A little about the Author & His Messages for his friends & family
I'm just an average guy pursuing his dream. Ever since winning a creative writing award in fifth grade, I've focused on telling stories for a living. For over thirty years I've had small successes writing movies trailers, screenplays, animation, web shorts, and Blu-ray content. In order to push my writing into supporting myself, I've walked away from two careers and wiped out two life savings. Most recently I turned down a promotion so I could have more time to write... that little maneuver forced me into short selling a home.
Do I have regrets? No. Life is too short to be doing what I don't want to do. Today I'm focused on supporting my wife and son in LA and negotiating any hours I can to write out my ideas. In addition to the five novels I've completed and am currently publishing, I have outlines for twelve more. I have plenty to keep me busy for the rest of my life.
Am I any good? I think so, and since writing is purely subjective I'll stand by my opinion. If my son grows up and says, "you were delusional, dad." Then maybe I'll have doubts.
My wife is a saint.
Why do I write?
Writing makes me feel focused. When I write, I feel like I'm part of a higher purpose. Writing makes me feel accomplished. It gives me joy. When I write I feel connected to something greater than myself. Writing soothes my soul. Writing makes me feel acutely alive. Writing is the only place where I feel I have control over the universe. Writing is my one and only drug. There is no greater pastime for me.
To my employers:
I'm committed to my job. I have, and always will give a hundred-and-ten percent. Outside of the office, I'll be doing some "homework." The two occupations shall never cross paths.
To my wife and son:
I am committed to being the best husband and father I can possibly be. I will always strive to exceed your expectations. Thank you for your patience.
Love, hubby-daddy D
What is your name, where were you born and where do you live now?
My name is Sven Michael Davison. I was born in Galveston Texas, raised in Denver Colorado, and I now live in Tarzana California with my wife and son. The area of Tarzana was once owned by Edgar Rice Burroughs which he called Tarzana Ranch.
Did you always want to be a writer? If not what did you want to be?
When I was three I wanted to command the USS Enterprise and date Vulcans. As I got a little older I switched to astronaut and then Navy pilot. Around the time Star Wars came out, I put all my effort into becoming a filmmaker. By the time I went to film school, I switched from wanting to be a movie director to wanting to write screenplays and novels.
When did you first consider yourself as a "writer"?
I wrote a short story in fifth grade about two prospectors caught in a blizzard. It was a tale of friendship and survival, until the last two sentences. “I was glad when the spring thaws came, but for one sad event. I ate my best friend Joe.” My teacher felt I showed promise and enlisted me into a special creative writing class at the University of Denver. But I’ve doubted my ability since.
Do you work another job as well as your writing work?
I work about eighty hours a week as a manager of creative and operational teams in the Entertainment industry. I’d also say being a husband and a father is a job too, although it is one I thoroughly enjoy. I write late nights or early mornings, but carving time out to market my books is extremely difficult.
What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words what would you say?
“Dreams, Faith & Ammunition” is a blend of historical fiction and memoir. It’s poignant, funny, and gives insight on people who suffer from suicidal depression.
Who is your publisher? or do you self publish?
How long does it usually take you to write a book, from the original idea to finishing writing it?
Roughly two thousand hours. Given my current work situation it takes years to finish a book. Back when my wife supported the family and I wrote full time, it took me about a year to complete a novel. I go through at least eight drafts with a few rounds of critical feedback as well as editorial reviews before I’m ready to publish. I also like to write two books at once. I write a draft, put it down and write a draft of another novel. I go back and forth like this to give me time away from a story, so I can stay fresh and find mistakes. “State of Mind” and “Dreams, Faith & Ammunition” were both written in this way. The two sequels to “State of Mind” were also written this way.
Which of your books were easier/harder to write than the others?
None of them are easy. Writing is the hardest work I’ve ever done, but it is also the most pleasurable and rewarding. It’s the only place in my life where I feel like I have full control. In the real world, the disparity between what you want and need increases exponentially from what you get. However, “Dreams, Faith & Ammunition” took quite a bit of research for the historical fiction part. It also meant digging up a journal I had written back in 1997, when I experienced suicidal depression first hand. It was difficult to dredge up those desperate emotions.
