Today we have the privilege of interviewing Amanda Davis, author of the award-winning Cantral Chronicles. If you haven’t heard of her before, you may have heard of her father, Bryan Davis, author of the best-selling Dragons in our Midst series. I (Josiah) read Amanda’s first two books while in high school and loved their character depth and suspenseful plotting, so I was thrilled to get the chance to talk with her now about her experiences as a writer.
Amanda published her first book when she was only nineteen years old, so today we talk about her road to publication as a teenage writer and the challenges she’s had in editing her books. Keep reading onto the end of the interview to get the chance to enter a giveaway for Precisely Terminated, the first book in her Cantral Chronicles series.
Journey to Publication
KP: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
Amanda: I believe I was fifteen when I decided I wanted to be a writer. When I was about twelve, I started touring with my dad, helping with the book tables and listening to him speak. After meeting people from so many places and seeing their reactions to his books, I wanted people to hear my stories as well.
KP: When you were still in your teens, what helped you the most as an aspiring author?
Amanda: My father’s writing lessons probably helped me the most in my writing journey. I took his classes a hundred times over, thanks to traveling with him. I often had to hear a new concept a dozen times before it would stick.
KP: What’s something you wish you knew as a younger writer?
Amanda: All the writing tips I know now! It would have made my first novels much better. I guess that’s the process of learning though. You have to start at some point. Why not now? Always learn as much as you can.
KP: In brief, what did your journey look like from knowing you wanted to be a writer to actually writing and publishing your first book?
Amanda: My journey to publishing was relatively short compared to some. I was fortunate to already have contacts in the publishing world. I started writing when I was fifteen, but nothing that I thought would be publishable. I just kept writing to improve my skills and worked on coming up with different and better ideas. When I was eighteen I dreamed up the plot for Precisely Terminated, the first of my ideas that seemed like it could be publishable.
I brought the first three chapters of Precisely Terminated to the Florida Christian Writers Conference and submitted them to some editors to see what they thought. I received encouraging feedback and continued to work on improving those chapters and expanding the story world.
Eventually, I submitted the chapters to AMG publishers, and they offered me a three-book contract. Writing the three books in the Cantral Chronicles took more time than getting the contract for them.
KP: You published your first book, Precisely Terminated, when you were in your late teens. What is it like to be published while still on the younger side of life?
Amanda: Precisely Terminated came out when I was nineteen, and I’m twenty-five now. It’s hard to believe it’s already been six years. I feel like I’m still on the “younger side of life” and figuring things out. I enjoyed writing the Cantral Chronicles, and I hope to write more in the future.
I hope that my being published at a younger age will be inspirational to others. Age isn’t as big of a deal as many people think.
KP: You’ve mentioned on your blog that you have several learning disabilities, including dyslexia. What unique challenges have you faced as a writer because of this? How have you overcome these challenges?
Amanda: Dyslexia has given me some challenges in my writing life as well as my everyday life. It often makes it difficult for me to focus, since forming words and spelling can be a challenge, so my mind wanders to easier things. I’m pretty sure most writers struggle with mind wandering, though!
Spelling and grammar can often be more difficult for me as well, since I will make a mistake in my Word document, but my brain processes it, telling me that I’ve spelled the word correctly. It makes things a jumble sometimes, but that’s what editors are for, right?
Revisions and Editing
KP: You talked quite a lot on your blog about your revision process for the last book in your trilogy, Viral Execution. What were those revisions like?
Amanda: Viral Execution was particularly hard for me to write and revise. I’m not sure if it was because it was the last book or something else. I wrote half the book before deciding it wasn’t interesting enough and scrapped it and started over. It kept feeling like a rehash of the other two books. With a lot of hard work, I feel like it turned out to be much different from the first two.
During the first few rewrites, I didn’t show the story to anyone but a close friend, and she agreed with me on the points I made. I didn’t show the story to my main editor until after I had a solid first draft I was happy with, and then the small revisions began.
The smaller revisions were just those needed to make the story flow better and fix an error here or a typo there. After I was satisfied with the first draft, it didn’t change much after that.
KP: How difficult was it to rewrite the first half of your story?
Amanda: It was quite difficult to rewrite the first half of Viral Execution. It took me about two months to figure out how the story would proceed. Sometimes it felt like the story would never move along, but I kept persevering and trying different routes, and eventually it started moving nicely.
KP: Sometimes we as writers can get very attached to our characters and scenes, and it can be hard to rewrite or cut them completely from the story. What has your experience been with these kinds of large-scale revisions? What advice would you give to writers who are struggling with these kinds of revisions?
Amanda: My advice would be to not let an emotional attachment get in the way of a needed revision. The character might be one that you love, but the writer needs to do what is best for the story. In the end of Viral Execution, one of my characters (who I liked very much) ended up dying. I tried to save him in the first draft, but eventually I realized he had to die to create a better ending.
KP: Do you have a system for revising your novels? If so, what is it?
Amanda: My system is revise, revise, and revise again. Usually I revise as I write, chapter by chapter, so my first draft is pretty clean by the time I’m done. After the first draft, I have a friend read it and give me opinions, and then my mother is my main editor after that. She reads the book aloud to help find more errors, and then we keep revising until it’s ready to go to the publisher.
KP: Finally, if you could give only one piece of advice on how to go about writing a book, what would it be?
Amanda: My advice would be to never give up. If writing is what you really want to do, then you have to keep writing. Learn as much as you can, and read as much as you can. Just don’t stop.
Ready for the Giveaway?
Kingdom Pen is sponsoring a giveaway of Amanda’s first book, Precisely Terminated. To be entered in the giveaway, click the widget below and login with either Facebook or email to see all the possible ways to enter. The more options you choose, the more entries you get, and the greater your chances of winning!
This giveaway will run from January 13th to 19th, so enter while you can!