CAROL GORDON EKSTER: I found Danielle through her wonderful blog about picture books, “This Picture Book Life.”
Her literary love is evident and I’ve been impressed with the crafts she comes up with to complement the books she reviews. Her debut middle grade book, ZINNIA AND THE BEES, (which entered the world on August 1st) sports a fabulous cover, top-notch writing, and a fabulous first line that every reader will love: “Ronny the Rattlesnake is naked.”
Danielle, congratulations on your awesome first book. Can you tell us about your journey into the world of publishing for children?
DANIELLE DAVIS: Books were a life raft for me as a kid and I’ve loved children’s literature for a long time. But this manuscript actually started as a story for adults as that’s who I was writing and publishing short stories for at the time I began it. Eventually, I rewrote it, converting it into a story for a middle grade audience and, click, it finally worked (and then I went on to revise it many more times after that, of course!). I found my writing home—writing for young readers—through writing this book.
CGE: What made you want to blog about picture books? Am I assuming correctly that you are crafty yourself to come up with those wonderful artistic ideas as follow-up activities for picture books in the section of your blog, PICTURE BOOK CRAFTS? And do you write picture books?
DD: I love crafting, but not because I’m particularly good at it. I think being a word person, it’s helpful for me to create with my hands once in a while. And picture books are the perfect inspiration! I wanted to blog, and sometimes craft, about picture books because I’m such a big fan of the form. The Red Tree by Shaun Tan is one of my favorite books of all time and other picture books have been touchstones for me as a writer and a human. I do write picture book manuscripts and hope-hope-hope to have the opportunity to publish one of them someday.
CGE: Tell us about how Zinnia and The Bees came to be. And I just love the book trailer!
DD: I can’t take credit for the original idea. My husband, who’s an artist, told me about an image that had come to his mind of a girl with bees around her head. He was, in a way, describing me at the time since I was going through a painful season and anxiety in my own life. The bees were sort of a metaphor for that, and I was intrigued by the image! So intrigued that I wanted to investigate the girl, the bees (they get to tell their side of the story!), and the way that bees on one’s head can be a metaphor for anxiety, for feeling out of control, and/or for navigating growing up.
CGE: I see on your website that you already have events lined up to promote Zinnia and The Bees. How do you feel about the marketing aspects of being an author?
DD: I’m super excited to get out there and meet readers! The marketing aspects have been new and admittedly completely daunting at times, but overall I’m thrilled and honored to be able to share my book. And then when the promotion is all over, I’ll look forward to going back into the solitary writing cave for a good, long time.
CGE: What does your writing process look like?
DD: I write in seasons. If I have a project, I’m writing as much as I possibly can. If I don’t have a current project, then I’m not really writing or revising (but wishing I was and trying to come up with ideas). My only real requirement for writing is tea to sip. I usually start with a concept in a notebook and then, when I have a path forward, I move to the computer and stay there with it until I eventually print it out for revision. One step of the process is always checking in with The Plot Whisperer book. I’ve found Martha Alderson’s approach to plot and theme invaluably helpful. I’m so grateful to have found her work and the way she supports writers.
CGE: What suggestions do you have for #kidlit writers trying to get their work published?
DD: The first advice is always to read, of course. The second is to join SCBWI. The third is to be true to yourself and let the process be what and how long it’s going to be. I also like to encourage writers to know and explore the heart of the story they’re working on—why it matters to them, what it’s truly about. That can serve as a guide for your writing, a handy tool for pitching, and will keep you going when you’re not sure why you started this process in the first place.
CGE: What does the future hold for Danielle Davis?
DD: I’ve just turned in a chapter book to my agent that I’m super excited about, I have a number of picture book manuscripts that are dear to me, and I’m at work on another middle grade novel, an overwhelming but the best kind of task.
CGE: I can’t wait to read more of your work, Danielle. And for our readers, you can connect with Danielle here:
Loved this interview, Carol! And thank you, Danielle for sharing a little bit about how Zinnia and the Bees came to be. The origin story of a book is always one of my favorite things.
Many many thanks for having me!!
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