Inspirational author Dan Walsh returns this month with The Discovery, an extraordinary Top Pick!-earning story. After hero Michael Warner's grandfather, a celebrated author, dies, the younger man inherits his estate. Among the possessions, he finds a lost manuscript that contains secrets about their family, secrets so big that they would've shattered worlds if his grandfather ever revealed them. Today RT reviewer Leslie L. McKee asks Walsh about this compelling tale and learns what's next for this award winning author.
The Discovery has a unique literary arc — a novel within a novel. Why did you decide to write two storylines? How are they connected?
The idea for the book came to me before the structure did. As I pondered how the grandfather would share his hidden past the ‘book-within-a-book’ idea surfaced. I knew it would be a challenge to pull off, but I’m happy with how it worked out. The reader gets to read over Michael’s shoulder, so to speak (Michael’s the grandson). By the end of the book, both he and the reader make all the necessary connections.
How did you come up with the idea of a reluctant German spy who grew up in the US and joined the Nazi party to get back to the US?
In my research for an earlier book that took place during WWII, I came across two different unrelated stories that intrigued me. There actually was a German spy who despised the Nazis and used this “sabotage” mission as a means of getting back to the country he loved. There was also a scene from Band of Brothers where a German POW asks his American captor for a cigarette in perfect English. The American is startled and stops to chat. He finds out the German was born in the US, even grew up not far from where the GI lived. These stories simmered a while until I saw a way to mesh them together, not just as a suspense thriller, but as a powerful love story, as well.
How much of the novel was based on actual historical fact from WWII?
The entire Nazi spy sub-plot was, including the FBI aspects. In June 1942, the FBI rounded up eight Nazi saboteurs after landing onshore in Florida and Long Island. And, of course, all the background details are as accurate as I could make them. I essentially took the factual parts and imagined a plausible what-if scenario to create the storyline.
What did you learn while writing The Discovery?
This is my fifth novel, but the third that spends time in the home front during WWII. I learned several more historical things I had never realized. For example, hundreds of American cargo ships were sunk up and down the East Coast and in the Gulf of Mexico, many within eyesight of people on shore, but were never reported in the newspapers. They didn't want to terrify the public or let the Nazis know how much damage they caused. Also, at least on two separate occasions, the Nazis landed spies on our shores, intending to sabotage our factories. This resulted in the creation of men on horses and dogs patrolling the beaches for the rest of the war.
What message do you hope readers take away from this book?
The book is first and foremost a love story, but one that highlights the sacrifices young couples and families had to make at a time when this country was in great peril. The power of love at work in these relationships helped them overcome incredible obstacles, including keeping a family secret for almost sixty years; one that had the potential of tearing the family apart. I hope readers receive fresh courage to trust God and do the right things, no matter the cost, in whatever new challenges they are facing today.
Which character do you most identify with in the story?
If I had to pick one, it would be Michael, the grandson. He and his grandfather are both writers. Michael, just starting out, lives in the shadow of a grandfather who was a mega bestseller. I'm not just starting out as a writer, but I can more easily get in touch with his emotions and fears. Getting in touch with his grandfather was a lot of fun for me. Perhaps wishful thinking on my part, that my career might someday reach the same place.
How did you choose the title?
It was a perfect fit, and yet so simple. Michael makes a discovery in the estate house he inherits from his grandfather that causes him to reevaluate his past and future, and discovers things about himself he never knew.
Not a lot of men write romance novels, what draws you towards this genre?
I’m just wired that way, I guess. I’m a regular guy who likes well-done action movies and thrillers, but I’ve always enjoyed watching romantic comedies and dramas with my wife. I love Jane Austen movies, Hallmark tales and anything on Masterpiece Theater, as well as romantic period pieces. I especially love stories that stir my emotions and touch my heart.
You’ve been compared to Nicholas Sparks multiple times. How does this feel?
I was honored. Nicholas Sparks is an international bestseller with over 35 million books in print. Dozens of other magazine and blog reviews have made that comparison on more than one book, so there must be some truth to it. I never set out to write like him. Actually, I’ve only recently read a couple of his books out of curiosity. Easy to see why his books sell so well.
What are you currently reading for pleasure?
A book I picked up at Sam's [Club] called The Death Instinct by Jeb Rubenfield. It's been a fun read so far. Based on a true story, an act of terrorism on Wall Street in 1920. It's got mystery, suspense, romance, and some very interesting main characters. We'll see if I like it as much by the end.
What are you working on now?
I’m halfway through my first of a four-book fiction series with Dr. Gary Smalley. Gary co-authored the Redemption series with bestselling author Karen Kingsbury a few years ago. It was a huge success (over 1.5 million books sold). Our books should resonate well with fans of that series; although Gary made it clear he wants me to write our stories the way I write. He said he picked me for this project because my books affected him emotionally the same way Karen’s did. He’s been wonderful to work with, and I can’t wait for the first book to come out next year.