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Interview: Bryan Davis

[Bryan Davis with his wife Susie] Bryan Davis is the author of the Dragons In Our Midst series: Raising Dragons, The Candlestone, Circles of Seven, Tears of a Dragon, and two new titles: Eye of the Oracle and Enoch's Ghost as well as non-fiction books. He took part in the list in May, 2005, but because the first interview was interrupted by technical difficulties, we invited him back in September 2006. This time, Shannon McNear, Greg Slade, and Bob Blackman asked the questions, and here is an edited version of the question and answer sequence. You can learn more about Bryan and his work from his web page at www.dragonsinourmidst.com.

SM: Okay, Bryan tells me that he doesn't have anything to add or change on the first set of Q&A (except maybe the number of years he's been married), so we'll move on. Thanks so much for being with us.
 
Tell us something about your new book, coming out later this month. How did you come to write it? How is it related to your first series (Dragons in Our Midst)?

The title is Eye of the Oracle, the first of four books in the new "Oracles of Fire" series. My "Dragons in our Midst" (DIOM) series took place in modern times, and the story frequently referred to events in the past, giving one chapter-length story in each book that revealed some mystery that worked its way into the modern story. As the books progressed, the underlying history became more interesting and complex.

The fourth book, Tears of a Dragon, ended the story for my two main characters, Billy and Bonnie, but it introduced a new mystery called the Oracles of Fire. Two sidekick-type characters will move into the hero and heroine slots and proceed with that story. But, in order to introduce the new mystery properly, I decided to write a prequel that covers thousands of years of history leading up to the DIOM stories. It begins with the time period just before the great flood and ends in the twenty-first century. A couple of new characters emerge who introduce the Oracles of Fire mystery, and book two in the new series, Enoch's Ghost, will pick up where Eye of the Oracle and Tears of a Dragon end. So, in effect, the second book in the new series is a sequel to the fourth book in DIOM as well as book one in its own series.

Whew! Is that confusing enough? You can read more about it at this link: www.dragonsinourmidst.com/eyeoftheoracle.html.

SM: What's the average length of time it takes you to write a book?

That's a difficult question. I took seven years to write the first book in DIOM, including twenty-four rewrites. Some of those rewrites were drastic. The first draft didn't even have the female protagonist in the story at all. The second book took eight months. By the time I wrote the third book, I was working full time as an author, so it took about five or six months to finish, including research time in England. I had to write book four in one month, due to a marketing decision to bring out the book six months earlier than expected. I wrote sixteen hours or more per day to get it done.

The new book, Eye of the Oracle, took six months to write. It's about 610 pages long, while the others were around 400 pages, so the time comparison might be difficult to make among the five books.

SM: How do you work writing around family life, etc.?

Since I write full time, I work at my computer in my home office. I am able to get up and join my family throughout the day-grab a few hugs and kisses, take care of injuries, chase away snakes, help with schoolwork, etc. My wife and kids know that I'm always available for them. Since I like being around them, and they like being around me (I hope), it's a dream job. When a deadline is approaching, however, I let them know that Daddy is going to hole up in his work cave for a while. They have been terrific about giving me that crunch time.

SM: What is your favorite thing about the writing process?

Since I am pretty much a seat-of-the-pants writer, my favorite part is watching the stories develop before my eyes. When I sit down at the keyboard, I usually don't know what's going to happen. I just have a basic plot in my head, then after I develop the characters, they pretty much take over. My family knows that when I laugh out loud or come into the room with tears in my eyes, it's just that crazy author living out his crazy stories. But it's really a blast.

SM: What frustrates you most in the writing process?

The most frustrating part is the never-ending editing process. Every time I read through the manuscript, I find another set of errors. After it's "completely error-free," I give it to my wife, and she finds a dozen more. I dread turning in the final to the publisher, because I have a hard time believing I have found all the problems. Of course, when my publisher's line-by-line editor gets finished with it, I have a thousand changes to make, and I add more mistakes. So, we start the proof-reading process over again. By the time my wife and I are finished, we have read the stupid story a hundred times, and we're sick of it!

After I finally finish and turn in the last version, I don't look at it for a week or so. Then, I peek at the final type-set version when it comes back from the publisher. You know what? That story isn't so bad after all!

SM: I know you have a very active promotional schedule, and many people credit that for how well your series has done. How do you balance promotion with your other responsibilities (family life, etc.)?

Since my publisher (AMG) is quite small, and they had never produced a work of fiction or fantasy before, I knew I would have to promote heavily. But I didn't mind. If I can't work hard for my own books, I can't expect anyone else to do it. AMG has been a great help. For their size, they have put a lot of marketing effort into the series, and it has paid off. The four DIOM books were their top four sellers in 2005, in spite of the fact that the fourth one came out in November of 2005. It was their fourth best seller for the year after only two months on the shelves.

