About

Dan Raburn lives in the Appalachian foothills of north Alabama and has been an English teacher and career counselor while honing his writing skills. He began writing at the age of ten and sold his first short story at eighteen.  Early success whetted a lifelong passion for storytelling, and he now writes thrillers that are often more than their genre.  His interest in the sufferings of provincial man in a global society inspires fast-paced stories with literary underpinnings. He is father to a son and daughter and “poppy” to two grandsons.

Autobiography

If you’ve come this far, you must want a deeper dive into the life of yours truly. So this is the longer version, in first person, where I’ll introduce myself more personally and maybe push your want to know boundary a little—but here goes.

The first question, or questions, writers are usually asked is: What made you become a writer? Or the ever popular: Where do you get your ideas? To answer the first question, some background is in order.

Bear Creek, Alabama, circa 1970: Small town America. Very small town. Population 500. Industry had only begun to arrive in the area. Previously people farmed, sharecropped, or day labored for those with the means to pay. The first television arrived in our home that year. Yes, there were still people without television in rural America in 1970. My days were spent in the outdoors in the summer, and along the banks of Bear Creek, which ran a half mile behind our house. My entertainment consisted of roaming the woodlands and games of make believe. I made some of my own toys, because money was scarce. From the wider world, to us came only the radio waves, which gave me country music and The Lone Ranger late at night.

Let’s be clear. I don’t regret anything about my formative years. I believe these conditions laid the groundwork for a life of creativity and invention. Books came early, and I read on a tenth-grade level in the fourth grade. Books were my primary source of entertainment, and the primary source of my education. Even today with a master’s degree, I can say that confidently. I’ve always learned better by reading than listening to people talk. I read everything that resembled a story in the school library, along with biographies of famous Americans. It was there I discovered the dog stories of Fred Gipson, the horse stories of Walter Farley, and the frontier world of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

I found different influences at home. My brother, who was nine years older than me, gave me his collection of Louis L’Amour titles around 1968. I think he had about fifteen of them, and thereafter I bought every one the month they were published and devoured them. The Carl Elliott Regional Library’s bookmobile visited our town in the summers, and I was allowed to check out as many as I wanted. I carried away stacks of them at each visit. I read practically every book Zane Grey published in one summer. Other worlds opened, that of Mark Twain, of A.B. Guthrie, Jr., of Willa Cather and Janice Holt Giles. Hemingway, Faulkner, Flaubert, and Hardy would come later. My fiction reading was wide and deep, and over years the novel form and all its devices became hard-wired in my brain. These days, my more modern forays are into John Grisham, Greg Iles, Ken Follett, and an occasional dive into James Lee Burke.

I began with the year 1970 because it was about this time I decided that I, too, would write. I was captivated by the wide world, which I could only see on the printed page, and I wanted nothing more than to create that magic for others. My first stories began before 1970, written in pencil on ruled paper with my own illustrations. I had my first job at an area five and dime when I was fifteen and saved enough money to buy an Olivetti-Underwood portable typewriter. I hadn’t had a typing class yet, but by the end of that year I’d rapped out my first western novel with two fingers. It was god-awful, of course, but I didn’t know it. I mailed it off to every New York imprint publishing westerns at the time, along with the required SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope). The manuscripts came back like homing pigeons, but once I received a letter of encouragement from an editor at Doubleday, something unheard of today. I wish I still had it. By the time I was twenty, I had produced three or four similarly atrocious scripts with similar results. By then I had enough rejection slips to paper a wall.

Enter my first editor. A gentleman named A.L. Fierst ran an ad in Writer’s Digest offering editing/book doctoring services. I wrote to him, and my father gave me three hundred dollars of hard-earned money to pay his fees. Fierst took my latest effort, a historical novel, apart with scissors, marked it up and spliced it back together with tape. I worked through it again and had a somewhat improved version, but still unpublishable. In the years since, doubts have been cast on Fierst’s qualifications and abilities, but he was what I needed at the time. It wasn’t success, but it was education. He put a great deal of work into my book, and I came away with knowledge I hadn’t previously possessed—things like the economy of language, not explaining dialogue with adverb tags, and other writerly tricks I won’t bore you with.

1977 dawned brighter. A new magazine called Far West appeared in Costa Mesa, California, and they advertised for original stories. I sent them one, and they promptly accepted it and published “The Price of Bravery” in their premier edition alongside an original story by one of my heroes, Louis L’Amour. I was quite proud of that. They published a few more of my stories over the next two or three years, but the western genre was already fading at the time, and they soon folded.

A momentous 1982 came. First, keeping priorities in order, my son was born that year. Second, I received a phone call at eleven p.m. one night from Glenn Cowley in New York, a literary agent who liked my western novel and wanted to represent me. As far as that part of my life was concerned, I was walking on sunshine. Blood Bounty was published by Zebra Books, an imprint of Kensington Publishing Corporation, in 1985. The book was intended as first in a series, but they didn’t buy the series, only the individual novel. You can still find a few used copies out there.

Life intervened, and I spent a few years raising a wonderful son and daughter single-handedly, getting college degrees, and finding professional employment to support my family and my writing habit. In those years I taught high school English and worked in employment services and career counseling. But the writing never stopped. I continued producing novels and studying the craft, reading every article and book I could find on the subject by successful authors. It was also during this period that I made the shift from westerns and historicals to thrillers, which are nothing more than westerns set in a different time with different props. It wasn’t a difficult leap for me, and it was very liberating no longer to be confined to a historical era. Some of my output during that time will eventually see the light of day. I hope you are here to read it.

There is a maturation component in the development of a writer. I believe it was L’Amour who said that some men come into their own very early and some very late. I was a late bloomer, and during the years I wasn’t publishing I was growing as a writer. One conundrum I set out to solve was how to meld genre fiction with other elements of writing that interested me, things like the deeper characterizations, allegories, and symbols found in literary fiction. In various ways over time professionals in the industry have told me it’s not possible, play by the rules if you want to publish. But I believe there are readers out there who will follow me. Even if the audience is small, I’ll take them. Those are the people I want to write for. 

As I promise on the welcome page of my newsletter, should you decided to subscribe, all of my books will be thrillers. They may be historical thrillers, legal thrillers, psychological thrillers, literary thrillers, or some combination thereof. And there will always be romance. I believe in it. I think it makes the world go round and no story is complete without it. I won’t promise total realism, because that’s not good fiction. My fictional world is about the world that should be, not always the one that is. I hope to see you there.