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Davis Bunn Interview

by C.J. Darlington

"...today’s readers come into books with story expectations built around what they find in film." -- Davis Bunn


Davis Bunn is an award-winning novelist whose audience spans reading genres from high drama and action thrillers to heartwarming relationship stories, in both contemporary and historical settings. He and his wife, Isabella, make their home in Florida for some of each year, and spend the rest near Oxford, England, where they each teach and write.


C.J.: You didn’t start writing until you were twenty-eight, but was there a desire in your heart to write as a child or was it something that only came as an adult?

I was always a reader. But the writing took off after I came to faith. Two weeks after, to be precise. It was an astonishing gift, and completely out of the blue. I was sitting in a lobby waiting to go into a business conference. I had driven three hours to get there, only to learn that it had been delayed. Instead of being frustrated, there was a sense of walking into something that had been waiting for this moment, when the pressures of life were put on hold and I was invited to listen. Thirty years later, I’m still trying to do just that.

It took nine years (and seven finished novels!) before you were published. What kept you motivated during the waiting time, and how did you eventually find a publishing home?

From that first moment, there was a sense of having found what I had always been looking for. Like most alpha guys, a lot of my life is defined by the work that I do, and while I had been successful, I had never felt fulfilled. From that very first hour, I knew this was it. The question was how to make it work. And part of this was learning the discipline of daily struggle. Just being granted a calling does not mean that life will simply fall into place. But the gift of discipline, once learned, is a huge benefit to many aspects of my spiritual and personal walk.

What does the novel writing process look like for you? Do you know the whole story ahead of time, or are you more of a “seat of the pants” type writer? Perhaps you could use your novel All Through the Night as an example?

All Through the Night started from a late-night conversation with a friend who has served with America’s Special Forces troops in North Africa, the Gulf, and Afghanistan. I feel genuinely honored that this gentleman, and now several of his friends, would entrust their stories to my keeping. What I wanted was to portray them honestly, and also show how faith can be a vital component of their coming home.

Please share with us a little bit about your involvement in the TV and film industry. What sort of projects were you involved with?

I have worked on five film projects. The first was a feature film of The Music Box, published by Bethany House twelve years ago. After that one fell apart, my wife said the only way we could do this again and remain on an even keel would be to treat Hollywood as fun. If something ever made it to the screen, great. If we made a huge ton of money off a project someday, even better. In the meantime, though, we would go into it simply to be thrilled over the chance to participate in this wild and woolly story factory. And we have had a blast. I’ve worked on three screenplays now, and have a big-name agent and all that stuff. And while none of my books have yet made it to the screen, the process remains thrilling. We have made some great friends among the film community, and met some people whose faith-walk in these treacherous waters is truly a beacon to us. We have been very fortunate.

The Centurion's Wife by Davis Bunn & Janette OkeWhat technique or process from the filmmaking industry do you find yourself using the most in your fiction? Why is that?

In my opinion, today’s readers come into books with story expectations built around what they find in film. The pacing, tempo, highs and lows, all these are inbred from a fairly constant diet of film-based story. I have made a study of this process, and find that many of these lessons—not all, but many—are directly applicable to the craft of writing a good novel.

Are there plans to make any of your novels into a movie?

Yes, for two current projects. But we have found it best not to discuss them until or unless principal filming has actually begun.

It’s exciting to hear you’ve teamed up again with Janette Oke to write a new series! How does the process of co-writing work with your team? Do you trade off chapters?

Janette and I have written nine stories together, and each of them seems to take a different direction. For The Centurion’s Wife, our current project, we found ourselves more involved in a give-and-take writing process than ever before. This continued from the very first story discussion, through the outline, on to the end of the first draft and right through until now and the interviews.

What’s the number one thing you’ve learned from working with Janette?

How to touch a woman reader’s heart. It is not something that comes natural to me. Janette has been a shining example of living faith combined with a great gift for telling a heartfelt tale.

You’re an avid surfer. What do you enjoy most about this sport? Davis Bunn

I have been surfing since I was sixteen. There is a deep and abiding sense of love for the ocean and its moods and its power. Coming to faith has only heightened this. Yesterday I surfed at dawn with friends—two pastors, a youth leader, a missionary, and their sons and daughters. Before we paddled out, we gathered in a prayer circle on the beach with the waves and the gulls as our devotional song. This sharing both our love of God and our love of the waves made for a very intense experience.

What is something people might be surprised to know about you?

I have become increasingly involved in interfaith dialogue and international peace initiatives.

When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?

In America, surfing. In England, cycling. Movies. Good food. More good food.

What did you eat for breakfast this morning?

Whole grain bread and bananas.

Three things always found in your refrigerator:

Fresh juice, fresh salad, cheese. Smoothies. Chocolate turtles if I am feeling indulgent.

What’s currently in your CD player/iPod?

I listen to a lot of music. What I listen to actually depends upon the work that I am doing at the time. I love inspirational music that shows a maturity in the craft. I played a number of instruments growing up, and maintain a passion for music that demonstrates a breadth and depth of ability. This passion spans a lot of different genres, including Rock, R&B, Classical, Country, Flamenco, Contemporary Jazz, and numerous secular singers who implant hope and not rage in their lyrics.

C.J. DarlingtonC.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.