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Author John Dalton brings his journeys home

Posted Monday, August 9, 2004

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Author John Dalton brings his journeys home on North Carolina Bookwatch, Sunday, August 15, at 5 PM
Major novelists have already hailed Heaven Lake, the story of a young American's journey across China in search of love and revelation, as an extraordinary debut from author John Dalton.

Sunday, August 15, at 5 PM, on UNC-TV's North Carolina Bookwatch, this new talent shares his all-new narrative that arcs across the Chinese landscape as gracefully as it plumbs the human heart. The North Carolina resident reveals how his extraordinary debut about a modern-day missionary yields a profound and passionate exploration of the mysteries of love.

Before moving to North Carolina with his wife, Dalton lived in Taiwan for several years in the late 1980s at which time he traveled in Mainland China and other Asian countries. This transitional period in the region set the place and time for Heaven Lake.

"The way I always begin talking about the book is to describe the personal experiences that I had in Taiwan in the late 1980s," says Dalton. "This was an interesting time because the 'iron wall,' which existed between Mainland China and Taiwan, was beginning to come down. For the first time, certain citizens, usually businessmen, were allowed to go to Mainland China and seek out business opportunities and this was a remarkable new opportunity for the people of Taiwan."

But business was not the only opportunity that opened up for the Taiwanese citizens who were finally allowed to venture onto Chinese soil. While teaching English in Taiwan, Dalton was propositioned by a Taiwanese businessman-who could not yet marry a Chinese woman he met while allowed in the country to build a factory-to be paid $10,000 in exchange for the American teacher to travel to China and marry the woman for him, bring her back to Taiwan, and then divorce her so that she and the businessman could finally marry. This extraordinary offer spelled opportunity for Dalton as well, instantly giving him early inspiration for his debut novel.

But was Dalton tempted to take the businessman up on what the author jokes was "international marriage fraud? "It was a very intriguing proposition," admits Dalton. "But the writer in me immediately took over and I knew that this moment was enough to make a novel out of."

Yet, instead of casting an English teacher to fill the role of Heaven Lake's protagonist, Dalton chose what many in Mainland China call "Jesus teachers"-the American Mormon and Christian missionaries that the author occasionally encountered while traveling throughout Asia.

"Part of being in a foreign culture is the attraction you have with that foreign culture; but for the Mormon and Christian missionaries that attraction would only go so far and they could not really explore the culture in-depth-certainly not other religious ideas and even dating would be problematic," says Dalton.

Through these cultural outsiders, Dalton was able to build a story of newfound experiences and lives in transition-influenced by the Mainland's sweeping landscapes and foreign culture. Through the eyes of a young Christian missionary named Vincent Saunders, Dalton weaves together the mysteries of love with spiritual reckoning created from an extraordinary proposition-based, at least partially, from the journeys of the book's own author.

John Dalton was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, the youngest of seven children. Upon graduation from college, he received a plane ticket to travel around the world, and so began an enduring interest in travel and foreign culture. During the late 1980s he lived in Taiwan for several years and traveled in Mainland China and other Asian countries. He attended the University of Iowa Writer's Workshop in the early 1990s and was awarded two fellowships at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown as well as a James Michener/Paul Engle Award for his novel, Heaven Lake. He presently lives with his wife in North Carolina.


Funding for North Carolina Bookwatch is provided by UNC-TV members and by Quail Ridge Books and Music, Raleigh's independent, full service bookstore, bringing readers and writers together since 1984. North Carolina Bookwatch is part of UNC-TV's ongoing commitment to produce programs for and about North Carolina. UNC-TV is the statewide 11-station broadcast network of the University of North Carolina.

Related info:
NC Bookwatch

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Author John Dalton brings his journeys home
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