The Friday 13 with Jean Davis

Jean author picJean Davis lives in West Michigan with her musical husband, two nerdy teenagers, and two attention-craving terriers. When not ruining fictional lives from the comfort of her writing chair, she can be found devouring books and sushi, weeding her flower garden, or picking up hundreds of sticks while attempting to avoid the abundant snake population that also shares her yard. She writes speculative fiction. Her novels include The Last God, Sahmara, and A Broken Race. Her short fiction has appeared in Bards and Sages Quarterly, Acidic Fiction, Tales of The Talisman, The First Line, Allegory, Isotropic Fiction, Liquid Imagination, Brewed Awakenings II Anthology, The 3288 Review and more.


1.What is it about your genre that speaks to you?

I loved reading fantasy, science fiction and horror as a teen. Not so surprisingly, that’s what I mostly write. I love the “what if” of things. Many of my story ideas start with that or a similar type of question. Exploring the possibilities and creating characters and worlds is an entertaining and challenging escape from the real world. I like to call writing my therapy.


2.Without giving any spoilers, what is your favorite thing about this book?

coverI started this book with nothing more than her name, knowing it was a fantasy novel, and that the main character was going to do the saving rather than waiting on a man to do it for her. It was a great joy to watch Sahmara grow throughout the novel to become the strong female character I had hoped for.


3.What character from your book fills you with hope?

Olando, a young man who befriends Sahmara early in the novel does a good deal of growing of his own. He starts out a modest and honorable soldier and then comes to see that his future holds so much more than just a sword.


4.Your main character walks into a bar. What happens?

Sahmara walks into a bar. A few men try to figure out if she’s pretty for a boy, or is she a bald girl dressed as a man? No one offers to buy her a drink. She avoids talking to anyone so she doesn’t have to fake having a male voice. She orders wine, drinks it too fast, and orders another. Within the hour, she’s picking a fight and hoping the gods she serves back her up so she doesn’t make a fool of herself.


5.What is the most fascinating thing about your main character?

Sahmara is bisexual. She knew this when she was younger, but it was nothing more than a behavior her parents didn’t approve of. As the story progresses, this part of her that was a negative turns out to be a big asset, helping her to be who the gods and her country need her to be.


6.How do you police your production? Do you have a word quota, or a page goal, maybe you work for a set amount of time? Do you place demands on yourself when you’re working? How do you meet those demands?

So many questions in one! I try to write for an hour and half every morning. I’m not so focused on how many words I get down as I am with making sure I’m actively writing rather than checking email or Facebook. Some days the ideas and inspiration are cooperative. Other days I’m grateful to see I made 500 words appear. It all comes down to motivation. My goal is to publish two books a year. In order to do that, I need to actually write the book. That means I only play games on my phone at lunch. I have a laptop only for writing and writing related things (no work stuff). I have Word on my phone and my documents on the cloud so I can be productive while I’m in waiting rooms, in my car waiting on kids, or sleepless in bed when keyboard clacking might keep my husband awake.


7.How did you find the time to write this book with your busy life? What ideas do you have on how others can make time in their lives?

For the most part, I write my rough drafts in a couple months. That means I really spend a good deal of time writing for one to three months and then ease up to a more socially manageable level for the next few months while I edit. If writing is something you want to do, you need to make time for it. Just like if you want to play a sport, you find time to exercise, train and compete. Find a time that works best for you. Maybe it’s getting up an hour earlier so you have quiet time to write, or doing three half hour sessions over the day. When my kids were little, I wrote while they were in preschool a couple hours a few days a week or taking a nap, or watching TV for twenty minutes in a row. Use whatever time you have as effectively as possible. My first novel took me well over twenty years to write. The last one took a matter of months. Keep at it and you’ll find what you can make work best for you.


8.Everyone has at least one specific challenge that holds them back. What is that challenge in your work and how do you overcome it?

Writing description is my biggest challenge. When reading, I prefer the more barebones approach rather than rich passages of showing me the world, what everyone is wearing or the feast on the table. That’s all fine and dandy, but it’s the stuff I skim. Give me conflict and characters taking action and I won’t put the book down. Same goes for writing.

Rather than slow myself down by making sure I adequately describe everyone and everything, I write the parts I enjoy. It’s during the editing that all the stuff I skipped over gets added. Having beta readers that can tell me what is still missing in that department usually adds another layer of description. The end result balances out what I prefer and what readers like.


9.You’re going to go back and visit yourself when you first started writing, at whatever age it was, and you can give yourself one piece of advice. What would it be?

Just write the damned thing.

To be fair, that first novel was a vast learning experience. They all are, but that one was a biggie. However, if I had just done it and moved on, I would have accomplished so many more novels. Even if they weren’t good at the time, getting those plots and ideas down then, could have gotten me much further ahead now. Instead, I dicked around for twenty-some years trying to get one novel just right. It wasn’t, by the way. Until I got past that giant hurdle of finally writing ‘the end’, that I realized I could write other things, and so much faster and more productively…and better. Learning and growing happens much faster when working on many different projects rather than smashing your head on the desk with the same one forever.


10.Let’s talk about tools. Do you have a word processor that you would tell us to use? Is there a certain computer that has become your favorite? What do you look for in a keyboard? What would you absolutely have to have if you were to sit down and write your next book?

I like MS Word. It’s not fancy, but I’ve worked with it for so long that I don’t have to think about it. It doesn’t get in the way of writing, of me making the story happen. It’s also the format most publisher like to work with and has editing tools built right in. My laptop is perfect for writing, mobile and lightweight, with a full standard keyboard so everything is right where it should be and I don’t have to look at keys. Sometimes I like to lean back and close my eyes as I’m typing. It probably looks like sleep typing, but it’s very relaxing. That’s hard (and not very productive) when trying to use a keyboard other than the one I’m used to. The only thing I must have to write is something to type on. Writing long hand doesn’t work for my anymore. I can’t physically write fast enough and still be legible. In fact, my handwriting is pretty awful even when I do take my time.


11.Describe your workplace.

After years of writing on the couch with kids playing and the TV or in my bedroom, I finally have my own office for writing. I have a big desk, though I only use it when I’m editing hard copy. It holds the display I use when I sell my books, which is nice motivation to look at while I’m working on the next project. Along one wall are bookshelves holding some of my favorite paperbacks and an assortment of candles, gargoyles, tarot cards, Farscape action figures, and chocolate. Framed NaNoWriMo posters decorate the walls. The comfy chair I bought myself upon publishing my first novel, is where I’m most productive. I can put my feet up, snuggle up with a furry blanket and make words happen. It’s my favorite place in the whole house.


12.Describe your muse.

My muse does not like to be tied down, directed or instructed. I doesn’t like plans or outlines. It is most cooperative when given a question, single sentence prompt, a few words, or an opening line. It likes the challenge of diving into the unknown, of discovering the story as the words flow into the page. Figuring out who the characters are and then coming up with the worst things that could happen or having them say all the wrong things, makes my muse cackle with glee.


13.What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?

Sunrises. For the first forty years of my life I never appreciated them. Probably because I was so good at sleeping then. Now I’m not. While I wish I could get a good night’s sleep again, I will admit, I really enjoy watching all the colors creep over the sky each morning.


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