by C.J. Darlington
Davis Bunn Interview
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"I wrote for nine years and finished seven novels before my first was accepted for publication. Simply because I had received a sense of calling did not mean I was ready to serve. First the diamond had to be polished. Hard and painful as that was." -- Davis Bunn
Davis wrote for nine years and completed seven books before his first was accepted for publication. During that time, he continued to work full-time in his business career, travelling to two and sometimes three countries every week. His first published book, The Presence, was released in 1990 and became a national bestseller.
Honored with three Christy Awards for excellence in historical and suspense fiction, his bestsellers include The Great Divide, Winner Take All, The Meeting Place, The Warning, The Book of Hours, and The Quilt.
A sought-after speaker
in the art of writing, Davis serves as Writer In Residence at Regent’s
Park College, Oxford University
When you first wrote Book of Dreams, did you have plans for a sequel, or did Hidden in Dreams come because of reader interest?
While working on the first book, I began preliminary discussions with NBC/Universal television to turn the concept into a series. Dave Johnson, who produced the Doc and Sue Thomas, FBEye series, became involved. A number of scenarios were discussed for future episodes, and we all became excited about the concepts behind what grew into the second book. There is as yet no firm decision about the television project. But it has been a blast to even be considered.
In writing a sequel it’s always a challenge to include enough back story to satisfy those who haven’t read the first book while still making sure the book stands alone. How do you approach this “sequel dilemma” in your writing process?
You’re right, it can indeed be troublesome, but this time it all fell together very easily. The structure just flowed. That sometimes happens, where the story seems to create itself. I wish it was true all the time. I can’t even say why it was such a smooth process with Hidden. But there was a sense of impatience about the back story, as though I needed to fit in just a few paragraphs, but I couldn’t allow myself or the reader to be drawn too far from this new story’s flow.
How much research did you have to conduct to write this intriguing story?
In a way, I suppose you could say I’ve been researching this story all my adult life. I did my studies in international economics and finance. Observing the difficulties our nation and economy has faced over the past three years, as well as what we personally have endured, has been tough. It really was great to have this chance to give voice to what we increasingly hear, that the people at fault need to be brought to justice, and the risk of another economic collapse needs to be halted.
You’re writing about two women in this novel. Is it ever a challenge to write from the female point of view? Why or why not, and are there any special things you always keep in mind when writing through the eyes of a woman?
Learning to write from a woman’s point of view is very difficult for a male writer, as it usually is for a woman author writing a man’s story. Before I was published, I became friends with a husband and wife team who were both opera stars. The woman often sang a male role in a Mozart opera that was originally designed for a young boy, but which nowadays is usually sung by a woman with a slightly lower range, called a coloratura. I discussed my difficulty with her, of trying to make my women sound real. She told me that my trouble stemmed from working on a woman character from the outside. It wasn’t about making women ’sound’ anything. It was all about making the character live from the inside – out.
As I worked on the point of view issue, trying to put my friend’s challenge into practice, I also began going into any meeting with a woman carrying a secret tape recorder, and taping everything that was said. I then went back and wrote out every word. It was perhaps the most boring month of my entire writing career. But gradually I found that I could ‘hear’ the speech patterns of these women, and reshape them into structures that fitted around what was happening in my stories. And through this exercise, the emotional content that lay behind the dialogue, the person who was expressing herself, became more real, more solid.
And then I met my wife, Isabella. And the process of instruction at the intimate level of a God-centered marriage began to unfold.
Did you know the ending of this story before you began to write, or did you find things surprised you along the way?
Generally I try to have a clear idea of the overarching structure before I begin. The stronger the tension, the more important I find this to be. The tension needs to be carefully laid out, and gradually escalated, so as to heighten the excitement as events unfold. Sometimes, my outlines will run as long as forty pages. In this case, because we had discussed it at such length in the television project, I was able to hit the ground running in an entirely different way, energized by this growing enthusiasm we all shared for the concept.
Why do you write fiction?
I became a believer at age twenty-eight. Up to that time, ever since graduating, I had been working in international business. I came to faith while working as a consultant in Germany. I started writing two weeks later. Up to that point, I had never picked up a pen in my life to write anything longer than a business report. But I had always been an avid reader. And the moment I started, that very first instant, I had the sense of invitation. It was the first time I had ever experienced that incredible sense of being drawn in a new, divinely inspired direction.
I wrote for nine years and finished seven novels before my first was accepted for publication. Simply because I had received a sense of calling did not mean I was ready to serve. First the diamond had to be polished. Hard and painful as that was.
While you are a prolific writer, you also get out there and live too! What’s been your most exciting real life adventure?
Our lives contain quite a lot of excitement and adventure. It would probably be better to ask, what has been the most exciting real-life event so far this year. Undoubtedly that would be working on the set of a film being shot from a screenplay I wrote last year. Unlimited is due for release in September, 2013. I am currently working on the novel, which come out a couple of months before then. Doing the script first and then the novel happens occasionally, perhaps the two most famous examples are Love Story and Godfather.
If you could only pursue one of the sports you enjoy for the rest of your life, which would you pick and why?
Up until recently, the answer to this question would have been instantaneous. Surfing has been a vital component of my life since my early teen years. But six years ago, at the urging of my brother, I began cycling. This has become a new and unexpected passion. I honestly don’t like to think about being ever forced to choose between them. Hopefully I will be able to continue enjoying both for many years.
What is your goal as a novelist?
I want to combine a truly entertaining read with a powerful after-effect.
My dream is that long after the book is set down with a satisfied sigh,
there are still images that surface, lessons that can be drawn, genuine
hope and healing and challenges and inspirations. I want my writing to
be worthy of the gift.
Portions of this interview first appeared as an article in the Aug/Sept 2012 issue of FamilyFiction Digital Magazine.
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.