Jean Davis – Science Fiction and Fantasy Indie Author AMA

Jean Davis
May 16, 2018

I write novels and short fiction with a focus on strong female characters in speculative fiction. I’ve been published through a small indie press, in magazines and anthologies, and have also self published. My writing tends toward the dark side with some snark tossed in for good measure – because that’s me. Most of my work falls under fantasy or science fiction, but I also dabble in paranormal, horror and romance. I’m currently working on a space opera series. Four books are finished, but I’m now wrapped up in edits. This is my momentary escape, so AMA.

National Novel Writing Month is a big part of my yearly writing routine and I enjoy helping new writers. I’ve been writing seriously since 2006 and belong to both in person and online critique groups. I’m also a big fan of fun hair color (currently electric blue), backyard chickens, and flower gardening.

If you’d like check out my work, an anthology of my short fiction is currently on Instafreebie. You can get your free copy here.  

Links to all my novels (print and ebook) and to my newsletter are available on my blog

You can also find me on Facebook. 

Jean author pic.jpg

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Do you have any rituals or habits for setting the mood before you write? Where is your favorite place to write?
May 23, 5:34AM EDT0

When we built our new house I set up a writing office. After years of being relegated to a desk in the bedroom or the couch in the livingroom while kids played, I wanted my own quiet space filled with the things that inspire me and keep me focused (which, amazingly, isn't a tv and screaming kids). Even though my kids are far past that now, they still find ways to interupt me. Thankfully, they're past screaming though. 

I write in the morning, first thing after everyone has left for school and work and before I have to think about work and paying bills and what errands need to be squeezed into the day and all that distracting stuff. When I really want to focus I'll turn off the lights and work by candlelight, maybe even with some insense and earplugs to block out whatever else might be going on in the house. I don't listen to music. I don't know how other writers do that. I like silence. 

May 23, 7:53AM EDT0
How do you select the names of your characters?
May 22, 11:55PM EDT0
Do you view writing as a kind of spiritual practice?
May 22, 8:42PM EDT0

For me, writing is more therapy and a method of relaxation. I suppose some might call that spiritual in nature.  My writing time is a way to go somewhere else an not worry about bills, whether the kids have done their homework, doing the dishes and all that other daily life stuff that drags us down. 

May 22, 10:03PM EDT0
What was the biggest surprise you had after becoming a writer?
May 22, 5:43PM EDT0

I think the biggest surprise was how much work goes into a book after the writing part is over. When I first started to write, I thought the writing was the hardest part.  As it turns out, marketing takes a lot of time and effort to. 

May 22, 9:42PM EDT0
Has any book made you cry? Do you remember which one?
May 22, 10:20AM EDT0

I've read a few good emotional books, but the first one that comes to mind is Orson Scott Card's Songmaster. It's been a long time since I read it, but it's the first one I remember crying enough that it became difficult to read. If you like fantasy, give it a try.

May 22, 9:27PM EDT0
What's the next hair color that you may want to color your hair with?
May 20, 12:00AM EDT0

I'm fond of blues at the moment.  I've been doing variations of teal, blue and purple for the past six months or so. I'll probably stick with that for awhile before going back to the red or magenta tones.  There are so many fun colors to play with these days.

May 20, 8:03PM EDT0
Who is the greatest science fiction or fantasy villain who is still to become famous?
May 19, 8:57PM EDT0

My favorite villains are the kind that aren't one specific person. I like when characters are both good and evil enough that we're not sure which side to cheer for.  I like my villains as well rounded as the hero.

May 20, 8:36PM EDT0
Which speculative theme do you feel is the most played out at this point in the books?
May 19, 9:18AM EDT0

I write fantasy and sci-fi pretty equally so I can't say that one is more than the other in my books. Destiny Pills & Space Wizards covers, sci-fi, fantasy, paranormal, fable, and fairy tale.

May 20, 8:06PM EDT0
What's your favorite flower and when do you practice flower gardening?
May 19, 9:15AM EDT0

I work in the garden whenver I get  chance, sometimes its a few minutes on my lunch break or right after work. I used to spend hours in the garden on the weekends, but my back and schedule don't always allow for that anymore, so shorter sessions on more of a daily basis are what I aim for now.

My first favorite is the Iris. My second would probably be tulips, which is what is blooming right now.  

May 20, 8:09PM EDT0
Do you like reading as a hobby and not as a critique? What are some of your favorite books?
May 18, 12:45AM EDT0

I find it very hard to read for enjoyment after I've been critiquing for so long.  It's difficult to turn that part of my brain off and just sink into a story. When I do, I don't get much accomplished. I don't usually put a good book down until it's done.  The last series I read and really enjoyed was Diana Gabaldon's Outlander Series.

May 20, 8:20PM EDT0
Do you think the title is very important and must be eye-catching or do some readers just don’t mind anymore?
May 17, 12:36PM EDT0

I think the cover needs to be more eye-catching than the title, but the title is one of my top three deciding factors when buying a book, so yes, it is important. It should be short and catchy if at all possible so that a reader might remember what that book was called when their hopefully telling their friends about it. 

