Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Interview With Bryan Davis

Describe yourself for our visitors. (ex. hobbies, favorite music, ministries)

I am a left-brained computer geek who searched through the dust and cobwebs in the other side of his brain to locate the fires of creativity.
I found only a feeble spark, and it needed a great deal of nurturing, so I searched on for a place to make it grow.
Because our seven children have all been homeschooled, we had the responsibility to teach about the wonderful world of writing.
I volunteered to write a story in order to get the process started.
Little did I know that this process would ignite that lonely spark and create a fire that even now continues to blaze.
I have been married to a lovely lady named Susie for twenty-seven years, and we have four girls and three boys.
Four of our children are now adults and out on their own, and our three youngest, all girls, live with us in western Tennessee.
When I’m not writing or promoting, I spend time with my children or I exercise through weight lifting and jogging.
I enjoy classical music, especially Beethoven, and I sometimes listen to modern music in order to find a few inspirational tunes.
I also spend time on my message forum interacting with readers.
Some of them have serious issues they’re dealing with, so offering counsel and a shoulder to cry on is a major part of my writing ministry.

How do you find time to connect with God?

Most of my devotional time occurs while walking or jogging along the beautiful country lanes of rural Tennessee.
Just this morning I commented to my wife about how listening to the varied sounds of meadowlarks, quail, woodpeckers, and cardinals enhanced our prayer time, and every season has its unique way of trumpeting God’s handiwork.
Those morning prayer outings put me in the right mindset for the rest of the day, and we also have devotion times with our three at-home children nearly every morning and evening.

Who are your favorite authors? Favorite books?

My favorite author is C. S. Lewis.
My favorite book is To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

Tell us about your journey to publication.

After trying and failing to get my first novel manuscript published, I turned to writers’ conferences to learn about the industry and figure out what I was lacking.
I learned a great deal.
Yet, over the next seven years, during which time I wrote a few more novels, including Raising Dragons, I amassed over two hundred rejections.
I decided to try non-fiction and wrote a proposal for The Image of a Father.
AMG Publishers liked it and gave me a contract.
Later, the editor, Dan Penwell, asked me if I had any other projects going.
I told him about Raising Dragons, and he said he would take a look at it, even though AMG had never published fiction, much less fantasy.
To my surprise and delight, they took a chance on this strange story, and we’re both glad they did.

Tell us about your current book.

Beyond the Reflection’s Edge is a blend of mystery, suspense, and fantasy.
Since it begins in our world and our time, it could be called contemporary, but it quickly morphs into a cross-dimensional mind bender.
It’s the first of a trilogy called Echoes from the Edge and is targeted to reach thirteen to sixteen-year-old readers.
Here is a short teaser: After sixteen-year-old Nathan Shepherd’s parents are murdered during a corporate investigation, he teams up with a female friend to solve the case, discovering mirrors that reflect events from the past and future, a camera that photographs people who aren’t there, and a violin that echoes unseen voices.

How did you come up with ideas for this book?

After writing the first two books in the Dragons in our Midst series, I wanted to be ready for another series, so I gathered my seven children together for a brainstorming session.
They are usually brimming with great ideas, but this day they seemed a bit less creative, so we didn’t come up with anything great.
Later, however, my second-born son, Josiah, came back to my office with this idea about a trunk that appeared open in a mirror’s reflection, though it was closed in reality.
We traded ideas back and forth until we came up with the basic idea for the story.

List your three most recent books (if applicable).

Eye of the Oracle (Book #1 of Oracles of Fire - 2006)
Enoch’s Ghost (Book #2 of Oracles of Fire - 2007)
Beyond the Reflection’s Edge (Book #1 of Echoes from the Edge - May, 2008)

What's next for you?

The third book of the Oracles of Fire series, Last of the Nephilim, is scheduled to come out in July.
In October, Eternity’s Edge, book two of Echoes from the Edge, will hit the shelves, joined in May of 2009 by book three, Edge of Chaos.
Book four in Oracles of Fire, The Bones of Makaidos, will also likely arrive around May of next year.
I will also write an adult fantasy series for Zondervan, two books that will arrive in 2010 and 2011.
Zondervan is also considering two other young adult proposals that will follow on the heels of Echoes from the Edge.
As you can see, I will be very busy for quite a while.

Where can visitors find you online?

I am working on a new author website, but for now the best places to find me are as follows:
Dragons in our Midst site: http://www.dragonsinourmidst.com/
Author blog: http://dragonsinourmidst.blogspot.com/
Echoes from the Edge page: http://www.echoesfromtheedge.com/

How did you choose the names for your different characters? Do they have any special meaning or significance?

Some names pop into my head based on a character’s traits.
Others I select based on research of a name’s meaning, often an old Hebrew or Greek name.
I like names that sound good when tripping off the tongue, and I want them to be fairly common, yet not the same name as someone I know.

How do you choose what a character looks like? Is it like an image your brain made up about the character and you decided it'd be just right for that character?
I usually don’t describe a character’s looks in detail.
I give the basics and allow the reader to draw in the rest.
Most of the time, as with names, a physical appearance just pops into my head.
The characteristics are sometimes associated with his or her traits, something that just “fits,” but the process of how that works is often a mystery to me.

How do you come up with their different quirks?

A character’s quirks come to me as I’m writing, sort of out-of-the-blue.
This is a symptom of walking on the edge-of-sanity, a place where many writers live.
While writing, it’s kind of like being in a dream world where people appear out of nowhere and tell you about themselves as the dream goes on.
Sometimes completely new characters walk into a scene, a person I didn’t even know existed.
As a former engineer and computer scientist, I would have never believed I could live in this kind of imaginary world, but it happened.

