Dana Precious, a former North Muskegon resident who now lives in Los Angeles, wrote a book “Born Under a Lucky Moon.”
The following interview with former North Muskegon resident and author, Dana Precious of Los Angeles, California, covers the publishing of her book, “Born Under a Lucky Moon” (2011 HarperCollins)
Beacon: Is “Lucky Moon” based on your family?
Precious: I wish I could say no, but so many people know so many of the stories I have told, the people involved, I can’t say no. My family is crazy, nuts, annoying, and weirdly compelling.
We also stick together. A lot of this has to do with my mom. Her fervent undying wish is that we all get along, that life is good for us, and that we are all happy. She is a vastly unusual person, built out of love, and understanding, and compassion. And I promise to call more often.
An example: My mom and dad bought the Port City Princess about 25 years ago. He just got a wild hair and bought a 200 person dinner/dance cruise ship, still going strong after 25 years. As usual, he turned to my mom and said: “Here you go, Honey. Can you handle this while I work?”
Beacon: Where does the Precious name come from?
Precious: An English aunt who died at something like 105 said the name, like so many, was from occupations. Our ancestors were illegal rum runners across the English Channel. When asked what they did for a living, they said “We run Precious Goods.” There are a few families in the US, Canada, and England. When I first moved to California, it was a huge embarrassment. People thought I had changed my name to “Precious” like Stevie did to “Wonder.”
Beacon: Were you born in Muskegon?
Precious: No, I came to Muskegon when I was eight years old, and my dad Ralph Precious got the County Administrator job. We had just, more or less, come back from Mogadishu, Somalia where my dad had been working. That was my dad, always looking to do something different. Hey, move your wife and five kids to one of the most war-torn, third-world countries on the face of the planet? Sure! It will be an adventure!
Beacon: Why did you write the book?
Precious: I felt a very real physical, urgent need to get this story written. It lived in me until I forced it out on the page. I think it had a lot to do with letting my family know how much I loved them. I have such a passion and connection to my family and Michigan.
Beacon: What is your writing background?
Precious: I sure wish I could say I went to Harvard, but no. I have had not one class in writing, not one, even at MSU. (I graduated in 1985.) I was intimidated; I was just some kid from podunk N. Muskegon MI.
I began to write when I came to LA (no job in Michigan, and two sisters there). I started to work at an ad agency as a receptionist but I heard the directions given to the copywriter. I needed, ached, to write. So I would go home and write copy (headlines, taglines, etc.) and shyly submitted it. Within three months I was the head copywriter. I just absolutely loved words and what they conveyed. Then I worked at Sony Pictures for years, most recently as the head of marketing for Marvel Studios (Thor, Captain America, The Avengers). This past year I’ve worked on a new book and a film screenplay.
Beacon: You sound like J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter series) in your writing location.
Precious: I write at a little café called Café 212 in Santa Monica. It used to be called the Novel Café. It’s kind of a hippy-dippy place. Think lots of books and art on the wall, wooden tables.
Beacon: Getting to writing details – What about the frame story (time shifts) plot?
Precious: It was simply urgent to me, in spite of no formal training to do it. Editors did not like it, but I realized both stories had to be told.
Beacon: The plot has a mach speed of intensity for almost 400 pages.
Precious: Other readers have said the pace cannot be real. But it is. I just wrote it down the way life feels to me. It’s also how I felt living in my family. I do see that not everybody lives at such a pace.
Beacon: Do you use exaggeration as a writing tool?
Precious: My sister, Lori, has always called me “The Biggest Exaggerator in the Whole Wide World.” Why bother telling a story if it isn’t entertaining? Also as the fifth kid out of five, how do you hold attention at the dinner table?
Beacon: The exception to the energetic intensity of the plot is the final 17 pages: the denouement, the “happy ending” of Jeannie’s marriage to Aidan. You let the reader down easy, especially in view of the preceding “Part III Break-up and Breakdown” in the plot of both frames has an intense negative impact.
Precious: The love story of Jeannie and Aidan held me up for months, the motivations of what and why. Residing in my mind and around the edges of my heart is how life would have been different if other decisions had been made. But it finally revealed itself to me that Aidan, who is based on a real character, absolutely had to love Jeannie’s family. (Beacon: In the book Jeannie does have a serious relationship in Michigan, but he could not tolerate Jeannie’s family.) So, I gave her a happy ending, a fulfilling, good old-fashioned happy ending. This is what is fascinating for a writer, the book could be my own therapy, revealing unasked for truths.