Meet the Author Monday: David B. Seaburn

David B Seaburn

It’s Meet the Author Monday! Each week we meet a new author and get to know a little about them, their writing process, publishing experience, and tips for other writers. Today we’re talking to David B. Seaburn, author of Give Me Shelter.

About David B. Seaburn:

David B. Seaburn’s first novel, Darkness is as Light, was published in 2005. He followed with Pumpkin Hill (2007), Charlie No Face (2011), a Finalist for the National Indie Excellence Award in General Fiction, Chimney Bluffs (2012), More More Time (2015), and Parrot Talk (2017), which placed second in the TAZ Awards for Fiction (2017) and was short listed for the Somerset Award (2018). Gavin Goode (2019), was an American Book Fest Finalist for “Best Book” in General Fiction (2019) and Semi-Finalist in Literary, Contemporary and Satire Fiction for the Somerset Award (2019). Broken Pieces of God (2021) was a Finalist for the National Indie Excellence Award in General Fiction (2021). Give Me Shelter (2022) will be released on December 15, 2022.

Seaburn is a retired marriage and family therapist, psychologist and Presbyterian minister who lives in Spencerport, NY with his wife, Bonnie. They have two married daughters and four wonderful grandchildren. After serving a rural parish for six years, Seaburn entered the mental health field. He was an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Family Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center for nearly twenty years. There he was Director of the Family Therapy Training Program (Psychiatry) and Coordinator of the Psychosocial Medicine Rotation (Family Medicine). He published over sixty academic papers and co-authored two books. In 2005, Seaburn left the Medical Center to become Director of the Family Support Center in the Spencerport Central School District, a free counseling center for students and their families. Seaburn is currently a writing instructor at Writers and Books in Rochester, NY.

About Give Me Shelter:

The dual challenges of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis that threatens the world and the unexplained loss of parents that threatens a family are the driving forces behind the lives of two boys and their grandfather.

Willie, Denny and their grandfather, Pop, have lived together for nine years, ever since the boys’ parents died in an accident that remains a mystery to the boys. Denny reluctantly leaves for college, while Willie enters sixth grade, fearful of the menacing missile crisis and curious about his parents’ fate.

Willie’s best friends are Lucy and Preston. Lucy wonders about the ‘man in the suit’ who seems to be everywhere she goes. Her mom, Trish, grapples with unemployment. Preston is burdened by the trauma his father is experiencing due to his military service. Denny meets his first-ever girlfriend at college, Lucy, who has one leg that’s shorter than the other. Good neighbor, Robert, is building a bomb shelter in the back yard. Muriel, his mother is a shoot-from-the-hip older adult with dementia.

Over time, the connections between them create the shelter they need for their common journey. Seaburn again tells a story of human vulnerability, endurance, secrets, truth, loss, humor, resilience and love.

Author Interview with David B. Seaburn:

This post contains affiliate links which means, at no cost to you,
I’ll receive a small commission if you purchase using those links.

  1. Does writing energize or exhaust you?

Writing does both. There are times when I sit at my desk and the words just aren’t coming. I plug away and may produce a few hundred words that feel like teeth extractions. That can be exhausting. I feel energized by things big and little. A particularly well written sentence, a twist in the plot that comes out of the blue as I’m writing, discovering a new aspect of a character’s personality, finishing the first fifty thousand words. All of these and more are energizing. They keep me coming back to the desk and computer.

  1. What are common traps for aspiring writers?

There are many but I will focus on one. A common trap is the expectation that you will know the whole story when you begin. “I should know what’s going to happen and how it’s going to end.” Before I wrote my first novel, that was my expectation. But once I started writing, I learned it’s like paving a road while you’re driving on it. You will discover where you need to go while you are on the journey, not before. It’s best to start writing even if you are unsure. In the writing you will discover the story. 

  1. Do you think someone could be a writer if they don’t feel emotions strongly?

Feelings and understanding your own emotions is very important. It helps me have empathy for my characters. My readers often comment on how connected they were to my characters, how real they seemed. (I’ve even had some readers ask me what happened to a character after the book was done.) Empathic imagination comes from within, from how you explore your own inner life.

  1. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?

I had notes for a novel for ten years before I started writing it. My goal at the time was to complete one novel; to show myself that I could do it. But in writing the first novel, other ideas came to me. I began to find my own voice as a writer. I realized there were human matters that I wanted to address. I realized that I wasn’t just a person who had written a book, I was a writer. 

  1. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?

Well before I started writing fiction, I was a minister. In seminary I learned for the first time the power of language. One example is “naming.” In the biblical time, giving someone a name was the same as creating particular qualities in them. For this reason, naming was a sacred task. As a psychotherapist for over thirty years, I saw that clients often used language to describe themselves in negative ways. Finding new language, more positive language, based on a more flexible understanding of one’s self, can be freeing. 

