Author Interview with Ronni Davis

Today, I have the honor of doing an interview with Ronni Davis, author of When the Stars Lead to You, which releases on November 12, 2019.

I’ve seen Ronni attend the same book events as me for the last couple years, and it’s so awesome that I’m about to get to read her own book soon!

First here’s a bit about Ronni:

Ronni Davis grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, where she tried her best to fit in—and failed miserably. After graduating from The Ohio State University with a BA in Psychology, she worked in insurance, taught yoga, and became a cat mom.

Now she lives in Chicago with her husband Adam and her son Aidan. By day she copy edits everything from TV commercials to billboards, and by night she writes contemporary teen novels about brown girls falling in love. When she’s not writing, you can catch her playing the Sims, eating too much candy, or planning her next trip to Disney World.

Her debut novel, WHEN THE STARS LEAD TO YOU, will be released by Little Brown Books for Young Readers in November 2019.

You follow her on TwitterTumblrGoodreads, and Instagram.

You can find random, fun facts here.

And here’s a bit about her book:

Eighteen-year-old Devon longs for two things.

The stars.
And the boy she fell in love with one unforgettable summer.

When Ashton broke Devon’s heart at the end of the most romantic and magical summer of her life, she thought she’d never heal. But over the course of the following year, Devon slowly managed to put the pieces back together for the sake of her dream to become an astrophysicist.

Now it’s senior year, and she’s determined to enjoy every moment as she prepares for a future of studying the galaxies. That is, until Ashton shows up on the first day of school. Suddenly, he’s everywhere, their chemistry is undeniable, and he wants her back. Can Devon forgive Ashton and open her heart again? Or are they doomed to repeat history?

From debut author Ronni Davis comes a stunning and thought-provoking novel about passion, heartbreak, and the power of first love.

And now for the interview!

Can you talk a little bit about your road to publishing? 

Of course! My road to publishing was long and filled with all the feelings! I first started to pursue in 2005, with a book I wrote called Only Yours. I managed to get an agent with that book but he and I both knew it would be a hard sell. It incorporated a girl who was religious and kind of cold, but it was not a religious book. The book did not sell. Then my life kind of blew up. I needed to focus on making money and surviving rather than writing, so I did that. For years, I thought I wouldn’t pursue publication again. I trained to be a yoga teacher. I worked in advertising. I wrote a bit in my spare time, but it never went anywhere. Then I tried acting. I learned it wasn’t for me, but the great thing about acting is that it’s like I’m inside a story. It was very inspiring! So I started writing again—the book which would eventually become When the Stars Lead to You. I still didn’t plan to pursue publication until something special happened in 2014: We Need Diverse Books. Suddenly, I had a reason to write seriously again, and I had the characters in my head that would fit, plus the life experience to make it feel authentic. I knew I could help fill that gap, if I could get myself together!

I wrote this love story with a biracial/black main character, a boy who has mental illness, and how their lives collide. I wrote and rewrote and revised and edited and cried and tried and tried over and over. Then my agent, Caitie, got the book immediately. I knew she was the right person to represent Devon’s story. Once I signed with her, we did another couple rounds of revisions before sending the book on sub. I’d been down this road before, but this time, it felt Bigger. Maybe because I knew more of what went down during the acquisitions process. I ended up withdrawing from the writing world for a few months because it was doing my head in. The constant stream of good news on twitter was pounding my self-esteem into the ground, and I stopped believing in my story! Although, I didn’t pull it off sub, so I guess I still believed a little bit. 

I spent my days playing the Sims, because I still needed to be creative without the pressures of writing. It helped a lot. And the day I got the call, I was ecstatic and in disbelief. Now, it’s getting closer to the time my book is in stores, and I don’t even know what to think. But this is what I know: It feels like home.

When the Stars Lead to You has a main character who is interested in STEM. Why was this important to you to include? 