What can we expect from you in the future? ie More books of the same genre? Books of a different genre?
There are two sequels to my near-future cyberpunk novel “State of Mind” which was published last year. These books are currently undergoing copy-editing and typesetting before they are released in the fall of 2012 and spring 2013. They are part of my “God Head Trilogy. The books are loosely based on Ray Kurzweil’s Singularity Theory manifesting itself in reality. After the release of the trilogy, I have outlines for twelve other novels that I’d like to write. Half of them are historical fiction, while the rest are science fiction. I tend to gravitate towards both of these genres.
How long have you been writing?, and who or what inspired you to write?
My mother and father always read to me as a kid. My mother read me “The Once and Future King” when I was around six. My father read me the Lensmen series and Lord of the Rings trilogy when I was nine. I always read novels outside of the assigned curriculum at school. I loved Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Kafka, and Ian Flemming’s James Bond series. My mother also loved movies and we went to the revival house every weekend. I started writing comics when I was in the second grade. They were adventures about a worm named Walter and I’ve written hundreds of short stories since. I began saving up for a Super-8 camera when I was ten and bought it when I was twelve. Between sixth grade and graduating film school, I made sixty-nine short films. Many were shown on a local cable access channel in Denver back in the day. I always had a greater respect for novelists than screen writers, although they are both very different disciplines so it is not quite fair to compare them. That said, by the time I graduated college I knew I wanted to write novels even more than I wanted to make movies.
Where do you get your book plot ideas from?What/Who is your inspiration?
I get them from listening to NPR, reading the Economist, having philosophical, scientific, or political discussions with friends and family, or from traveling. Life is full of daily inspiration. The more I live, the more I want to say.
Do you have a certain routine you have for writing? ie You listen to music, sit in a certain chair?
I am a morning person. I have most of my best ideas from the moment I wake until lunchtime. I find that I like to do a brain dump as soon as I get out of bed. Then I go to the gym and mull over my ideas as I push my body into exhaustion. I find it helps me focus and come up with new and better ways to convey what I want to say. Then I go write again for several more hours. This is my optimal writing routine. With my current job, I squeeze in writing whenever and wherever I can. If I have to set the alarm for 3:00AM, so be it.
Do you have anybody read your books and give you reviews before you officially release them?ie. Your partner, children, friends, reviewers you know?
I have select friends and family whose opinion I trust. I try and do a round with one group of people, make fixes and then do another round with a new set of people. If there are common problems between the critiques then I know I must address them.
Do you gift books to readers to do reviews?
Do you read all the reviews of your book/books?
Yes. I believe I can always improve as a writer. Reviews help me do that.
What was the toughest/best review you have ever had?
Recently I had a friend tear my book apart. Worse than anyone else in my review pool. We sat a long time and he told me why he had trouble with my book. He also gave me some insightful feedback on how I could make fixes and that is extremely valuable. Sometimes I get lost in my story and it is hard for me to understand the experience a reader is getting. To simply say something sucks is very unhelpful. To say something sucks and why is wonderful. To say something sucks, tell me why, and give me some gentle pointers is fantastic. It does not mean I will follow the advice, but it does force me to think of alternatives, sometimes ones I would not have thought of if I didn’t have the fresh perspective.
Would you ever ask a reviewer to change their review if it was not all positive about your book/books?
No. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. If there are enough people in a room, you can get a three-hundred-and-sixty degree viewpoint on any topic. This is the beauty of being human. We all have our own unique view of the world. I know there will be people who love my work and others who will hate my work. There will be all points in between.
How do you come up with the Title and Cover Designs for your book/books?Who designed the Cover of your books?
