Paul R. Davis was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He went to Lakeland College near Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where he started a bachelor’s in creative writing, and eventually switched to English and secondary education.
He taught in Kentucky at an at-risk high school where he learned about spitting tobacco, guns, and the terror of coal trucks going 50 on a 35. He continued to substitute teach and teach for four years, urging students to go for the impossible, while also telling them to stop talking.
His writing is inspired by the classics, a habit he formed accidentally in high school. While he prefers ancient mythology, he also enjoys Victorian horror, early science fiction, steampunk, and poetry. Currently he is writing the Scrolls of Chaos and Order series, which will blossom into a much larger world.
Paul, thank you for agreeing to this interview. You have been open about the importance of literary pilgrimages throughout your writing career. What are some of the most significant works of fiction that have influenced you over the years?
The Dragonlance series really got me into fantasy. My family would go to our cottage in northern Wisconsin for a week or two. There was a little bookstore, and my brothers and I would each buy a Dragonlance book. We finished them by the end of the vacation. Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman are amazing both at writing and world-building, and it really gave me my love of world building.
Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series is giving me an appreciation of the craft. He can write a ten-page battle, and his mastery of language keeps me interested.
I also love anything classical. Journey to the West, Gilgamesh, The Ramayana, and several others have been instrumental for inspiration. I feel every fantasy writer should be exploring these original stories.
Your debut novel, Drowning the Sands of G’desh, released in 2015 introducing readers to your unique fantasy world, inspired by the civilizations of Arabia, Israel, and Egypt. Please tell us a bit about your book’s premise.
The story is about a war between two religions. I really wanted a crusade of sorts to be central. The Followers of the One believe in an omnipotent god, while the Pure Flames worship a fire elemental. The Followers have been banished for two centuries, and are finally poised to strike the Pure.
The story follows three characters as they navigate the conflict. Kessem is a soldier for the Followers. He is quickly put in an office position he doesn’t want, and he has to figure out what is happening before it gets him killed.
Dameneh is a boy who lives at an oasis. He becomes a prophet, but he has to deal with what he wants as a teenage boy and the tenants placed before him by the One. He is also a delven, which is a four foot tall, dark-skinned race. The delven are disliked by almost everyone because of the pacifistic nature of their faith, which most men find extremely uncomfortable.
The final character is Azasheer. He is an assassin who can use fire. For three centuries he focused on money. However, as the next crusade nears, and the ruler over the lake goes insane, he starts to wonder if there is more than money.
You recently pulled the book from the market. It is not uncommon for authors to go a different direction with their works when needed. Could you give us some insight into what led to the decision and what to expect in the future?
I recently signed on with Crazy Ink, an awesome publisher in their second year of business. They wanted the entire series, so I had to pull G’desh for the time being. You can now buy it for a whopping $800 used on Amazon, as of this interview. The price keeps going up.
If you don’t want to spend nearly a grand on the book, The Story of the Drowning Sands of G’desh (there was a title change) will re-release on May 10th of this year. Song of Hetja Melna, a working title, will release in August of this year. The final three or four books should be out in 2020.
Your short story, The Mute of Abr, is a fun introduction into G’desh. Could you tell us a bit about the qas in your books and what influenced their creation?
Outside the city of Abr there are salt flats. Massive monsters roam the flats, and qas are specialty hunters who kill the great beasts, often harvesting parts for extra money. Some craft the parts into specialty gear. In the story, the Mute uses spikes from a monster as spears in her hunts, as they’re laced with a strong poison.
I was kicking around the idea of a mute character. It brings a lot of obstacles. For the character, she struggles to communicate with others. For a writer, it’s the question of how to show sign language. The Mute also created a tragic story with deep moral implications, which deal with slavery, revenge, and family. Thinking about her story hurts my heart a little.
Add to it that I was playing Monster Hunter World all the time, and it was a match made in heaven. It’s a profession where she does not need to do a lot of talking, she can take out her anger, and she can make money to provide a good life for her daughter.
“Herold the Hero” in Heroes was by far my favorite. The story is about Harold, a third grader, who stands up to a fifth-grade bully. He feels he must be a superhero to accomplish this, he hates wearing underwear, and so he finds a solution: wear his underwear over his pants.
My dad reads all my stories, and he is very honest with how he feels about them. He said Harold was amazing, which is good because he inspired it. Dad would tell us how he stood up to bullies in school, and he got beat up for trying to help other kids. It wasn’t that my dad knew how to fight, it was just he couldn’t stand by while other kids were in trouble.
What advice would you give to new authors looking to get published? Any red flags they should be looking for when seeking a new publisher?
My first publisher, Abbott Press, was a vanity press. I had the money, I wanted the experience, and I paid for it. As long as you understand you are paying for an experience, a vanity press is great. If you are under the illusion you are paying for success, you will be thoroughly disappointed.
When looking for a publisher, read over the contract. Do not just sign. Find common legal practices within the industry, and use that to judge the contract. Young publishers generally aren’t trying to fool an author, so if there are issues assume it is a learning curve. If they are resistant to contractual changes considered normal, that’s a red flag. A contract is a discussion.
More than anything, make sure the culture works for you. If you want a laid back publisher, don’t expect a bunch of sales. If you find an ambitious publisher, don’t expect to sit back and relax. Find what works for you, and tailor your expectations accordingly.
My current publisher, Crazy Ink, is very ambitious and motivated, and I had to get my butt in gear to keep up with their amazing productivity. I’m definitely out of my comfort zone, but that’s exactly where I want to be.
What can we expect from you in 2019?
I am re-releasing The Story of the Drowning Sands of G’desh and releasing The Song of Hetja Melna through Crazy Ink. I am working on a podcast that focuses on the imaginative and creative portion of writing. I had a baby which delayed the plans a bit, so it should be going by mid to late spring. It will be called Project: Volden and will be posted on SoundCloud.
It has been a pleasure, Paul! Please tell us where fans can find you online or in the upcoming year at events.
You can find me on Facebook at my Paul R Davis page. I am on WordPress, though it is a little neglected. Most of my posts pool into Amazon, where you can also see what I have written, aside from The Mute of Abr, which is only at Barnes & Nobles. Finally, SoundCloud, which currently only has a commentary on princesses and Zootopia.