  1. What do you owe the real people upon whom you base your characters?

My characters are seldom based on real people. They are mostly fictional, but at times they include characteristics or experiences of real people. The exception was Charlie No Face. I used many actual people in this coming-of-age book as well as numerous incidents from my growing up years. Several people discovered themselves in the story and were pleased, thank goodness. I decided it was too risky to ever do that again. That doesn’t mean that real incidents experienced by real people don’t show up in my novels, but the people themselves aren’t identifiable. The other lesson I learned about using real people is that when I try to do that, I find that being faithful to who they actually are was limiting. I feel stuck in the “real” and unable to fictionalize the character in ways that meet the needs of the story.

  1. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?

I may be an exception, but I don’t have much that hasn’t been published. I gave up on one novel after a few thousand words, but the main characters found their way into the next novel. I tend to focus on one project at a time and getting frustrated or feeling I’ve hit a dead end don’t prevent me from moving forward. It usually helps me realize there is something about the characters or the plot that I don’t understand yet. If I keep going and keep exploring, the frustration goes away (not always quickly) and new doors open.

  1. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?

To begin writing, I need a character, an idea and a title. The first kind of research I do is character development. I free-write about the first character and the others as they emerge. This gives me ideas that may require other types of research. For instance in the novel I am working on now, Until It Was Gone, there are two characters with challenging diseases: long haul Covid and scleroderma. I knew little about these illnesses and have done research about symptoms and treatments so my characterization of them is realistic. I also decided some of my characters lived in the panhandle of Oklahoma. I’ve never been there. I read extensively about the geography, weather, food, all the things that make up that culture.

  1. Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?

Yes, I do. My comments about language above indicate that words, sentences, paragraphs, etc. are very important, not only in writing but in living. It is through language that we create meaning. We create meaning in our lives through the stories we tell, the stories we create of ourselves and those with whom we are connected. I think the search for and creation of meaning is a spiritual practice.

  1. What’s the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?

As an old white guy, the biggest challenge is not to fall into stereotypes—damsels in distress, women as angels or whores, the weaker sex, silliness, emotional but not rational, followers not leaders. I try to open all the options for how my female characters may think, act and feel. 

  1. How many hours a day do you write?

I don’t have a set amount of time. I usually write several days a week. I only write daily occasionally, typically when I am trying to complete a few chapters that are thematically connected. I also don’t set a word count expectation when I write. I write until it feels like I’m pushing the story, rather than following it. My books are usually sixty-five thousand to eighty-five thousand words. They take eighteen months to complete. There are exceptions. Give Me Shelter, the novel that is coming out on December 15, is over one hundred thousand words and it took me little over a year to write.

  1. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?

Being patient is the biggest challenge I face. I think that’s why I feel comfortable writing less often. It gives me time to think, to develop the story in my mind, to feel settled and ready to go. When I am impatient, I move the story too quickly, which changes the story’s rhythm and arc in ways that don’t work. 

  1. What inspired you to start writing?

I have always felt that writing was a special activity, that it was a way to explain, influence, inspire, create. Even as a teen ager, I thought writing was a singular activity and I admired anyone who could do it well. I have been writing in one form or another for fifty years. I started with poetry and short stories and plays, none of which were very good. As a minister, I wrote sermons every week for six years, sermons that I hoped would touch people and somehow inform their lives. Most of my career was in academics, where I published over sixty journal articles and two professional books. I also published creative nonfiction pieces. But I always felt fiction was beyond me. In 1990 I got an idea for a novel, but as I noted above, couldn’t figure out the whole story. Ten years later, I was reading a first-person novel and thought, ‘That’s how I could do it’. It gave me the confidence to go forward without knowing everything about the story before I began.

  1. What advice would you give a new writer, someone just starting out?

My first piece of advice is simple: Write! Overcome procrastination. If you need to, develop a writing routine, like twenty minutes a day, or five hundred words three days a week. Something you can do. Something that is within your reach. Also be a good listener. Eavesdrop when you are at a restaurant or sitting with your family at a holiday dinner. How do they speak? Are they direct? Indirect? Emotional? Rational? This will help you develop characters that are people. The other thing I would advise has already been touched on. Don’t expect to know everything about your story before you start writing. Develop some comfort with not knowing. The story will come in the act of writing. 

Meet the Author Book Promotion

Published by Kelly Schuknecht

Kelly Schuknecht is a marketer with a background in the publishing industry. She is passionate about all things related to books and loves helping authors navigate the world of social media for book promotion. She recently launched the course Marketing Your Book on TikTok.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: