By Jeff Salter
Though I no longer recall exactly when this occurred, I “met” William Michael Davidson on the Clean Reads Author Group. At that point, he was a newbie at C.R. announcing his first novel with our joint publisher. Much to my surprise, his novel was titled, Missing Person — also the second title of my very first completed novel (as yet unpublished). For some reason that shook me – to see MY title over someone else’s name – and my exclamation may have sounded more accusatory than what I’d intended. If so, William seems to have forgiven my expression of surprise. [Picture Margaret Mitchell browsing the internet and finding “Gone With the Wind” by John Doe.]
I love learning more about my C.R. colleagues and am fascinated to learn that William also highly rates Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City — which I also enjoyed immensely (along with at least one other of Larson’s works).
Read through William’s excellent replies to my interview questions, and then be sure to reply to HIS question about What makes a good monster in a story?
William Michael Davidson lives in Long Beach, California. A believer that “good living produces good writing,” Davidson writes early in the morning so he can get outside, exercise, spend time with people, and experience as much as possible. He is a writer of suspense and speculative fiction. If he’s not writing, he’s probably at the beach.
William’s Amazon page:
- Have you lived anywhere besides Long Beach CA? If so, where? And what brought you from there to Long Beach?
[***W.M.D.***] — Actually, no. I was born and raised in Long Beach, California, and have never seen any reason to leave. I love the people here, the weather, and I like the “small town” feel it has. I don’t think I’ll ever leave. I’m glad too because I think it’s helped me in my writing. Storm Taken, like some of my other works, takes place in Long Beach. I have pretty intimate knowledge of the city and the people in it, and I hope my writing can bring that out.
- Any explanation for your love of the beach (and, presumably, the ocean)?
[***W.M.D.***] — It’s just where I’ve grown up and what I know. My first memories were living a block from the beach. In truth, I don’t think I really realized or appreciated how awesome that was at the time. But as I’ve gotten older, I most certainly catch myself feeling thankful for living in such a nice place. And yes, I try to paddleboard weekly, so I love the water and the whole beach vibe.
- I’ve known lots of authors who wrote (or write) in the mornings. In fact, when I first began writing fiction, I tried to set aside my mornings for effort on my W.I.P. Doesn’t work so well for me because I get tied up with networking and promotion. You must have a lot of discipline. How long do you write in the mornings… and how do you get that schedule to work for you?
[***W.M.D.***] — It was a schedule born out of necessity. I wouldn’t call myself a natural morning person, but I’ve just learned that once the day begins and I get swept up in the “business of the day,” it’s very difficult to sit down and do some writing. I’m not perfect and I do miss some days, but when I’ve really making progress it is because I’m getting up about 5:30, having coffee, and grinding it out. I try to get about an hour in. For me, it works great. I’ve been told I’m pretty disciplined with certain things, so that probably helps. But again, it was purely born out of necessity.
- You have my dream job — teaching Lit in College. Well, PART of my dream job. However, I would NOT wish to do so full time, I would NOT want to (try to) teach most freshmen I’ve ever known, and I’d much rather focus on creative writing than solely teaching literature. How’d you end up in that career? What would you change about your job (if you could)?
[***W.M.D.***] — I did entertain various careers when I was in college, but other than that, I think I always knew I would teach. I just enjoy it, and I really love the creativity you can bring to the classroom. I taught junior high for a couple years and wasn’t a fan. Then I taught high school for nearly sixteen years, and was teaching college at night during most of that time. Fortunately, and after a few tries, a full-time position opened and I was able to slip into it. I feel very fortunate. If I had to change anything about my job, I wish I didn’t have to spend so much time grading essays…but it is what it is. In the end, I love what I do.
5A. You mentioned the children’s book you wrote for your daughter and I see you have at least two other children’s stories — which feature a dragon. Why did you select the dragon image?
[***W.M.D.***] — I’m not sure. I’ve always loved fantasy writing and my daughters were very young at the time, and I was reading The Chronicles of Narnia to them a lot, so it probably came out of that. It was so spontaneous and natural, I didn’t even give that much thought. It just kind of happened.
5B. I’ve dabbled in children’s stories, but have not really made that jump. Isn’t there a special approach to one’s topic that has to drive a good children’s story? [I mean, more than simply telling a tale.]
[***W.M.D.***] — I’m not sure. In all honesty, I’m more comfortable writing adult fiction than children’s fiction. Those stories were really written for my kids, but I suppose the best approach is to create something with a very simple message and simple images. It doesn’t mean that the message can’t go deep and can’t be impactful…think of The Giving Tree…but I think to hold a child’s attention, it has to capture his or her sense of wonder in a very simple way. I did my best.
- I see you’ve done some self-publishing. What was the most difficult part? What was the easiest and most enjoyable?