Titles are harder than writing the book. I spend months or years trying to come up with a title that encapsulates the essence of what the book is about. I also check the title on Amazon. If there are more than three books with the same title, I don’t use it. I usually come up with the ideas for the covers, but I have a great designer named Derrick Abrenica who executes the ideas into eye-pleasing covers.
Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
How do you come up with characters names and place names in your books?
I mix and match names of people I know. I have yet to write a completely fictional world so all my locations are real places.
Are character names and place names decided after there creation? or do you pick a character/place name and then invent them?
I usually pick the character name and place first. But several times I’ve felt that the character’s name is not appropriate or the location does not quite fit, so I go back and change it in a rewrite. There have also been times when I feel a character is not working. I’ll yank them out and replace them with the opposite gender. In the next sequel to “State of Mind” I swapped the personalities of a husband and wife team.
Do you decide on character traits (ie shy, quiet, tomboy girl) before writing the whole book or as you go along?
Absolutely. I write lengthy character bios before putting my characters in a setting. Sometimes this throws a monkey wrench into my plot points because a character simply would not do something I want them to do for the convenience of story flow. So I have to think of a new outcome and this can have a large ripple effect in the entire story.
Do you basic plot/plan for your book, before you actually begin writing it out? Or do you let the writing flow and see where it takes the story?
I usually write a twenty-page step outline, but when I compare the final story with the outline, there’s only 25% remaining.
How do you market/promote your books?
I have a few websites, but the most robust one is www.stateofmindbook.com for the “God Head Trilogy.” I tweet, blog, guest blog, hang out in chat rooms, submit to and have won publishing awards, invested in wild postings (posters of my book cover on the streets of certain cities), served as a publishing award judge, disbursed dozens of on-line press releases, appeared on talk radio, and have been interviewed for an entertainment website pod cast. I feel like I’ve explored it all short of taking my clothes off and running down the 405 freeway holding up my novels and screaming like a lunatic. I’m not above that, I just don’t want to land in jail or do anything that would harm my family financially. Any publicity is good publicity.
What do you think makes a book a really good/bestseller ?
Characters you can identify with and want to root for. Emotional and social relevance help too. And like movies, there’s always that magical element of mass appeal and what resonates with a culture. Hundreds of studio executives have tried to put their finger on this, and writers have too. It’s not something that can be distilled and quantified, if it could, there wouldn’t be so much turn over in these professions. A writer either has “it” or they don’t. Currently, I’m thinking I don’t have it, but I believe I have to write for myself first and hopefully, there’s an audience out there I resonate with.
Have you ever suffered from a "writer's block"? What did you do to get past the "block"?
I don’t believe writer’s block exists. Writer’s block stems from an internal feeling that you have to perform, or that every sentence must be perfect, or that everything that comes out is crap. I believe that my first four drafts are always crap so it takes the pressure off. I’m allowed to be a lousy writer and as I run through a story again and again, I get better. Plus I realize there’s a market for lousy writing, so that makes me feel better too. As long as I get better with each book, I’m happy.
What do you do to unwind and relax? Do you have a hobby?
I love to listen to music, clean the house (a mindless physical task always helps to clear my head) play with my son, have a date night with my wife, hike, scuba dive, travel, read a book, bike ride– time is my only enemy.
Have you ever based characters on people you know or based events on things that have happened to you?
All the time. The best writing comes from personal experience. That’s why I travel to third world countries and avoid anything that feels familiar.
Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books? (Morals as in like Aesops Fables type of "The moral of this story is..")
I believe my writing should say something. There is always a moral, if not several, to be gained from my books. My challenge is sneaking them in without turning off the reader.
Is there a certain Author that influenced you in writing?
I admire Ann Pratchett, Cormac McCarthy, Jonathan Safron Foer, John Krakauer, William Falkner, and Bill Bryson.
Which format of book do you prefer, ebook,hardback, or paperback?
Paperback. I like having something tangible in my hands. I like the smell and feel of paper. I spend so much of my day in front of a computer that I like giving my eyes something non-digital to stare at. I love the way a hardback feels, but since I mostly read when traveling, I find them too heavy and cumbersome to be practical.
