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Dan WhiteDescribe your latest project.
The Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind and Almost Found Myself on the Pacific Crest Trail is my contemporary take on the hero's journey. I set out to write a real-life dark comedy about vision quest that goes ridiculously awry in the wild American West. I wanted to talk about the costs as well as the benefits of being obsessed with one goal and trying to reach it no matter what. Part of the book is about the fraying relationship between me and my girlfriend at the time, and how it evolved (or devolved) as we struggled with "The Quest." But the book is also about deep ecology, place, and the wild characters we met out on the trail, as well as the emigrants, pioneers, and moguls that once populated the West.
I used to flip burgers at Marineland of the Pacific, a now-defunct seaside amusement park in Palos Verdes, California. My place of work was the Burger Galley. That name always bothered me; it evoked Viking warships and galley slaves, and that wasn't too far off from working there. As part of my job, I would plop these vile disks of rock-hard, frozen meat onto a conveyor belt, and the burgers would roll into a wall of high flames. It's funny, because some customers would come up and ask for fancy things that we couldn't do rare meat, medium rare meat. I would nod my head and say, "No problem," and five minutes later I'd hand them a burger so charred and black, you would really need to Carbon 14 date it to know that it was a burger at all. Eventually I got fired because I had a hard time with the cash register; I once charged someone $125 for onion rings.
How did the last good book you read end up in your hands and why did you read it?
What is your idea of absolute happiness?
Why do you write?
Offer a favorite sentence or passage from another writer.
A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest, remembers it most obsessively, wrenches it from itself, shapes it, renders it, loves it so radically that he remakes it in his own image.
On a clear and cold day, do you typically get outside into the sunshine or stay inside where it's warm?
Aside from other writers, name some artists from whom you draw inspiration and talk a little about their work.
Recommend five or more books on a single subject of personal interest or expertise.
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Dan White is a journalist and author whose work has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Backpacker magazine. He received his MFA from Columbia University, and he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.