Welcome to BookView Interview, a conversation series where BookView talks to authors.
Recently, we interviewed Dan Jason, a part time Christian missionary and leader in the faith, about his writing and his second book,The SAINT Next Door, an inspiring non-fiction book that invites us to to recognize Jesus in our neighbor, as well as God’s holiness in ourselves. (Read the review here.)
Dan Jason is a passionate Christian author who wants to journey with you on the road to Heaven. Dan hopes that his faith based works of literature motivate and inspire each of his readers. As a part time Christian missionary and leader in the faith, Jason’s second book entitled The SAINT Next Door is an invitation to recognize Jesus in our neighbor, as well as God’s holiness in ourselves. Jason’s latest text is a sequel to his first nonfiction work: FIRE Burning Within. As an author and disciple, Dan believes that everyone has greatness inside and God calls each of us to be Saints. Book proceeds will help benefit Jason’s work of global outreach and missions of serving the poor around the world.
What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I recall being in 7th grade and my coach telling me how much potential I had on the court. He said, “Dan, if you work hard enough and you stay hungry you will accomplish great things in basketball. It is up to you and it all comes down to how bad you want it. More importantly, you will make a difference in life because your gifts can change the world.” That encounter struck a chord with me two decades ago and is still on my mind and in my heart because words have great power. As an educator, coach, and now author, I realize that what we say can change lives. What I have learned is that our ability to challenge people, encourage them, and share what matters most during this journey can open up their minds and hearts. Sometimes people just need to hear that message. I believe each of us is just one decision away from a breakthrough happening in life. Oftentimes it’s the message that ignites and provides the spark to get the ball rolling.
What drew you to writing The Saint Next Door, and how did you begin that writing process?
I was on mission in Mexico City and spent time at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was after a long day at the city dump where we spent time with the poor. The encounters I had with those on the margins of society were intense. I felt the presence of Jesus in the people I was blessed to share time with. A woman named Olga who was in her thirties shared her story and I shared mine. I came to realize there in a garbage pile that saints are all around us. Holiness is within each person. I recognized it in her. Olga’s smile, the way she cared for her three children, and how much joy she had while sorting trash was beautiful. She shared her life, her time, and her faith. She invited me into her inner circle and trust was built. I still pray for Olga and the others I have met over the years in Mexico City because they have led me closer to God. During this experience and while prayerfully reflecting on it, I felt the spirit stir up inside of me. I thought to myself that I had to write a book about saints.
The writing process was quite easy to begin. I literally started to jot down stories from my life, people I had met throughout my own journey, as well as canonized saints who I admired. Shortly after beginning these notes on pieces of paper, I understood that sainthood was not about perfection, or being ultra-holy. Actually, it was all about love, showing up in the lives of others, and looking for God in our brothers and sisters. I wanted to help people realize that they too are a saint and called to greatness. My goal and the “why” for my book became the reason to dedicate the time to this literature. My hope was to journey with people and help them realize that we can all practice heaven by living love one day at a time.
How did publishing your first book, FIRE Burning Within, change your process of writing, especially as you were going into the writing of The Saint Next Door?
FIRE Burning Within was my first work of faith. I learned a tremendous amount from writing this piece and wanted to build upon some powerful concepts. Most of all, writing this first nonfiction book helped me learn that each of us has a story and we are all on a journey. Life is hard and it takes perseverance. As I began writing The Saint Next Door, I wanted to open up the minds and hearts of readers in a new way. I thought that incorporating interesting stories of people I knew, as well as saints over the decades, would be a way to invite my readers into this concept of sainthood. I learned that prayer while writing is key and that allowing the reader to experience situations in real time would be essential in creating an experience that moved their heart. In addition, the challenges I placed in my first book were something that I decided to do again in The Saint Next Door because people had told me that was a motivating factor for them to put into action what they were reading in each chapter. Finally, the goal with both of these books was to be authentic and real. Vulnerability is something many people shy away from, but it is a key element that makes us human. Writing in a way that is open and where I hold nothing back has resonated with many people.
How did you decide on the title, The Saint Next Door?
