Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Writers' Wednesday: An Interview with Anita Davison

Welcome to Writers' Wednesday! Today I'm talking with British author Anita Davison,. Settle in and enjoy the interview!

Hi Anita! Can you tell us a little about your background?
I don’t really have one, not professionally. My first real attempt was to write a series of children’s stories for my son when he was very ill with chicken pox. I still have those stories.

Tell us about your latest writing project.
My debut novel is a coming of age story set in 17th Century Devon. Helena Woulfe waves her father, uncle and elder brother off to the Monmouth Rebellion, expecting to see them return as conquering heroes. But the Duke of Monmouth is defeated at Sedgemoor and suddenly Helena belongs to a family of traitors. She and her younger brother, Henry leave the city of their birth for London, to forge a new life for themselves.

Sounds like a great story! How do you go about developing your characters?
I try and put myself inside their heads. What would they do in a certain situation is this or that event happens. How would they feel, react and solve the problem. Then I gave them different personalities so those reactions would differ. I have lived with them for some time and know them as well as, or even better than, my own children. They are real to me.

What advice would you give to new writers just starting out?
Join a critique group. I didn’t like the sound of that either at first, because suppose they hate it? I shall be so discouraged; I’ll hurl my novel into a corner and never write again. But then, I told myself I could always hide behind the internet and no one would know it was me, so I applied to the group with a sample of my writing. My first submission attracted not only constructive criticism, but a lot of praise too, and far from wanting to discard it, I couldn’t wait to get back to my laptop and implement some of the ideas and rules they gave me. The group moderator, Anne Whitfield, who is also a wonderful author herself, told me I had a good story, I just had to learn how to write it.

Thus I ventured into the world of literary jargon where terms like PoV, active versus passive voice, gerunds, weaving backstory, how to avoid info dumps, dialogue tags, exposition, are bandied about amongst the initiated. Slowly, my manuscript went through an evolutionary process and Anne was right, the story is still there, but now benefits from some intensive polish. Now it reads like a proper novel! I learned so much from critiquing the work of the others in the group, all of whom submit a wide range of historical fiction from ancient civilisations to Regency England.

What an accurate description of the process! OK, what kinds of books do you like to read? Who is your favorite author?
My favourites are historical fiction writers of course, like Suzannah Dunn, Cynthia Harrod-Eagles and Michael Jecks, who writes medieval detective stories based in Devon. I also enjoy Harlan Coban detective stories and Kathy Reich’s forensic thrillers.

What do you find most difficult about writing? What do you find most exciting or rewarding?
Discipline and momentum. I either write manically, not stopping to eat or wash up the breakfast dishes and work for hours on end. Or I can only manage an hour of consistent composition because I get distracted easily and go off to check my Bebo and MySpace pages for notes and comments. Both great vehicles for procrastination and time wasting.

Very true! So how do you balance writing with the rest of your life?
Badly, for the reasons listed above and the fact my husband and I are trying to run a business, are selling a business, and buying a totally different type of business in another country. Fortunately I don’t have any school age children - our son and daughter are grown up, well sort of, or I would be even more chaotic.

Do you ever suffer from writer's block? If so, what do you do about it?
Not for scenarios, I always have an abundance of them and my critique group know where to come when they run out of plotlines. Each chapter has to have a structure, with character growth, conflict and goals. Sometimes I have difficulty getting those objectives into a chapter. Usually because I am in the wrong mood. I cannot write sad scenes if I am upbeat, they turn out wooden and emotionless. What do I do to darken my mood? I just open my credit card bills. If I need to be on the verge of manic hysteria I open my husband’s.

(Big grin) Describe your writing space...
Sitting on the sofa in my sitting room with a laptop on my knee. I have been known to write sitting in hotel lobbies between meetings, on planes, even in Starbucks. When ideas, a phrase or a description appeals to me, I need to get it down. I have lots of ‘Notes’ files on my hard drive and I am onto my third laptop. I wear the letters off the keyboard!

What do you like to do when you're not writing?
Reading historical fiction novels, scouring Borders and Waterstones for research material. My husband keeps reminding me that now the kids have left home, we should do things together, rather than just sit at my laptop. So we go to see films, have dinner and just sit talking in pubs overlooking the Thames. So I make myself stop writing and go out – and he’s right, I enjoy our time together.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book(s)?
That I can actually write. No honestly, I had no confidence in my work at all. For years I really thought no one else would see any merit in my stories. My critique group changed all that. I’m still flaky though. When my editor at Enspiren sends me edits, I always e-mail her asking, ‘Yes OK, but what do you really think?” She must think I’m a nightmare.

What is your favorite movie? Did it inspire your writing in any way?
Steel Magnolias, and No. Wrong time, wrong country. But it’s a film I can watch over and over again.

Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Promotion is the hardest part of being an author. You have to be shameless about it and being English, that’s not easy for me. I’m happy to talk about my books and my characters endlessly, but not about me. After all, the reason I create complicated scenarios in the 17th Century, is because my own life is fairly mundane. Not unhappy, just not very interesting to an outsider. But Helena Woulfe, well that lady is fascinating and beautiful. She’s worth reading about.

Oh, and the sequel to Duking Days Rebellion, Duking Days Revolution, will be released by Enspiren Press early in 2008.

Great interview, Anita - thanks!

Duking Days Rebellion by Anita Davison is available on Lulu in print and e-book, at Fictionwise as e-book and at as trade paperback, October 2007.

And if you'd like to find out more, or leave this author a quick note, visit any of her sites:

Anita Davison’s Blog
Anita Davison’s Website
Anita Davison’s Bebo


Sarita Leone said...

What a great interview! I love "hearing" about other authors. :)

mizging said...

Love your blog. It's very eye-appealing, and I enjoyed the interview with Anita. She's one of my favorite new authors. For those who haven't read her book, you really must. Had I not been part of the critique group, I would have missed out on a very talented story-teller. She drew me in from the beginning and I felt as though I was there with Helena and the rest of her family. Great, great read.


Jane said...

Anita, can so relate to your writing life. Our character's lives are much more interesting than doing dishes and making the bed!

Jane Beckenham

Anne Whitfield - author said...

Thanks Allie, for the wonderful interview with Anita.
Her sense of humour just makes me laugh. She's a beautiful person and a fantastic writer.

Merry Christmas

windycindy said...

I love reading interviews by the authors. I love the different personalities, writing styles and the ways they go about writing their books.....Thanks,Cindi