I write and promote in seasons. I try to promote heavily during the fall, timing my efforts with the Christmas rush and the release of a new book, so I'll be super busy beginning at the end of September promoting Eye of the Oracle. For a glimpse of what I do, check out my schedule at: www.dragonsinourmidst.com. I will be adding at least ten more dates to that schedule for appearances during the fall. I will then stay home and write for about four months, so I'll be writing from December through March with few, if any, appearances. Then, I'll have a few spring appearances before schools let out, but I'll continue writing in order to finish whatever book I'm working on.

I usually take one or more family members with me on out-of-town trips. My wife and/or my fifteen-year-old daughter are my most frequent companions. That way, I don't get lonely, and a family member or two gets to see the country. For my Seattle tour this fall, my wife and three of my daughters are all coming with me. That will be great!

GS: Can you tell us what appearances you have scheduled over the next few months? (Being a guest at conventions, readings, and so on?)

I mentioned my crazy schedule earlier, and every day I seem to add something else. I'll post the link to my schedule again: www.dragonsinourmidst.com/schedule.html

As you can see, I go to schools frequently, and I occasionally speak at conferences and writing seminars. It's really a blessing to get a call or an e-mail of invitation. I usually think, "Why would someone want to hear me talk?" But I get a charge out of doing it, and when a hundred chattering kids crowd around thrusting scraps of paper at me to get a signature, the feeling is truly amazing.

BB: I looked at your schedule and have two questions:
 
1. I notice your schedule has you flying all over the USA. Do you as the author have to pay for all that travel, motels, and food or do the publishers eat those expenses?

I have experience with only one publisher. I have heard that some publishers pay for book tours, but my publisher pays only if they specifically ask me to go somewhere. That's happened three times-twice to CBA conventions and once to a gathering of buyers for a store chain. I pay all expenses for my other trips-gas, lodging, food, airfare, etc. Some schools allow me to sell books, which helps pay for the trip. Since some school sales are very successful (100 to 300 books), I sometimes even make a profit.

It takes a great deal of time, but it's worth it. When I seed a market, like Atlanta or Seattle, book sales in that area book, because of word-of-mouth, I assume. Then, because of Internet chatting and moms talking to moms, the word about the books spreads even farther.

I share the philosophy that an author is the number one marketer for his book. My publisher has made a great push in stores, but it's really up to me to pound the pavement, speak with passion at schools, get kids, teachers, and parents excited, then watch the word spread.

BB: 2. If publishers want a book a year, how do you find time to write with all that travel? Do you write on the road?

Up until my newest book, I was writing more than one book a year. I had six books published in two years, but since a couple of them were already nearly finished at the beginning of that time period, I averaged slightly over two books per year. The time between my newest book and the one before it was about 11 months. I asked for and received more time for this one, because I knew the new book would be much longer and require more research. I will probably write two books during my next seven-month writing season, December through June.

I don't write much at all during my marketing season. I'm just too busy and exhausted after speaking all day. When that season is over, however, I buckle down and write like a madman, sometimes 16 to 18 hours a day, with one day of rest per week. Since I'm trying to make this full-time author thing work out, I know I have to work my hindquarters off. But, since I am with my family most of the time, I don't mind.

SM: What are some things (besides Scripture) that you find inspiration in? particular movies, books, music?

I love portrayals of strong men and women who courageously challenge the odds and come out victorious. In the third LOTR movie when Aragorn inspires the troops with his speech ("But it is not this day!") and then stares down Sauron and all the Orcs at the gates of Mordor sent chills throughout my body. I also love scenes portraying faithful fathers and husbands who are willing to sacrifice everything for the ones they must protect. The movie The Patriot comes to mind.

In books, I loved Mark Twain's version of Joan of Arc, how he portrays her as so faithful and filled with love and courage. Harper Lee's portrayal of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird has been a good source for the thinking process of a young girl. C.S. Lewis's Perelandra, where the Eve character argues with the Satan character, has fascinated me. I have a similar scene in one of my books.

I suppose the running thread is any portrayal of people overcoming their fears and perceived failings to follow their calling to the end, whether that end is brilliant success or dying for the cause.

I love to have music playing when I'm writing an emotional scene. Lately, "My Immortal" by Evanescence seems to help. Beethoven's fifth symphony and Egmont Overture are great inspiring works as well. I don't listen to much Christian music, because I don't like most of it, but I do get a lift from "Days of Elijah." That's a good one for writing a heroic scene.

SM: Did you have much say in the covers of your books, and did you like them?

My publisher has been great about letting me have control. I get to choose what scene to depict on the cover. I describe the scene to the artist through e-mail, and he makes a quick sketch. Once I approve the sketch, he creates the detailed drawing. I like the covers, particularly book #3, Circles of Seven.

SM: Have you had to make some hard choices on what to cut out of your life to make room for writing and promotion while maintaining close family relationships?

I gave up video games and television, two activities that I didn't spend much time on anyway, so it didn't feel like a loss. I used to play softball, and I missed doing that for a while, but I rarely think about it now. I think the most precious activity I've cut down on is sleep. I rarely get more than five or six hours a night, less than that when a book deadline looms, so I feel tired most of the time.

SM: Has there been anything you've had to research that you previously had no interest in whatsoever, then found yourself fascinated by once you actually dug into the subject?

When I was digging into the mythology surrounding Avalon and the possible relationship with Glastonbury, including visiting the site and interviewing locals, I discovered amazing parallels between the details in that mythology and in my own story. (It would take too much time and space to tell about those parallels.) Digging deeper revealed the Lilith and Naamah myths, and that opened up a whole new angle for me to use with the evil sisters in my story. It worked perfectly, because one of my bad gals had already disguised herself as a temptress named Naamah, so I decided to say that she really was Naamah in the past, and her evil sister really was Lilith.

SM: What 3 bits of advice would you give other writers?

1. If you're not published, and you're sure God has called you to write and publish, don't ever give up. I have 200 rejections from publishers and agents, and now I can look back with thankfulness at those rejections. It is amazing how God has taken me by the hand through this journey. If you would like to see me telling some of these stories, go to www.lambstv.com, then click on channel 21. I spoke about this at the Florida Christian Writers Conference.

2. Be ready to promote with all your heart, soul, and strength. Let potential publishers know that you will get out there and pound the pavement. Let them witness your passion for your work. My passion, I believe, both sold my series to the publisher and helped it become a best seller in the market. I think if you're not passionate about what you're writing, you might want to examine why and how that reflects on your choice to write.

3. Don't be afraid to write about godly heroes. So much is said about making sure protagonists are sinfully flawed, but I disagree with that teaching. Sure, they can have fears and doubts, and lack wisdom, but don't be afraid to let them go through their journey without moral failures. This aspect of my writing has led to creating characters that hundreds of kids have written to me about, saying they are greatly inspired to be like the characters in my books. I realize I swim against the tide of opinion on this topic, but this is one of my passions.

BB: I am currently reading Raising Dragons, previewing it as a I plan to give the entire set of four to my 11 year old grandson for Christmas. I have one final question if its not too late. The Knights of the New Table: is this pure fiction or did your research reveal such a society. If so what can you share about it.

As far as I know, it's pure fiction. Since some people are still looking for the return of Arthur, this fabrication didn't seem too much of a stretch. It wouldn't shock me at all if something similar existed.

Thank you again for this opportunity. It's an honor.

Bryan Davis


[Home][Creativity][Genres][Resources][Links][About Us]

[Audio][Biographies][Books][Events][Film][Interviews][Mailing List][Publications][Store]

[David R. Beaucage][Kathy Tyers][James BeauSeigneur][Jefferson Scott][Walker Chandler][Alton Gansky][Ray Hansen]

[Emily Snyder][Randall Ingermanson][Theodore Beale][Steve Laube][Laura Lond][Frank Wu][Donita K. Paul][Brenda W. Clough][Bryan Davis][John Granger]

[Karen Hancock][Miles Owens][Robert Liparulo][Bryan Davis, part 2][Chris Walley][Kathryn Mackel][Gene Wolfe][Sharon Hinck][Wayne Thomas Batson][Lars Walker][Christopher Hopper][Jeffrey Overstreet]

[Home] [Creativity] [Genres] [Resources] [Links] [About Us]

[Audio] [Biographies] [Books] [Events] [Film] [Interviews] [Mailing List] [Publications] [Store]

[David R. Beaucage] [Kathy Tyers] [James BeauSeigneur] [Jefferson Scott] [Walker Chandler] [Alton Gansky] [Ray Hansen] [Emily Snyder] [Randall Ingermanson] [Theodore Beale] [Steve Laube] [Laura Lond] [Frank Wu] [Donita K. Paul] [Brenda W. Clough] [Bryan Davis] [John Granger] [Karen Hancock] [Miles Owens] [Robert Liparulo] [Bryan Davis, part 2] [Chris Walley] [Kathryn Mackel] [Gene Wolfe] [Sharon Hinck] [Wayne Thomas Batson] [Lars Walker] [Christopher Hopper] [Jeffrey Overstreet]