Where Honesty Never Ends.
Greetings and welcome to The Review Board. For the November 2016 Author Spotlight, TRB brings you an examination of Mr. Joshua Danker-Dake, the author of “Retail”.
Conducting this interview is our very own Mr. Controversy.
I started reading when I was three, and I’ve been an avid consumer of fiction ever since. I’ve always been interested in storytelling. I remember writing a story in third grade that was good enough that another kid in my class copied me, but maybe that was just because my story was about ninjas.
I dabbled in story writing from that point onward. I was a freshman or sophomore in college when I decided to try to do a full-length novel. It took forever to finish, and it was terrible, but that was when I realized that I wanted to BE A WRITER, and I’ve been trying to BE A WRITER ever since.
The biggest challenge right now is simply making the time to do it. With a job, a wife, kids, and a baby, it’s hard to find hours to devote to writing when you still have enough brain cells to get anything accomplished. All you can do is ride it out.
The other challenge is the eternal one—to persist in the face of adversity. Rejection and failure happen to every writer. You just have to decide that you’re going to stick with writing no matter what happens, even when it doesn’t seem worth it.
I find that my taste runs more toward authors of the past. I’m not sure if that’s because publishers are now more deliberate about their audiences and genres and newer works feel more formula to me, or if I’m just a pretentious old soul, or if I’m just reading the wrong authors of today.
In some ways, our tales are very similar. When I got out of college, I wasn’t able to get a job in my field right away, and I ended up at a big-box store where, like Penn, I worked customer service. Ridiculous things were happening every day, and I started writing them down. By the end, I had a whole notebook full of absurd anecdotes, and many of them made it into the book. The plot of The Retail is fiction and the characters are fictional, but the vast majority of the customer-related (and store procedure-related) shenanigans are straight from real life. The Retail feels real because all of those things are completely real.
That’s a great question. Mostly I get asked about my time on the other side of the counter.
I occasionally shop at a store in the big-box chain where I used to work. It’s been well over ten years, and their register system hasn’t changed at all. I still remember exactly how to do it. You can always tell when you’re dealing with a new cashier and when they’re having trouble. I’ve helped them sometimes; other times, I’ve stood there quietly. In all of the cases, I’m just trying to be polite and not to make an ass of myself.
If I’ve learned one thing from working retail, it’s that being a cashier is a thankless and often mindless task—that’s at the heart of what The Retail is all about. And so now that I’m free of that world, all of my experiences have helped me to be mindful to be nice—or at least polite—to cashiers.
So many I couldn’t begin to count. Recently, I was in a big-box retail store—let’s call it “Walmart”—and a guy came up to me in the toy aisle and started talking to me about the Bible and his church and would I be interested in attending his Bible study with him.
Regardless of who you are or what your religious preference is, your immediate thought in that situation is Escape! Well, he wasn’t taking “not interested” for an answer, and I was too polite to just run away. So then every ounce of brainpower became devoted to finding ways to end the conversation as quickly as possible.
I was trying to tell him that I was already Christian, had a church I attended regularly, and was happy with it and not looking to make a change and that this was why I wasn’t interested in his Bible study when I started actually hearing what he was saying.
“Do you know that the Bible teaches that there are multiple gods?” he said. I was still trying to find an opportunity to walk away without coming off as the bigger tool at that point, but he was not a quitter. He was going on about how in addition to God the Father there’s a separate God the Mother, and he took out his phone to show me a Bible reference in support of this argument, and all of a sudden something in my brain just clicked over. All thought of flight was gone. Instead, I was thinking, This dude does not know what he’s getting into.
A little-known fact about me now that I work fulltime as a writer and editor: I have a degree in theology. My father is a pastor. Both of my grandfathers were pastors, and one was a seminary professor. When it comes to the Bible I know what I’m talking about. You cannot whip out some passage with which I am quite familiar and talk to me about God the Mother.
So I said to him, “Look, I appreciate what you’re trying to do, but…” and then I went on about how the “bride” in Revelation 22:17 clearly represented the church as a whole, not “God the Mother,” and here was why, and how I was so sure he was wrong that no, I wasn’t interested in coming to his Bible study, until he looked like he was starting to think about how he was going to escape. I promise I was nice…mostly. He finally got the message, and in the end, we parted amicably enough.
I tell you what though—walking out of that store, it wasn’t the evangelizing that bothered me—people who do that are trying, at least—it was really just the heresy.
A footnote: I’d asked him several times what church he was from, and he was suspiciously cagey about it. He never ended up telling me. I deduced later it had to be the World Mission Society Church of God. In case you wondered.
No, but I have gotten fired from a job and, looking back, felt that it was the best decision somebody else ever made.
Never stop trying to become a better writer. Find ways to get better as a storyteller, as a plotter, as an editor—to improve in every aspect of writing. Reading critically is an underrated way to do this, but there are lots of ways.
In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell talks about the 10,000-Hour Rule—basically, you have to spend about 10,000 hours doing something before you become truly good at it. I’ve found this to be completely true of writing, and I’m still improving—never stop improving.
I’m always working on something, children permitting. In terms of genre and topic, I can be all over the place.
-The Spare Room and Other Stories is a joint anthology of speculative fiction I did with my brother, Roc author Sean Danker.
-I’m the Strategy and Tactics Editor (and a regular contributor) for Diplomacy World, the flagship publication of the Diplomacy hobby.
-I’m a contributor to www.the918.org, where I discuss sensible approaches to health and fitness in my Sustainable Struggle series.
And I’ve got a lot of science fiction tucked away that the world has yet to see.
The dream is to be able to make a living on my own projects—fiction, non-fiction, screenplays—all of it.