Carpinello's Writing Pages welcomes U.K. fantasy writer Dan Davis. I first met Dan when I ran across his blog post on how he writes in his head. Since I do a lot of this, I did some exploring of his posts and site and found a new friend and colleague!
First, a bit about Dan:
I was born in Birmingham in England 30-odd years ago, but moved down south to the county of Essex when I was very young. My first career after university was working in the financial industry in the City of London. After a long break traveling in Europe, I changed careers to work in local government. I live in north Essex with my wife and our young daughter.
Why did you pick to write books for Middle Grade readers?
Although I have always loved reading books for young people, I had mostly written stories for adults. However, every now and then I have written stories for family members for birthday or Christmas presents (I'm cheap like that!), and a few years ago I wrote a story for my nephew's eighth birthday, had it printed and bound, handed it over and forgot about it for a few years until I started uploading some short stories to my blog. When I read this story again, I saw how much potential it had and turned it into a novel - the first of a new series. So I find myself writing for young people without ever really setting out to, but I have to say it is the very best thing that could have happened. The age group is perfect because I love writing books with straightforward prose, lots of story and fun and funny characters. I have never enjoyed writing more than I am now.
What types of books do you like to read?
I love fantasy, science fiction and historical fiction. Perhaps it is no coincidence that the series I am writing now has elements of all three genres. Some of my favorite books for young people are Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, Robert Heinlein's early juvenile stories and Gary Paulsen's Hatchet series. In fact, Hatchet is almost certainly the book that has had the greatest impact on my life. Reading it for the first time as an eight-year-old was the most wonderful epiphany.
When you are not writing, what do you like to do?
I spend time with my family. I love just hanging out with my daughter, and we all go for walks by the river or in the woods as often as we can. I like to cook and when I do, I also listen to lectures on a wide range of subjects especially history, astronomy and biology. And I used to love playing video games, painting and growing vegetables, but sadly there are only so many hours in a day!
Tell us about White Wind Rising and how the story came to be.
The book is part one in a coming-of-age fantasy series called Gunpowder and Alchemy and set in an alternative history: 17th Century Civil War England with magic and dragons and steam engines. My heroes are four young people and a little dragon who discover they have incredible powers they will eventually use to shape grand historical events and also their own futures.
I wrote the book in somewhat of a frenzy. What is now the first third of the novel was initially a complete short story, and my intention was to tidy it up quickly, knock out a few more very short stories, and release them as a collection to tell the overarching tale. But instead, I was overwhelmed with inspiration, and I survived on little sleep for weeks on end to get the whole book written, edited and released in record time. It was a very powerful and unexpected experience. I have been writing for many years now and have never had that kind of intensity take hold before.
Here's a peek at White Wind Rising:
As he does so, he discovers he is not the only captive in the tower and gathers to him a band of unlikely heroes in the form of Writer, Weaver, Keeper and Burp. Only by using the skills of each can they take flight in a dragon balloon and quest home from deep within the Moon Forest.
During their travels they are shocked to discover that the Alchemist has dominated their home, the Vale, for a thousand years conducting experiments on their families and keeping them isolated from the world. But for what purpose? And what is this unknown place called England that lies outside the Vale?
Join them in their journey as they each learn to bend the very elements to their will and discover that together they can become more powerful than they could have imagined.
Have you written other books? If so, tell us a bit about them.
I have written two other full length novels that I have yet to publish. One is a coming of age historical fantasy, and the other is a contemporary thriller for adults that I am taking a break from before editing. I have lots of short stories that I would love to release as a collection or two.
What’s next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?
I am almost done with the first draft of Gunpowder and Alchemy Book 2. I expect to release it later in 2015. There will be four books in this series, one for each of my four characters and based around the four classical elements. Book 1 focused on Archer and the element of air. Book 2 is water, featuring as lead a girl called Writer who has to chose between learning magic and developing her ability to control water. But first she has to escape from the Witchfinder General, rescue her friend and his dragon from Colchester Castle, and decide whether the ancient alchemist Cedd really can be trusted before doing battle with the Roundheads and their new superweapon – the landship.
The scope for this one is much larger than in Book 1, and there are many more characters and tons of plot. In fact, each book in the series pulls back further to reveal more of the story and context of this alternate history. For example, Book 3 will feature Oliver Cromwell, the New Model Army and Civil War London, and by the end of Book 4, we will have swooped over the entire British Isles. So I have been doing an awful lot of research into the time period, historical characters, alchemy, technology and witchcraft. Taking all of that and molding it into this series is both hugely challenging and immensely rewarding.
What advice do you have for other authors?
There are so many wonderful resources for authors to be found online. I am amazed by the generosity of authors who share their learning and experiences and I heartily suggest reading as much of it as you feel you need to. But always remember you have to find your own way. The right thing for you is whatever works – for you. So try out different things, see what feels right, see what doesn't, and make sure that you always trust yourself.
Where can readers find you and your books?
My website is Dan Davis Writes. I would love for you to drop by and say hello.
White Wind Rising: