by C.J. Darlington
Amanda L. Davis Interview
great YA novel will also have a story world that feels more alive
with every turn of the page—a world that is so well developed
that it makes me want to explore it outside of the story and see
what it’s like in every aspect."
Amanda L. Davis is the award-winning teen author of the Cantral Chronicles, a dystopian trilogy. She enjoys reading and writing and comes up with new novel ideas while sewing, spinning yarn, quilting, and embroidering. She was born and raised a Florida girl and loves the warmth of the South.
It sounds like writing and books are a huge part of your household, but when did you first realize you too wanted to be a writer?
Books are prominent in our house, there’s no denying it, but I didn’t realize I wanted to be a writer until I was 15 or 16. I didn’t start writing at all until I was 15, so while I’m a young writer, I haven’t been writing all that long. I knew for a fact I wanted to pursue publication only three years ago.
As a fellow homeschooler (Grades 1-12), I applaud you and your family for homeschooling. I know it made all the difference for me as a writer. How did homeschooling help you in your writing aspirations?
me with my writing aspirations because it allowed me to have a flexible
schedule. I could write when I wanted to, and what
I wrote counted toward my English credit! Also, homeschooling allows for
an individualized learning plan, which I desperately needed when I was
I have dyslexia, which is a learning disability that makes it difficult to learn how to read and write. Because of my dyslexia I had to go through the first grade three times, and I didn’t read fluently until I was about eleven years old. Homeschooling helped me get the attention I needed despite this disability and gave me the time to learn at my own pace.
I hear the idea for Precisely Terminated came to you in a dream. How exciting! But of course I’m sure much had to be fleshed out after that initial idea. Did you plot the story before writing it or are you more of a "write as you" go type of writer?
I’m an ‘organic’ writer, or as you called it ‘a write as you go’ type. I make up the plot as I type. The dream did give me a lot to go on, though. Probably a lot more than one might suspect. The entire first chapter of Precisely Terminated was part of my dream. I also got a tour of the wall slave dorms and their culture, sort of like a documentary—definitely very useful when further developing the story!
Dystopian novels are all the rage these days. Tell us a little bit about the world you’ve created for the Cantral Chronicles. What does a reader from our time need to know about Cantral?
Dystopian is definitely popular right now, but that’s not why I wrote Precisely Terminated. Some people ask me why I wrote a dystopian. I answer that I didn’t set out to write a dystopian novel, I set out to write Precisely Terminated and it happened to be a dystopian that came out in a time that dystopian was popular. Of course that doesn’t really answer your question, so let me do that now.
The Cantral Chronicles is set 800 years in the future. There is now a one world government that
and controls people through computer chips
in each person’s brain. Society as a whole has regressed a lot but
at the same time has progressed in some ways. Most people are oppressed
by the ruling class, the Nobles. If you’re not a Noble, it’s
no fun to be alive. I definitely wouldn’t want to live there!
The whole idea of people having chips implanted in them really isn’t as far fetched as it used to be. Did end times prophecy ever enter your mind when you wrote these books?
A lot of people ask me if the end of times prophecies had influence on the chips and other ideas in The Cantral Chronicles, but I have to say no. They really didn’t. I think some people are disappointed with that answer, but it’s the truth.
There’s a lot of hopelessness in literature, especially YA literature, these days. What do you hope to parlay to your peers through your stories?
I hope to show others that there really is hope in this world. My stories are filled with it. It’s not all dismal and dark, there is a light at the end if you persevere and work through the trials, and I think Precisely Terminated demonstrates that well with Monica’s trials and successes.
Who’s your favorite character in Precisely Terminated and why?
One of my favorite characters would have to be Simon. He’s so vibrant but at the same time, a crotchety old man who isn’t sure what he believes. He hides that from Monica, the main character, and I think he’s pretty funny. Second favorite would be Monica, because she’s so hard working, loyal, and brave to the bitter end. Who couldn’t like a person like that?
I hear you spin yarn(s) in more than one way! How did you get involved in the craft of yarn spinning? What do you like most about it?
I do spin yarn in another way. When I tell others about my spinning I always clarify by saying, ‘yarn. On a spinning wheel.’ Otherwise they’re confused because so few people spin anymore. I became involved in spinning because a neighbor of ours has seventy-five sheep and needs help with shearing them every year. One year I helped with that and then took a spinning class from her. And after that, I was hooked. I’ve been spinning for about three years now and enjoy it quite a bit. Spinning and processing wool is very relaxing and lets me do work with my hands, which is the type of work I like the most. Not only do I spin, but I also wash, pick, and card wool in preparation for spinning it. A lot of the wool I process I then sell online, and almost all of my wool comes from my neighbor’s sheep.
