Friday, April 1, 2011

Author Interviews: Sven Michael Davison

Photobucket Yesterday, we had a review of State of Mind by Sven Michael Davison. Today, we have a Q & A with him.

GJR: How did you come up with the concept for State of Mind?

SMD: In 2000 I read an article in Popular Science, which covered chipping pets with subcutaneous identification tags. I thought about a world where we could all interface with computers through chips in our minds. I had read Arthur C. Clarke’s Lion of Comarre when I was a kid and the plot of people living out their lives plugged into a virtual world stuck with me. I also thought of The Matrix, which was the best contemporary example I had at the time. Then I thought of a world where we could be emotionally and physically enhanced by chip implants. Part of my job at Fox was helping to enforce anti-piracy on digital media. But if one person invents secure code another person can hack it. Ultimately I thought: What would it be like to hack into someone’s mind, place them in a coma and force their body to do anything? That’s when I started writing.

GJR: Jake is such a bad ass. What can we expect from him in the future?

SVD: More bad-ass behavior tempered with doubts about his memories and demons from his past. He’ll be jet setting all over the world in book two and going even farther in book three. Expect a love life as well. But don’t expect him to get through unscathed. There’s far worse in store for him and the world.

GJR: I thought it was cool how you had a Portuguese and Brasilian thing going on in the novel. Where does your interest in the language and the culture stem from?

SMD: I love to travel. But I’m not one for resorts or sunning myself on the beach. I want to learn from other cultures. I spent a month on a documentary crew in Africa and I experienced the people who live there. That’s what traveling is to me, soaking up life and ideas through the eyes of the locals. While I was a Fox, I worked with a man named Roger da Silva, who felt the same way about travel. He was born in Portugal, raised in Quebec and lived in New York City and LA. He spoke fluent Portuguese, French, Spanish, and English and had no accent in any language (or so I was told by others who spoke them). He had spent a great deal of time in Brazil and we planned to shoot a documentary about those who practice Candomble. It’s a faith based on the Yoruba religion, which was one of the subjects I had studied in college. He gave me all the information I used for my book. Sadly, he passed away before we had a chance to shoot the doc.

GJR: If you had the opportunity to get a P-Chip, would you take it? What would you hope to gain from it?

SMD: Not a chance in hell. But I believe it is coming in our lifetime. I really don’t want anything mechanical joined to me, unless it’s basic hardware like an artificial knee. Having been a victim of identity theft, I’m really not interested in a window to my mind. However, I believe that any thing sugar coated will be snatched up by most folks. That’s another reason why I wrote the book. Technology is a beautiful thing, but everything has a downside.

GJR: I loved Parks. He is quite a character. Is he modeled after anyone in particular?

SMD: Charlie Sheen, of course. No, Charlie started his antics long after I finished the book. My brother-in-law was one of the main models. I also threw in characteristics of some of the directors and actors I had worked with in my previous job. I’m glad you liked Parks because most of the feedback I received in early drafts was that he was obnoxious and irredeemable. I worked hard to make him funny and sympathetic.

GJR: Who are you favorite authors? Why?

SMD: The list changes every few years. The authors who influenced me as a kid, teen and twenty-something don’t resonate with me like they used to. But they are part of my core experience so they have influenced my writing over the years. I was a SciFi/Fantasy freak until my mid twenties and that was pretty much all I’d read. But today I love…
Jonathan Safran Foer because I love his writing style, and the way he can write with very different voices in the same novel. I am always emotionally wrapped up in his stories. An author who can entertain me as well as crank up my emotional dial is admirable. Cormac McCarthy, although I’m getting tired of his downer endings. His books are haunting, and stick with me for years. I find the twisted landscapes of his character’s souls enchanting.
Bill Bryson for his humor, diligent research, insight, and ability to entertain and engage me. I recently read Bel Canto by Ann Patchett and was blown away by how she could switch points of view in a paragraph. Her book flowed like poetry and I was enamored with the writing style. I will have to read more of her work. Pat Conroy because he grabs me from the start and doesn’t let go. He has poetry and reality in balance. He knows how to command language. I can only hope to be that good. John Krakauer because I love adventure and his take on any subject. He’s a straight shooting reporter. The last SciFi book I read was Ship of Fools by Richard Paul Russo. The plot did not blow me away, but the layers he built and the subtext that surfaced was brilliant. The characters were rich as well. It still haunts me after putting it down almost a year ago. I love books that stick with me days, weeks, and especially months after I read them.
One author who has stuck with me since high school is Faulkner. His prose always sounds like poetry to me.

