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!  

Indie Monday

Today’s guest: Jean Davis

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With so many cancellations of in-person author events due to World War C, I’m devoting my blog to Indie Monday interviews for the coming months to help my fellow authors with promotion. I’ll be featuring indie and small-press authors who produce quality work outside the boundaries and strictures of the traditional mass-produced, mass-marketed commercial publishing world and traditional bookstore shelves.

Today I’m proud to host Jean Davis, who writes speculative fiction. Jean lives in West Michigan with her musical husband, two nerdy kids, 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, enjoying the offerings of local breweries, weeding her flower garden, or picking up hundreds of sticks while attempting to avoid the abundant snake population that also shares her yard. Her novels include The Narvan Series, Destiny Pills & Space WizardsThe Last GodA Broken Race, and Sahmara.

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Recently I posed some questions to Jean. Here’s what she told me.

DL: Welcome, Jean. Could you tell us a little about yourself?

JD: I write speculative fiction for young adults and adults. Most of my work falls under Science Fiction and Fantasy, but I like to dabble in Paranormal, Romance, and other genres depending on where inspiration leads me. By day, I own and operate a sign shop, grow microgreens, and take care of my small flock of egg-laying chickens and ducks. When not working or writing, I’m a Netflix addict, collector of books for my many TBR stacks, and human petting machine for my two terriers.

DL: Tell us about your latest books and works in progress. 

JD: I’m so glad you made that plural. Because: projects! Currently I’m putting together my second short story collection, Dreams of Stars and Lies. This collection focuses on science fiction and includes six never-before-published stories. I’m hoping to have that out this summer. This fall/winter, I’m planning to release Bound in Blue, the third book of The Narvan. As far as new writing, I’m working on Spindelkin, a YA fantasy novel that I started last November.

In March, which, as it turns out, was a horrible time to release a new book thanks to this whole virus pandemic, I released Chain of Grey, the second book in my space opera series, The Narvan.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

Life outside the Narvan is not as ideal as Vayen would like. His job is unfulfilling, the people aren’t his, and even after five years, Anastassia still hasn’t quite forgiven him for stranding them in obscurity. 

Vayen’s idle daydreams of returning to the Narvan turn into a nightmare with an assassination attempt. Old friends have become enemies and old enemies are even less happy to see him. Threats barrage him from all sides, endangering not only his own life, but those of his family. 

There are too many hands vying for the Narvan, sinking the system into chaos. Vayen’s well-intentioned plans have blown up and his homeworld, along with everyone else, is suffering. Putting the Narvan together again means showing his face to the High Council, who will want to make an example of him for betraying their trust.

Staying out of it will get him killed. Unfortunately, his odds with jumping into it aren’t much better.

DL: Why do you write? What do you hope to accomplish with your writing?

JD: I write for much the same reason as I read or watch tv: to escape from reality. Life is busy and full of obligations, but my writing chair puts that all on hold for a couple hours at a time. There, I can create and solve problems for fictional people. Most days, it’s so much easier to deal with their lives than my own. I suppose you could also call it therapy.

DL: Please talk about your writing process. Where do your ideas come from? What is your favorite part of the process? Least favorite?

JD: When I’m coming up with ideas, my launching point is usually a “what if…” question. From there, I start a story with a sentence and see what comes next. Does this make for more editing later? Sometimes, but it makes the writing enjoyable for me so that’s how I roll. I’ve tried outlining, but if it gets into any level of detail, I have no inclination to write the story because I already know what happens. If I do any planning ahead of the game, and that applies more to my series books than standalone novels, it’s very generalized and often more of a few-sentence summary of the story than anything else.

It’s hard to pick a favorite part of the writing process. I suppose it would be the first edit. That’s where I start sewing all the pieces together and adding layers. My second favorite comes after the worst part, which is sending it out to my critique partners to tear into. But their comments always spark great things, often some of my favorite scenes.

DL: Could you reflect a bit on what writing or being a writer has meant for you and your life?

JD: Writing used to be just an escape for me, but now that I have books out in the big world, I enjoy sharing that escape with readers. Throughout the many stages of writing, both the learning parts and the publishing end, I’ve met so many wonderful people, fellow authors, aspiring writers, and readers too. It’s been great being part of a very supportive and inspiring community.

DL: What are links to your books, website, and blog so readers can learn more about you and your work?

JD: You can find links to all of my books on Amazon on my blog:

http://jeandavisauthor.com/

The Narvan series is also available in all the usual places.

Trust (Book 1)  Amazon / Kobo / B&N

Chain of Grey (Book 2): Amazon / Kobo / B&N

I’m also on Facebook and Instagram with pictures of books, authors, dogs, flowers, chickens and ducks:

https://www.facebook.com/jeandavisauthor

https://www.instagram.com/jeandavisauthor