May 17, 5:10PM EDT0
Do you believe in ghosts? Any memorable paranormal experiences?
May 17, 11:04AM EDT0

I'm not a big believer in ghosts. However, when we built our house we decided that all the unexplainable noises were created by Timmy, our friendly household spirit. So whenever odd noises occur or something is moved that no one claims to have touched, Timmy did it.

May 17, 5:07PM EDT0
How do you create original and fresh storylines? What inspires you?
May 17, 4:52AM EDT0

I am inspired by random things. Many of my stories start from a single sentence prompt or a few words or even a general idea from something I read or watched. 

Some stories began with a challenge to myself. For example, I wrote Sahmara with the intent to write a book from the female point of view (having just come off writing a male pov novel) and the character would be the one doing the rescuing. I came up with her name, decided it would be a fantasy story, and then I sat down and started to write.

It's hard to come up with an original storyline, but you can certainly put your own spin on it and, using your particular voice, make it something that seems original. 

May 17, 5:14PM EDT0
How do you come up with unique and interesting titles?
May 17, 4:12AM EDT0

Titles usually come to me as I'm writing or during the first pass of editing.  Many of my WIPs are known only by the main character's name until a title hits me. Sometimes, in the case of Sahmara, the book actually started with a different title before I began writing, but then, during the editing phase, I went with her name. I think my subconsious was having a contrary fit that day. 

May 17, 5:06PM EDT0
Among all the pieces you’ve written, which one are you most proud of?
May 17, 3:58AM EDT0

It's hard to pin point any one piece. I'm proud of all of them. Each story has a little something that is special to me, usually the core of the piece.

One of my favorites is Found, which is included in the anthology I've linked here. As a parent, it is a particularly creepy and sad story.

May 17, 6:08PM EDT0
Why speculative fiction? What’s the difference of speculative from just regular fiction?
May 16, 11:56PM EDT0

Speculative fiction is a subset of fiction. It is the umbrella term for fantasy, sci-fi, paranormal and horror. Some authors stick with a single genre, such as fantasy. I tend to wander around the spec fic zone so I can't easily classify my books in a single genre and have to go up to the next general genre description instead.

May 17, 5:03PM EDT0
Among the characters you have created, who is the one you can relate to the most?
May 16, 9:37PM EDT0

I would have to go with Vayen, from my space opera series The Narvan. We've been together for a very long time. I'm usually not a very nice person when I'm writing him. I tend to swear a lot more and have far less patience. But then, I don't have much to begin with and I swear quite a lot anyway. So maybe no one else notices much of a difference. 

May 17, 6:12PM EDT0
Why backyard chickens? Do you have other pets at home too?
May 16, 6:13PM EDT0

Fresh eggs taste so much better than store bought eggs and they store better too. We have six egg laying chickens. We got them as chicks. They are currently two years old and busy laying and eating grass and bugs most of the day. They also love leftovers and kitchen scraps. Our chickens eat quite well.

One of the reasons we got chickens was to help control the tick population in our yard. They do a pretty good job of it, but we can only let them free range when we're outside because there are too many hawks in the area. We lost of our favorite hens last year to one. I built a mobile tunnel system for them so they have room to run around and forage while still being safe when we can't be outside.

I have two dogs. They do a good job of keeping an eye on the chickens when they're not chasing squirrels. Both of them are terrier mixes.  

May 16, 7:53PM EDT0
Did you get any formal education in writing? Should one study writing first before becoming an effective author?
May 16, 2:35PM EDT0

I took a creative writing class and all the english classes my high school had to offer back in the day. That's served me pretty well. Reading a lot in the genre(s) you write is probably the most helpful sort of study you can get when it comes to writing fiction. It helps you see how things are described in a useful way, how they are set up as far as the plot arc, what makes the plot work as a satisfying story, how to create engaging charcters and good dialogue, etc.

I've worked with a few fiction writers that went the college writing degree route and I find them dry, like someone killed the creative spark inside them. Now, if you're looking to write more of a literary or non-fiction book, then a formal education might better serve you because that's what the classes seem to be more geared toward. Not to say there aren't exceptions, but that's what I've observed.

If there is an aspect of writing that you feel you have issue with, such as effective description, or well rounded characters, setting, self-editing, etc, then look into taking a course on that. I recently did a Coursera creative writing course on description (because that's something I always get comments on from my critque partners) and I found it quite helpful. I'm told they can see the difference in my first drafts, so hopefully that will help save me a draft or two.

Last edited @ May 16, 2:59PM EDT.
May 16, 2:58PM EDT0
What’s the best feedback you’ve gotten from readers of your works?
May 16, 2:32PM EDT0

I enjoy when I hear from readers who don't normally like x kind of story but they really enjoyed this one.  It's always interesting to hear what they liked about it and drew them to it to give it a try. Perhaps, in the future, they'll give other stories in that same genre a chance too. 

May 16, 5:03PM EDT0
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