By CAMERON MORSBERGER | firstname.lastname@example.org | Read the original article.
WESTFORD — On trips to the library as a young boy, David Daniel would scan the rows of books, looking for the names of famous writers he admired.
His adolescence was consumed with Edgar Allen Poe, Ernest Hemingway and the Bronte sisters, and his fascination transformed to aspiration — decades of informal practice of the craft and “noodling away in a notebook” led him to become a published novelist 10 times over.
Daniel, who teaches fiction writing at UMass Lowell, is now launching his latest collection of short stories, “Beach Town,” at Lowell’s Lala Books on April 15 at 2 p.m. The stories were published in January through Loom Press.
The memories of his upbringing in Weymouth on the South Shore became fodder for the collection, with many stories dating back the the mid-1970s, Daniel said. Looking back, those early experiences have “a charge of energy,” Daniel said, and though he’s never returned to live in his hometown, his first 18 years of life inspire much of his current writing.
“There’s been a lot of stories that have been germinating for years and grew out of my experiences,” Daniel said. “So it became an incubator for stories.”
Though the stories are fiction, Daniel said everything imagined — characters, situations, circumstances — are birthed out of his own existence. In that way, he said he continues to honor his past, almost breathing new life into those memories from decades’ past.
“That’s what makes it fun,” Daniel said of writing fiction. “It’s often more interesting, more cohesive, more dramatic, sexier than the real world sometimes.”
While serving in the U.S. Army in the late ’60s and early ’70s, Daniel worked as a journalist, later finding his way to fiction writing. His first novel, “Ark,” was published in 1984, setting off a career of prose.
Daniel also taught at the Lowell Middlesex Academy Charter School for 10 years, now serving on the school’s board of trustees.
When approaching a new story, Daniel said he’s often reminded of the Bruce Springsteen song, “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” and how many towns have those hidden pockets of corruption or dirty work.
“In any little place, in any large place, there are always those experiences that teach us something about the dark of life,” he said.
One passage in “Beach Town,” titled “September Song,” follows a waitress as she ends her shift and walks home at night, all while a serial killer lurks in the town. Others deal with a laborer who visits the annual fairgrounds, classmates reuniting and life within this beach community.
As he’s several years removed from his childhood, Daniel said he also acknowledges the passage of time and “the tendency to want to look back” at an older age. He’s come to understand that memory is less about what happened and more an “imagining of what happened,” he said.
The spirit of Lowell, his former home, is also woven into his other writings, and Daniel estimates he’s written more words on Lowell than on Weymouth.
After moving to the city in the ’80s — during its “Renaissance” — Daniel said he was struck by the cobblestone streets and old brick buildings. Having published several novels previously, Daniel said Lowell became his “muse” and the subject of his four-book mystery series with protagonist detective Alex Rasmussen.
When instructing college students, Daniel advises them to “forget about rules” and formulate a story around a mysterious or “wacky” sentence. It’s a tactic that’s carried him far and established his style, self-described as “lyrical, concrete, imaginative.”
Just as he mimicked the writing of Edgar Allen Poe, just as a high schooler, Daniel asks his students to take inspiration wherever they may find it.
“Don’t worry about voice or style,” he added. “In fact, imitate writers you like. If you stay with it, your voice will appear. If you don’t, it won’t.”
Daniel will be signing copies of “Beach Town” at the launch next weekend, remarking “it should be a fun time.” “Beach Town” is available at major book sellers.