Who is your writing hero?
I would have to say my dad, but then people get frustrated with me because they say, “Of course your dad, but who else?” The answer is, well, no one, really. At least no one I can ever think of at the moment. My dad taught me how to write and his work ethic in writing has been my example through the years. What better hero than someone I get to see every day?
In perusing your Goodreads profile, I noticed you read a lot of YA fiction, and have strong opinions on many of them! What do you constitute an amazing YA novel? What do you personally most like to see in this genre as a reader?
I do have strong opinions
about a lot of things, and those strong opinions sometimes get me in
but I still give them when people ask. To
me, a great YA novel will have a blend of vibrant characters who aren’t
all really dumb. It seems that most characters in the average YA novel
are incredibly dull witted, and I don’t like reading about those
kinds of people.
A great YA novel will also have a story world that feels more alive with every turn of the page—a world that is so well developed that it makes me want to explore it outside of the story and see what it’s like in every aspect. Last, but not least, such a novel will also have a plot line that is intriguing and thrilling to the last, with too many twists and turns to guess. Most novels I read are too easy to figure out for my tastes, so I’m always excited when I find one that keeps me guessing.
Even though you’ve seen how things work through your dad Bryan Davis' writing, now that your first book is published, is there anything that surprised you about the whole process?
Since I’ve known the publishing world for such a long time through my dad’s works and through attending writer’s conferences, there wasn’t really anything that surprised me about the writing or publishing process. The writing process definitely tried my patience at times, though, because editing is not fun! Who likes to try to look for their own mistakes?
Speaking of your dad, which of his books is your favorite and why?
Favorite books are always difficult for me. It’s hard to pick a favorite of anything, since my tastes and moods change often. That being said, I usually like Starlighter and its sequels. There is another new series of his he’s working on that hasn’t been announced that I really like the idea of. If he were to finish writing it, that one would probably be my favorite.
You’re stranded on a desert island and can only bring one book (besides your Bible). What do you bring?
A survival guide for living on a desert island!
What are two things people might be surprised to know about you?
I’m a writer, but I don’t like coffee or music. I hear that’s an odd combination.
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
I enjoy sewing, spinning,
embroidering, creating embroidery patterns on my computer, hanging out
with my family
(especially playing our favorite
card game ‘Scum’), and reading.
What did you eat for breakfast this morning?
I had a glass of vegetable/fruit juice. It contained kale, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, collard greens, carrots, apples, oranges, and kiwi.
Three things always found in your refrigerator:
Definitely ketchup! The other two things would probably be eggs (great with ketchup, by the way) and dill pickles. The pickles are there because no one likes them, but pickles never spoil, so we can’t throw them out.
You’re next in line at Starbucks. What are you ordering?
A vanilla frappuccino. I don’t drink coffee, though, so I go to Starbucks only if I have a gift card!
What’s left unchecked in your “goals for life” list?
Visit all the US territories and 50 states. I still haven’t been to Hawaii or Alaska and I’ve been to only DC, out of all our territories.
When was the last time you cried?
That’s a tough one. I’m not much of a crier, so it’s difficult to remember the last time I cried.
Three words that best describe you:
I didn’t know how to answer this, but my dad says, steadfast, loving, and “spiffen.”
What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?
That’s another hard one! I don’t even know where my iPod
is. I don’t listen to music. The only reason I have one is because
it was given to me. Basically, I only ever use it when I am running, it
gives me something to listen to. If I had to guess what was on it, I would
probably guess Les Miserables the broadway musical. I think that’s
the last thing I listened to.
Thanks for the opportunity for this interview, it was really fun, and there were some fun questions to answer! Currently, I am busy at work on Precisely Terminated’s sequel, Noble Imposter, which should release in the spring of 2012.
C.J. Darlington is the award-winning authof of Thicker than Blood, Bound by Guilt, and Ties that Bind. She is a regular contributor to Family Fiction Digital Magazine and NovelCrossing.com. A homeschool graduate, she makes her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs, a cat, and a paint horse named Sky. Visit her online at her author website. You can also look her up at Twitter and Facebook.