The Navigators by Dan Alatorre A review by Adele Marie Park
“On your mark, get ready, go.” That famous line is relevant to The Navigators. From the beginning, we are dropped into the beginning of a fast-paced storyline which weaves around the characters like a twister. It’s a page-turner which kept me goggle-eyed and saying to myself, “Just one more page before I sleep.” I love it. We are introduced to the characters’ personalities through the clever use of dialogue making it easy and quick for us. Throughout the story, the characters change and develop because of the choices they make and the consequences of their actions. In the end, they are all very different from those students we were first introduced to. The secondary characters are enjoyable, especially one who I began to think of as a twitching, seething mass of energy with plans to rule the world. Will not name as it would be a spoiler. The author’s use of build up and excitement is superb and is a master at nail-biting scenes. Describing exactly what situations they find themselves in. There is a deeper thread running through the narrative. “Just because you can, should you?” The consequences of messing around with someone’s timeline is explored deeply and so is the greed of man. There is also the aspect of having in one’s grasp the one thing which could lift you from a life of poverty. What would you do? I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who loves a great adventure journey regardless of genre. Five stars from me.* * * * *
Hi Dan, welcome and thank you for giving us this opportunity to learn more about you.
Hi Adele! Thanks for having me – and wow, what a terrific review of The Navigators! You are too kind.
I’d like to ask you about your writing process. How do you execute your day around
I make my writing a goal, like a job. There’s a set time and place I do it, and I make sure I show up for work. I don’t always shower first, but nobody there seems to care. Usually, when I’m steeped in the first draft of a book, I get up at 4am and write for a few hours before everyone else is awake. I know, everyone rolls their eyes at that. They say, “4am? I’m not doing that. That’s crazy.” Yeah, kinda . . . But think about it. That gives me 2 hours of pure writing time each day, with zero phone calls, zero packages getting delivered to the door . . . basically zero interruptions. That’s 10 or more hours a week of writing, 40+ hours a month. What would you do with 10 hours of writing time each week? You’d get your story completed, that’s what. And when you are writing, every morning is Christmas morning. Totally worth getting up early for. Don’t look at email until other 6am and people are awake. Check twitter then. At 4, write. You can check email at lunch and at night or at a stoplight from your smartphone. It’s much harder to write your novel in traffic.
Where do the creative ideas come from?
Everywhere. Everyone says that, but it’s true. I got a kid’s book idea from talking about Halloween with my daughter. I got the idea for The Navigators from reading a friend’s post about who in history he’d like to have a conversation with. I got the idea for The Water Castle, which should be released in summer 2018, from a tower in an old Tampa park. Story ideas are everywhere if you care to see them. They don’t come fully formed as novels, they come as bits of story ideas that I collect and put together like a puzzle to be assembled, gathering them in a box (or in my case files on my computer) until I have enough to write a book. Some get used, some don’t, and many get created by me once I start the actual writing, using parts of my life or characters I create that I’d love to spend time with. Then there are ideas like surprises you get to play on your readers, like shocking them halfway through the story with a cool twist they never saw coming. Those are fun.
As a child did you imagine you’d become an author?
As a young child, I wanted to be a cartoonist. I wrote cartoons for other kids and my older brother. But writing a cartoon means having story and characters, a plot, and ending – so it’s nearly the same thing. I talked the administrative people at our grade school into starting a newspaper so I could write for it. In eighth grade, I wrote what I thought was a book-length story about pirates that had to hide out as cowboys. I was co-editor of our high school newspaper, and in college (and after) I wrote short stories for fun. Then one day I decided to get serious about it. Dun Dun DUNNN!!!
Was there a famous author you admired as a child?
