Monday, January 5, 2009

YA author Rhonda L. Davis helps young readers manage dark topics

This article originally appeared in the Jan. 1, 2009 edition of the Ennis Journal and the Jan. 4, 2009 edition of the Waxahachie Daily Light.

With the success of supernatural teen and young adult series like the Twilight and Harry Potter series, American authors are discovering a new niche.

The author of four books and an audiobook, Ennis High School teacher Rhonda L. Davis is finding a place for her own work within that niche.

Stepping into the realm of fantasy provides a chance for young readers to safely manage dark topics, she said.
“They’re very intense – they deal with issues people deal with in a world that’s not as confrontational,” she said.
“These are dark things children have to deal with. This is a way they can fit in and change the course of humanity.”
Davis’ books are family-friendly, she said. She has been careful to leave out cuss words and other material that might be objectionable.

She comes by her talent honestly. Her mother was an editor at the Stephenville Tribune, and her uncle an editor-in-chief. And her late father was a storyteller who wrote novels and poems who encouraged her budding creativity, she said.
“He worked on me – he thought he could make a writer out of me, with painting and poems. He had these characters he would talk about – the Daredevil Girls from Bunker Hill. He was always trying to get me to tell the Daredevil Girls stories in book form,” she recalled.
After he died, she found a letter from her father, asking her to write a book.
“He gave me the beginning of it – it started out with a teacher with red hair,” she said.

She was also inspired by a game she learned in childhood called the Courage Game – you take a colored stone you’ve chosen that represents yourself, and you carry it into dark, scary woods, walking until you’re too scared to continue, and that’s where you drop the stone.
Playing the Courage Game with modern teens, she has noticed a generational change, Davis said. “I’ve found today’s children are very desensitized to fear,” she said.

Following the path her father started her down, Davis penned “The Daredevil Girls from Bunker Hill,” which follows the story of Nancy Jordan, a teacher at a small town middle school in Texas who lives a safe, uncomplicated adult life until her youthful past comes back to haunt her.
When her students find out she was once a member of the famous Daredevil Girls from Bunker Hill, a group of young people who fought evil supernatural beings in the 1980s, she is asked by the principal to share stories at an assembly – and things escalate from there.
In a sequel, “Faces of Darkness: The Daredevil Friends,” Jordan is the new principal at her school. She teams up with the Daredevil Friends, a new generation of supernatural crime fighters, to take on some of the “faces of darkness.”
In Body of a Horse, Heart of a Man and its sequel, Return to Concorde Valley, modern and ancient times collide and modern young mortals gets caught up in the lives of Greek gods.
“I’m afraid I have the ancient Greeks rolling over in their graves, but that’s how it goes,” Davis said with a chuckle at a recent book talk/book signing event.

Rhonda L. Davis has some advice for up-and-coming writers:

Have a support group. Her audio book was done with the help of her husband, composer and musician Stephen O. Davis, and Ennis High School teacher Barbara Webb.

Delegate what you can.

Don’t be afraid to self-publish. “When somebody owns your book, they own it. I’m first of all a teacher. If the big guys get me, they own my life.” To that end, she has formed her own small publishing company called Splendor Books.

Be prepared to do your own footwork. Davis was startled to learn she had to write her own author’s bio, and her own summary, for example.
“He said he lies for a living – you make the facts up as you go along,” she said.

Take advantage of what you know. “I know something about physics – why not mess with it?” said Davis, who teaches physics.

You’ll need to make the time to write. “Mostly it’s found by not watching TV,” Davis said.

Be prepared to revise, revise, revise. Davis says she’s not a writer – she’s a rewriter. A book that takes her a month to write takes two months to rewrite.

And, perhaps most importantly, take courage. “I was scared the first time I got published. If I could have dropped that stone long ago, I would have,” she said with a smile.

1 comment:

Chet Of The Undead said...

Fantabulous advice!

(and so very true.)