Set mostly in Arizona and spanning 30 years, Rainbow Bridge tells the story of Nathan Wilkinson’s life through the lens of his dogs: At each juncture of Nathan Wilkinson’s life, he experiences friendship, guidance and personal growth from his canine companions. Frisco the border-beagle. Shiloh the German shepherd. Lindsay the mini schnauzer. Georgie the Belgian Malinois and military war dog. Labs Zooey and Boomer. Jackson captures the truth that every dog in our lives is different, and achieves greatness in unique ways. Nathan shares countless adventures, love and companionship, throughout his life with his dogs, and ultimately, the heartache of loss. An unexpected tragedy provides him the opportunity for a brief but joyous reunion.
By Dan V. Jackson
Frisco stood in the front yard now, near the driveway’s entrance to the street. Anxiety flowed through his body as he pivoted to his left and gazed down the hill. Nothing, only a car turning sharply onto the street from the intersection a half mile away.
“Nathan!” came a voice behind him. Frisco saw Sally by the side of the house, approaching the front yard, calling out to her son, palpable worry in her voice.
Then, Frisco’s finely tuned ears detected what Sally’s could not—the distant and faint echo of whimpering. It was Nathan. And Nathan was in trouble.
In a flash Frisco sprinted onto the street and up the hill toward the plateau, his paws crunching over the pebble-strewn asphalt. The border beagle crossed over the summit and yelped in relief and excitement at the sight of Nathan sitting in the center of the street, wiping the tears from his eyes.
But his excitement vanished when he heard the sound of that same car’s engine, now approaching the plateau. His ears told him that it was already less than fifty yards away, at a high rate of speed, and within moments would be over the hill and upon them.
He glanced back to see the boy, sitting unmoving, still crying. Close enough that once the vehicle emerged from the plateau, there would be no time to stop.
Frisco’s ears rang from the roar of the still-unseen engine. It was closing in, and rapidly. In an instant, his choice became all too clear.
A tear formed in his eye; he whined softly, then spun about and sprinted back across the plateau.
Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
The youngest of five boys, I have lived most of my life in and around Dallas, Texas. I love Texas and never want to live anywhere else. However, I did leave Texas for a short while, in order to receive my MBA in Finance from the University of Chicago in 1984. When I am not writing, I pursue a dual career as an international consultant specializing in Utility industry finance, serving clients who are located throughout the USA and six foreign nations. One of my specialties is to help utilities finance the construction of water systems to serve remote villages.
I am happily married, going on 28 years, and have two beautiful daughters, ages 25 and 24. My hobbies include golf, running, reading and watching football.
For much of my life I have had the pleasure of owning dogs. As a child my family had a succession of cocker spaniels, and a miniature schnauzer, hands down the most intelligent dog I have ever encountered. After we got married, my wife and I adopted another miniature schnauzer, Norman, who gave us 15 wonderful years. We now have a pack of three rescues, two litter-mate beagle schnauzer mixes and one younger dachshund mix, who keep us busy and entertained. I truly can’t imagine life without a dog.
Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
More than anything else, my inspiration for this story blossomed from my love for our canine companions. I have had the great fortune of enjoying the love, companionship, loyalty and devotion of a succession of dogs throughout my life, and I simply cannot believe that our bond with these magnificent creatures ends on that unavoidable day when we have to say good-bye. I have lost several dogs over the years. But it was the pain of saying good-bye to my beloved schnauzer Norman that more than anything else spurred me to write Rainbow Bridge. I take comfort in the belief that Norman, and all my others, together await me on the other side.
Rainbow Bridge was written in part for those who have lost a pet, and it is my sincere hope that it will provide all readers with that same sense of comfort and reassurance.
How do you create your characters?
I want all my characters to be human beings, and to be relatable. I want my protagonists to be regular people, with foibles and flaws at which readers can relate. In my business, and during my travels, I am able to observe many people in their everyday actions, and I try to take note of those so I can create realistic, natural characters.
What inspires and what got you started in writing?
I’m not sure there was ever any single inspiration that spurred me to pursue writing. It was more along the lines of wanting to follow an internal calling. Our world is composed of a glorious diversity of talents – from engineers, to protectors to caregivers, politicians and so on. I firmly believe that you are most happy, and most successful, when you do what you were born to do. It may be a cliché to say, “do what you love, and you will never work a day in your life”, but it also happens to be true. And I feel that I was born to be a writer, and I like to think that I am fairly good at it (others may disagree!).
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
All I can say is thank you to all the people who made the Laptop computer possible. Because I have another life as an international financial consultant, I spend a lot of time on the road, which means endless hours in hotels, restaurants, and airplanes. Whenever I can I use that travel time to write. Nothing beats one of those ten to twelve-hour international flights to give one time to concentrate on writing!
I take my laptop with me to write wherever I go, even on vacations, a habit that doesn’t exactly endear me with my wife. But when I am home, I retire to my sanctuary, my private study, to finish my writing. My family knows full well not to disturb me in my man-cave!
How do you get your ideas for writing?
My biggest inspiration are those four-legged family members that run around my home. Many of my friends and family members also own dogs, and we like to swap stories about them. So, I think the original idea for Rainbow Bridge gelled from the combination of all those life experiences, as well as the pain my friends and family suffered when they had to say good-bye to one of them.
There are so many stories of how our dogs have made our lives better that it should be easy to fill additional volumes of my Rainbow Bridge series. I will just let those ideas come to me – they surely will!
What do you like to read?
Though I have always been a fan of “mainstream” fiction, my taste in genres has evolved over the years. As a boy, I loved science fiction – Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clark, Isaac Asimov – and I still keep those tattered old paperbacks in my study. Upon reaching adulthood, I became more enamored with thrillers and dramatic fiction, from Tom Clancy to Jeffrey Archer. Now that I have a family of my own, I have taken to reading and writing stories oriented in family and relationships. But one thing has always remained constant – I love an imaginative story, relatable characters, and satisfying endings where the good guys win.
What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regards to writing?
Speaking of clichés, let me relate another that most existing and aspiring writers have heard more than once. It is, “write about what you know.” But the thing about clichés is that most of them are pretty profound and awfully accurate. If you write about what you know, and what you love, you will transmit that passion to the page in a way that will grab the reader’s interest.
And also, don’t try to imitate another author. Don’t be Jeffrey Archer – we already have one of those! Be yourself; write the way you want to write and tell the stories you want to tell.
Anything else you’d like to share?
One of the central questions my publisher fired at me as I pitched Rainbow Bridge was “how could you write a book that portrays dogs dying”? It’s a legitimate question, and the answer captures the essence, and the beauty, of this story of hope and reunion with our lost pets. Rainbow Bridge portrays our pets’ deaths not as a final resolution but as a temporary separation, where they wait to be reunited with us when our own time arrives.
In addition to conveying what I hope to be a lively and entertaining story, I wrote Rainbow Bridge to bestow upon those readers who have lost a pet a sense of comfort and reassurance that they will be with them again. The novel’s main canine characters — Frisco, Shiloh, Lindsay, Georgie and the Labradors – represent to readers all those dogs who await us at the Bridge, who will greet us when we arrive, and with whom we will never be separated again.
Through Rainbow Bridge, I hope to help people deal with the grief they inevitably experience when they lose a pet. Those who do not foster a dog, cat or other pet often can’t comprehend the depth of the bond that forms between us, and the pain that arises when that bond is broken. If, in addition to telling the moving, adventurous and sometimes humorous story of Nathan Wilkinson and his dogs, I can bring aid and comfort to even a few grieving pet owners, then I will consider that a mission accomplished.
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