Daniel Lowe teaches writing at the Community College of Allegheny County in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and received his MFA in fiction writing from the University of Pittsburgh. His fiction and poetry have appeared in West Branch, The Nebraska Review, The Montana Review, The Wisconsin Review, The Writing Room, The Bridge, The Paterson Literary Review, Ellipsis, Blue Stem, Midway Journal, and The Madison Review. All That’s Left to Tell is his debut.
Agent: Andy Kifer of The Gernert Company, 136 East 57th Street, New York, NY 10022 Phone: 212.838.7777
Dan, what can you tell us about yourself?
I’m a community college professor and writer now for many years, though my writing predates my teaching. I had, for a long period of time, given up on having any success with my writing, but, after a particularly difficult semester with my students, I knew I needed something else, something involving the arts to balance out my intellectual and artistic (I don’t like using this word—it always sounds pretentious) life. For some years after that I drew and painted and refinished furniture (and now I miss that, too) but ultimately I returned to writing. Across all of these years, I also tended to my four children and two step-children.
You recently published your first novel All That’s Left to Tell. In a nutshell, what’s it about?
All That’s Left to Tell is a novel about a man who is held captive in Pakistan shortly after his daughter is murdered back home in the States, and the story-telling relationship that develops between him and the woman who is his interrogator as they reconstruct his daughter’s past and create for her an imagined future. Ultimately, thematically, the novel is about the necessity of story-telling and the constructive and destructive powers of grief.
Was there anything particularly challenging you found when writing this story?
It’s always challenging to write, to remove yourself from your self-consciousness as a writer and give yourself over to the story. More specifically, given the many narrative tracks of this novel, it was, at times, difficult to stay true to the nuances of each, but then again, that is the joy of writing a novel structured in this way. Though the book is quite serious, finally, it was fun to write. And hard work.
What was your writing process like during the draft of All That’s Left to Tell?
My goal each time I sit down to write is to produce 500 words. I often exceed that amount, and I sometimes fall short, but that’s the goal. Sometimes that forces me out of my comfort zone, as in I’m writing ahead of where I should be, or that I’m moving too fast through the story. I am also not someone who spills out the entire novel, then revises. Many writers do, and I think that’s a fine process. But I try to perfect as I go, and then move forward again. Once finished with a draft, that doesn’t mean there aren’t major tracts that need to be revised. But individual sentences don’t need as much attention as they might if I’d merely rushed them onto the page.
Now, you’re also an instructor of English at CCAC. How did you manage to find time to write while also teaching?
It must have been tough! It is tough! We’re required to teach five courses a semester, and that’s less pressing than the student papers that need to be evaluated. It’s a time-consuming form of issuing grades, much more so, say, then checking off multiple-choice tests. (It’s also more rewarding than grading those tests.) I try to get up early four or five mornings a week and write. To do this, I tend to schedule some classes online, and some later in the day to free up those mornings. When the papers start coming in fast and furious, I may have to take a week off, or write two or three mornings a week.
What has been the most rewarding part of publishing All That’s Left to Tell?
Well, ATLTT isn’t my first novel. In fact, from a time about fifteen years ago, when I began writing again, I wrote a novel, a collection of stories, another novel, another collection of stories, and then ATLTT. This was a long apprenticeship to serve now that I’ve reached almost sixty years old. So it was immensely gratifying, given this unusual path, to finally publish a book. It felt both like an accomplishment and a relief, as I knew I’d finally reached an audience.
If there was one thing you’d go back and tell yourself when you first began writing this story, what would it be?
What kind of advice would you give to yourself? Probably this: stop listening to yourself as writer as you write, and allow yourself to be immersed in the story.
The publishing world can be a daunting place. It takes tenacity and on some level, courage, to be a writer. Did you always know you wanted to write or was this a dream that slowly revealed itself to you?
I’d known since I was seventeen that I wanted to be a writer, but I would never have guessed the long and circuitous path to publication. You are absolutely right: the world of publishing can appear opaque and inaccessible as stacks and stacks of rejection slips come in from agents, publishers, and editors of literary magazines. I found it frustrating to the point of despair. But my story is one of persistence and a kind of faith that emerges from being interested in how a novel takes shape—there’s never a guarantee of the ultimate reward of publication, but there is always the implicit reward of writing, and writing something new.
What advice would you offer to others currently drafting a story?
Most plainly, finish it. Don’t let it linger. We learn most in writing by finishing projects, even if those projects are failing ones. (Again, that’s part of my story). Many people walk around with stories in their heads, and many intend to put them to paper or screen, but fewer actually get around to it, and fewer still finish what they’ve started. Finishing will teach you worlds about working in any form, and you will move on to other projects with greater confidence and the recognition of how important it is to persevere.
Want to know more about Daniel Lowe? Go to http://www.danieljaylowe.com/
You can purchase All That’s Left to Tell at one of these retailers:
Macmillan – http://us.macmillan.com/books/9781250085559