10 Questions with Davis Bunn
Who is Davis Bunn?
Born and raised in North Carolina, Davis left for Europe at age twenty. There he first completed graduate studies in economics and finance, then began a business career that took him to over forty countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
Davis came to faith at age 28, while living in Germany and running an international business advisory group. He started writing two weeks later. Since that moment, writing has remained both a passion and a calling.
Davis wrote for nine years and completed seven books before his first was accepted for publication. During that time, he continued to work full-time in his business career, travelling to two and sometimes three countries every week. His first published book, The Presence, was released in 1990 and became a national bestseller.
Honored with three Christy Awards for excellence in historical and suspense fiction, his bestsellers include The Great Divide, Winner Take All, The Meeting Place, The Warning, The Book of Hours, and The Quilt.
10 Questions with Davis Bunn
Mr. Bunn, thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed for my blog. Your next thriller, Rare Earth, came out on July 1, 2012. Tell us a bit more about this novel.
Allegedly dispatched to audit a relief organization’s accounts, Royce is thrust into the squalor and chaos of Kenyan refugee camps caught in a stranglehold of corruption and ruthlessness. But his true objective is to uncover who is behind the theft of land and displacement of natives, and why. Royce discovers an international plot to exploit the area’s reserves of once-obscure metals now indispensible to high-tech industry. The value of these minerals, known as rare earths, inflames tensions on the world’s stage as well as among warring tribes. When an Israeli medical administrator, Kitra, finally accepts Marc’s assistance with her humanitarian efforts, they forge an unexpected link between impoverished African villages and another Silicon Valley rising in the Israeli desert. Precious metals and resourceful minds promise new opportunities for prosperity, secure futures, and protection of valuable commodities.
Marc Royce is not your typical hero. Where did you find your inspiration for his character?
As I started researching the first book in this series, Lion of Babylon, I took a flight where I was seated next to this very remarkable woman, an amazing combination of hard intelligence and great gentleness. She was reading a pocket New Testament. We started talking, and it turned out that she was a special operative, formerly with the State Department intelligence division, and now working with the Department of Defense intel. I found myself drawn by this incredible paradox of ruthless focus and very intense calm.
Soon after this flight, I had an opportunity to meet a senior figure in the CIA. I had never had any contact with the intelligence community, and all of a sudden I was finding one door after another being opened, because both of these people—the DOD intel officer and the CIA agent—took it upon themselves to help introduce me to their worlds. I have found this happen on a number of occasions and these ongoing miracles humble and astound me. I drew on these people as the basis for structuring my hero.
How did you use what you learned in your business career to perfect your writing?
There are a number of lessons that have carried me forward, but perhaps the most important is discipline. Anyone with a job has to accept that you go to work whether you feel like it or not. I meet a lot of writers who assume their creative gift somehow excuses them from this part of life. And there are others who know they have both a gift and an urge, and yet they keep waiting for the ‘perfect time’ to get started. And finally, perhaps the largest majority of would-be writers simply allow the world’s pressures to overwhelm them. In all these cases, there is only one answer that I have found. You must sit down and write. Carving out this time and energy, and doing so day after day after day after day, is a critical component of starting in this field. I have drifted over to answering your final question, but this is important. Too many gifted artists simply fail to learn the lesson of discipline, and our world is poorer as a result.
How are you able to infuse religion concepts in a thriller, without sounding like you are delivering a sermon?
The most important component here is, restrict your story to one moral. This is both the key restriction, and the greatest beauty, to good fiction. Whereas solid non-fiction carries a new lesson with each chapter, a good novel can only have one. And yet this one can be revealed over time, so that the reader shares in the discovery. They have time to emotionally invest in this realization, and the tension over whether the main character will discover this in time becomes part of the plot’s driving force. Also, you can explore facets of this moral through the different characters, something that a non-fiction book simply doesn’t have the scope for.
How does a prolific writer like you keep track of all the characters in your books and avoid repeating previous plots?
The plot question is not an issue with me. I have so many ideas, all it takes is one day when I’m not writing, and on day two I’m coming up with another story. I live and breathe story. As for characters, I form a careful list at the beginning of each story, and draw from a myriad of sources for the names.
How did it happen that you became a writer?
I was twenty-eight years old when I came to faith. At the time, I was working as a business consultant and living in Germany. Two weeks later, I started writing. The power of that first hour, the first time I had ever done anything more than further my own selfish aims, is with me still. Someday I will write a more complete version of those events. God willing. Someday.
A word of advice for new thriller writers?
The greatest challenge for most thriller writers, in my opinion, is developing two key issues. The first is constancy. The beat structure you introduce in the opening scenes is in effect a promise to the readers that you will maintain this pace and this level of tension throughout the story. This does not mean constant action. Action in and of itself does not drive a novel. But where you step back from the action and focus on character interplay, the level of tension must be carried here as well. And the pace.
Second, you must develop a style that causes the reader to care about your characters. Too often new thriller writers see success as coming from the bang, from the punch, from the race. These action moments are only successful when the reader first cares about the characters. Remember this. It is vital. If you start the story with a huge bang, it only works if you have already created a character that the reader is connected to, emotionally, viscerally.
What is your typical writing day?
By writing day, I assume you mean when I am first drafting. That is, days when I am confronting the empty page.
I like to be at my desk by six, after a quiet time of study. Generally I will write for around five hours, perhaps six. The rest of the day is divided between administrivia, fan stuff, and sport.
What other books are you working on at the moment?
Last year I wrote a screenplay called Unlimited. Filming was completed in April, and the project has now entered post production. I am currently working on the novel, which means I’ve sort of gotten this whole thing backwards.
What can readers expect to find in Rare Earth?
All my books hold to one key aim—to create a story that carries a moral, and together result in an impact or challenge or inspiration or comforting assurance that remains long after the book is set down. That to me defines a worthy effort.