Q&A: The Year of Dan Palace

This interview was originally published on the now-absent website Indie Bookworm, hosted/written by Cathy Murray.

It’s short. Enjoy!

P.S.  If you’re interested in receiving a copy of The Year of Dan Palace for review or interview purposes, let me know!  – Kristen


  1. Why did you write The Year of Dan Palace?

When we were little and being driven around by our dad, my sister and I would hold our breath every time we passed a cemetery. To breathe before the last headstone was behind us meant bad luck (death, most likely). I held onto that superstition until I moved into a small house directly across the street from a cemetery.

Before moving in and waking up every day to headstones, I still thought death unacknowledged didn’t exist. I was like a lot of other people who know they’ll die someday, sure, but they don’t really believe they’ll actually die. You can tell they don’t believe it because they drive drunk, text while driving, or wear dark clothes at night while walking in the narrow shoulder of a busy road.

But while living across the street from the cemetery, I’d watch as every other day or so this little yellow backhoe would trudge along the path, stop near this or that vacant patch of grass, dig a hole, and drive away. The mourners would come and stand around the raised casket that had been positioned over the hole, and when the service was over and the body had disappeared into the ground they’d walk to their cars, climb in, and pull slowly away. When the last car was gone, the yellow backhoe would chug back over to dump scoop after scoop of dirt on top of the casket.

It was a reliable routine. It said, “Someday, no matter what you do, this will be you. This will be you. This will be you.”

I started thinking about life and the idea of “living it to the fullest.” What does that really mean? And why don’t more people break routine to do it? And if they did, how would that affect the people closest to them? It isn’t easy to go off and do anything you want if you’re closely connected to other people who have different ideas about how to live, or – maybe especially – about how they see your role in their life…

The Year of Dan Palace explores all that.

  1. What kind of reader would enjoy The Year of Dan Palace?

One reader compared the story to John Irving’s style, so Irving fans might enjoy it. There’s definitely something for readers who like awkward and realistic relationship conflict, and maybe more broadly for people who like psychological fiction – why we do what we do, the painful truths we say or don’t say, and the ways we lie and hide.

Also people who are interested in phrogging. Dan spends some time hiding in his own basement.

  1. How did you develop your characters?

In the case of this book, backward. I’d always known what I wanted their relationships with one another to be, but it took a few revisions to figure out who they were and why their relationships were what they were. The process led with behavior and ended with motivation. It turned out that they are who they are as adults because of their childhood experiences. If you’re taught when young to be afraid of certain things, or to value certain things, those lessons stick.

  1. What has been the biggest influence on your career as a writer?

I don’t know that I have a “career,” but it’s helped immensely to have a spouse who not only has the good fortune to be passionate about something that happens to earn a good salary but who is also loving and generous and has twice said he was okay with me quitting my day job – once as a cab driver, and then as a daily newspaper’s feature writer – so that I can stay home and write. (And mow the lawn and shovel and weed and grocery shop. I try to earn my keep.)

Find The Year of Dan Palace under my pen name Chris Jane at Bookshop.org (or anywhere else you like to get paperback books) and on Audible. Buy the e-version on Kindle or at Smashwords.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

kristen j. tsetsi