Wednesday, April 16, 2014

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Author Dan Dembiczak

Dan Dembiczak, Author
Successful playwright, actor, director, producer, and short story author Dan Dembiczak has published his first novel, IMPERFECT PARADISE.  Reviewers describe it as an “intriguing story of self discovery” and tout Dembiczak's “complex, strong protagonist” and the “backdrop of the Big Island of Hawaii” which “adds to the richness of this story.” Dembiczak himself says that he is “interested in crafting an interesting character.  A human being.”

Dembiczak has always been a writer. Eight of his plays have been produced in Seattle. He has traveled extensively to Hawaii and appreciates its magic.  He gained insight into women, such as his protagonist, having been reared with three sisters, befriending women, and reading women’s self-discovery literature of the late 1800s. He is currently working on his second novel. In between, he likes to garden and is a yoga “fanatic.”

Q: Why did you write a story about a woman’s self-discovery? Do you think it’s difficult for a man to comprehend a woman’s feelings? How did you gain insight?

Dan Dembiczak: The inspiration began with taking the women’s self-discovery stories of the late 1800s and putting it in modern times.  I was most interested in Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, a book that spoke to me at an early age and the power of the story has stuck with me for a long time.  In those stories, the woman was always seeking to escape – and unfortunately the only escape route meant her own demise.  I wanted to explore a more positive option, but equally delve into the messiness of figuring out one’s true path. 

As far as comprehending a woman’s feelings and gaining insight, beyond being a huge fan of women’s fiction, I grew up around a lot of women.  I’m the youngest of four siblings, with three older sisters.  So it was like I had four mothers!  I’ve also had some very special female friendships over the years and observed the markedly different experience a woman has even in these modern times. 

Q: Reviewers praise your protagonist in IMPERFECT PARADISE as “complex, strong” and “definitely relatable and easy for readers to root for.”  How do you entice readers to root for or embrace your protagonist Sarah Chizeck? Is she based on a real person?

Dan Dembiczak: I always knew she’d be a challenge for some, much like Edna was in The Awakening.  But I’m very pleased that readers are responding to her realness and identifying with where she’s at in her own awakening.  At first we see this woman on a very decadent Hawaiian honeymoon who seemingly has the perfect life.  Why does she seem so malcontent?  That’s just annoying.  But then as the story unfolds and we learn of her backstory, it becomes more evident that she isn’t living life for herself.  She’s trying to fit into a paradigm her family and society have set for her and ignore her doubts, regrets and misgivings. 

Q: How helpful or relevant to telling your story was the setting of Hawaii?

Dan Dembiczak: Huge!  I don’t think Sarah would have made the same choices or had the same discovery somewhere else.  I actually envisioned this story while running on a beach in Kauai in 2005.  It was my first trip to any of the islands, and a very powerful experience for me.  There is something so intense about the beauty there and the vividness that just leads to a startling clarity.  The sensuousness Sarah experiences on all fronts – the food, the air against her skin, the empathy she begins to experience for other women on the island – all leads to her exploration and ultimate decision to choose a new life. 

The Big Island, in particular, is such a magical place.  I’ve been there so many times and yet each visit it’s like I’m falling in love all over again.  And it’s not the glitzy resorts.  It’s the small little ice shave shack or an undiscovered black sand beach.  Beauty is hiding in every corner waiting for the right person to discover and appreciate it. 

Q: Did you write IMPERFECT PARADISE to entertain readers or also to deliver a message?

Dan Dembiczak: Absolutely both.  I mean, who doesn’t want to read a bit of sizzle that takes place on a tropical honeymoon?  So I think the relationship between Sarah and Kalei and Sarah’s exploration of the island is a highly entertaining reading experience.  At the same time, I was very much hoping to convey a message of freedom and hope.  That it’s never too late to start living an authentic life, even if you’ve made huge commitments.  I’m not trying to start a movement for women to leave their husbands, though! 

Q: In addition to IMPERFECT PARADISE, a novel, you have also written short stories, plays (of which eight were produced in Seattle), and articles. Which do you enjoy writing the most? Why?

Dan Dembiczak: It’s changed over the years.  As a kid I began writing short books and going to young writer’s conferences with them.  I then took up short stories and poetry.  In middle school I wrote my first screenplay.  My dad was working nights at the time and photocopied enough copies for me to do a reading with friends.  Then in high school we had an assignment to make a movie and it came to life!  In college I majored in creative writing and worked on short stories and started a novel.  Then the theater bug hit me and I spent many years writing plays.  And I really found a love of writing characters and dialogue.  For me, it’s really important for each individual character to have a unique voice.  So the years in theater really honed that for me.  When I decided to take a break from theater, it felt like the perfect time to sit down and write this novel that had been marinating in my brain for years. 