Absolutely. My older brother loved Bill Cosby’s comedy albums from the 1960’s. Cosby spun a long, amusing story that was riddled with personal anecdotes everyone could identify with, similar to Mark Twain. When I got older, I read Twain’s essays and would find myself laughing out loud at them, much the same way Cosby captured my attention. I loved stand-up comedians, watching them all on the late show when I could, or I recorded them and watched them the next day while I was working out. That’s a bad idea, by the way. It’s really hard to lift a weight when you are laughing. Really bad idea. You’ll drop stuff on your feet. Don’t do that. So when I started writing, I wrote humorous stuff, and my style was to have a point to the story and eventually get there but to meander all over the place first. That’s hard to do well and easy to do badly, but I was pretty good at pacing and keeping a reader’s attention, so it worked.
Your novel “Angel On My Shoulder” is one of my favourites and deals with paranormal subjects. Do you believe in the paranormal? If so has anything paranormal happened to you?
Angel was an interesting story to bring to publication. I wrote it, then I let it rest while I searched for an editor. I wrote my next book during the resting phase, but I took some time to develop my skills as a writer, and then returned to Angel. By then it had sat resting for over a year! I revamped it, going chapter by chapter to enhance the scenes, cut scenes, changed things, enhanced things – to make it into a real paranormal thriller. It was a good story before, with a few interesting characters; that time away allowed me to see it with new eyes and work it into a grabber you can’t put down. It was a real learning experience.
But here’s how I’ll answer your question about if I believe in the paranormal. Under the right circumstances, everybody believes in the paranormal. On a warm day, playing outside, the sun gloriously radiating off your skin, it’s hard to imagine ghosts or the lingering energy of people who have died and are now trying to contact you. But in the middle of the night when you are all alone and you hear a strange noise, that’s a different story. I’m not talking about scaring yourself or being afraid of the dark, I’m talking about hearing something that wakes you up and you think – just for an instant – that you saw something in the darkness, a passing shadow, that you thought was something else. Turn on the light and it’s gone, but in the dark, when you weren’t sure, and the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, or you find you are holding your breath squinting into the darkness, what is it you’re feeling? Why are we afraid of the dark? Why do strange things scare us? Was it evolution that said we’d have a better chance of survival if we were scared of what we couldn’t see? All children have a phase where they are afraid of the dark. We say it’s TV or imagination, but it’s been happening long before TV ever came around, and why would every child do it if there wasn’t a reason? Every child, in every culture, at some point, is afraid of the dark. We all “grow out of it,” but that’s a learned response. A way of coping. Our natural instinct was to be afraid and to assign otherworldly aspects to what we see and feel in the dark. We have all experienced things we say are a coincidence. The phone ringing right as we were about to call someone. A relative appeared in a dream and then finding they passed away. Strange feelings we can’t explain away, or eerie beings we are certain we see in the dark. Society has said that’s not logical, and all things must be explained logically – but what if our logic hasn’t caught up with our world? After all, prevailing logic said the world was flat and that the Earth was the centre of the universe – until science and mathematics proved otherwise. So truth evolves, just as we evolve – and no one thinks we are done evolving yet. Humans evolved with two eyes, and that works better than one. We evolved with two legs, and that was an advantage over slithering like a snake. Evolution of emotions – unique to humans – make us better parents; things like empathy and the concept of fairness, unique to our species, form the foundation of our society. Our physical traits are tangible proof of our evolution, just as our emotional traits and thinking capacity are evidence of our physiological evolution. It is universally accepted that evolution pushed mankind to dominate the world, but we aren’t done evolving yet. The unexplainable things we see and feel in the dark are evolution’s way of sticking a toe in the water of our next clumsy phase, the same as a toddler learns to walk. And like the very first toddler who stood erect and took a step, it wasn’t possible before because it hadn’t happened before, it was illogical before, and it didn’t exist before – and therefore could not possibly exist. Just the supernatural obviously does not exist. Until the toddler took the step, and then it did.
That’s a great answer, Dan. One which various paranormal people in the know agree with themselves. It also brings me to our next question. Box Under The Bed is an anthology close to my heart which you organised every step of the way. What was it really like to undergo the process from baby steps to published work?
