Welcome to Dan Buri
Where are you from and where do you live now? I grew up in the Midwest in the States. I moved out to the beautiful Pacific Northwest a little over ten years ago.
Where do you find inspiration? I find inspiration in my everyday life. I think good writers have a unique gift of empathy. They work hard to understand another person’s pains, hopes, dreams and fears. I really try to understand each person that I encounter in my life. These experiences tend to inspire me and seep into my writing.
Are your characters based on real people? I think every character an author creates is based on a real person or an amalgamation of real people. It is just too difficult to not let experiences and biases seep into one’s writing. That being said, I didn’t have a specific person in mind when creating any of the characters in Pieces Like Pottery.
In what formats are your books available? (E-books, print, large print audio) Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason?This is my first published non-fiction work. It is available in ebook at most large retailer websites right now. I hope we will see it in print next year, but only time will tell.
Do you think indie/self-published authors are viewed differently than traditionally published authors? Why do you think this might be? I think this used to be the case without question, but we have seen significant changes in the last 3-to-5 years. Ebooks have done wonders for changing the accessibility of indie authors, both from a publishing standpoint as well as from a readership standpoint. It has become much easier to see your work published than, say, 20 years ago. This has naturally had an effect on what gets published. The big six publishers are large corporations and as much as they aim to focus on creativity and great works, it’s difficult for them because they have thousands of people that work for them and rely on them. So the big six are constantly focused on what will be a commercial success. The irony is that they don’t know what will be a commercial success just like you and I don’t know. What do Harry Potter, A Wrinkle in Time, Gone With the Wind, and Twilight have in common? They were all initially rejected by publishers. They just don’t know what’s going to sell. Indie authors have a little bit of freedom from this. We all want our books to do well commercially of course, but we are also able to take creative chances that a big six publisher might be unwilling to take.
I think the quality of indie/self-published books has improved immensely too. There is such a high bar for indie authors and we quickly lose the reader’s trust if there are errors or incongruities in our stories. The editing process is so important in avoiding these errors. I don’t have any evidence to back this up, it’s only anecdotal, but it seems like the best self-published ebooks are of a higher quality now than 5-10 years ago. This has helped close the perception gap between indie authors and traditionally published others.
When buying a book do you read the reviews? I do tend to peruse the reviews, but most of what I buy is via recommendations. I keep a list on my phone of all the books that have been recommended to me from people I trust. I’m lucky enough to live blocks from the world’s largest used bookstore—Powell’s City of Books. I just pull out my phone every time I go there and grab a couple selections off of my recommended list.
Do you have any pets? I do not currently have any pets. I have a two-year-old daughter that is allergic to dogs and cats. It’s a little bit heart-breaking because she absolutely loves dogs and cats. We walk through downtown Portland (Oregon) everyday and pet the dogs that walk by. She jumps up and down in excitement. But unfortunately, a pet in the home wouldn’t work well.
Can you name your worst job? Do you think you learned anything from the position that you now use in your writing? I have had more odd jobs than I can count. I worked maintenance at a high school one summer. One of the tasks was to empty out the 15-year-old water from a boiler in the basement of the school. The only way to empty it was to syphon the water out through a narrow tube, but I had to suck the water up through the tube until it reached the syphon valve that would then automatically start pumping the water out. My co-worker was supposed to tell me when the dirty boiler water reached the valve, but he got distracted. I swallowed a mouthful of that 15-year-old boiler water. Let me tell you, it still makes me queasy to this day. I was heaving and retching for quite awhile after that. I’m not quite sure what I learned from that, though, except that it’s a fairly funny story.
We all have to work tough jobs so we can continue to do what we love—write. I’ve worked a lot of writing jobs too—blogger, ghost writer, research assistant, editor, teacher’s aid, researcher. I didn’t enjoy all of those, but they have all helped me hone my craft in some way.
