Indie Monday

This week’s guest: Jean Davis

This week I’m pleased to host author Jean Davis. Jean lives in West Michigan with her musical husband, two attention-craving terriers, and a small flock of chickens and ducks. When not ruining fictional lives from the comfort of her writing chair, she plays in her flower garden, visits local breweries, and eats gluttonous amounts of sushi. She is the author of nine books, including a space opera series, The Narvan, two short story collections, and four standalone novels. 

This week, Jean will talk about her new release, Not Another Bard’s Tale (StreamlineDesign.com, 2021).

DL: Congratulations on your new book! We’re anxious to hear what it’s about.

JD: Not Another Bard’s Tale is humorous fantasy. Bruce Gawain has been between knightly quests for longer than he’d like to admit. In the town of Holden, he meets a seer who tells him where he can finally find his destiny. All he has to do is travel to the distant Wall of Nok in Gambreland. With only three coins to his name, Bruce isn’t getting much further than a barstool at the town’s inn.

As luck would have it, the innkeeper’s beautiful daughter Svetlana and her flock of troublesome god-gifted sheep need an escort to Gambreland. With a paying job, everything seems to fall into place for Bruce’s quest…except for Svetlana’s killjoy bodyguard sister, an evil overlord with looming prophecy issues, and a dragon threatening to eat the townspeople until its stolen treasure is returned. 

Bruce sets out with his pan-wielding companion Mydeara and the negligibly talented bard, Harold to seek out the Wall of Nok. Will they find Bruce’s destiny, return Svetlana safely home, and save the people of Holden from the vengeful dragon?

DL: What inspired the creation of the book?

JD: Not Another Bard’s Tale was brought to life in 2008. I’d been on a humorous fantasy reading binge and happened across John Moore’s Heroics For Beginners. Between that book and my love for Monty Python’s Holy Grail, I decided to set out to write my own funny fantasy novel. 

While some of my books do have bits of snarky humor, this one went all in. 

DL: Could you talk about your writing process? Did it differ from the way you’ve written your other works? Did the pandemic affect the writing or launch?

JD: The vast majority of my novel writing takes place during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November. I’ve been churning out rough drafts every November for fourteen years. One of those novels was published in 2015 and I’ve been working my way through my backlog of drafts ever since, slowly rewriting and editing until they are ready for publication. Each year my drafts get a little cleaner and the writing more polished on the first draft. A couple of the novels aren’t worth wading through but were good learning experiences. Not Another Bard’s Tale is my sixth NaNoWriMo project to be published. 

As far as process is concerned, I’m a tried and true pantser. I like to discover the story as I write. That used to mean a lot of rewriting and editing, but my drafts are much cleaner and clearer these days, usually taking one or two big editing passes to tighten the plot and character development and then just the usual line edits and proofing.

Because Not Another Bard’s Tale is intended to be funny and most of my other books are not, this one did take several rounds of reader feedback over many years to find a good balance of what different readers find funny. Humor is vastly subjective. I went for a mix of campy, dark, and bawdy to hopefully please a wider range of readers. When my proofreader told me fantasy wasn’t really her thing but “this was a hoot to read,” I felt pretty confident that I’d achieved my goal.

Book launches during the pandemic . . . ugh. It’s been rough. I like to do in-person events and that just hasn’t been possible on the scale we were used to. This is the fourth book I’ve released in the pandemic vacuum. Honestly, having nearly all events canceled for the past year has freed up a lot of time I hadn’t planned on having to not only write but work through my backlog of drafts. Not Another Bard’s Tale wasn’t originally on my publishing radar for another year. I guess that’s one little bright side to the pandemic? I’m hoping with things opening back up again, we’ll be able to get back out and meet readers in person, sign books, and attempt to make all this writing time we’ve had profitable.  

DL: What was the best part of writing this book?

JD: The best part was allowing myself to frolic through lighthearted plotlines. Most of my books are fairly dark and heavy on the character arcs. Not Another Bard’s Tale follows eight main characters on their adventures, allowing me to play in each of their heads for a couple of chapters without having to delve in too deeply, focusing instead on the humor each of them offers.

DL: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?

JD: Several parts were challenging. The original draft in 2008 didn’t have an end other than a general idea and the middle was bogged down in a humorless bog. After the initial round of disheartening feedback from my critique group that did make it to the middle, I put the book to rest for years. The amount of work it needed was too overwhelming.  A couple of years ago, having published several books and learned a lot, I pulled the file out again and wrote the ending, made some notes on what needed to be fixed, and slowly plugged away at it. I ran it through another critique group over another year and made more changes and then finally last year, having time to implement all the feedback, the story elements fell into place.

DL: How can readers purchase it or get a signed copy?

JD: Not Another Bard’s Tale is available on the following sites:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/1734570180

https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1079264

https://store.kobobooks.com/en-us/Search?Query=9781734570199

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/not-another-bards-tale-jean-davis/1139208219

https://bookshop.org/books/not-another-bard-s-tale/9781734570182

And if you’d like a signed copy, you can find my in-person event list on my blog:

http://jeanddavis.blogspot.com/

DL: Any final reflections you’d like to leave us with?

JD: For you writers out there, don’t give up on your drafts. Just because it isn’t good right now, doesn’t mean it will never be. It took me roughly ten novels to get my process down, to figure out how to write a draft that can go from a three-sentence synopsis to a finished book in a year. We’re always learning and fine-tuning our process. Revisit those projects you put aside every now and then, you never know when the creative gears will suddenly crank out the inspiration you were looking for.

DL: Thank you for joining us this week, Jean. Much luck with the book!