What is your favourite book and Why? Have you read it more than once?
Do you think books transfer to movies well? Which is you favourite/worst book to movie transfer?
Movies are good when they are based on short stories. Converting a novel to screen is extremely difficult because scripts are generally ninety to a hundred pages in length so you have less story time to work with than creating a Cliff Notes version. Plus you need to write with on-screen drama in mind. Because of this, I don’t think anyone should go to a film expecting to see the book. The movie is a whole other animal. That said, Hollywood is certainly trying to be authentic to novels by splitting books in two (or in the case of the Hobbit, in three) and there are monetary gains for doing this, which means you’ll see more of this practice- perhaps too much. Most of the time, I am a bigger fan of the book over the film. In the case of the Harry Potter series, I could not have sat through the films without reading the novels as there were many subtle nuances that the films lacked. I love the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but I view the films and the novels as separate entities. I can think of one instance where I enjoyed the film over the novel and that was “The Natural.” I found the protagonist in the novel unsavory and I had no interest in what happened to him. I actually cared a great deal for him in the film.
What are you currently reading? Are you enjoying it? What format is it?(ebook, hardback or paperback)
I’m reading “I’ll Mature when I’m Dead” by Dave Barry. It’s trade paper, my favorite format.
Do you think ebooks will ever totally replace printed books?
Yes. It is inevitable. Books will be around for collectors but I predict twenty years from now they will be museum pieces. Like 8-track tape. As the next generation learns to read on tablets, they will not miss or grow fond of paper versions. They simply won’t care about consuming in that manner.
Do you think children at schools these days are encouraged enough to read? and/or do Imaginative writing?
Depends on the school, but on the whole I believe that emphasis is on math, science, and reading comprehension in order to stay competitive in a global market place. Our society is trending toward applying production line standards and practices to all aspects of life. It has become extremely prevalent in Hollywood where I have worked for twenty-one years. The practice is being applied to the medical field. Soon we’ll all get heart transplants and hip replacements at McDonalds. Only it will be their way or the highway. There is less emphasis on creative than there was when I was going to school. I will have to do my own creative education with my son at home.
Did you read a lot at school and write lots of stories or is being a writer something newer in your life?
I’ve always had a book to read and I’ve been writing stories all the way back to second grade.
Did you have a favourite author as a child?
Roald Dahl’s “James and Giant Peach”, and Norton Juster’s “Phantom Tollbooth”
Do you have a treasured book from your childhood? If yes, what is it?
Norse Gods and Giants by the D’Aulaires. I still have my copy and will read the stories to my son when he’s a bit older.
What do you think about book trailers?
Any form of marketing is important unless you’re a bestselling author making eight figures on every one of your novels. Multimedia is here to stay in our world. Trailers are an integral part of reaching potential audiences. Personally, I don’t care for them, but one must adapt to survive.
What piece of advice would you give to a new writer?
Unless you have a friend or relative in the business you’re odds of becoming an overnight splash are very slim. Keep plugging, if you believe in yourself that’s ninety percent of the battle. Do what you can to market yourself, these days that’s what everyone is looking for. I had an agent tell me once that he won’t look at anyone unless they have at least ten thousand followers on Facebook or Twitter. This might be an exaggeration, but it gave me insight on how the gatekeepers are thinking.
Do you or would you ever use a pen name?
Yes. If I cannot get traction as Sven Michael Davison, then I’d be more than happy to write under a pen name. Whatever it takes to get people to read my work. I believe I have something to say and if the message is better received from another name, so be it.
If you could invite three favourite writers to dinner, who would you invite and enjoy chatting with?
Falkner, Tom Robbins, and Jack London
Where can readers follow you?
state of mind (on facebook)
Any more information you wish to supply?
The book cover is a recreation of an areal photograph of Beaver Island (location where the story takes place) with a pistol from the 1800s and a more modern day fire arm superimposed as lakes.