I wanted to get out of MY comfort zone. It would’ve been easy for my character to be a writer, or maybe even an artist. I knew that STEM would challenge me, but I’ve always been interested in and intimidated by the cosmos. Devon being into astrophysics seemed like the perfect intersection of creativity, science, and dreaming.

The book also deals a bit with mental health. What drove this decision? 

I have a mental illness myself, and seeing more people become vocal about it online has helped me a lot. When I was in college dealing with this, I had no idea what was going on with me. My friends often told me to suck it up. I felt guilty for not being OK. I wanted to dig deeper to see why someone would respond that way, and I also wanted to show that this boy, who seems so perfect on the outside, has his struggles as well.

What does your writing schedule look like? 

Once I figure it out, I’ll let you know! But seriously, it’s me having a million tabs open in my browser, trying to stay off twitter and Instagram (and Facebook and Pinterest when I get really desperate), eating too much candy, and then busting out 1500 words or so once I finally get focused! It’s hard for me to get started, but once I’m in the zone, I can crank out some decent work. I might delete it all the next day, but I do get it done.

You live in Chicago which has a fair number of YA writers living there or in the suburbs. Do you ever get together for writing/publishing support? If so, is this a valuable experience? 

We don’t get together as often as I’d like. We’re spread all over the city, we all have busy lives, and it’s hard to nail down times to get together. But when we do get together, it’s very special. It’s great to talk to authors face-to-face instead of through a screen, eat good food, support each other, celebrate our wins, and vent about our frustrations.

What do you hope your book does for readers in the first year of its existence? 

I want black and biracial girls to see themselves being deeply loved, loving deeply, and having permission to love themselves. Because I honestly still struggle with that today. In addition, I want people with depression to know that they also deserve to be loved in every way, that there are resources, and that there is help. I don’t ever want people to feel lost in terms of representation, or in getting help. Not like I did.

Thank you so much to Ronni for her time!

As always, here’s some links for you to check out:

Add When the Stars Lead to You on Goodreads

Pre-order When the Stars Lead to You from Anderson’s where Ronni is holding her launch

Follow Ronni on Twitter

Author Interview with Alex London

Today, I have the amazing honor of doing an interview with Alex London, author of 25+ books. I’m still freaking out about this one.

First a bit about Alex (from his website):

Alex London is the author of over 25 books for children, teens, and adults, with over 2 million copies sold. For middle grade readers, he’s the author of the Dog Tags, Tides of War, Wild Ones, and Accidental Adventures series, as well as two titles in the 39 Clues series. For young adults, he’s the author of the cyberpunk duology Proxy and the epic fantasy Black Wings Beating. He’s been a journalist reporting from conflict zones and refugee camps, a young adult librarian with New York Public Library, an assistant to a Hollywood film agent, and a snorkel salesman. He lives with his family in Philadelphia, PA.

And here’s a bit about Alex’s latest series, The Skybound Saga which begins with Black Wings Beating:

The people of Uztar have long looked to the sky with hope and wonder. Nothing in their world is more revered than the birds of prey and no one more honored than the falconers who call them to their fists.

Brysen strives to be a great falconer―while his twin sister, Kylee, rejects her ancient gifts for the sport and wishes to be free of falconry. She’s nearly made it out, too, but a war is rolling toward their home in the Six Villages, and no bird or falconer will be safe.

Together the twins must journey into the treacherous mountains to trap the Ghost Eagle, the greatest of the Uztari birds and a solitary killer. Brysen goes for the boy he loves and the glory he’s long craved, and Kylee to atone for her past and to protect her brother’s future. But both are hunted by those who seek one thing: power.

And now for the interview!

You’ve published 25+ books, all of which are quite different. Does your writing process change from book to book/genre to genre? 

