Hello and welcome to my blog, Author Interviews. My name is Fiona Mcvie.
Let’s get you introduced to everyone, shall we? Tell us your name. What is your age?
I go by D. G. D. Davidson. I’m thirty-eight years old.
Fiona: Where are you from?
Originally, I come from eastern Oregon, but I’ve been all over the place. I used to work as an archaeologist, so my job often took me around the country. I’m currently living in Oklahoma, and I’ve made it into the official state database of Oklahoma authors, so I think that now qualifies as my home.
Fiona: A little about your self (ie, your education, family life, etc.).
I grew up in Oregon and studied Anthropology in college. After I got a master’s degree in Archaeology at the University of Toronto, I worked as an archaeologist for several years, with a short stint in a Catholic seminary. I recently went back to school for a master’s degree in Library Science, so I am now an academic librarian. Most of my writing has been on the fly during projects, but now that I’m settled into a job with more regular hours, I have more time to write.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news.
The second volume of Jake and the Dynamo, Dead to Rites, is nearing completion. I can’t give a date on the publication, but I can say that the draft is nearly done.
After that, I will be finalizing the draft of Rag & Muffin, a novel thematically similar to Jake and the Dynamo, but with a darker tone as well as a more elaborate and exotic setting.
I have also begun a Christmas-themed novel under the working title Son of Hel, which was inspired by the infamously bad movie Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. It’s a science-fantasy incorporating legendry and folkore surrounding St. Nicholas, and involves Krampus.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
Kindergarten. I dictated my first story, which was about pirates, to my kindergarten teacher, who dutifully wrote it down for me. I’ve always felt a need to tell stories. Most of my games as a child were elaborate stories. When my brother and friends were playing video games, I was always trying to puzzle out the backstories; I never cared for the gameplay itself, only the tale it told. Of course, video games have become more elaborate in recent years and are now real vehicles for stories, which they weren’t when I was young.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Sometime in college, probably, when I first sold a story to a small e-zine. But I’ve always been writing. In middle school or late grade school, I attempted my first novel on a Tandy 1000, and I lost it all when the text file got too large for the computer’s memory.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
This particular book series, Jake and the Dynamo, the first volume of which is entitled The Wattage of Justice, came to me in a dream. I’ve always been a fan of science fiction and fantasy, but within the last ten years I’ve become increasingly interested in the sub-sub-genre of Japanese magical girls. I was working long hours on an archaeological project, and when I got back to my motel room late in the evening, I would usually eat a reheated dinner while catching a few episodes of the magical girl show Shugo Chara.
It’s probably on account of that show and on account of poor sleeping habits that I had a bizarre and vivid dream about a teenage boy who ought to have been in high school, but was forced back to fifth grade when a computer glitch erased part of his academic record. There, a moody young girl picked on him mercilessly, and he discovered to his chagrin that he could do nothing about it because he was neither a bully nor a snitch.
I thought that was a really funny idea, and I mulled it over for days, unsure what to do with it, when it suddenly struck me that this grumpy little kid might be a magical girl. Almost immediately, Magical Girl Pretty Dynamo, complete with her powers and personality, popped into my head.
I began writing the story as a lark. I originally thought I would self-publish it when it was complete, but as it grew, I realized it would fill more than one volume. I sent it to the fantasist L. Jagi Lamplighter, who does freelance editing and has helped some fledgling authors get started. She made insightful edits and also pitched the book to Superversive Press, which took it on her recommendation.
Because I originally intended to self-publish, I had contracted with an illustrator, Roffles Lowell, who did the book’s interior illustrations. Superversive graciously took the illustrations with the text, so I can proudly say that it is an illustrated novel.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The title came to me as suddenly as everything else did. As soon as I realized that little Dana was also Magical Girl Pretty Dynamo, the hapless teenage boy became Jake, and Jake and the Dynamo came to my mind. I think the old TV show, Jake and the Fatman, may have inspired this name combination. That’s not a show I’ve ever seen, but the title is one I vaguely remember.
I can also tell you that the reason she’s called Pretty Dynamo is a sort of joke: There are a number of magical girls with “pretty” in their names, such as Pretty Cure, Pretty Sammy, and of course the Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon. I wanted to reference those, which I think is why Pretty Dynamo became the name of my heroine.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style? Is there anything about your style or genre that you find particularly challenging?
I have been told that my writing has a distinct voice, whatever that means, and that I am very descriptive. When I was young, in late elementary and throughout middle school, I was enamored of Ray Bradbury. In my early attempts at writing, I tried to imitate him. I’m no longer deliberately imitative (and I’m no Ray Bradbury), but his influence is still with me.