Do some of the other characters complain about others’ quirks and that's where they sometimes come from?

The good-guy characters usually get along pretty well, but there are significant exceptions.
In the Echoes from the Edge series Nathan gets annoyed with Daryl—a movie geek—and with Kelly’s father—a stereotypical jock, but Nathan is too polite to say much about their quirks.
In my two Dragons series, Ashley has a hard time with Walter’s wise cracking, and she lets him know about it.

Do you make the basis for the book title and series name and the publisher then helps polish those ideas or how are the titles made up?

With the Echoes from the Edge series, Zondervan asked me for title ideas, and they made the decisions, sometimes coming up with completely new ideas.
With the Dragons series, AMG Publishers used my suggestions without changing them.

Why fantasy? How does Christianity fit into this genre?

I believe fantasy opens minds to the world of the unseen.
Good fantasy lifts up honorable ideals, like heroism, courage, faith, love, and loyalty.
It shines a positive light on good values, encouraging young readers to emulate the characters who exhibit those traits.
It gives kids heroes, when they might not have any heroes in their lives at home or at school.
Good fantasy gives kids hope that maybe, just maybe, they can be heroes, too.
There really is an unseen world, so understanding it is an important part of the maturing process in our walks of faith.
As Paul said, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
How can we do battle if we can’t imagine what’s out there?
Elisha opened such a portal for his servant, saying, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”
Some of Jesus’ stories must have seemed like fantasy to his hearers.
Had they ever seen a camel pass through the eye of a needle?
How about a rich man and a poor man conversing in the afterlife?
Fantasy images last, and a good teacher knows that lasting stories means lasting lessons.
The hearers also remember the virtues of the heroes and the moral of the story.
I wrote an article that elaborates on this subject.
You can find it online at http://www.daviscrossing.com/fantasy.pdf/

Why did you choose a young adult audience?

I hope I don’t offend any adults, because I know there are many exceptions to what I am about to say, but I find that younger readers enjoy more complex stories, and that’s what I wanted to write.
It seems that younger readers relish unexpected twists and turns.
They are the ones who will let go of the lap bar on the roller coaster and raise their hands, enjoying the wild ride, while adults often keep a death grip on the bar and wonder why this stomach-flipping adventure is considered “fun.”
It’s also easier to create an unlikely hero out of a young protagonist.
Readers will wonder if he or she is strong or mature enough to endure the struggle and come out victorious.

Do you consider writing more of a career or a ministry?

I can’t separate the two in my mind.
I am living out a career/ministry.
I spend at least ten hours a week corresponding with my readers, some through email and some on my message forum.
They ask me many questions about life, faith, and their struggles, so it’s a high priority for me to take the time to provide counsel and comfort.
For me, writing is truly a combination of career and ministry.

What did you want to be when you were growing up? How did you go from there to becoming a writer?

When I was quite young, I wanted to be a professional athlete, either a baseball or a basketball player.
As I went through my teen years, I enjoyed math and science, so I pursued and obtained an engineering degree and later became a computer professional.
I became interested in writing mainly through homeschooling our children.
Teaching them how to write was an important part of the curriculum, so I decided to write a story as an example.
Every Friday night, which was our family night, my wife would read my week’s writing out loud. I had so much fun creating this story, it grew into a novel.
Although it never got published, this experience ignited a passion in me to write more.

What advice do you have for anyone who would like to be a writer?

Learn the craft.
Get a good critiquing partner who is willing to tear your writing apart—in a loving way, of course. If and when you get rejections, never give up.
On my journey to publishing, I had the honor of receiving over two hundred rejections.
It’s hard, but if you have a passion for writing, you can’t give in to the frustrations.
If you’re a fantasy writer, break free from the Tolkien and Lewis mold.
Don’t try to create another middle-earth with elves and orcs.
Don’t send kids to a new world through a wardrobe-like portal where a new kind of Christ-figure dwells.
Make faith a real component that fits naturally with characters of real faith.

Do you have any future plans to retire from writing to do something else? What?

I have no plans to retire from the writing profession.
It’s just too much fun.

Which of your characters would you most like to be?

I would like to be like Solomon Shepherd, Nathan’s father in Echoes from the Edge.
Although he is not “on screen” at all, Nathan’s memories paint a vivid portrait of a father’s wisdom, spirituality, and love.

With which character do you most closely identify?

I identify well with Jared Bannister in the Dragons in our Midst series.
As a former dragon, he had a lot of inner turmoil and wasn’t sure how to raise a son who might have dragon traits.
As a father of seven, I know how hard it can be to rear children, so I understand Jared’s conflicts.

What Biblical truth are you trying to convey to your audience in this book?

In the Echoes from the Edge series, I’m trying to portray the complete forgiveness that God offers to all who come to him in repentance and faith.
My main character, a male Christian teenager, learns that God loves a female teen, even though her past has been impure, likely far more impure than his life has been.
They both learn to accept each other and work together in spite of the apparent spiritual gulf between them.
This is a story about how redemption, through the power of holy love, changes everything.

Do you have any quirky habits or rituals that you observe while you are working on a writing project?

None that I can think of.
Yet, what is normal to me might seem quirky to others.

When we’ve finished this interview, what would you like your audience to remember about you?

I would like people to know that I’m just a dad who wants to write stories that will inspire readers to take hold of faith and pursue true holiness.
I believe in the power of God to transform us into warriors for his kingdom—holy and righteous in reality, not just in theory.

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