[***W.M.D.***] — Yes, I have. The most difficult part was feeling alone in it. When you’re working with a publisher and you have some support with editing and marketing, you have more confidence with the final product you are producing. At least, that’s how I felt. When I self-published it was much more work because I had to find efficient ways to edit, get cover art, and put the whole thing together. I also didn’t like how it took away from my creative writing time. I had to spend a lot more time on technical issues and had less time to write new things. I suppose the most enjoyable part was the freedom I had in the process, but, in all honesty, I’m not sure if I would ever self-publish again. I think it’s very very difficult to put something together on your own and market it.
- You’d have no reason to remember this, but when you first joined the Clean Reads Author group, with an announcement of your title, Missing Person, I jumped on the thread and said, “Dude, that’s the title of my first fiction manuscript!” [It was not intended as an attack… but merely an expression of it being a bit of a shock to me.] Knowing that many different authors can utilize the same title, how do you feel when you see somebody else’s name under those same words? [For example: picture Margaret Mitchell seeing “Gone With the Wind” by John Doe.]
[***W.M.D.***] — That’s funny because I think about that some times. It doesn’t bother me at all because I’ve always felt like there’s kind of a limited number of cool, catchy titles. I don’t think that about stories, but when it comes to titles, it seems like there’s only a certain amount of shelf space. Actually, I do remember when Missing Person came out and you wrote that. Time flies.
- What can you share about the inspiration for your newest release, Storm Taken?
[***W.M.D.***] — It actually started with a dream, and that’s very unusual for me. I woke up one morning and I had this very vivid, kinda freaky dream about a family hiding in a house during a raging storm. As the lights flashed on and off, things started to disappear in the house. It stuck with me. When I started writing the book, I felt that I would write and get to what happened in my dream near the end of the book. But interestingly enough, that scene turned out totally different. But the concept of the dream and the feel of it is captured in the writing. Kinda funny for a guy who never dreams. I’m lucky if I remember one, maybe two dreams a year.
- If sales (money) and critics (reviews) were immaterial to you, what genre and length would you write?
[***W.M.D.***] — Probably exactly what Storm Taken is. Supernatural suspense, thrillers. Those are my favorite.
- Have you ever encountered people who seem unable / unwilling to comprehend that writing is something you are driven to do?
[***W.M.D.***] — Oh yeah. Usually I get one of two reactions. A person will tell me he wanted to be a writer and started some things but never finished them. That’s fairly common. I think a lot of people want to be writers, but it takes a high degree of stubbornness and obsession to actually stay the course and get it done. Or I get the opposite reaction. Someone will tell me how much he hates writing and how miserable and painstaking it would be to sit down and write a novel. My wife is kind of like that. She’s brilliant and incredibly well-read, but sitting down to write even a page of creative writing would be a torturous endeavor for her. She has zero desire.
- If you were not a writer, can you imagine what else you might do to express the creativity within you?
[***W.M.D.***] — Probably music. I play guitar, too. I think years ago I made the conscious decision that I was going to back off the guitar and music to focus on writing because it just takes too much time to really focus on both. And with a band, you have to rely on people’s schedules, coordinate, and all of that. The best part of writing is you just walk to your laptop, fire it up, and you’re good to go.
- Give us at least one example of someone who has contacted you and expressed how much your writing meant to them.
[***W.M.D.***] — My children’s book, The Dragon Who Pulled Her Scales, was written for young kids who struggle with trichotillomania (compulsive hair pulling). It’s a fantasy story, but it was written to help encourage children who struggle with that condition. I remember getting an email from a mom who said the book meant so much to her daughter, she would take the book into her bed and sleep with it because it made her feel safe. That blew me away. If that was all that book accomplished, it was well worth it.
- In the conversations (about writing) that you’ve had over the years, what is one writing question which you’ve WISHED had been asked of you… but never has been asked?
[***W.M.D.***] — That’s a tough one. I actually like recommending books, so I like being asked what I’ve been reading. That’s always fun to talk about.
- What’s your answer to # 13 above?
[***W.M.D.***] — I’ve read a lot recently, and I love reading various genres. I think as a writer you have to read everything. The last few books I’ve read would be Tom Rachman’s The Italian Teacher, Linwood Barclay’s A Noise Downstairs, Stephen King’s The Outsider, and Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City. I actually liked all of those books, and I love all of those authors. But man, The Devil in the White City blew me away. Such a good book. A huge recommendation for that one.
QUESTION (for readers of today’s blog):
What makes a good monster in a story? In Storm Taken, the storm itself is the actual monster (although there are some other bad guys in the story as well). But what qualities make a good monster in a novel?
Blurb: Storm Taken
Trapped on Naples Island, Eddie Dees does everything he can to hold his family together. A supernatural storm is feeding on people’s fear and paranoia. The more people turn on each other, the stronger it becomes.
Believing there are small, systematic breaks in the storm, he plans to make his way off the island with as many residents as possible. But he must first deal with the crazed gunman roaming the streets as well as another growing threat: Klutch, a violent army vet suffering PTSD, has recruited a band of followers who believe the storm is a weaponized weather experiment gone awry. Klutch plans on stopping anyone from leaving the island, and one of his followers is Eddie’s own teenage son.
[JLS # 397]