I like lush settings with quickly delineated characters; this is a common technique in animation, perhaps best known from the works of Studio Ghibli, and I believe it works in prose as well. Considering how much influence animation has had on this particular novel, I think the boldly drawn but cartoonish characters set in a thoughtfully created environment are appropriate.
As for the challenges of my genre, it requires getting in touch with my feminine side. The story also needs to be heavy on humor, so there’s always a pressure to come up with new jokes and puns.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic and are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
It’s not very realistic at all! And that is by design. The book is a combination of slapstick comedy and violent action. I constructed it in such a way that every other chapter would be a large action sequence, with lots of belly laughs in between. Someone has kindly created a page for it on TVTropes and described it as an example of “mood whiplash,” since it moves quickly from silly humor to much darker, more violent content, and back again.
That being said, I will mention that Dana, the alter ego of Pretty Dynamo, is very loosely based on a real little girl who talked in a deadpan, followed me around, and made sarcastic comments. Aside from that, various thoughts and experiences of mine have no doubt gone into the book, but none that I could point out specifically.
Fiona: To craft your works, do you have to travel? Before or during the process?
An interesting question. For this particular book, no; I had to research some of the foreign cultures that make up the world-city in which Jake and Dana live, but I did not travel for that purpose. I did, however, spend a few months in India as part of the research for Rag & Muffin, the book I will be finalizing after I finish the second volume of Jake and the Dynamo. I think that trip was very much worth it. I knew a fair amount about India before I went, but actually standing in it, feeling the people and the culture flowing around you, being overwhelmed by it, was very different from reading about it in a guidebook or history book. I think that trip changed the tone and feel of Rag & Muffin.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
The artist is a talented fellow named Lee Madison, who draws in an anime-influenced style and has done several covers for Superversive Press. I was thrilled when he first showed me his design for Pretty Dynamo: She looks much better in his version than she did in my head, to be honest. I love the way he incorporated a lightning bolt motif into her blue and gold armor.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
I am wary of messages in fiction. Many years ago, I was tangentially involved with several authors in the Christian Booksellers’ Association; there are some talented storytellers in that set, but I got a sense that they tended to elevate message over entertainment, often to the detriment of their work. I drifted away from them, I think, because of a difference in artistic vision. In the broader publishing industry, we are now seeing something similar to what I saw in CBA, what with the heavy emphasis on social justice or inclusiveness or whatever you want to call it, where message is emphasized to the point that craftsmanship gets neglected.
The reader is free to find any message or none in Jake and the Dynamo.I am sure some of my opinions crept into the text, and anyone who wants to try to tease them out may do so. But the only messages I had firmly in mind were along the lines of, “magical girls are awesome,” and “being a teenager sucks sometimes.”
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest? Who is your favorite writer, and what is it about their work that really strikes you?
To be perfectly honest, a lot of my reading and a lot of my influence right now is not coming from novels written in English. I read a fair amount of Japanese manga. I’ve recently been working my way through the Coloured Fairy Books of Andrew Lang as well as the dialogs of Plato. My reading in recent years, aside from manga, has largely shifted to classics and nonfiction.
I’m never sure what to say when asked for a favorite book or favorite writer. Since I mentioned Bradbury as my single greatest influence, I am probably safe calling him my favorite author. It was always his ability to create vivid word-paintings that most struck me; only rarely did I actually care for the plots or characters of his works. For a favorite novel, my go-to is All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren. I have chosen that title simply so I have an answer ready when asked for a favorite book, but also for the same reason I have chosen Bradbury—the incredible wordsmithing.
I should also name the graphic novel Bone by Jeff Smith, which encapsulates my storytelling philosophy: humorous and endearing characters who delight the audience with outrageously funny antics, yet who live in a story that steadily turns darker and more violent, but also more expansive.
Fiona: Outside of family members, name one entity that supported your commitment to become a published author.
That would have to be L. Jagi Lamplighter. She is almost singlehandedly the reason this book is published.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
Yes, but I have no plans to quit my day job. I see it as something I intend to keep doing, something to which I am dedicated, something that has to be worked at steadily. In that sense, it is a career.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I would fix a few typos that Iknow made it into the final draft. Aside from that, this book has been gone over with a fine-tooth comb by multiple people. Any additional improvements would be beyond my current abilities. So I am content with the published version.
