Who are you?
Who are YOU?!?! Sorry, direct questions make me defensive sometimes. Name’s JD Mader. Most people call me Dan. A few people call me Danny. And there are a few people who probably call me much less flattering things behind my back. I’ve been writing professionally for twenty-five years. I started in sportswriting when I was in high school. Since then, I’ve published a bunch of short stories, written a ton of songs, and I’ve written a handful of novels, novellas… Hell, let’s just throw sonnets in there, too. I’ve written a few. And a lot of articles about fishing.
Tell us about your Boo! story:
My story for ‘Boo!’ scares me more than most of the stuff I’ve written, and that’s saying a lot. It was a short, off the cuff piece. I believe I started with the idea of sensitive skin because it’s something I was labeled with as a child. I am not a psychotic, abusive murderer, though. I promise. When I write short pieces (and long ones sometimes), I don’t usually have a plan. I start with an idea and then the story comes. They usually turn dark very fast. This one turned very dark very fast. And I want to reiterate that I am not psychotic. This is not a memoir. It merely started with the idea of sensitive skin.
What else have your written?
I’ve published stories in magazines and literary journals. I write a lot on my blog. I used to just write short stories on there, but it has kind of turned into home base for “2 Minutes. Go!” – a writing hoe down we do every Friday. My first novel, ‘Joe Cafe,’ was something I worked on during lunch. I never thought I’d write a novel. Then I wrote one that was good, but weird. That one is still in the works. I wrote ‘Joe Cafe’ during my lunch breaks when I was teaching in San Francisco. I write fast, so I’d bust out a thousand words during lunch and email it to myself, and it just kind of turned into what it is. A lot of people label it noir, but that never occurred to me. Same with my other books. I don’t consider myself a writer of genre fiction. I like noir well enough, and I guess it comes out in the way I write, but it was an accident. After that, I wrote a bunch of stories before I decided to do NaNoWriMo. I wanted to challenge myself, so I started with no idea except that I wanted it to be like a Louis L’Amour novel with motorcycles. And I wanted to have it written and edited and finished in a month. I pretty much made it, and Matt Stark was born – there was some light editing left. Then, I decided to do a trilogy and wrote the second Matt Stark novel, ‘Hannigan’s Fight’ during a pretty dark, depressing period of my life. It is more evil and more complex. When I started working on the third in the trilogy (which will be out very soon), it occurred to me that a trilogy could be a coming of age story in several ways. The characters develop, but so does the voice, the themes and the length (it’s 90K words long, which is a LOT for me). ‘Boxed In’ – the third in the trilogy (which, I swear, is almost done) is much more literary. So, the first was kind of an homage to Louis L’Amour, the second was the fallout and regrouping, and the third novel finishes the journey, which was about redemption from word one. I also wrote a series of essays about my wife’s first pregnancy – ‘You hate me because I’m Pregnant!’ – one of the few funny things I’ve published. My short story collection, “Please, no eyes” – I love those stories. I wrote a simple fishing guide called ‘Teach your kid to fish…when you don’t know how!’ and a romantic novella called ‘Saving Drake’ which is an attempt at an honest romance story – it was also a dare. I wrote a novella called ‘The Note’ – it’s a fictional suicide note that like seven people have read, but I like it. Same with my “mix-tape” of flash fiction. I love ‘Boo!’ – I love collaboration in general. Writing can be lonely. I’ve been writing music with my best friend, Patrick Renker, since we were thirteen. We don’t play live anymore, but ‘The Flying Black Hats’ is the name we go by, and there are a bunch of songs for free online. I’m probably forgetting some stuff, but I’m sick and my brain is being a brat.
What frightens you the most?
I don’t get frightened easily. I have no stomach for gore, but it doesn’t frighten me. I’ve read all Ketchum’s stuff. Love his writing. Real life things frighten me. I worry about the people I love. I worry about people in general. And I have OCD, so public restrooms terrify me.
Have you ever seen a ghost?
Oh man. Alright. So, I don’t necessarily believe in ghosts, but I think I saw one. When I was young (three or four), my family lived in England. Very small, old town. The house we lived in had secret cupboards that I found. It was awesome. I also used to sleepwalk and wake up in weird parts of the house. One night, I woke up standing at the top of the stairs. When I turned there was a very pretty young woman in old-fashioned clothes, and she took me by the hand and led me back to bed. It was not scary. It was lovely. Was it a ghost? No one thought so at the time, but there is part of me that really wonders. It could very well have been a dream, but it didn’t feel that way. For one thing, I remember it, and I don’t remember much that far back. Hell, maybe the writer in me just wants it to be true.
What are you reading at the moment?
The New Yorker and Harpers. I read a bunch of long novels recently and I need a break.
If you could meet any living famous person for dinner who would it be and what would you eat?
I would love to meet Michael Chabon, but that’s too easy. I could give you a million names, but this one popped into my head: Bob Dylan. I’d love to meet Bob Dylan. We would talk about Woody Guthrie and play some songs. Then, he would stand up and leave and I’d sit and think. I’d go club sandwich because you can rarely go wrong with a club sandwich. And maybe Phil Ochs would drop by?
If you could meet any dead famous person who would be and what would you have to eat?
I would love to meet my Dad’s brother. He’s not famous, but that’s who I’d pick. And he did play in a band, so he was somewhat famous in rural Pennsylvania. He killed himself long before I was born. No one talks about him, and I know essentially nothing about him. I think we had some things in common from little snippets over the years. I know I’ll never know anything about him, but I’m so curious. My Dad has shown me a picture and told me a few things, but I don’t like making him talk about it. My grandparents are dead, so yeah, John Mader (that’s the first time I’ve ever written his full name, I think). That’s who I’d like to meet. And I’d eat a burrito. Because burritos are awesome.
Which book do you see as the most influential in your life?
Wow. That’s an impossible question to answer. There are so many books I love. As far as books that changed the way I thought about writing, I’d have to say ‘Ask the Dust’ by John Fante. I loved that book. I still love that book. ‘On the Road’ is up there. ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ is up there. There’s some Salinger in there. I’ll stop now.
In the zombie apocalypse what would be your weapon of choice with which to defend yourself?
Do they make zombie-killing spray? That seems like the most convenient option. I’m not big on weapons or violence. Maybe a guitar? I don’t know what good that would do, but I’ve never smashed a guitar, and that would be a good excuse.
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