Well, until I did it with The Box Under The Bed, I had never done it before. So I didn’t know what to expect! But I knew from the writing contest that there were a lot of talented people out there who just need a little nudge. I also knew that since most of them had already gone through the contest process with me, where I do a critique on your story, I felt there was a level of trust and that when I and a few other published authors told them or asked them to do things, they would do them. For example, one story was critiqued with some suggestions and then it went back to the author and then we need some more suggestions and I think maybe it went back-and-forth three times, but the finished product was really awesome. So it was a lot of work but it was a true labour of love. Everybody pitched in. Everybody had ideas. Each contributing author critiqued two other stories. We collaborated on the artwork ideas for the cover, and on marketing ideas. It was great to be in a group of people who are all focused on the same thing, which was helping that book do well. And it did. It shot straight to number one shortly after we released it.
You are about to dip more than a toe into another scary, paranormal anthology this year. (https://danalatorre.com/2018/07/01/dan-alatorres-word-weaver-writing-contest-voodoo-is-here-let-the-games-begin-july-2018/) Can you share with us the reason you wish to undertake this again?
Simply put, I had so much fun the first time around, it seems like a great idea.
So here we are. By having 20 or so people all contributing to the same book and pushing for its success, it tends to do well. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year, but I would love for this to be an annual thing. Seeing people go from not being sure whether their work was any good, to sending it to me and working on it with them and having them appear in the contest (maybe winning first second or third place), and then basking in the glow of that light as we continued to roll forward to put out the anthology, that was huge. To think I played a small role in somebody bringing their story to the world, that’s just very humbling.
Do you think you might write more horror/paranormal books yourself in the future? Perhaps, a sequel to Angel On My Shoulder?
I can see that. There were a lot of characters people wanted to see more of. Dahlia could have her own book series, as could Tyree, so right now I am planning two books that tell Tyree’s story, one as a child where he first becomes aware that he has special abilities, and then one as an adult where he goes from trying to fit in and not pretending that he doesn’t have these abilities, to accepting them and trying to do something with them.
A question that is asked often is: What does success in writing mean to you?
I have nothing against a yacht in the Caribbean. I am totally fine with that. Making lots and lots of money is definitely a success, but for most authors, I think after they get done with visions of appearing on the Ellen show, they would be happy to make a living through their writing. I enjoy that now, so success means continuing that while helping others succeed. There’s a huge proud papa feeling when somebody you work with does well.
Where would you like to see your writing career in five years?
I suppose by then I’ll have 20 or 30 more books out. Probably I will have figured out what the heck I’m doing with some of my side projects like my blog and the writing contests and my marketing. Things evolve, though. Five years ago, if you had said would I be on the board of directors for the Florida Writers Association and giving presentations all over the place, I would’ve said you were crazy. Now I do those things. So I would hope five years and now I am still relevant and still helping people and still enjoying writing. Those seem like reasonable goals. Ellen can still call, though. I can fit an appearance on her show in, no problem.
Finally, Dan, I’d like to thank you for this opportunity to interview you and what is your advice for those setting out on the writer’s road for the first time?
Write every day. Don’t try, do. It’s in you and you want to do this, so make time for it just like it was a job. Get up earlier if you have to.
Join a critique group and find quality writers there. Become friends with them, not so they will tell you your story is good when it isn’t, but just the opposite. So they can hold you to the highest standards possible, and you will hold them to the highest standard possible. When you find somebody who’s a good critique partner that way, tell them every day how important they are to you.
The third thing would be possibly the hardest for a lot of people. Believe in yourself. Have the confidence to put your story out there. You have more than one great story in you, so stop depriving the world of them. Don’t polish it forever, publish it.
Most of you are better writers than you think because I have seen the stories in my contests. Most of them are pretty darn good. That means yours probably is, too.
Have the confidence to go for it. Nobody reaches through the Internet and punches you in the nose because they didn’t like your story. But they will become fans and write nice reviews and tell you occasionally that your story or a character or your input on their story changed their life. Hearing that can be quite addictive.
But it all starts with putting a story out there in the first place.
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