Fiona: Did you learn anything during the writing of your recent book?
That’s a tough question. I think I learned some things about craft, perhaps most especially from the helpful suggestions I got from Lamplighter—although most of what she told me were things I knew already, but hadn’t accomplished as well as I’d thought. I wrote this book partly to stretch myself, because the story is told from a sidekick’s point of view: Jake has no superpowers, but is constantly in the company of girls who do. Keeping him in an active role is always a fun challenge, and I think it makes the action more inventive than it would have been if all the participants were magical girls and monsters.
Fiona: If your book was made into a film, who would you like to play the lead?
If this book were put to film, I would want it animated and produced in Japan, preferably as a TV series rather than as a movie. I don’t know my Japanese voice actors well enough to pick a lead. If I had to pick a studio, however, I might pick Studio BONES, which has made competent adaptations of light novels with similar themes.
Fiona: Any advice for other writers?
Probably none that they haven’t heard already. Give every character at least two things to want badly. Make sure at least two conflicts are present in every scene. Give your characters flaws. Mercilessly kill your sock puppets. Let your villains say their piece and give them real reasons. Write every day. There’s no such thing as writer’s block.
That kind of thing.
Fiona: Anything specific you want to tell your readers?
Only that I hope they have fun. I have had readers tell me that they have laughed so hard they’ve cried while reading Jake and the Dynamo. That is the most satisfying feedback I can get.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
The complete dialogs of Plato, the last volume of the Coloured Fairy Books, and Bleach.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
No. However, I do remember the book that most influenced me as a child. It was City Beyond the Clouds by Roy Rockwood. It was part of the boys’ adventure series Great Marvel. The story involved several strapping lads loading up on guns, building a flying machine, and traveling to a second moon hidden in the Earth’s shadow, where they battled evil dwarves and giant grasshoppers to rescue a fair maiden. I was probably ten or so when I read it, and I had never before read anything quite like it. It blew my mind. I now own seven volumes of the Great Marvel series. I’m old enough now to see their flaws, but they’re still a hoot. A reader today has to go somewhere like Japan to find boys’ stories with the same kind of gumption.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
An easy cop-out is to answer, “The contents of Jake and the Dynamo.” I did my best to put in the novel a lot of things that make me laugh or cry. The goofy humor that pervades the book, especially the bad puns, are there because they made me laugh, so I hoped they would make someone else laugh. The relationship that forms between Jake and Dana is there to make someone cry.
Fiona: Is there one person, past or present, you would love to meet? Why?
If I gave it enough thought, there might be several. Since I’m reading Plato right now, I’ll say Socrates. Plato’s depiction of him is one of the most memorable personalities in world literature.
Fiona: Do you have any hobbies?
Right now, writing is my biggest “hobby.” I’m trying to be more consistent in producing my work. Perhaps I’ll take up other hobbies once I pin this one down.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Most of the TV I watch these days is animated. I’m always trying to increase my knowledge of the magical girl genre. At the moment, I’m watching ViVid Strike, which is the latest series in the Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha franchise. It’s about young girls who happen to be magic-powered MMA fighters. I’m also fond of Miraculous Ladybug, a magical girl show out of France.
For movies, I like Kung fu. One of my favorite films is The Raid, an extraordinarily violent Indonesian martial arts movie.
Fiona: Favorite foods, colors, music?
I’ve never understood the concept of a favorite color, to be honest. I tend to dress in earth tones, so maybe I could say brown, except that sounds boring.
As for music, I am a complete plebeian; I’m fond of heavy metal, but have only a little knowledge of it. For whatever reason, I listened incessantly to “You’re Mine” by Disturbed while writing Jake and the Dynamo.
As for food, I like anything unhealthy. Jack on the rocks with vegetables and dip followed by cold pizza and beer is my notion of an ideal meal.
Fiona: Imagine a future where you no longer write. What would you do?
If I weren’t writing stories, I would probably be absorbing other people’s. In such a future, I suspect I would spend most or all of my free time watching magical girl anime, which doesn’t sound at all wholesome.
Fiona: You only have 24 hours to live how would you spend that time?
If I knew for certain that I had only 24 hours, I would probably put my affairs in order as well as I am able and spend the rest of the time in prayer.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone?
“Pepperoni and cheese.”
Fiona: Do you have a blog or website readers can visit for updates, events and special offers?
Yes indeed! You can visit my blog http://deusexmagicalgirl.com . I regularly deliver updates, and I also write quite a few reviews, mostly of anime.