Pour yourself a coffee and pull up a chair - today we visit with Bryan Davis, another YA fantasy writer that was part of the Motiv8 tour. I first met Bryan when he was promoting his first fantasy series - the Dragons In Our Midst series. He has fascinating stories to share, including those from his own experience. So here we go...
Q: Can you tell us a little about your writing process? Do you plan first or let the story develop as you write?
I am what some call a “discovery” writer, what I call a seat-of-the-pants writer. When I sit down at the computer, I truly don’t know what’s going to happen. I have a vague idea of the story line, but the characters come to life in my mind and take over the action and dialogue. They often surprise me. Sometimes new characters pop up that I never expected to see.
That makes writing an adventure. I can’t imagine writing an outline in advance. The thought of it makes me shudder. Give me adventure! I want to go for a ride.
Q: You have written both Christian YA fantasy and a number of non-fiction books. Did you find the "cross-over" difficult either personally or in terms of industry trends?
My only non-fiction books came early in my career, and I have written fiction ever since, so there have been few, if any, transition issues. I have found a bigger transition in writing fiction for two publishers. The methods, expectations, and author freedom are quite different. I really have to switch gears.
For one publisher I have a set word count. For another, I can write as much as I want. I have titling and cover design freedom for one, but I have very little input for the other. I do most of the editing myself for one and have much more editing help with the other.
It’s an interesting contrast.
Q: I know that your path to publication in fantasy was a rather extended one - could you sum it up for us?
I began writing a novel about 15 years ago as a way to teach and encourage my homeschooled children to write. That ignited a passion for writing in me. That novel was never published, but when I wrote a fantasy novel that was germinated from a dream, I believed in it and pursued publishing it for eight years. I received over 200 rejections, but I knew I had a good novel and that it would have a positive effect on readers, so I never gave up.
I went to writers’ conferences during that time and learned that my work needed more polish. I ended up rewriting the fantasy novel 24 times over that period, so I was never stagnant.
Q: What encouragement would you offer writers that are just beginning that journey?
Writers, if you truly believe in your work, never give up, but also never stop learning. Go to conferences. Meet other authors. Show them your work. Develop a thick skin and take criticisms seriously. Read books on writing.
I never gave up, and now when I go out to speak, I take along a file folder jammed with rejection letters. I hope I can inspire other writers to keep at it and never give up.
Q: You've gone on to publish several series since beginning with Dragons in our Midst? How do you "start fresh" when beginning a new series?
It’s interesting that you ask that, because I am now starting fresh for the first time in four years. My first two series, Dragons in our Midst and Oracles of Fire, were in the same story world, and I started Echoes from the Edge four years ago, so the new, as-yet-untitled, series I’m working on for Zondervan is a fresh start.
Two of my daughters gave me the story idea, so as I conjure up a whole new reality, I keep bouncing the development off them. They have taken some ownership of the concept, so it’s fun to see them criticize the plot and characters.
I am enjoying the fresh start very much. The imagination part of novel writing is the most fun. It is creation out of nothing. What was once not there is now visible in my mind’s eye, and characters are birthed. They breathe and speak, and I feel like a new father all over again.
It’s amazing and fun!
Q: What marketing techniques or events have you found to be most successful for you?
Going to schools and homeschool groups has been the most helpful. I have traveled all over the country and to Canada, speaking to students from kindergarten through college, and I believe that has jump-started my career.
I don’t charge a fee, which, I hear, is unusual for authors. I want to make friends with schools and libraries. I want a partnership, not an employer arrangement. We help each other. It’s about planting seeds and offering help to make literacy and love of reading and writing grow. And this cooperation has worked very well.
Q: How did the Motiv8 tour come about? Had you met any of the other authors before?
I met Wayne Batson and Christopher Hopper at a booksellers convention in Denver in 2006. Afterwards, they called me and asked if I would be interested in some kind of fantasy tour. That conversation, and the addition of Sharon Hinck to our group, birthed the Fantasy Four Tour in the summer of 2007. We had so much fun and success, we added four authors for the 2008 tour.
I had met all the authors before, so it was easy for us to travel together. Every one of them had a unique and fun personality, so we got along very well.
Q: What were some of the benefits of working together with other Christian fantasy authors? Drawbacks?
I have found that our group worked together fabulously. We believe in each other, and we promote each other’s books. I saw no competitive spirit at all. Many times I saw Wayne or Christopher or one of the other authors point a reader to one of my books. “Oh, you like dragons? Then you should look at Mr. Davis’s books.” And I would return the favor, because I have seen the hearts of these other authors, and I believe in them.
Even after the tour, we still communicate and promote each other. It’s a fellowship that I hope will continue for a long time.
Q: How would you compare it to a "solo" event as an author?
A benefit of a solo tour is freedom and flexibility. I tend to fill my solo schedule to the point that some would not be crazy enough to keep up. I have done up to 12 talks in a day at four different schools. I would never ask a group to try to do that, but it works for me. As long as I have to travel, I push to get the maximum benefit.
Q: What's on the horizon for you and for your readers? When can we expect the next Bryan Davis story?
I’m working on a combined young adult/adult fantasy series for Zondervan that is currently untitled. This will be a new adventure for me, because it will be my first fantasy set in another world. All my other novels are more contemporary—real world, real time, etc.
There will be four YA books in the series and two adult books. My plan is to meld the stories, but a YA reader will get a complete story from the four books, and an adult reader will get a complete story from the two. At the same time, a reader of all six will get a fuller understanding of both. I think this will be fun and challenging. These books will begin coming out in 2010 and will finish in early 2012.
Thank you, Bryan!
To find out more about Bryan Davis and his books, visit www.dragonsinourmidst.com or his Echoes From the Edge website, or visit his blog for the latest information.
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