Can you give us a silly fact about yourself? When I was younger, I used to play Star Wars with my three older brothers. My oldest brother would be Luke Skywalker. My second oldest brother would be Han Solo. My brother just older than me would be Chewbacca. They would make me be Princess Leia. I have no idea why I couldn’t have been C-3PO or R2-D2 or Lando Calrissian even. They always made me be Princess Leia.
What experiences can a book provide that a movie or video game cannot?Books provide a depth of insight and character development that just isn’t possible in the two-hours that movies offer. I think every one of us has had the experience of seeing a movie you enjoyed only to have a friend say, “Meh. It’s not as good as the book.” We’ve all said this and we’ve all been frustrated when a friend has said it to us. But it’s almost universally true. Movies simply can’t capture that depth in the short amount of time they have with the viewer. Television shows and video games are becoming much closer to the level of detail and depth of insight that books provide, particularly television. This is why I think we’re seeing so many writers and directors gravitate to that medium. It just offers them more freedom to develop complex characters.
What three pieces of advice would you give to new writers? Over the years I have been lucky enough to be offered abundant feedback and to hear excellent commentary from a few creative people that I admire greatly. There are three comments/ideas that have stuck with me throughout all my writing endeavours. (Each of these is summarized in my own words.)
- When asked about the fears and doubts that she had with her writing, Elizabeth Gilbert (best selling author of Eat, Pray, Love) said she finally had an epiphany that her “writing muse” was telling her that this isn’t her story. If she doesn’t tell it, she said, then the muse would move on to someone else who will. Ms. Gilbert discussed how freeing this was for her. She was no longer declaring to the reader: “Listen to me. I have something to say.” It was almost as if she had no other choice but to write. This opened her up to write every day without fear of the result.
- Ira Glass is an American public radio personality and the host and producer of the radio and television show This American Life. He has a great quote for young creatives. In short, he encourages us that our work is not going to be good when we’re first starting out. We may have an excitement for our craft and a killer taste for what’s good, but our execution is poor. The only way to improve your work, the only way to close the gap so that your work is as good as your ambitions, is to do a lot of work. Write. Every day. Every week put yourself on a deadline to write something new. It’s going to take awhile, but that’s normal. Good writing doesn’t come the first time you sit down.
- Louis C.K. is one of the most thoughtful and innovative comics alive right now. I heard him once speak about his HBO show, Lucky Louie, which was cancelled after one season in 2006. He was asked if he was disappointed with that and if he looked back at it as a failure. His answer was unequivocally: “No.” For him it was just another experience that taught him how to hone his craft, which was invaluable.
So those would be my three pieces of (long-winded) advice. One, don’t worry about whether you have anything important to say. If you are inspired, say it. Two, write constantly. You won’t become a good writer unless you’re writing all the time. Three, take every writing experience and use it to hone your craft. Something is not a failure simply because the public doesn’t receive it the way you would like.
Most authors like to read, what have you recently finished reading? Did you enjoy it? I have a new term I like to use—sticky. I use this for books that stick with me well after I’ve completed them and put them down. The characters and themes just keep turning over in my mind. A few sticky books that I’ve read recently:
The Corrections—Jonathan Franzen
Beautiful Ruins—Jess Walter
Ready Player One—Ernest Cline
Seven Weddings—Matt Miller (yet to be published novel by an indie author)
The Book Thief—Markus Zusak
Book links, website/blog and author links:
Dan Buri’s first collection of short fiction, Pieces Like Pottery, is an exploration of heartbreak and redemption that announces the arrival of a new American author. His writing is uniquely heartfelt and explores the depths of the human struggle and the human search for meaning in life.
Mr. Buri’s non-fiction works have been distributed online and in print, including publications in Pundit Press, Tree, Summit Avenue Review, American Discovery, and TC Huddle. The defunct and very well regarded Buris On The Couch, was a He-Says/She-Says blog musing on the ups and downs of marriage with his wife.
Mr. Buri is an active attorney in the Pacific Northwest and has been recognized by Intellectual Asset Magazine as one of the World’s Top 300 Intellectual Property Strategists every year since 2010. He lives in Oregon with his wife and two-year-old daughter.