The title was chosen with the help of Bishop Ed Scharfenberger of the Diocese of Albany. The Bishop graciously accepted my invitation to write the foreword and introduction to the book. He endorsed it fully and we discussed many aspects together after he read the manuscript. Bishop Ed has become a great friend and mentor of mine. We have had many discussions about sainthood and people who have been a blessing to us in our lives. Over the years these have been neighbors, family members, friends, and even strangers. The idea behind the title is that you don’t have to look far to find saints. They are amongst us. The other component is that we are all called to be saints and that sometimes it is “right next door.” In other words, we just need to recognize God in our lives, receive his grace, and be open to where he is leading us. With one step of faith we can unlock the door to holiness and greatness in our lives. Not greatness in and of ourselves or for us to keep, but to share with the world by sharing the love of Jesus with those we encounter.
After the writing’s finished, how do you judge the quality of your work?
As an author I am always critiquing my work because I desire to continue to get better. I try to be humble and stay hungry. I am very pleased, though, with how this book turned out. My goal was to write something that would challenge people to think differently and be more open to seeing the potential that exists within themselves and others. I believe that this book is something that will inspire and also move the hearts of those who read it. My hope is that they draw closer to God and want to impact others along the way because sainthood is all about journey with others on the road to heaven. After reading some of the reviews from great platforms like Readers’ Favorite, where I received a 5-star review, I was thrilled. Achieving accolades and praise for my writing is not what matters, but this has reminded me that we can use our gifts and talents to make a difference. I hope that my book relays that message and people are brave enough to go for it because you will probably surprise yourself!
How many rewrites did you do for this book?
The number of rewrites were so many I lost count. Editing, changing, and improving the manuscript was quite the process. However, it is always worth it. I have always believed that if one person gains something positive out of whatever we put our time toward then it is worth it. Writing just takes discipline, like all things we want to achieve in life. You have to be patient with yourself and trust the process. Take constructive criticism, don’t settle, and always strive to improve your work.
What life experiences have shaped your writing most?
The life experiences that have shaped my writing the most have been my encounters with other people. Relationships and holy moments where I felt God’s presence being with someone as a love exchange took place. It is amazing when you reflect back on your day and life and recall the people who came your way and blessed your life, the amazing happenings, as well as the great tragedies. They all put things in perspective and allow me to appreciate each part of this journey. Specifically, my work with the poor, my own life challenges where my faith was pushed to the brink, and daily prayer have shaped me as a faith-filled writer.
When I was in 7th grade at Germantown Central, I had an outstanding English teacher named Ms. Van Buren. She saw the passion I had for writing. Although I wasn’t the most talented then, she worked with me and helped to sharpen my skill set. Those foundational methods and the creativity she instilled in me, along with her belief that I could be a great writer one day, fueled me.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer?
The biggest challenge I have faced as a writer is containing my excitement and enthusiasm when writing a book. I mention that because based on the theme there seems to be countless stories and important messages to share. It is critical to hone in on the central purpose. The beauty is that other ideas can brew and turn into new creations of literature down the road. So, I suppose knowing when the work is complete can be challenging because you can always continue to add and edit, but that is where poring over the book, re-reading, and asking for feedback from editors is helpful.
Which chapter in the book is your favorite? Why?
My favorite chapter in the book has to be Chapter 1. It is difficult for me to pick, but the opening chapter really sets the tone and I believe it invites the reader to take part in the journey with me. I had a great time writing the book from start to finish, but Chapter 1 stands out because it is a story of two neighbors who begin to learn about one another over time through the difficulties they face in life. Faith and friendship become the common thread that allows them to journey together. Such is life, when we are willing to share and be present with others. That is often when we recognize the beauty in people we encounter and it opens up a space for us to see the saint that lives inside.
What do you hope readers will take away from this story?
My overall aim from this book was to invite each reader to open themselves up to God and be willing to explore their faith more deeply. I hope that The Saint Next Door reminds people that they have holiness within them and that God calls each person to be a saint. My goal was to create an experience where we can travel together on the road to heaven and share in a journey of faith that is far from perfect, but authentic, truthful, and inspiring. If people’s hearts are stirred and they embrace the love that God has for them a little bit more because of my writing, I believe that the book will have been a success. In addition to seeing holiness in others, I hope that readers will rise to the challenge of living out the call God places on their life. I believe that working together with God, we can collectively change the world one soul at a time by building up the kingdom.
Categories: BookView Review Interview