So I would say that right now writing novels is the most satisfying for where I’m at in my life.  But I’m not closing any doors on plays or screenplays.  Writing articles has always been a way for me to keep my writing sharp and stay involved in the community.   I’m sure I’ll continue with that always as a way to stay connected.

Q: Is the concept of “villains vs heroes” or “antagonist vs protagonist” relevant to your books? What makes an interesting villain and hero? Do you need one to have the other?

The "good vs evil” mentality may work well in action movies, but in my writing I’m more interested in the gray area. We’re all just a product of our experiences.  I like to explore both the darker and lighter sides of characters.  Sarah is no grand heroine, but she’s not a villain either.  And neither is her husband or Kalei or her family.  I love it when I read a story or watch a film and leave with mixed emotions.  I think I’m less interested in what makes an interesting villain or hero and more interested in crafting an interesting character.  A human being. 

Q: Do your characters lead you to write what they want? Or do you draft an outline and stick to it?

Dan Dembiczak: I draft an outline, but I keep it pretty skeletal at first so that the characters can emerge and lead to spontaneity. For IMPERFECT PARADISE, I stuck pretty close to the overall plot outline, but there were scenes that were born naturally as I was writing them.  For example, the subplot with Sarah’s obsession with the cat in the parking lot was not something I had originally put into the outline. 

Q: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?

Dan Dembiczak: I can’t really remember not having an interest in it.  In kindergarten I was very shy and loved to read.  Writing has always been a way for me to keep company with anyone I want to create.

Q:  What’s next?

Dan Dembiczak: I’m writing my second novel titled The Hardest Pose is Corpse Pose.  It’s written through four main characters’ points of view, some first person and some third person.  It follows a married couple living in South Seattle and facing marital problems.  The wife is a yoga instructor and trying to come to terms with her husband’s infidelity and an unexplained illness that’s struck her.  The family dog is also one of the characters and offers a very different perspective on what’s going on at home.  Each character is struggling with an issue related to faith, whether that be their lack of or a reconciliation with a belief system that’s been in place for a number of years.

Q:  Tell us about Dan Dembiczak. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Dan Dembiczak: I’m fortunate enough to have a decent sized yard and enjoy gardening.  I am a yoga fanatic.  I try to practice every day.  I love food, movies, reading and getting to the Big Island as much as I can.

About Dan Dembiczak

Dan Dembiczak is a Seattle native who began writing stories as soon as he could spell. He earned a BA in creative writing from the University of Washington, and has worked extensively in local theater as a playwright, actor, director, and producer. Eight of his plays were produced in Seattle, including the popular four-part Capitol Hill High series, and a number of his articles and short stories have appeared in publications in Seattle and Los Angeles.

Dembiczak has traveled extensively to the Hawaiian islands, particularly the Big Island, where he was married in 2008, and considers Hawai'i his second home. He primarily resides in Seattle with his husband, dog, and chickens, and is currently working on his second novel, The Hardest Pose is Corpse Pose, which tells the tale of a yoga teacher facing change, adultery, and, possibly, death.

For thirty-two-year-old Sarah Chizeck, marriage was not an option, but an expectation. She was raised to believe that a woman’s main focus is to get married and start a family, and she put everything else on hold to accomplish this goal.

So when she finally marries her boyfriend of five years, Sarah and her family are ecstatic. But underneath Sarah’s smiles, something else is lurking.

Sarah’s career and personal interests were not all she put on hold to pursue marriage. She also put her feelings on the backburner and buried her emotions. But when she reluctantly goes to Hawai’i for her honeymoon, these things come to the surface, and she is both pleased and alarmed by the sensory experiences she encounters.

Terrified by her attraction to a handsome young concierge, Sarah is forced to confront her new feelings, as well as what she previously ignored, and she ultimately comes to shocking revelations about her upbringing, marriage, and future.

IMPERFECT PARADISE tells the compelling story of Sarah’s internal awakening and delivers a powerful message about hope, happiness, and finding your place in the world. A classic romance with a contemporary twist, it is sure to appeal to fans of modern, liberating fiction.

Author and Purchase Links

twitter:  @imperparadise

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