Dan was born, raised, and college educated in Detroit, Michigan. He worked for 3M and retired from Imation in 2004, a career that spanned 32 years. He has lived in Afton, Minnesota for 45 years. Married and the proud father of two sons, Dan continues to enjoy mountain hikes, gardening, reading, and writing. Real Mountains is his first published work.
1. Tell us about the featured book. What is it about, and why did you choose to write this story?
Our son, Greg, and his friend died in an avalanche in Grand Teton National Park in April, 2011. The search to recover their bodies lasted a week. I wrote Real Mountains to preserve and build our son’s legacy. The book is about the accident, the search and recovery, and the range of emotions I experienced during this time. Greg had just completed residency and was an attending ER doctor for less than a year at the time of the accident. I felt his death was such a waste. Sharing the story of his tragic death and my memories of his childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood helped me on my grief journey. Real Mountains includes great stories about him, his brother, and their friends.
2. Tell us a little about your writing process. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I didn’t do much research before writing Real Mountains because I wrote as an outlet for my grief. I did contact the Rangers at Grand Teton NP and the National Weather Service to verify details about the search. My publisher suggested memoir didn’t have to be accurate, just my memories of what happened. My wife and I also compared our memories of events from Greg’s childhood. I created stories from these memories and they became chapters in the book. Among them, I inserted chapters about the avalanche, search, and recovery. My editor turned that mess into a cohesive finished product.
3. What is the most difficult part of your artistic process?
The editing and rewriting takes a lot of effort, even on current projects. But the most difficult adjustment for me before publication of Real Mountains was cutting out parts of the initial manuscript. I argued with my editor until she informed me, “You don’t have to include everything to tell Greg’s story.” Somehow her explanation finally clicked for me.
4. How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
It made me aware of the importance of writing for the reader rather than for myself. I never was able to decide who I was writing for. Folks who’ve contacted me after reading Real Mountains range in age from 10 to 92.
I also learned that no matter what you write, or how it’s written, you won’t please everybody.
5. Are there any writers or authors who have influenced your writing? If not, who are some of your favorite writers?
Alexander McCall Smith is a model for my writing now. I love the characters he creates. My current project is a novel and one of my objectives is to create memorable characters.
I enjoy and admire many authors. Among my favorites are William Kent Krueger, John Grisham, and James Michener.
6. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Four. I started two different projects and quickly realized there wasn’t enough material for an entire book. I’ve also written a children’s story, but don’t know what I’ll do with it. My current focus is a completed first draft of a novel I’m in the process of rewriting. In the introduction to Real Mountains, I mention “I thought about writing a book for twenty years, but this isn’t the story I wanted to tell.” My current novel is the story I wanted to write, a humorous story about friendship and good times, not tragedy and loss.
7. What does literary success look like to you?
It’s not about me at all. My purpose for writing Real Mountains was twofold. I wanted people who knew Greg to read the book to get to know him better and never forget him. I also wanted people who didn’t know him to read the book and tell me, “I wish I knew that man.” When I receive such comments, Real Mountains is a literary success. More important, I feel Greg’s life has meaning, even after his death.
I’d like to add that I do not profit financially from sales of Real Mountains. All money goes to four nonprofits we’ve partnered with to preserve Greg’s legacy. Often we give books to interested readers and invite them to make a contribution to one of our partners.
8. What inspired you to start writing?
I’ve always enjoyed writing, even as a kid. But that was mostly writing for fun, not school assignments. I have fun and am most creative when writing humor. Real Mountains is not humorous, but it does include funny stories. The tragedy of Greg’s death and my desire to preserve and build his legacy inspired me to share his story.
9. When you’re not writing, what do you like to do in your spare time?
Though I grew up a city kid, we were always outside. I still like to be outdoors, gardening, working in the yard, walking in our neighborhood, or hiking in the mountains. I also love to read. So many books, so little time!
10. Do you have a website or social media channels (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) where readers can learn more about your work?
Yes. You can contact me and learn about scheduled events on our website, www.gregseftick.wixsite.com/realmountains. We also have a Facebook page, Real Mountains, that enables Greg’s family, friends, and readers of Real Mountains, to connect.