Glowing Author Interview #3
Third in line for Wednesday Glowing Author Interviews, I am pleased to present an author I know really well. He just happens to be my greatest first-line editor, co-author on two books, and… Ta Da!… my husband Dan Kline.
When people ask us what we do for a living, we say, “Kay is a writer who speaks and Dan is a speaker who writes.” That just about says it all. Dan’s day job is a speaker/trainer, but he moonlights as a writer/editor. Although he co-authored The Savvy Couple’s Guide to Marrying after 35 and Hand in Hand: Devotions for the Later and Lately Married, and although he has authored many booklets for writers, we will be focusing on a rather unique and quite popular book of Dan’s.
How did you get interested in writing, Dan?
I’ve always had an interest in writing, since I was ten or so. I read a lot of science fiction, and I loved all the “Hardy Boys” mysteries—read almost all of them the summer I turned 12. I must admit, though, my early tries at writing were pretty bad. I sure didn’t understand the mechanics of plotting in fiction.
You don’t call yourself a writer. How has your interest in writing fit in with your past and present “day jobs”?
Like most wanna-be writers, I always had to keep a day job. When I had a career with the US government, then my own retail business, I was just too busy to do any serious writing. It was after I sold my business that I turned to writing as a real commitment. I spent a lot of time working on my fiction, and my reading turned to numerous books on “how to write well.”
Yes, yes! Reading to learn the craft! I couldn’t agree more. Which leads us into your spotlight book, The Proofreader’s Easy Guide to Grammar. How did that come about?
It was serendipity. My writing wasn’t making me much money, but in my study on writing well I’d learned a lot about English grammar. So, long story short, I applied to work as a public seminar leader specializing in grammar. I was hired, and one of the companies I worked for on contract proposed I do a work-for-hire version of a slimmed-down grammar book. Most on the market were up to 500 pages and cost $35-$50. This company wanted their own booklet on grammar to sell at their public seminars, and that’s how The Easy Guide was born.
That’s interesting. How has it done?
Quite well, as a matter of fact. At $13, it turned out to be a best-seller at all the company’s seminars, regardless of the topic. Eventually, I bought back the copyright along with several thousand copies of the book, so I now own it outright.
That’s such a wise way to go! You have also taught writing courses and co-authored the Writers’ Certificate Program for Long Beach State University, Long Beach, California. What advice do you have for new writers?
Take writing courses from established writers who know what they are doing and can help steer you to the top of the competition. Whenever I did writing seminars through the state university Extended Ed programs, my partner and I would tell the classes that, truthfully, what they had learned in our courses would place them in the top 10 to 15 percent of aspiring writers. We taught them how to approach writing as professionals.
So how did you manage to take the topic of grammar–which most of us associate with our boring eighth grade English teachers–and make it so much fun?
I tried to make it fun, even a little silly, and simple as well. Actually, most of English grammar is simple—either “this” or “that,” though sometimes there may be a third possibility. Learning the exceptions, which tend to be few, means all the rest of the “set” follows a standard format.
Can you tease us with an excerpt?
Punctuate the statement Dad’s acting “funny” and tell me if the period goes inside or outside the closing quote marks. If you said inside, you are right. That’s an “always and ever” rule, no exceptions, and it applies equally to the comma. It’s confusing in part because the British Commonwealth countries do it differently—depending on context—and we used to too, until about 50 years ago.
We don’t see many “always and ever” punctuation rules.
The only other is that colons and semi-colons ALWAYS go outside the ending quote mark. Here’s a good way to remember: “On a cold day, little dogs stay inside, while bigger dogs stay outside.” The “little dogs” refer to the small size of the period and comma, while “bigger dogs” refer to the larger colon and semi-colon. (You can’t make an absolute rule about the “biggest dogs,” the exclamation and question mark. Their position relative to the closing quote has to be determined by examining the context of the sentence itself—sorry.)
Spelling is my personal bugaboo. Any hints for me?
“Accommodate” is one of the most frequently misspelled words (as is “misspelled”), mostly because of its double “c” and double “m.” But if you say, “A couple of cuties met two males and went on a date,” you’ll remember the double consonants in the word. Good luck!
What’s one thing that would surprise us about you?
Sitting on an airplane going from one speaking venue to another, I used to study my own grammar books to bone up on these issues (a great way to kill conversation with anyone sitting beside you, by the way). Actually, grammar is just fairly simple, logical stuff—there’s just a lot of it. Kind of like the vehicle code for any given state—lots of stuff in there, but almost all of it based on common sense.
What book is on your nightstand right now? (Okay, out there, drop all those grammar-books-put-me-to-sleep comments!)
I’ll be re-reading John Grisham’s A Painted House for the book club I belong to, and I look forward to it. I really enjoyed it the first time. Meanwhile, Austin Boyd’s The Proof, the second in his Mars trilogy, is my current read and I’m really enjoying it. Austin is a gifted writer and a great example of someone who took the “go to writing courses and conferences” advice seriously and has done very well ever since.
If you could get an open contract to write anything you want, what would it be?
Boy, I have a lot of ideas, all for novels, but if I could, I’d first take a screenplay I know of and, with permission, turn it into a novel. It’s futuristic sci-fi and the screenplay is very well done, but it’s much harder to get a movie made than a novel published, so if I had the contract go-ahead, I’d adapt that play. I really believe in its theme, which is both pro-life and anti-slavery.
When you get that done, we will be back to interview you again! Thank you so much for being a part of Kay’s Words.
Contact Dan Kline at: www.DanKline.com
The Proofreader’s Easy Guide to Grammar is available at www.amazon.com
“From the beginning, approach writing as a professional.”