Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Interview with Deborah Davis
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your books?
I’m married, I’ve got a 16-year-old son, and we live in Berkeley, California with two cats. I’ve liked making up stories since I was a little girl growing up in New Jersey and Massachusetts. My first book, THE SECRET OF THE SEAL, which I wrote while I had a job on a computer magazine, is about an Inuit boy named Kyo who encounters a very unusual seal. It’s a really sweet story for elementary school kids. My second book, MY BROTHER HAS AIDS, is about a 13-year-old girl named Lacy who faces tragedy with a lot of courage. My third book, YOU LOOK TOO YOUNG TO BE A MOM: TEEN MOTHERS SPEAK OUT ABOUT LOVE, LEARNING, AND SUCCESS, grew out of my experiences being a doula for several teen moms. And my recent novel, NOT LIKE YOU, is about a 16-year-old girl named Kayla who’s trying to sort out her future: should she stay with her unreliable, alcoholic mom? Or pursue Remy, the 24-year-old musician she’s attracted to? You can read excerpts of my books at http://www.deborahdavisauthor.com.
What is your writing schedule like? Do you just go with the flow of things or do you set a certain time for it?
A little of both. Every day is a writing day unless I have to do other things—present at a school or coach a writer who wants help with her own writing. I try to reserve 9-1 for writing and do the rest—manuscript consultations, school visits, walking with a friend—for the afternoon.
How did the idea of Not Like You come along?
I imagined a girl finding her mother passed out in their New Mexico trailer. This girl was furious but also worried about her mom. I wondered, how did they get to this point? How will the girl resolve her terribly conflicting feelings of love and anger? Those questions propelled me to write Kayla’s story.
What changes were made from the first draft to the finishing project?
It would take me weeks to write about all the changes! I did at least 6 different drafts of NOT LIKE YOU, and hundreds of smaller revisions. One big change was that originally Marilyn was both a drug addict and alcoholic, and in the final version she’s just alcoholic. Another is that their New Mexico landlord was initially a much meaner, creepier guy. And a third big change concerns Rebel, the dog Kayla adores...oh, I can’t tell you about that. It would give too much away!
Where there any parts of the story that seemed more hard to write?
The main relationships—Kayla’s to her mother, Kayla’s to Remy—were tough, but those intense relationships are at the heart of the story, so it was worth putting in the extra effort. Also, the ending was super challenging. I must have revised it at least a dozen times. But that’s what it often takes to come up with the right ending.
Who was your favorite character(s) in the book?
I’m really fond of Kayla, who in some ways reminds me of myself when I was younger and a lot more confused than I am now. Also, I adore Shirley and Sherrie, the hilarious thrift store owners who befriend Kayla.
Have you always wanted to write Young Adult books?
After writing THE SECRET OF THE SEAL, I thought I’d write more easy chapter books and picture books. But my protagonists keep getting older, and my stories more complex, so I’m not sure I’ll do any picture books after all. Maybe when I’m old and senile.
What books should we be reading?
Whatever interests you. Just—READ! The smartest, happiest people I know read books—all kinds of books. My only advice is that you ask people you trust and respect what they’re reading—and check out some of their suggestions so that you try out some books you might not think about on your own.
Any advice for aspiring writers?
Read! And write. Buy a cheap notebook and write whatever you think about, without editing, to discover what you have to say. Join a writers’ group. Show your writing to people you trust and get feedback. Then write, and read, some more.
Can you tell us what you're working on next?
I’m working on a novel about an aspiring doctor named Lina who leaves her boyfriend and friends in the middle of her senior year of high school to travel to India. She plans to do service there, only nothing goes the way she expected: Her attempts to help others only make things worse, and she finds herself attracted to a guy whose goal is to photograph—not help—people who are suffering. If you sign up for my newsletter at http://www.deborahdavisauthor.com I’ll send you updates about Lina and a notice when the book is published.
Thanks for letting me tell you about my work!
To read my review of Not Like You click here.