Not really, in terms of the fiction anyway…. although they are indeed all quite different. Each book kind of teaches me how to write it and every book has it own unique challenges and demands. The technical process is usually the same. I have some idea of the major early beats of the story, the character’s wants and needs and flaws, and a few things I want to happen, which I use as signposts while discovering the story as I write. I tend to strive for word count goals, so I lay down a quick rough draft that isn’t usually very good, and then I sort of make a post-first draft outline to see where my gaps and leaps are and then I revise and revise and revise. For me, most of what makes my books readable happens in revision, but that first draft is about discovering what the heart of that book is, why I’m actually writing it vs. why i thought I was writing it when I first sat down. My books to tend to be smarter than I am and they teach me what they are as I go through the process of writing them.

In several of your books (Skybound Saga Trilogy, Wild Ones trilogy, and the Proxy duology), you created some pretty impressive worlds. What does your initial world building process look like?

I LOVE world-building. I actually think all fiction writing is world-building, even in contemporary realistic fiction. You’re always choosing details, guiding the reader’s perception and where you point their imaginations builds your worlds. I never liked info-dumps in fantasy and sci-fi so I tend to approach world building through my characters—what do they believe and know about their world, what do they discover. I find ways to provide that information through the language characters use, through the assumptions they make, the food they eat, the jokes they tell. I often don’t have too detailed a plan when I begin, but as I go I am very deliberate about asking myself questions on the world. I always ask myself: who has power in this world, and how do they keep it? How does power move? What does everyone in this world know (even if it’s not “true”)? And I like to know a little about what they eat and where it comes from. That can tell you a lot about how to build a world.

In late summer 2018, you and your husband welcomed Baby Human into your lives. How has her presence changed your writing life and writing habits? 

Yeah…in every way. Time is more precious; there is more pressure to deliver but also more demands pulling at my mind. The act of writing is the same, but this first year has been hard to actually do it, or at least do it well. I’m still learning how, but she gives me a heck of a good reason to figure it out!

In addition to your 25+ published books, you have quite a few published short stories. If you had to choose one, which one is your favorite published short story and why?

Definitely “Indoor Kids” in the anthology, It’s A Whole Spiel edited by Katherine Locke & Laura Silverman. It was my first YA contemporary story and my first explicitly Jewish main characters (who weren’t me…I did write an entire nonfiction book about my relationship to Judaism and Israel). It’s also my first fully romantic story with the plot and tension comes from flirting and crush, which I just had the most fun writing. I’m really proud of the story and the voice and the process really made me want to write more contemporary YA.

If you had the opportunity to write an IP book for anything of your choosing, what would you choose and why?

No comment…mostly because my dream project is somewhat in process and I can’t say any more about it. I will say, as this one isn’t happening, I once pitched an AMAZING m/m Pacific Rim graphic novel to the company that owns that copyright and I’m super proud of the story and would love to actually write it one day. Honestly, I might just to it as fanfic sometime.

If you could choose ANY of your 25+ books to become a movie or tv series, which one would it be and why? 

Any of them! All of them! The thing about Hollywood adaptations is that even the bad ones bring new readers to the books and the books exist no matter what, so I’d love the chance for that to happen to any of my work. It’d be wild to see any of my daydreams rendered on screen by talented filmmakers. That said, I’ve been going through a long journey to the small screen with PROXY, my 2013 sci-fi novel and I really hope something comes of it. As is the way of Hollywood, I’m not allowed to say more…but there is a process underway!

I think the visuals in Black Wings Beating would be super cool to see on the big screen. I love some good visual spectacle that also feels gritty and real (Like Mad Max: Fury Road) and Black Wings Beating could certainly provide that with the right creative team behind it. It’s not like anything we’ve seen before, that’s for sure. Keep all your fingers and toes crossed! Conversations are underway on that too with some cool and passionate people, but we are in very early stages, which have just as much substance as air at this point.

Thank you so much to Alex for his generous time! This has been a dream interview to do, and I’m still in disbelief that Alex said yes.

As always, here’s some links for you to check out:

Checkout Alex’s YA books on Goodreads

Check out Alex’s other books on Goodreads

Follow Alex on Twitter

Make Alex rich (YA edition)

Make Alex rich (children’s lit edition)

Make Alex rich (adult non-fiction edition)