDSOUL, but I would get stuck on a story point, or be trying to figure out the best way for a scene to go, and I'd spend weeks sometimes trying to fix the problem in my head. But the majority of the time when I'd make myself sit down and write, I'd be able to write through whatever problem I was having. It would just kind of come out. So hopefully I learned my lesson for future projects.

I know you do animation work for Disney (one of those projects being the awesome movie TANGLED!!) Has this creative knowledge fed into your desire to write your own stories?
I'm glad you liked TANGLED! It's my favorite of the projects I've been able to work on. I've always loved animation, and I love doing it for a living. I've been lucky enough to work on some films I loved, but some I really didn't care for because the story was a letdown. To me that's a big source of frustration, because I can be proud of the work I did, but be disappointed in the movie.  So I've always had the drive to create my own things. I've definitely learned a lot about storytelling because of my film work, and as much as I've studied storytelling for the past ten years, it was a natural progression to want to tell my own stories.

The process of finding your agent was a very unique one. Can you tell us a bit about it?
It was really out of the blue actually. Before I began the query process I started following a bunch of literary agents on Twitter, because a lot of them give some really good advice. I had queried Kathleen Ortiz on my book OLDSOUL, but had gotten a form rejection from her. A few months later she mentioned something on Twitter about TANGLED, so I mentioned to her that I had worked on it. We chatted a bit, and she went to my blog and read the first chapter of OLDSOUL. She asked if I'd consider querying her. I was a little confused, since I'd already gotten the rejection from her. It turns out she was in the middle of moving to Nancy Coffey when I queried her at her old agency, and had actually never seen my query. So I queried her again, and she ended up turning it down. But we kept in touch on Twitter and a few months later we were chatting and she asked what I was going to be working on after OLDSOUL. I told her some of the stories I had in mind, and one in particular she seemed to really like. I didn’t think much of our conversation afterward, but then the next day I got an email from her. She said she had told the people in her office about the story and they thought it could be pretty cool. She asked me if she could give me a call the next day. I wasn't really expecting much from the call, but it turned out to be The Call, and she made me an Offer of Representation for the story.

When taking The Call, is there anything you would recommend a writer be prepared for?
Honestly, I wasn't prepared at all. When Kathleen asked if she could call, for a split-second I had the hopes that it would be for an offer. But since I didn't have anything actually written on the new project, I didn't think it had any chance of happening. But I should have been prepared to ask a lot more questions than I did. Ask about the agent, ask about the agency, their plans for your book, things like that. You want to have as much information as possible in order to make the best decision.

How did you know beyond a doubt that Kathleen was the perfect fit for you and your novel?
Actually if it weren't for Kathleen I wouldn't be writing this novel at all. My original idea was much shorter, and I had planned it as a graphic novel. While we were chatting, Kathleen suggested I do it as a Middle Grade book. I went home the night before she called and brainstormed with my wife and came up with the basic storyline for what I'm writing now. When Kathleen called I told her what we'd come up with and she responded well to it and that's when she made the offer. From the start she's been amazingly supportive and enthusiastic about the project, and I can't imagine working with anyone else on it.

So you are working on a “Secret Project” right now for your agent. How is that coming along? :)
I'm sorry about the secrecy. I'd love to tell you about it. I'm very, very excited about it though. I think it's coming along pretty well. I'm about 1/3 of the way through the first draft. I like the characters and the world and love exploring it all. But I don't think I can say much more than that :)

Your debut novel OLDSOUL is currently set for release on April 24,2012. Could you give us a bit of information about it?
Sure! OLDSOUL is a YA contemporary/urban fantasy (I don't really know if there's a difference). It's about a guy named Jason whose best friend is a dead girl in his mind. Jason is an Oldsoul, which is a vessel for the souls of people who have died. He's able to access their knowledge and abilities, all of which he'll need to battle a group of power-hungry immortals (not vampires though) bent on overthrowing humanity. It's the first of a planned trilogy and is being published by Pendrell Publishing, and I'm really anxious to see how it'll be received.

Based on personal experience, what final advice could you give to other writers? This can involve the querying process, general writing advice, or both.
Read. Read everything you can. I don't think you can be a good writer if you're not also a reader. And don't just read books in the genre you write. If you look at my Goodreads account you'll see everything from comic books to YA and MG to classics. I just read my first Louis L'Amour book a few weeks ago. I doubt I'll ever write a Western, but I guarantee I learned something by reading that book and it'll show up somewhere later in my writing.

I can't stress the importance of reading enough, but you also have to go out and experience life. Travel, try new things, get your heart broken, get out of your comfort zone. Everything you do and experience will inform your writing and will make it better, because every experience you have is unique to you. And that will work its way into your writing and give your voice something no one else has.

One last bit of advice that kind of goes along with what I was just saying. I was able to meet Robert McKee after a short seminar he did. He was gracious enough to sign my copy of his amazing book STORY, and inside he wrote "Write the truth." I take that as write your truth, whatever that may be.

Just for fun short answers:
Favorite book?
Oh man, that's too hard. ON THE ROAD by Jack Kerouac is one of my absolute favorites, I can at least say that. But there are a bunch of others that could easily fit here.
Favorite music?
That's another really hard one, but at least you didn't just ask for just one band :) I mainly listen to punk and hardcore, stuff like Bouncing Souls, AFI, Sick of it All, Social Distortion, Hot Water Music, and on and on. But I love all sorts of music, from Johnny Cash to Regina Spektor to Radiohead to film scores. I don't listen to the radio much, other than country or classical stations. Yeah, I listen to country radio...
If you could be any fictional character, who would it be?
Good question! Batman is my favorite fictional character, but he has a pretty sad life. I'd have to go with Jack Skellington.

Favorite part of the writing process: first draft or revisions?

I don't think there are many things better than when I'm writing the first draft and everything is flowing and my fingers are barely keeping up with my brain. That's definitely not always the case. Some nights every sentence is a battle. But my favorite part is when everything is clicking and the world and story are taking shape right in front of me.
What is one thing about you that might surprise readers?
People are often surprised when I tell them I have four kids, but I already mentioned that. Most people don't know I met my wife while we were both driving tour buses in Alaska for the summer. Folks don't usually see that one coming :) 

Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview, Dan! I wish you the best of luck on your current and future writing projects! :)


  1. Dan is one of the coolest people I know! Awesome interview Kristin!

  2. Thank you, Spencer! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! And yes, Dan is completely awesome. :)

    Thanks for stopping by!

  3. So awesome that Dan worked on TANGLED! I loved that movie! :D

    And his books sounds right up my alley! :D
    Thanks, Kristin, for the interview! :D

  4. Haha. Thanks guys! Full disclosure: We had a band called Skewback in high school, and Spencer was the singer. (I played bass) He's also one of the coolest people I know, and he helped find Saddam Hussein's love shack. For reals:


    Thanks for reading Monica! I hope you enjoy Oldsoul, and I'm glad you liked Tangled!

  5. Monica - Hi!! I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview! Yeah, Dan's books sound great, don't they? :) Thanks for stopping by! :D<3

    Dan - He did? Seriously? Wow. *reads article*

    The band sounds really cool! That's great that you guys were able to do that together! And you played bass? Double awesome. :D

  6. Dan, you are one cool cat. Congrats on the book (that is released on my wedding anniversary, thankyouverymuch). What a fun/creative life you lead. Tangled has been viewed at least 1,000 times at my house. iPhone, iPad, car DVD player, home blueRay...yeah, it's going all the time, everywhere. Thanks for that--heh.

  7. Hi Bethany! Thanks for stopping by and reading the interview! :)