A Conversation with David W. Berner, Author of 'The Consequence of Stars: A Memoir'

David W. Berner is a memoirist whose personal stories tell all of our stories. His memoirs reflect on our collective relationships and how those experiences link us to the world we share. From stories of fathers and sons, to road trips, travel memoir, pets, and music, David's books are mirrors of our common human experience. 

Storytelling has been a part of David's life since his days as a young boy, delivering The Pittsburgh Press newspaper. He began telling his own stories and the stories of others as a reporter for numerous radio stations, including freelance work at National Public Radio and more recently for CBS in Chicago.

David's reporting background has given birth to award-winning memoirs and novels based on his own experiences.

He has been the Writer-in-Residence for the Jack Kerouac Project in Orlando, where he was privileged to live and work at the Kerouac House in Orlando for two-and-a-half months. He later was honored with the Writer-in-Residence position at the Ernest Hemingway Birthplace Home in Oak Park, Illinois.

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  When did you come up with the idea to write your book?

My book, The Consequence of Stars was built from an essay I wrote about a cross-country trip I took with my two sons. We visited the Navajo Nation and I had an epiphany. There was something very special about that place. The vastness and beauty shook me deeply. I felt at home. This got me thinking about what is our place in the world? Where are we supposed to be? What is home? I started to write more on this theme and realized I had always, in some way, been searching for home. But what is home? It isn’t just a physical place. I kept exploring this and found that I was not alone in that search. The book grew partially out that visit to the Southwest. From there it grew and includes an examination of my parents’ extraordinary connection to their hometown, a trip to Cuba, Paris, and the homes of Jack Kerouac and Ernest Hemingway. 

  Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

I’ve written several memoirs, so writing about myself and sometimes writing about tough stuff is not unusual. But my best tip for any writer who wants to write personal stories is this: Be authentic. Go deep. Scratch at the skin a bit. It’s not easy sometimes, but that’s where the good stories are. And remember this is your truth. Not someone else’s. Be honest with yourself. Be brave.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

Adelaide Books is my publisher. I queried them with a couple of chapters and they asked to see the entire manuscript. They liked it. The publisher who published two other books of mine is no longer taking on new projects, so I had to look elsewhere. I’m happy with Adelaide.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

My first book was Accidental Lessons, published more than ten years ago. It’s a memoir of teaching in a troubled school district. The surprise was finding out how the publishing world these days is much like the Wild West. There are so many possibilities for publishing, yet some of it is nefarious—pay-for publishing groups preying on would-be authors. I have nothing against self-publishing or hybrid publishing, but writers must find professional groups that truly want to work with you and actually know something about the business, especially the new ways of marketing. Also, find a great editor. That’s imperative. I still believe traditional publishing is the higher road, but it is tougher to get a deal. Publishers aren’t taking as many risks. They can’t afford to. If you are not in a hurry, look around, do your homework, and query, query, query. Also, it isn’t necessary to have an agent. It’s nice, and they can open doors you cannot. But I’ve done it with and without one.

Q: What other books are you working on and when will they be published?

I have a memoir manuscript based on a season of walking my dog. Really. It’s a deep look at neighborhood and self-reflection, and the power of animals to open our eyes. We’ll see where that ends up. I’m also working on a novel and playing around with some poetry.

Q: What’s one fact about your book that would surprise people?

Surprise? Not sure it would be a surprise. But sometimes readers see memoir as a story of dysfunction or overcoming terrible trauma. My book is neither. This is a memoir about defining yourself, finding your place in the universe. It’s part memoir and part travelogue. I see it as a universal theme, part of being a human being in the world.

Q: Finally, what message are you trying to get across with your book?

That we are all searching for what home means to us. We all want to find our spot in the world. It’s part of the human condition. And as we search, we are not alone. Sometimes it is a life trauma, or at least a major life event, that triggers that search. It was my sister’s death from alcohol and drug addiction that triggered a lot of this for me. It forced me to think about what makes us happy. One of those things is to find our place, our home in the world. 

Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

If you want to write, get after it Just write. Don’t think about publishing. Just get your words down and enjoy the glorious process.

About the Book:

Author: David W. Berner
Publisher: Adelaide Books New Yotk/Lisbon
Pages: 200
Genre: Memoir/Essays

THE CONSEQUENCE OF STARS is a unique and thoughtful memoir on our eternal search for home. Told in a series of essays on love, loss, travel, music, spirituality, and the joys of solitude, memoirist David W. Berner, reaches deep to discover where he belongs and ultimately where all of us belong.
"Berner gives us both travelogue and memoir in living, breathing depth and color." --- D.S. White, Editor-in-Chief, Longshot Island

"A writer with an enormous sense of humanity." -- San Francisco Review of Books

"Reflective, engaging...Berner's authentic storytelling takes you with him on his travels through the chapters of his life where in the end, he reveals connections to finding a place to be, his home under the stars." -- Nancy Chadwick, author of Under the Birch Tree


Adelaide Books

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