GJR: What are you currently reading?

SMD: I downloaded a few books for my spanking new Kindle, but they’ll have to wait until I can finish the first draft of my father’s book. It’s a memoir with a unique angle. If I say more he’ll get mad… although I don’t believe he reads blogs. Still, just to be safe.

GJR: Can you describe your writing process?

SMD: I start with an idea. Usually I’m inspired by an article I read, one of my travel adventures, something I see on TV, a book, or a song. I write it down. I let the idea percolate for a few days or weeks. If I read it again and I feel it’s a worthy idea I begin to write notes about the story. If I continue to like it I write biographies of the main characters. If I’m getting jazzed on what I have, I launch into detailed outline mode. I make a general outline first, then break it into chapters. Each chapter needs to give unique information, drive the plot, and end with a question. It’s questions that keep the reader moving. I sometimes mix, match, and drop the chapters in my detailed outline. Once this is done I start writing the rough draft. I prefer to write in the morning as I always wake up with new ideas when I’m concentrating on one story. I find that I write feverishly for two hours. It’s basically a brain dump. Then I like to go to the gym and get my body sweating. I find that this helps me think of new ideas. I usually go home and rewrite much of what I’ve written before. I pause for lunch, then write again. I’d prefer to write eight hours a day with a couple hours of breaks in between. If I have a full time job, I give myself an hour in the morning before work. My jobs have typically been very intense with no time to think about eating, much less the creative impulse. By the time I get home, I’m too fried to be creative. Morning is the only time I feel renewed. I tend to write three or four drafts before I get to a point where I’m not sure if what I have is good or bad. It’s at this point I send the book out (what I call the first draft) to four people who I know will be critical, but who have similar reading tastes to me. I usually have to wait six weeks for feedback so I work on a second book during this time to clear my head. In this way I can constantly rotate books between a pool of twenty readers. Once I get notes back, I put them on hold until I finish a first draft of my current book, then I sit down and sift through the notes. Consistent notes between all readers must always be addressed. Notes that are left of field are usually tossed out unless they resonate with me. In this way I can finish a book (provided I’m not carrying a day job) in about a year. The book I wrote in tandem with State of Mind is on the shelf for now. I’ll have to wait and see how SOM performs before putting the other novel out. It’s historical fiction married with memoir.
I stared State of Mind while working a full time job and the process took close to ten years with 60% of the work being completed after I took my sabbatical.

GJR: Something different: Do you have any pets? Is he/she as awesome as Lakshmi?

SMD: Since I was five, I have wanted a Siberian Husky exactly like Lakshmi. I have met a couple in my life with her personality and training. But there was always a reason not to have one. They’re too expensive, they’re a flight risk, you’re not old enough to take care of it, they shed. When I graduated college and moved to LA I was always working crazy hours and was never home enough. It would not have been fair to any animal to see me less than four hours a day. When I met my wife and we moved in together we decided we should get pets. My wife had never had any so we started with cats as we both felt they are easier to care for. We waited until I quit my day job to write. A friend from work rescued a black kitten from the downtown shelter and gave her to us. We named her Abby. As a kitten she slept on my shoulder and then my lap as I wrote State of Mind. A few months later Abby seemed lonely so we rescued an older male and named him Jake after the lead character in my book. Jake loves to sleep directly behind my writing chair. We’re very attached to both of them. We now have an eight-month-old son and he has shown a keen interest in puppies. I believe there might be a Husky in our future, but I will definitely have to shave her/him as it gets hot where I live.

To learn more about the book and the author please visit his website State of Mind Book

We'd like to thank Mr. Davison for taking the time to thoughtfully answer our questions.


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